Praised be Jesus Christ! Do you ever worry about money? Most people do, and contrary to popular belief, materially rich people worry about money at least as much as poor people. We celebrate this week National Natural Family Planning (NFP) week and before you accuse me of non sequitur (i.e. something that does not logically follow), please read on. Thanks to Alice Heinzen, the director of our diocesan marriage and family life office, we have access to remarkable resources that help couples live out their marriage vows (the website is diolc.org). Recently Alice forwarded a link to testimonies given by couples who use NFP and let me tell you how edifying and insightful they were... for example, one husband admitted, “I don’t think it is accidental that most divorces occur over the central agitations of sex and money. Looking back, I’m convinced that trusting in God’s provision in the area of finances, and more slowly in the area of our sexual relationship and openness to children were deeply connected. The issue, in either area, is fundamentally not about correct numbers but about to Whom we entrust our family.” Now the connection between NFP and money becomes more clear – it is about trusting God in every area of our life. Most of us find some aspects easier than others when it comes to truly trusting in God’s Providence. For example, one couple with five kids was considering sterilization because, as the wife admitted, “That teaching doesn’t apply to us, we have five kids.” Later on she and her husband changed their mind and eventually had a sixth child, whom they now love as the apple of their eye. Yes, trusting God in this intimate area is a struggle for human beings, and our Catholic couples are not immune to this challenge. As another husband put it, “Stacy and I understood NFP to be, at bottom, about bringing our whole lives – including our sexuality – into cooperation with God’s plan.” Yes, NFP is challenging because it asks us to trust God in very personal parts of our lives, and this is not easy for us... conversion is never easy. “Better to aim high and miss than to aim low and hit.” Yes, NFP is aiming high because it helps married couples to trust in God and to truly do His will. And there are so many fruits for those who are willing to give NFP a try. For example, one husband admitted, “Much to my surprise, I also learned how grateful my wife was that I was willing to learn how her body worked. Sharing the family planning responsibility, as well as finding non-sexual ways of expressing affection and intimacy when we had good reasons to postpone pregnancy, strengthened our marriage and made me a better husband and father.” And while there are many other reasons to recommend NFP, the fact that only 1% of NFP couples end in divorce beautifully validates Jesus’ statement that “you will know them by their fruits.” NFP does demand more of the couples that practice it, but it’s a burden that is not born alone, as Jennifer and John Campbell testify: “Unlike artificial contraception – which usually places full burden of family planning on the woman – NFP promotes shared responsibility of the fertility of both the husband and wife. It lends a spirit of togetherness to a marriage.” Yes, we live in a fallen world that sees many people doing what everybody else is doing but expecting different results. But for those who follow the Catholic Church’s teaching about marital intimacy, they often discover joy in somewhat surprising places. Our last testimony comes from a wife, who had this to say: “One of the things that really happens through living with NFP over the years is that you are awakened and realize how wonderful children are, that they are truly gifts from God. NFP has seen me through the journey from fear to acceptance, to a great joy in my fertility.”
May God bless all marriages with greater trust in His Providence, for them and their families!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin