Seeking God together: Spirituality for Married Couples
I went to the workshop on "Spirituality for Married Couples" given by Pat and Carmel Cunneen of Equipe Notre-Dame Ireland (Teams of Our Lady). As a newly married woman, I was keen to learn more about how my husband and I could live out our marriage in a truly spirit-filled way. It was a very popular workshop and unfortunately space was limited in the lecture room. However, there was a happy ending for those who were turned away, as there was an impromptu gathering outside on the grass, led by other members of the Team. One lady from the team even gave a workshop to a young mother in the café. There was great interest in the movement and some American and Nigerian pilgrims were keen to know whether it is available in their regions.
In brief, Equipe Notre-Dame Ireland (Teams of Our Lady) is a community of married couples under Our Lady’s patronage which is significant for many reasons: she leads us to her Son, she said yes to the will of God, and she walked in the path of her Son.
The Movement itself started in France in 1939, helps married couples to strive for holiness, and gives lots of practical points of application in life by which this can be done. There are 6 ‘endeavours’ as they call them that they live in their married life that help them to do this. First is the reading of Sacred Scriptures, in the knowledge that having personal contact with the Word of God is tantamount. Pat noted that Blessed Pope John Paul II said that ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of God. Second is to have personal prayer in your life so as to listen, reflect and discern God’s love. Additionally, there is the annual retreat, the rule of life, conjugal prayer and the ‘sit down’.
The latter 2 are extremely pertinent as they involve the couple, rather than each as an individual. Conjugal prayer allows the couple to express thoughts in prayer, read the Scriptures, and express what is in their hearts. Through prayer we strive to know God’s will for our lives. The Rosary and the Magnificat are important prayers also due to the patronage of Our Lady.
The ‘sit down’ is important as it allows time for communication between the couple. Both husband and wife can look at their lives together in the light of the Lord, reveal themselves to one another, express thoughts and feelings, make changes where necessary, listen, renew, share, make time and become more aware of one another, find neutral solutions to problems, and listen in empathy even if the solution is not available. As Pat noted, God calls us to perfection but accepts us in our imperfection, which is what we are called to do within marriage.
A testimony was given by another couple, John & Bernie Healy who were attracted by the spirituality of the Team, but more importantly by the way in which the team members live in a very Eucharistic way, particularly in their monthly meetings. This was also noted by Fr Richard Sheehy, parish priest of Rathmines Church, who acts as chaplain to one of the teams. Everyone pitches in together physically but also spiritually, and hence the fruits of the Holy Spirit are abounding. Rather than focusing inward, the fruits are born for the community at large as well as the couple itself. A wonderful note to end on is a quotation from the French priest, Fr Cafferel who leads the movement: “Nothing builds closer ties in marriage than seeking God together.”
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