Couples reflect during a devoted marriage retreat Saturday, Feb. 19, at St. Peter in Slinger. (Submitted photo)

Your marriage is “a particular gift to the world that no one else can give.”

That’s what Sr. Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T., told about 100 couples for a Devoted Marriage Retreat, held Saturday, Feb. 19, at St. Peter Parish in Slinger. The event was billed as a morning of prayer and renewal of the deep places of the heart.

Pete and Emily Burds welcomed everyone and said there was “so much goodness and faithfulness present in this room.”

Fr. John Burns and Sr. Miriam led participants through an introductory course on the lifelong habit of forgiveness. In the first session, Sr. Miriam outlined the gift of marriage in general, as well as the gift of each individual marriage.

Fr. Burns talked about the theological understanding of the emotions, as laid out by St. Thomas Aquinas, and focused particularly on the specific anatomy of the wounds that lead to the festering of resentment and the hardening of hearts. The morning session concluded with a reminder to hope because, with Christ, there is a way through the cycle and he will make all things new. Retreatants were also invited into a reflective listening exercise with their spouse on the meaning of the vow that they took: “I will honor you all the days of my life.”

The second session took up the task of defining forgiveness. Having explained that “forgiveness is not: words alone, condoning wrongdoing, skipping justice or the same as reconciliation,” Fr. Burns and Sr. Miriam also outlined what it looks when a heart is stuck in unforgiveness.

Unforgiveness is a battle posture in the heart of the one who was hurt, setting them on guard against the possibility of being hurt again, but in so doing, it closes the heart to love and can become a kind of hatred.

“It is a division that is deadly but there is a way out … love can be restored,” Fr. Burns said. With the encouragement that “every time we choose to forgive and to love again, it changes the world” Sr. Miriam continued on to discuss forgiveness itself.

Fr. Burns and Sr. Miriam taught retreatants that forgiveness is more than just words — it takes practice and time to learn and improve the virtue. It is of injuries first, and then of persons. It begins with the recognition that you are angry, that you can not continue to live with the burden of anger and that you want to choose a different way.

It continues with taking full and detailed inventory of the wrong that was done and how it impacted your heart. Finally, Sr. Miriam said it comes to fruition in the choice to set aside the pursuit of revenge, trusting that “God will right every wrong” and to shift from ill will to good will.

Sr. Miriam then led retreatants through a guided time of individual prayer — applying the theory of forgiveness into their own individual story and walking through the steps of forgiveness in a specific instance of hurt within their marriage. The prayer time concluded with the invitation for each person, in prayer, to bring their spouse with them to the foot of the Cross, to spend time looking at the face of Jesus, asking him to forgive their spouse and finally to pray: “in the name of Jesus Christ I choose to forgive you.”

Throughout the day, retreatants were encouraged to “notice what is happening in your heart and ask Jesus to be with you right here,” that this work of forgiveness takes time and to not try to fix everything today. They were also encouraged that this work of forgiveness is hard but deeply worth it and that it is heroic to live love well.

The sessions concluded with some practical advice on continuing the journey of forgiveness as well as habits for a healthy, holy marriage, particularly the invitation to always pray together. Adoration and Confession gave couples the opportunity to immediately put that advice into practice.

This event is part of a larger series of retreat encounters focused on promoting devoted marriages and families, an offering of the GalileeU program from the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.

For more information on events like this or to learn more about the GalileeU offerings, visit or email Rachel Uchytil at