Unlike contraception, it works in accord with God's natural order, and is a tool on the path to holiness
By Jen and Stefan Spicer
Special to The B.C. Catholic
This past August my husband Stefan and I were blessed with the arrival of our little girl, Ava. While our first year of marriage serves as testimony to the fact that Natural Family Planning (NFP) does enable a couple to avoid pregnancy, with Ava now, our first child, we can also witness to how NFP can so beautifully help a couple to conceive.
It's true that month by month the practice of NFP empowers a husband and wife to prudently discern whether to avoid or to achieve pregnancy; thus it serves the purpose of "birth regulation," so to speak, but it doesn't stop there.
From our experience promoting and teaching NFP with Serena BC we find that it is often misunderstood as just another "option" of birth regulation among the many contraceptive methods. On the contrary, NFP is neither merely a method of spacing children nor is it contraception. Let me make the distinction here that NFP works in accord with God's natural order (contraception does not) and is thus set apart.
While serving the purpose of managing fertility and family size, NFP is actually a tool on the path towards holiness for husband and wife. Practised in accord with the truth of marriage as instituted by God, it serves the good of the entire family, not to mention the entire human family. We Catholics are especially blessed with a magisterium that asserts this understanding and standard of family planning.
NFP is fundamentally a way of life, an environment for the flourishing of conjugal love, an approach to the expression of selfless giving between husband and wife, a training ground for the practice of virtue, of self-mastery and sacrifice, of everything good that the sacrament of marriage should espouse.
Most of the couples I encounter through Serena inquire about NFP unaware of the fullness and potential of the practice to which they are about to commit themselves. Often I congratulate the couples for choosing NFP.
Every opportunity I have I shed light on how their choice will strengthen their marriage through their joint commitment, teamwork, and improved communication. Above all, I highlight how they will benefit from their heightened level of regard for and understanding of one another, both of which NFP demands.
We Catholics are called to constant prayer and discernment in the intimate sphere. Through NFP we are given the opportunity to root our lives in the good practice of habitual self-awareness and self-examination.
Approaching each act of nuptial union with consideration for the possibility of conceiving a child, husbands and wives have the chance to look within themselves: am I choosing to be a sincere gift to my spouse and family or are my desires in any way driven by selfish impulses?
The effects of this humble and prayerful practice are significant, innumerable, life-giving, and healing for our broken natures and for this culture of death in which we live; marriage and family are in fact the fundamental building blocks of society.
Sincere in their practice of NFP and in their desire to live out the truth of their vocation, husband and wife will together become more human through their efforts to respect and uphold the dignity of their personhood. If they allow it, they will surely experience gradual growth and maturing of their communion with one another and ultimately with God.
How we would all benefit if NFP were to be embraced in its fullness, that is, in the proper context of a well formed understanding of marriage and family life. In our day a dramatic culture shift is needed in order for this to happen, and it needs to start today with each of us.
We challenge you to know for yourselves the call and role of the Christian family in which the practice of NFP is rooted. Learn about it. If you are called to the vocation of marriage, live it. And share the blessing of your knowledge with others.
Learn how marriage (and our entire existence, for that matter) is a call to be a gift to one another as Christ was and is to us. Begin by taking the Theology of the Body course with Father Alan Boisclair which is now available throughout the diocese. Register for a course with Serena, WOOMB, or Creighton if you do not already practise NFP.
Furthermore, have you ever thought of registering a couple for a course in NFP as an engagement, shower, or wedding gift? It may seem a bit radical at first, but with prayer, some sincere explanation, and encouragement of the couple, it might just be the best gift that you could give to them!
Jen and Stefan Spicer are volunteer teachers and presenters of the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP with Serena BC. Information is available at www.vcn.bc.ca/serenabc.