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A retreat that touches the entire family

Is any family really ‘normal’?
Archbishop Gregory Aymond posed that question on the last day of “A Family that Prays” retreat Nov. 4 in Covington. He joked that no family is perfect, beginning with his own, as evidenced by words on a plaque his sister gave him, “As far as anybody knows, we are a normal family.”

The overnight retreat, organized by Willwoods Community, Dumb Ox Ministries and the CYO/Young Adult Office, drew more than 40, with couples spending a day together with Willwood’s Jason Angelette at St. Joseph Abbey’s Christian Life Center discussing the sacrament of marriage and the importance their bond is to the family, while teens bunked at Camp Abbey discussing with Brian Butler how to be honest with themselves while deepening their faith by listening for when God is talking to them. They came together Nov. 4 for reflection and Mass.
All families have tension
Archbishop Aymond said even the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus faced tensions and challenges. Think back about them facing an unplanned pregnancy before Mary married Joseph; birthing a baby in a barn; being upset when their 12-year-old son went missing for three days only to be found in the temple; Mary burying her husband and then watching her son suffer and ultimately die.
“They had their share of tensions and crosses in their lives and twists and turns they could have never expected,” he said, “but Mary said, ‘Let it be done according to your will.’ They questioned, but were never hopeless. While they didn’t understand, they knew God knew what he was doing and had never abandoned them.”

Archbishop Aymond said no family is asked to be perfect.
“We are called to resemble and reflect some of the traits and characteristics of Mary, Joseph and Jesus,” he said. “God promised he would be with the Holy Family and he says that to you. The very things that God said to the Holy Family, he says to your family each day. But, sometimes in the busyness of life, we don’t hear it.”
Observing that every family dynamic is different, the archbishop wondered how relationships would change if everyone tried to be more like Jesus.
Archbishop Aymond suggested they ask each other, “How can you show me the face of Jesus?” God is with couples beginning with the sacrament of marriage and remains faithful throughout their journey. He knows family life takes effort and commitment and, sometimes, work.
He asked families to think about what God is saying to them and suggested 10 ways to be a holy family:
1. Plan to spend quality time together.
2. Dialogue together. “Family life is enriched when families talk and listen.”
3. Pray together.
4. As often as possible, celebrate Mass together on Sunday.
5. As a family, talk about your relationship with God. “Where is God in the midst of our mess?”
6. Be honest with each other about our feelings and admit when we’ve been hurt and disappointed. Since God never gives up on anyone even in their darkest hour, we should never give up on anyone, especially members of our family.
7. Learn to forgive, a painful part of family life and love.
8. Do not expect a tension-free family. “Let God lead you through troubled waters. In family life, we are not called to agree, we are called to love.”
9. Spend time with other families to share your values.
10. In family life, be willing to succeed but sometimes there is failure. How can we keep going?
Love your spouse
When Jason Angelette asked families what they gained from the retreat, responses included: sacrifices and forgiveness; work harder on prayer life and time together; the truth will set you free; appreciate the gift of children and take time to listen to them; don’t expect perfection but expect love; God never leaves us but sometimes we leave God; the best thing I can do for my children is love my spouse.
Angelette said nothing is too big for God. “God wants to take all of your junk.”
The archbishop said the family retreat idea was born after discussing with Angelette how married couples had retreat opportunities in the archdiocese but often couldn’t attend due to children at home. The redevelopment of Camp Abbey solved that issue. The camp could house children ages 12 to 18 overnight while couples were accommodated at the nearby St. Joseph Seminary College.
“This retreat is a small attempt to give people an opportunity to focus on the gift of family and how that love can grow,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We as a church should be doing our best to provide those opportunities.”
He also sees the retreat as the perfect introduction to next year’s theme of “The Year of Family and Faith.”
“It was incredible,” Donna Carter said about the experience with husband, John, and children Daniel, 15, and Leann, 12. “I didn’t have to worry about the kids. We had time together completely worry-free. It was a win-win for everybody.”
“Sometimes it’s nice to clear out the clutter of life and have what it should be about, what God wants it to be about,” Michael Callaway said. “The Christian Life Center was perfect for that.”
“It was a chance to look at your life and the roadblocks and see that God was in the midst of that,” Jeannie Callaway said. “You just need somebody to remind you of the good things in your family.”
Families were presented a rosary and a CD on the Eucharist by Dr. Brandt Pitre to take home and challenged to write down goals to make their family stronger.
“From this weekend, what commitment can you make as a family to start growing closer with each other and with God,” Angelette asked. “Sign it and place it prominently in your home and don’t be afraid to challenge each other.”
            Christine Bordelon can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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