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For Your Marriage

Married for 20 years and the proud parents of five children, Soren and Ever are co-founders of Trinity House Community, a Catholic nonprofit with a mission to inspire families to make home a small taste of heaven for the renewal of faith and culture.

Light in August

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” Blaise Pascal famously wrote. So let’s be honest: when was the last time you sat quietly alone, on retreat? Never? 10 years ago?

It’s common to view a spiritual retreat—at a monastery, shrine, retreat center, or even your parish—as a luxury of time we can’t afford. Life is just too busy. A weekend or week-long retreat? Ha! Most shake their heads, thinking that retreats are the domain of priests, missionaries, or full-time ministry staff.

But what about a mini-retreat—even if it’s “do-it-yourself”—on a Saturday morning, afternoon, or even an entire day? We need to ask this question now, quite simply, because the times demand it. With so much that overwhelms families today, it’s easy to lose our bearings. “Humanity’s problems” are readily apparent, and “sitting quietly in a room alone” offers a path forward.

Of course, every day we can and need to take a “mini-retreat” in our prayer chair, at our kneeler, or prayer corner—or wherever we get away to pray. “His mercies are new every morning,” and this newness can be ours each day. Without it, we miss the graces God has in store for us daily.

But in addition to daily prayer, we’ve found that taking turns for an annual short retreat is a welcome grace. We try not to overthink it. Even a 3 or 6-hour, unguided and improvised retreat at a nearby shrine or monastery—several possible formats can be found in the toolkit below—can provide the needed “reset” to bring renewed vision to our personal journey, as well as our marriage, parenting, and work.

Work tends to slow down a bit this time of year, so it’s the perfect time to work in a mini-retreat. Asked about the title of his novel Light in August, Faulkner said, “There’s a few days somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall, it’s cool, there’s a lambence, a soft, a luminous quality to the light, as though it came not from just today but from back in the old classic times…  It lasts just for a day or two, then it’s gone…”

The coming of an almost mythic August light may sound unlikely to us, but is it worth creating the possibility of an encounter with the light of Jesus Christ? When and if you go on your own “Light in August” mini-retreat, we have found the following three tools important:

  • Find an intercessor. This might be your spouse or a good friend. Whoever it is, reach out to this person in advance, share your goals for your retreat, and ask him or her to pray for you on the day of your retreat. You are not alone! The communion of saints is cheering you on in heaven, and your intercessor, in a special way, will be bringing you before the Lord.
  • Dedicate your retreat. Be intentional about dedicating your morning, afternoon or day-long retreat for a special intention. You can devote the time for something as simple as discerning God’s will for your life, or for healing, your marriage, family, or your job.
  • “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  Even if you find the quietest church or shrine in the world, the first moments of your retreat will likely be noisy, chaotic, and distracted in your own head. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up by pulling out your phone to check your email. Instead, be patient as your mind quiets, and make Samuel’s words to the Lord your own: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

If you can build a mini-retreat into your schedule—even if just for a morning—you just might receive a word from the Lord that he has been trying to communicate to you. You may experience healing, or find that the retreat opens up a time for you to pause, reflect and mourn a particular loss in your life. And yes, you may experience dryness, restlessness, or even a sharing in our Savior’s painful carrying of his cross.

Part of the draw of a retreat is the sheer unpredictability of it, alongside the confidence that the Lord will meet us there. Our Lord is always inviting us to experience new expressions of his love. And part of what makes retreats so special is the fact that, regardless of whether you have a mountaintop or valley experience, the Lord will be with you.

“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”