Natural Family Planning (NFP) gets some pretty varied reactions, ranging from ridicule to condemnation to complete romanticizing. Some say it’s flat out ineffective, others that it’s really Catholic birth control, while others say that it’s a guarantee for the best marriage and sex life. None of these hit the mark.
So what is NFP actually?
In a word, NFP is stewardship.
Catholic marriages are required to be “open to life”. Jesus made clear that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10), and married couples are called to respond to this in a unique way. Marriage is, after all, a life-giving sacrament. However, it is life-giving not just physically in regards to children, but also spiritually within the spouses themselves. Allow me to contend that being “open to life” simply means that a couple is open above all to accept the abundant life that God wishes for them, with all the crosses and joys that come as a result. Ultimately, NFP gives couples the freedom to collaborate with God in their family planning, and in growing closer to each other and to God in unity.
Practically speaking, Natural Family Planning allows a couple to take a holistic and realistic view of their situation, and determine on a cycle-to-cycle basis whether it would be responsible given their full picture to try for a baby. It can also help identify hormonal issues that may make it difficult to achieve or sustain a pregnancy, and to allow both husband and wife to shoulder these realities together.
NFP is effective and successful when couples grow in unity and in reliance on God. That means it’s successful even when a couple is surprised by a baby or if they discover babies are impossible. Those who use NFP are made to see children not as liabilities, nor as inconveniences oreven as a means to their happiness, but as a way in which God can choose to fill and expand their lives.
NFP is a lifestyle, a difficult one at times, but one that is always fruitful when practiced with patience and love, either in the body or in the soul.
For NFP Awareness Week, I am excited and proud to share the stories of five married couples, an engaged couple, and even a priest, who all weigh in on what NFP is really like. Through these amazing stories, you will get to see how all of these truths play out uniquely in the lives of real people.
Scroll down and click on “Read their story” to learn more.
If you are looking for more resources on NFP, birth control, Church teaching and more, click here.
*This post was featured in the Theology of Home daily collection, June 2020.