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Archives Natural Family Planning: Open the invitation

July 29, 2020

By Suzanne & Angelo Pietropaoli
Diocesan NFP Directors

Every July, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsors Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week. In his pastoral letter for NFP Week 2020, Bishop Terry R. LaValley explains why. “We ask something from the faithful: take the time for some reflection and prayer on Natural Family Planning.”

Let us begin that reflection with a few facts. The Catholic Church recognizes the right of parents to prayerfully determine, with generous hearts, the size of their families. This necessarily involves learning to live as good stewards of their fertility in the service of responsible parenthood – while respecting the God-given connection between the life-giving and love-giving meanings of their sexual union.

Only NFP, unique among family planning methods, honors this two-fold meaning which God has written into married love. How? Natural methods accept fertility as normal and healthy; they cooperate with fertility rather than suppressing it with drugs, devices, or surgery. Modern scientific methods of Natural Family Planning educate couples to understand, observe, and interpret the bodily signs of fertility. This knowledge empowers them to know reliably when they are fertile and when they are not; they then use that knowledge to achieve or avoid pregnancy. These methods are as effective as the Pill and other hormonal methods, but without the side effects of those drugs.

NFP allows couples the freedom to love naturally, as God intended. Does this really matter to God? Should it really matter to us? These are strange ideas in a culture that is constantly re-designing sex and emphatically separating it from babies. Certainly, few people make the effort to discover what the Creator intended by the union of man and woman. His plan, though, is simple: the gift of life and the gift of love are BOTH written into the meaning of marriage and of sexual union. This often-inconvenient truth means rather that we can love as God loves – unconditionally making a gift of ourselves to one another. And that gift, that love, does not end with the couple but opens naturally to a new human person! St. John Paul II reminds us of this in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Family (28). “With the creation of man and woman in His own image and likeness, God crowns and brings to perfection the work of His hands. He calls them to a special sharing in His love and in His power as Creator and Father, through their free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of human life.”

Clearly, As Pope Francis points out in LAUDATO SI (77,80), “Creation is of the order of love. God wishes to work with us and counts on our cooperation… Consequently we can ascend from created things to the greatness of God and to His loving mercy.” Specifically, “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father…(LG155). In fact, the Holy Father says, “…Creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion” (LG 76).

This is why our obedience to the Divine plan matters so much. In this context, seen from the Creator’s own perspective, we can begin to understand why God’s ways are far better than any we might wish to construct. In fact, Pope Francis writes (LS, 5, 6), “Our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is… The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.”

Authentic love is always directed toward the good of the beloved. Couples who live NFP in their marriages often discover that they have found much more than a simple, healthy, effective way to plan their families, as their comments attest. “NFP makes me, as a woman feel that my husband sees me as a whole person, not parts of me that are there for his pleasure. Living this way is an invitation to a radical gift of self, and it is such a blessing!” “As Catholics, we believe that what happens in our bedroom is not only between us, but that God is a big part of it. Do not settle for less when it comes to God’s plan. Don’t sacrifice true intimacy for the sake of convenience.” According to one husband, “If NFP were not part of our life, we would be filled with so many misconceptions, with the world’s pornographic attitudes toward sexuality.” Another husband shares that “NFP made me able to express my feeling better.” His wife smiles as she adds, “NFP has changed everything! Now it is hard to believe that he loves me as much as he does!”

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