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Husband takes retreat to recover from burn-out and is transformed by faith

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Marc Rossi

Marc and Sophie with their children

Raphaëlle Coquebert - published on 08/26/22

"All of a sudden, I became aware that the Catholic Church had been around for 2,000 years and that it was my anchor."

Marc has always preferred a materially austere life, rich in possibilities. Rooted in the rural French area of Cantal since 2012, he still travels through France to perform the shadow puppetry shows he has worked on for 17 years, sometimes with the help of his wife, Sophie, and their five children 12-17 years of age.

After the birth of their second child, the couple—who are engineers by training but passionate about theater—decided to break with the mores of consumerism and make a living from their dreams: live performances.

Forget about career plans and ledgers to track savings; for them, life would be art, resourcefulness, road trips … and paying bills by the skin of their teeth at the end of the month. They created their traveling family theater company in 2007 and traveled around France for three years in a caravan. They enjoyed the unity as a couple and their family life as been joyful and colorful. 

Nomads outside the box 

And where was God in all this? He was there, in the background, a discreet shadow among the others.

Marc grew up in a Protestant family, while regularly attending the Catholic Church within the SUF (Unitary Scouts of France) or through his social circle, until he was in his 30s. “My religious practice was full of formalism,” he recalls. “But I didn’t realize it until much later: I didn’t know we could be in a relationship [with God].”

When he met Sophie in 2001, he let go of everything, so there was no thought of marriage in the Church. “We still went before the mayor” for a legal wedding “after the birth of our third child, a way of making our family structure official,” he recalls.

It was the arrival of twins in 2010 that sounded the death knell of a wandering and carefree life. Marc was exhausted and felt the need to regain his strength and take a step back. He heard about the Priory of Murat, not far from Saint-Flour (Cantal), where a community of Brothers of St. John reside: “I wasn’t particularly in search of spirituality, I just needed to recover in peace and quiet … Once there, it was out of pure courtesy that I chose to attend the services.”

A peaceful certainty

So what happened during this short stay?

“Nothing spectacular,” he admits. “It was a combination of events that opened my heart. The quality of the welcome and the presence of the religious, their sense of service, the readings they recommended to me … All of a sudden, I became aware that the Catholic Church had been around for 2,000 years and that it was my anchor. I, a Protestant, felt at home, certain that from then on I had to live my faith on a daily basis, no matter what my family thought.”

His determination surprised his wife, who had previously been rather indifferent to spirituality. She didn’t get in the way. Three months later, she agreed to go to Mass at Murat, and fragments of prayers she had recited as a child came back to the surface. “For her, it was more intense than for me: she cried her eyes out and felt all at once God’s love for her.”

In retrospect, Marc recognizes that their way of life prior to their conversion was very similar to Christian values, so there was more continuity than rupture. Still, this rebirth was concretely translated into important decisions: marriage in the Church, baptism of the children, return to regular religious practice.

“And then, it structured our family, which was somewhat lacking in framework. Under the pretext of trusting in life, we thought we were the captains of the ship. We let ourselves be carried along, but without a guide. Today, we know that there is an incomparable guide to whom we try to listen: Christ.”

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