Each summer our Catholic Church has a week dedicated to rejoicing in the gift of family life. Specifically, the Church calls us to be more aware of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods that promote the spiritual well-being of couples and the damaging moral evil of contraception. I encourage of us to continue to grow in our awareness of NFP and generously share what we learn with others! The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has good information on NFP on their website. Here some of that information:
"God designed marriage as an "intimate partnership of life and love" (see Gaudium et spes, no. 48). In God's design, marriage is a unique union of one man with one woman "for the whole of life" (see Canon 1055, The Code of Canon Law). Marriage is oriented to the good of the spouses and to the creation and nurture of new human life (see Gaudium et spes, no. 48). Making decisions therefore, about when and how many children to have in marriage is a sacred responsibility that God has entrusted to husband and wife. This is the foundation of what the Church calls, "Responsible Parenthood"--the call to discern God's will for your marriage while respecting His design for life and love. The Catholic Church supports the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) because they respect God's design for married love. In fact, NFP represents the only authentic approach to family planning available to husbands and wives because these methods can be used to both attempt or avoid pregnancy. When learning about NFP, it is important to know that:
'Natural Family Planning is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman's cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy. NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.' (Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry, p. 23) Since the methods of NFP respect the love-giving (unitive) and life-giving (procreative) nature of the conjugal act, they support God's design for married love!
In NFP both husband and wife are taught to understand and live God's design for married love—this will give them countless blessings! NFP methods promote a holistic approach to family planning which both respects procreation and has the potential to deepen the intimacy of husband and wife. NFP methods support reproductive health. They are good for the body. The natural methods have none of the harmful side effects caused by contraception, especially chemical contraceptives (e.g., pill, injection, etc.). For the woman, NFP charting can even assist in the diagnosis of underlying medical problems. And, if a couple find they are having trouble conceiving, NFP information can help them pinpoint the most fertile time of the wife's cycle. NFP methods can be marriage strengthening. NFP relies on couple communication and behavior change. NFP methods require husband and wife to cooperate with each other in the most intimate area of their lives. During times of periodic sexual abstinence, husband and wife live a renewed courtship as they discover non-sexual ways to express their love for each other. On a practical level, husbands are encouraged to "tune into" their wives' cycles, and both spouses are encouraged to speak openly and frankly about their sexual desires, hopes for number of children, and prayerful discernment of God's will for their marriage. When living the NFP lifestyle, husband and wife learn that they have a shared responsibility for safeguarding God's gifts of human sexuality, marriage and family. They also grow in their understanding of God's will for their family NFP is good for marriage! NFP: Supports reproductive health; Has no harmful side effects; Is environmentally friendly; Is inexpensive; Cooperates with a couple's combined fertility; Is useful to either achieve or avoid pregnancy; Can be used throughout the reproductive life cycle; Requires shared responsibility and cooperation by husband and wife; Fosters mutual communication between husband and wife; Encourages respect for and acceptance of the total person; Promotes marital chastity; Values the child; Honors God's design for married love!" (www.usccb.org)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Children of God, St. Joseph, St. Paul and St. Michael, may God bless all married couples with a heroic love for His plan for marriage and family life!