“In Praise of Natural Family Planning” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

One of the greatest joys of being the Director of Family Ministries for the Archdiocese is the ability to connect with so many couples on the road to marriage. It is an awesome responsibility that I take very seriously as we try and help those who are about to make the biggest decision of their lives understand just a little bit better the wondrous sacrament in which they are about to partake. And as you might suspect, no topic that we discuss generates more questions than the Church’s teachings about marital intimacy and sexuality in general . . . and Natural Family Planning in particular.happy-family-23

In spreading the gospel of Christ, there’s almost nothing more effective than the testimony of a joyful witness, and it is this approach which we very deliberately take in discussing Natural Family Planning (NFP). My wife Susan and I are but one of the many married couples who help personally spread the joy and the truth about NFP at our Foundation for Marriage preparation sessions. All of us who present are practitioners of one of the many NFP methods available, and we all speak clearly as witnesses to both the effectiveness of the methods as well as the empowerment which we find in expressing our married lives together through them. We are constantly amazed at how misunderstood the subject usually is for couples before they hear our presentations, and we are also very gratified at the positive response we almost always hear expressed as this beautiful truth is properly explained and witnessed for the next generation.

NFP is a blanket term for a number of natural and proven methods which married couples can choose as safe and effective ways of undertaking their God-given and Church-supported right to plan their families as they think best. NFP allows couples to be able to do this in ways which embrace fertility as a reality to be lived, not as a problem to be solved.

NFP methods are different from and better than artificial contraception because they cooperate with, rather than suppress, a couple’s fertility. They can be used either to achieve or to avoid pregnancy but perhaps most importantly they call for shared responsibility and cooperation by husband and wife. Spousal communication is enhanced by practicing NFP, as any couple who practices it can tell you, as is respect for and acceptance of the total person. The fact that these methods are both eco-friendly and organic are bonuses to the primary benefit of uniting the husband and the wife in both planning their families as well as better achieving the oneness which God proclaimed to be the purpose of marriage since the very beginning. (The two of them become one, Genesis 2:24)

National NFP Awareness Week this year is an opportunity for everyone to better learn the truth about the goodness and the effectiveness of Natural Family Planning. NFP is something which is so often misunderstood by so many and now is indeed always the time for us to better learn the goodness and truth about it.

The Family Ministries section of the Archdiocese of Louisville website has many local resources, and the USCCB website has an enormous amount of content which dispels so much of the confusion on this subject. Both of these sites can help both educate the general public, as well as better direct those who might be interested in learning more about joining so many of us who already find such fulfillment in living out God’s plan for oneness with intentionality in their married lives.