Courtesy Michael Gray
Couples discuss marriage, mission and mercy during a session at Resurrection Parish in Tualatin.
Courtesy Michael Gray
Couples discuss marriage, mission and mercy during a session at Resurrection Parish in Tualatin.

TUALATIN — I was privileged to attend a marriage retreat, hosted by Teams of Our Lady at Resurrection Parish here. The major theme of the retreat was “Mercy in Marriage.”

Simply put, marriage is merciful, because love is merciful. A marriage without mercy is a marriage without love. Mercy and love are not just emotions; they are also conscious decisions. In marriage, I deliberately have to choose to love my partner each and every day, even when I’m tired or busy, even when I’m frustrated with her, even when she’s driving me crazy! Sometimes it is easy to love your partner, and sometimes it is difficult, but at all times, it is necessary to show mercy to them. To put it another way, marriage is a reflection of God’s love for humanity. Since God’s love is all-merciful, the love that married couples have for each other should also be merciful.

The retreat included Mass with Archbishop Sample. In his homily, the archbishop echoed the words of Pope Francis, emphasized that the three most important things to say in a marriage are “Please,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” That is true mercy. People say “please” as a sign of politeness and as a way to show that they care about their spouses. A person says, “I’m sorry,” to  recognize that he or she does not always live up to the high standards that marriage and love demand. A person says “I forgive you,” not only because holding grudges is toxic to a healthy marriage, but because mercy is always freely and willingly given. If mercy came at a price, then it would not be mercy. In the same way, a married couple’s love must always be freely and willingly given.

 The final thing that struck me about the retreat was seeing how widespread the group was. We had couples from all over Oregon, with some from Washington and Idaho. It is gratifying to see people travel so far to help strengthen their marriages. In the “Our Father,” we ask to be nourished by daily bread. Marriage must also be nourished and strengthened on a daily basis. It can be difficult to do this with work and children getting in the way, but you cannot let your marriage slip through the cracks. You must make a conscious effort to improve, to forgive and to love. That is why mercy is so important for married couples.

The writer is a member of St. John the Apostle Parish in Oregon City.