According to the USCCB’s “Standards for Diocesan Natural Family Planning Ministry,” “NFP 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. … 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” (p. 23).
NFP awareness week of July 21-27 shares the 45th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae which teaches on human sexuality, conjugal love and responsible parenthood. The dates also correspond with the feast of husband and wife Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin. More recent married Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin (parents of St. Therese), who were beatified five years ago in July on their 150th wedding anniversary, also demonstrate that marriage is a path to holiness as they lived the joys and trials of birthing and raising children to be saints.
We are also called to live our marriages well as a witness to its goodness. I recently observed a young couple serenely caring for their newborn together during an NFP class. Their interaction was one of instinctual selfless love, each parent having a unique role in the baby’s care and welfare. The very togetherness which brings forth the life of the child is the same togetherness that sustains him.
“God made man and woman, uniquely in his image. By design, he made them to complement one another in a way that brings forth new life. Children, and society as a whole, thrive when both mother and father are present,” stated Bishop David Ricken in his June 26th response to the Supreme Court decisions.
NFP in marriage reflects the truth and beauty of human sexuality through the complementarity of the sexes. Marriage as God created it, between one man and one woman, is for the good of the family and the society.
So also is the virtuous application of NFP, which draws grace upon grace as the couple acts with respect for one another by the awesome design of the Creator.
Nicole and her husband, Sam, are a NFP teaching couple and live in Green Bay.