Give up… all you have worked on through these challenges to God. Plan a time when you can go to confession and hand over all your NFP struggles.
This week, I’m encouraging you to take what you’ve worked on these past six weeks to God in confession, whenever you can next. I wrote this Examination of Conscience for the NFP User based around the Eight Beatitudes. These are questions that highlight areas of this lifestyle where we can easily fail, opportunities for growing in love across all aspects of our sexuality, our marriage, family planning and even love of neighbor.
Author’s Disclaimer: This examination bears no imprimatur. I don’t know what to tell you to expect from a priest if you take this into the confessional with you. The scrupulous should proceed with caution.
An Examination of Conscience for the NFP User
Blessed are the poor in spirit
- Do I see my fertility as a gift to be treasured and shared with my spouse? Or as an inconvenience and hindrance to my wants and desires?
- Do I treasure my spouse’s body and fertility as gifts?
- Do I see myself as steward of my fertility? Is God still my master?
Blessed are they who mourn
- Do I trust God with my fertility, even if it is his will that we do not have children, or to give us children under extreme or difficult circumstances?
- Do I pray for those who long for children or who have lost children, especially my friends, and those I see on Sundays in the pews? Do I mourn with them?
- If I suffer from infertility or miscarriage or had unintended pregnancies, have I given God my pain and confusion?
- Do I see my body as a gift, even as it changes due to bearing children, or if I cannot physically bear children? Do I see my body in both cases as a mirror of Christ’s body on the cross?
Blessed are the meek
- Do I temper my anger when it arises over disagreements with my spouse or hurts caused through misunderstandings about sex? Do I seek to channel my anger so that it produces a constructive and loving outcome? Or do I just want my pound of flesh?
- Do I seek to place myself in my spouse’s shoes to see their side in these moments, and endeavor to assume the best of him/her?
- Do I make an effort to apologize sincerely when I am in the wrong?
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Do I bear witness to the NFP lifestyle in an honest and joyful way? Am I willing to share the truth, both good and bad?
- Am I afraid to share this aspect of my faithfulness with those who may not agree with me?
Blessed are the merciful
- Do I bear with my spouse when we differ in our desires for family planning? Am I patient with him/her or do I try to control or manipulate an outcome I want?
- Do I seek God when I am not merciful with myself over my own fears regarding family planning?
Blessed are the pure of heart
- Do I understand that children are gifts, and treat my own as such?
- Do I believe that God’s will for me is always best, even when it is difficult to accept?
Blessed are the peacemakers
- Do I speak to those who promote or use contraception in a loving manner? Am I willing to meet them where they are and walk with them?
- Do I regularly examine my own intentions and desires regarding sex and family planning before rushing to judge others?
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
- Do I love those who mock or disparage our decision to use fertility awareness? How do I respond to them, in my speech and in my mind? Do I gossip about them or take my wounds and theirs to prayer?
- Do I judge the family planning of others? Do I assume the best of those who don’t have the family I think they should have?
Scripture and Prayer
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Matthew 11: 28-30
Heavenly Father, what you asked of your Son, you also ask of us: Take up your cross. Not only is faithfulness through NFP a struggle, but also giving those struggles over to you can be a cross in itself. Take it all! Your yoke is easy when we give it back to you and you carry it with us. Help us to never be afraid to turn to you and draw strength from the gift of yourself in the sacraments: in reconciliation, Eucharist, and in marriage. Let us never tire of approaching and beseeching your throne of grace. We love you Father! We thank you for the gift of each other. Let us love each other as you love us.
I want to thank all of you for joining me in these challenges this Lent, especially those who stuck it out all the way to the end. I hope and pray that it has been a help for you, something practical to make NFP a tangible benefit for your marriage.
I also want to thank all those who contributed their own personal stories each week. NFP is so much easier to live when we know we aren’t practicing it alone. There are many more of us than we may think. I’m so grateful to those who shared their stories and helped me further a mission of solidarity.
If you enjoyed this challenge series, I’d love to know! Feel free to contact me with any thoughts, ideas or stories.
Blessed Luigi and Maria Quattrochi, pray for us!