A Weekend Just For Us

September 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

Posting about our Moo card invitations got me thinking about the weekend Mr Pretzel and I spent with cows, goats, chickens, and oh about 25 other engaged couples.  Strange how my brain works, but moo cards brought back memories of cows, an emu, and a donkey named Rusty.


I’m talking about our Catholic Engagement Encounter Retreat.  Marriage preparation for those marrying in the Catholic Church is standard.  What the marriage preparation looks like will vary from Parish to Parish, in our Parish we had three items to complete.

  • Taking the FOCCUS inventory and a discussion of the results facilitated by our Priest
  • A Engaged Encounter Retreat or A series of couple counseling sessions with a licensed family therapist
  • Dinner with Fr Jim (our Priest) and other couples preparing for marriage in our church (not sure if this was required but it was amazing- Fr Jim is a great cook and funny host!)

Mr P’s Godparents volunteered for years with Catholic Engaged Encounter (CEE) and had spoken very lovingly about the experience of an Engaged Encounter Weekend.  Through my work on our Church’s Stewardship Commission I also became friends with a man named Jim.  Jim and his wife used to be CEE volunteers.  One evening Mr P and I were serving dinner at Tent City 4 with Jim and his wife.  They told us about all the blessings that had come from their work with CEE.  I looked at Mr P and told him that if were we to get married (we weren’t even engaged yet) that I wanted to do an Engaged Encounter weekend- whether our parish required it or not.  He agreed wholeheartedly.

I love their slogan! (Source)

To say that we were looking forward to this retreat was putting it mildly- we were downright excited.  We chose to go in March, about 4 months from our wedding.  It was the perfect time for us because we were able to take the whole weekend off and not feel stressed.  Turning off was key, Mr P and I love technology and are usually attached to our phones.  We have to be conscious not to tune out and to set up technology free zones (the dinner table, in the car on the way home from work, when we are settling down for the night in bed).  On our retreat we turned off our phones for the whole time.

We arrived on Friday evening. There was a wide range of couples there, both Catholic and interfaith couples ranging from age from early 20’s to 40’s.  There also seemed to be a mix of enthusiasm.  Only a few of us  raised our hands when asked who was excited to be there.  Many of the couples seemed to only be at the retreat because it was a requirement of their Church. Some seemed cautiously optimistic and others seemed downright set against being open to the weekend.  I think having an open mind directly is related to what you get out of the weekend.  I hope if you are attending a CEE retreat that you can suspend feelings of doubt or defensiveness.  The retreat is 100% focused on you and your fiance and nobody is there to pass judgment on you. I think that was one of the fears that most couples had.

The weekend was led by two married couples.   Mr P and I found both couples very easy to relate to and appreciated the time and selfless sharing that they did.  The couples would share with us a talk relating to the topic, they would share their own personal feelings and struggles.  I am not talking superficial sharing.  These volunteers shared with us an intimate glimpse into their relationship and personal struggles.  After sharing, then we would get 40 minutes to reflect and journal separately on a series of questions related to the topic.  Then we would go find a quiet space and share what we wrote with each other.  The structure of the weekend progressed from self reflection and reflection on our relationship and communication, to the call to marriage and being life giving. We explored the topics of sexual intimacy, becoming family and the process of forgiveness.  You might think it would be awkward to talk about sex with Church folk, but really you are only sharing your thoughts with your fiance, you aren’t discussing any of these topics with other people.

I love our name tags from the weekend!

The process of writing was very therapeutic, although my hands were tired by the end of the weekend.  It allowed each of us to get all of our thoughts on paper- without interruption or getting sidetracked.   On this weekend I realized that Mr P is a beautiful and thoughtful writer and his journal frequently brought tears to my eyes.  We discussed and explored things that we hadn’t brought up in conversation and we both learned a lot about how we can continue to be life affirming to each other.  We felt closer than ever to each other by sharing our thoughts, listening to each other, and praying together.  When we weren’t in a session, writing, or sharing, we spent a lot of time exploring the beautiful scenery.

Having the retreat in a beautiful setting really set a relaxed tone for the weekend. The retreat was at Camp Brotherhood in Mt Vernon WA.

Rabbi Raphael Levine and Father William Treacy met in 1960 and discovered a bond of kinship that crossed the boundaries of religion, culture and ethnicity. During fourteen years co-hosting the award winning KOMO-TV program, “Challenge”, they positively influenced the entire Puget Sound Region as they addressed the issues of the day from their interfaith perspectives. As a result of their friendship and with the help of friends in the business community, they purchased a dairy farm in Skagit County and in 1968 founded Camp Brotherhood to provide a beautiful setting in which to foster better understanding and harmony between and among religious faiths, families and individuals. This Rabbi and Catholic Priest never intended to eliminate the differences between faith traditions or create a uniformity of religions; “interfaith” for them meant celebrating and honoring differences while building cooperation based on shared values. -the Camp Brotherhood website

Rabbi Levine has passed away, but Father Treacy lives on the grounds of the Camp and recently retired from the Priesthood.  He  is an amazing man and we were blessed to have him pop in from time to time to talk with us and to say Mass at the conclusion of the weekend.  And then there were the animals.  Some of our friends from the weekend:

The aforementioned moo cows and goats

Geese and Alpaca (ohhh here alpaca-aca…I want to knit you!)

The Emu are very interesting, curious animals who’s call sounds like a drum

Mr P made a friend with Rusty the donkey

Not every community has an Engaged Encounter retreat nearby. After hearing about our retreat my BIL and SIL looked into attending one in their area only to be disappointed that there wasn’t one.*  If you are preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church I recommend attending a retreat, whether is is required or not.  When else will you get the opportunity to set everything aside for a weekend and focus entirely on you, your fiance, and God?  If money is an issue they offer scholarships.  Mr P and I were so moved by the weekend that we donated the cost to make sure a couple who wanted to attend but didn’t have the registration fee could still go on retreat.

What type of marriage prep are you and your fiance doing?  If you attended an Engaged Encounter what was the biggest thing that you took away from the weekend?

*Some couples go on Retreat as newlyweds, so if you are already married but want to attend one you can.  Also, for married couples there Catholic Worldwide Marriage Encounter retreats.


Entry filed under: Background.

Woot, Woot, FAIL Here we go again: Inspiration

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