Marriage Camino taught me about miracles
A warm welcome
Mounds of fresh koeksisters and cups of steaming coffee are a welcome but unexpected sight when you’re about to start a pilgrimage early on a Saturday morning. This was a slightly different pilgrimage, though. I wasn’t going to be trekking miles to visit religious sites – rather, I was on a journey to get closer to the man I love.
That’s not to say deepening relationships is necessarily easier than walking very long distances. But carbs, lovely people, and beautiful surroundings make the process that much easier. A little while ago my partner and I joined 15 other couples in setting aside a day for some serious relationship time by taking part in a Marriage Camino.
A Safe Space
This isn’t what you might think of as traditional couples’ counselling. The couples’ counsellor, Suzanne Duncan who helps to run the Camino calls the process ‘relationship enrichment’. It’s designed to help you to relax and talk while getting closer to each other and God (or, the God of your understanding).
The setting of the Camino made this soulful journey a lot easier for me. The grounds of Schoenstatt in Constantia, where the mini-pilgrimage was held, are green, foresty, and incredibly peaceful. When you’re sitting under an oak tree and the only sounds around you are birds chattering in the trees, you find yourself relaxing into your partner. At least, I did.
Pen, Paper, Pilgrimage
Before setting off on the pilgrimage, we were all given booklets, pens, and instructions to follow the group leaders as they took us from the first pilgrimage post to our destination. The little booklet was divided into sections – one for each stop on our journey. Every time we reached a new station we paired off, found a nice quiet spot to sit together as a couple, and delved into the discussion points.
We looked a little deeper than we normally would into things like intimacy, emotional needs, and even our families’ influences on our relationships. It’s hard – even impossible – to really, really, open up to someone in the midst of the busyness of life. But when my partner and I made the conscious decision to set aside worries and distractions for a full day and go on our Camino voyage, we could get into the deep relationship stuff I believe everyone needs to explore to be healthier and happier as couple.
It was also reassuring to know that that the couples’ counsellor was always available in case we got stuck – or just had any questions.
Like the Camino del Santiago pilgrimage in Europe that it’s named after, the Marriage Camino is a sacred voyage that ends at an actual holy site – one of more than 200 Schoenstatt shrines across the world. The shrines, dedicated to Mary, are central to the movement and they’re a place of contemplation, peace, and Marian spirituality. To members of the Schoenstatt movement, the shrines represent home – exactly where we’d want to be after a long day of work on ourselves.
The shrine itself is a tiny chapel. When we went inside late afternoon sunlight was streaming in through stained glass windows. A visiting priest, Father David Musgrave from Manchester, had come by and offered to renew the vows of the married couples. He had been a Schoenstatt Father since the 1960s, so this was a very special moment for the couples who were members of the movement.
He spoke to us for a while and we laughed together before the ceremony started. Then the married couples stood up, held hands, and looked into each other’s eyes with a real and very precious tenderness. Listening to them recite the priest’s words in that sacred setting was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had.
When all the couples gathered outside the shrine after the marriage renewal ceremony to say goodbye, I noticed we all had a bit of a glow on our faces that definitely wasn’t there in the morning when we grabbed our first cups of coffee.
Small Miracles (And Big Ones)
I’m a great believer in small miracles – a plant I care for flowering, my cat coming to sit on my lap when I’m feeling down, finding a ripe avo when I am dying for guacamole. I make a point of trying to remember how much beauty there can be in life’s little details. But I’m a newbie when it comes to bigger miracles.
The fact that 15 couples joined me on the Camino, taking a full day off to devote to each other and to do some hard emotional work, is amazing. That they left the experience feeling lighter, empowered by new skills to help them face relationship problems, and more committed to each other, is extra amazing. And it’s definitely not a small miracle.
The Schoenstatt Marriage Camino was a reminder to me to believe in something greater than myself, even if that’s just the power of loving truly and deeply.
Schoenstatt is an international Catholic movement of education and spiritual formation. We seek to grow as free, dedicated, and active witnesses of Christ in modern life by uniting our faith with our everyday lives. We look to Mary to educate us in this task and to guide us in becoming better followers of Christ. The Schoenstatt Movement encompasses diverse communities, which form the Schoenstatt ‘Family’.
Schoenstatt Marriage Camino Frequently Asked Questions:
1) Is the Schoenstatt Marriage Camino relationship counselling?
No, it isn’t. It’s a chance to spend a day learning about yoursel
f and your partner and strengthening your relationship. A relationship counsellor is always available if you’d like to talk with her.
2) Do I have to be religious to attend the Camino?
No, you don’t.
3) I’m not married. Can my partner and I still take part?
Yes, the Camino is open to everyone.
4) I’m interested in the Camino but my partner is reluctant. What should I do?
Feel free to come alone. Get in touch with us and we will explain how you can use th
e Camino experience to enrich your relationship without your partner being there.
5) How long is the Camino?
The Camino is six hours long. There’s a mid-morning coffee break and you’re invited to bring a picnic lunch for an hour to rest on the lawns.
6) I have children. Can they come with?
Yes, they can. Children are welcomed. They’ll be entertained all day by two minders and will join you on your picnic lunch.
7) When is the Camino held?
Twice a year in February and October.
8) What does it cost?
Contact Marcel Barry 083 454 2209 email@example.com or Kathleen Barry 082 462 178 if you’d like to join us for our next Camino or find out more about the Schoenstatt movement.