TO NFP OR NOT TO NFP? THAT IS THE QUESTION FOR MARRIED COUPLES
To NFP or not to NFP?
To NFP or not to NFP? That is the question for married couples.
My wife and I have been promoting Natural Family Planning (NFP) for more than eight years through the Couple to Couple League. Before God knit us in the womb, He planned for us to promote NFP. In living out His plan, I have learned to segue many a conversation to the goodness of NFP. It is this goodness that married couples experience when they choose to use NFP. However, it is just a small foretaste of the ultimate goodness that awaits us in heaven.
You now know how my wife and I have answered the question that entitles this article. However, this is not an article contrasting NFP to the intrinsic evil of contraception. I have known many couples who fervently adhere to the Church's teachings on sexuality. Usually within two minutes, they know I am a promoter of NFP. Sometimes I would get a reply catching me off-guard, such as: "I know the pope teaches that is OK, but we trust in God's providence," or "we have chosen the greater of the two goods." Let me first say that I am grateful and appreciate the candor in which these persons, whom I greatly admire, have expressed their resolve to "seek first the kingdom of God."
However, these comments illustrate misconceptions about NFP made not only by our culture but also by our own brothers and sisters in Christ.
NFP is not outside God's providence. In his encyclical "Humanae Vitae," Pope Paul VI states: "Married persons are the free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator" for the most serious duty of transmitting human life. NFP wedges opportunities in this very busy culture we live in to collaborate with God the Creator on the specific plan He has for each married couple.
NFP encourages these opportunities because ingrained in the practice of NFP is a period of abstinence either during the woman's fertile or infertile phase of her ovulation cycle. It goes unsaid that this abstinence comes about by conditioning the will over what is instinctual. As Dr. Janet E. Smith says, this abstinence steers the couple to ask the questions: "Why are we or why are we not having babies?" and "Is this what God wants of us?"
I once had a priest share with me his reservations about promoting NFP: "I want married couples to have large families. It is not good for the Church that so many married couples are having small families by using contraceptives or NFP." I reassured him that one of the beauties of NFP is that if a couple is not wanting children for selfish reasons they are reminded of those reasons once a month and the NFP encourage the couple to listen to the voice of God within themselves.
Just as fasting from food brings about spiritual and physical fruits, the periodic fasting of the martial act also brings about spiritual and physical fruits. The discipline developed from periodic abstinence allows the spouse to love the other in a deeper and more beautiful way. Anyone can run the violin bow along the strings, but it takes discipline and practice to create the beautiful sounds for which the violin was created. The other spouse who is loved through this formed discipline is not the only beneficiary. The NFP couple becomes better conditioned to choose the good of their neighbor over worldly pleasures. In other words, NFP makes the couple better Christians, and the data supports this. Not only do studies show NFP couples to have less than a 1-percent divorce rate, but NFP couples are more likely to be better stewards in their parish.
Whether married couples choose to NFP or not NFP, let us all be a beacon of light to this misguided culture of relativism that makes contraception a mandated right towards "women's health."
David Foppe is a member of Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro, N.C. 16 August 2012