A TESTIMONY: SHE SAID “I DON’T HAVE TO SAY ONE THING AND LIVE ANOTHER
This is the testimony of Tracy Doyle, who is a physical therapist. When her husband, Fletcher, converted to the Catholic Church, they were confronted with the Church’s teachings on birth control. Their journey of faith led them to NFP. They have two children.
When my husband and I married in 1980, using birth control seemed perfectly logical and reasonable. I was Catholic, and my husband was not. We went through a marriage preparation course at the Catholic Church, but I do not recall any instruction in methods of family planning or discussion about why the Church is against birth control. My husband’s Church had no problems with birth control, and since I could not articulate the Catholic position, we did not give it another thought.
After seventeen years of marriage, I was shocked when my husband decided to enter the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in the Catholic Church. I had never pushed him about religion. He had attended Mass with me sporadically in the first years of our marriage and more frequently once we had children.
RCIA met weekly from October until Easter, and in the last three months of instruction, sponsors were invited to attend the classes. I attended as Fletcher’s sponsor, and I decided to read all the information he had been given so I could keep pace with what he was learning. As I studied, I began to learn about my faith and experience the teachings in a very personal way.
When my husband entered the Church, we were still not sure about the Church’s stance on birth control. Our RCIA program did not address this issue very well, and we were too embarrassed to ask the questions we needed answers to.
Ultimately I talked to a priest, and he recommended that I read Humanae Vitae. The document was difficult to understand at first, but it got me thinking. I then sought more information about natural methods of birth regulation approved by the Church.
One day I spotted a brief article in the newspaper that mentioned a state grant being offered to the NFP Office in our diocese. I didn’t even know there was such an office. I soon spoke to the director, and she told me how NFP could help me live the teachings of the Church within my marriage.
I was so excited. I felt as if I could finally be completely honest with God. Now all I had to do was convince my husband.
When I told Fletcher that I wanted to start using NFP, he was speechless. It was right around Lent, and we had decided to recite a rosary together daily as our Lenten sacrifice. I suggested we ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, for guidance. So one of our petitions in our daily rosary was whether participating in NFP would be pleasing to God.
We laugh now at what Mary did with that prayer. Doors couldn’t open fast enough to lead us closer to NFP. Our hearts were changed almost overnight, and my husband became an ardent NFP supporter.
I won’t say that it wasn’t difficult to make this change, but the blessings that have come from it are too numerous to mention. Most importantly, I felt that I was able to say yes to God completely for the first time in my life. I realized that I had not trusted God with my fertility. I had wanted him in every part of my life except the bedroom. When I finally surrendered my belief that I had control of my fertility, I was able to see God’s hand in everything.
My husband and I began to appreciate life more. We came to see the dignity of all human persons in all states of life. We saw the blessing of children in a profound way – not just our children, but all children.
A special blessing was that as we welcomed NFP into our lives, our young teenage daughter was coming to terms with her own sexuality. In school her mandated health education classes were teaching things with which we did not agree. Through NFP and audiotapes like Janet Smith’s “Contraception, Why Not” and Pam Stenzel’s tape on chastity, we taught her about the dignity of the body and how it could not be separated from the soul. We talked about the fact that our bodies are gifts from God and that he dwells within us. We told her that a true loving relationship involves mutual self-donation and love strong enough to be willing to create a new life if that is God’s will. Finally, we shared that we are all capable of self-control, despite contemporary teaching that we are not.
My daughter just finished college, and these lessons have affected her deeply. She has a firm foundation in her faith and her sexuality, and she enjoys a real sense of her personal worth and dignity. My son is in high school, and we need to be an example for him too.
With NFP I don’t have to say one thing and live another. The total surrender of my fertility to God has allowed me to surrender in other aspects of my life as well. I feel at peace with my faith and my sexuality, and I am happier than I have ever been.
This testimonial, and 19 others like it can be found in Fletcher Doyle’s recent book, NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING BLESSED OUR MARRIAGE – 19 TRUE STORIES (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006).
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB