January 31, 2024 // National

A Retreat for Couples During National Marriage Week

As the Church and the world prepare to celebrate National Marriage Week (February 7-14) and National Marriage Day (Sunday, February 11), the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ initiative For Your Marriage aims to help “couples at all stages of life to understand and live God’s plan for happy, holy marriages by providing educational and spiritual resources.” Among those resources for 2024 is a one-week retreat for couples that provides inspiration through daily reflections, discussions, and prayers that focus on the theme of this year’s National Marriage Week, “Love Beyond Words.” Below is an excerpt from Day 1. For the full retreat, visit foryourmarriage.com.


Should we begin with the obvious?

Marriage is a sacrament.

Before skipping this section to get on to the real stuff, take a moment to consider what this statement actually means: Marriage is a sacrament. Your marriage is a sacrament. A profound, unseen spiritual reality made tangible through outer signs – namely, through the daily life of your vocation.

On your wedding day, you – bride and bridegroom – conferred the Sacrament of Marriage upon one another. You made your vows, professing your love and fidelity through the spoken word, and later through the language of your bodies: “This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1640). Encompassing all other areas of a shared life along with your physical relationship, that which is intangibly expressed takes on a tangible reality. That reality begins at the altar on your wedding day and echoes through the years to come.

This weeklong retreat will dive deeper into the divine mystery of this tension between the inner and the outer, the spoken word and its real-life effects. It will examine the words that make up the Sacrament of Marriage, and the experience of living them out. Calling our Catholic faith a mystery doesn’t mean there are no answers, or that a door is closed to our further contemplation. Rather, a mystery invites us to open the door ever wider, in pursuit of the Lord who so lovingly pursues us. The Holy Spirit is always at work, whispering insights and graces anew.

Love reaches beyond words, yet it also begins with words. On Day 1, you’ll reflect on the nature of words made flesh: just as Jesus embodies this truth in His incarnation, so is marriage an incarnate love. Days 2-6 dive deep into the promises expressed in your marriage vows, looking at ways the words of these promises can be fully lived out in your daily life. Finally, Day 7 invites you to appraise your communication habits as a couple, knowing that love does require countless exchanges of words and offering a productive path forward. Each day concludes with questions for deeper discussion and a prayer for your marriage.

Your wedding day was your first beginning; each of you made in the image of the Creator, your love for one another mirroring His own love. Every day offers another beginning, another opportunity to live out the words of this holy sacrament.


Throughout the days and years of married life, some seasons feel like a deep unity between you and your spouse in body, mind, and spirit. Others feel more like a season of division, or of ships passing in the night – whether by circumstance or by our choices. While, of course, every aspect of life is never within our control, it’s worth examining parts of your life in which you can freely make choices that benefit your union.

Just as we can return to the Word Himself – Jesus Christ – and to the words of Scripture, the Mass, and the sacraments when in need of a reset, so can we return to the words of our wedding vows even months and years after we first spoke them. Each new day together is the words of your vows brought to life.


Consider that heaven and earth meet in the body of Jesus, in God’s loving and humble willingness to come to us fully divine, yet fully human, like us. Read Luke 1:26-56 and 2:1-35, which chronicle the Annunciation and the birth and presentation of Jesus. Share the phrases and passages that spark your imagination or lead to new insights.

As husband and wife, your bodies speak the language of your marriage vows. List several ways you can each love and revere the body of the other, in your sexual relationship, in expressions of affection, and in how you care for one another in times of physical weakness or struggle.


Father, we give You thanks for the gift of our vocation. We kneel before You in humility, in hope, and in openness, desiring to embody Your incarnate love and live out the words of our wedding vows. Grant that this time of reflection strengthen us, stretch us beyond comfort and beyond words, and draw us closer to Your love.

Jesus, You suffered, died, and redeemed us on the cross. May we imitate Your sacrifice of love, pouring ourselves out in body and spirit. In our thoughts, words, and actions, may our love be like Yours, resurrecting that which is dead in us and bringing forth abundant life.

Spirit, come down. Inspire, guide, and bless our conversations and the whole of our married life. Fill us with the grace to sanctify one another, to live in the sacraments, and to lead one another to the heavenly feast. Amen.

Prayer for Married Couples

Almighty and eternal God,
You blessed the union of married couples so that they might reflect the union of Christ with His Church: look with kindness on them. Renew their marriage covenant, increase Your love in them, and strengthen their bond of peace so that, with their children, they may always rejoice in the gift of Your blessing.
We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Source: foryourmarriage.com

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