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NFP Awareness Week

August 3, 2009

Last week was Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. Unfortunately, because we were packing and moving and unpacking, I failed to post and bring attention to that fact. Nevertheless, I do feel that it is very important and something that ought to receive more attention.

For anyone not aware, NFP is an umbrella term which describes various methods  using natural means of determining fertility in order for a couple to responsibly and non-contraceptively plan (and space if necessary) children.  NFP is NOT the old calendar or rhythm method sometimes referred to as Catholic roulette. NFP relies upon scientifically observable symptoms of the body in order to determine whether the woman is likely to be fertile or infertile at a given time.

I do not wish here to discuss the statistical success of NFP (both for responsibly and chastely avoiding pregnancy and for conceiving a child); instead I’d like to offer a brief personal reflection. My wife and I have been married for a little over three years now. When we got married she had just finished her undergraduate degree, and we were both about to start working on an MA in Theology while teaching at a Catholic high school in order to pay the bills. We prayerfully discerned that it would be prudent to attempt to postpone the conception of a child until we completed our MA coursework. This required regular periods of abstention, which I can honestly say helped us to live in our hearts and bodies what we had intellectually assented to via our studies of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. We better learned how to express our love for each other in various ways. We learned to give and receive love by going on walks, engaging in deep theological conversations and silly laughter-filled moments, by watching movies or going to dinner, by playing games or just sitting in silence, and also by sharing in the nuptial gift.

Because we chose to use NFP, it was necessary that I be aware of her fertility. This forced us to frequently discuss fertility, our intentions in the marital act and in our marriage itself, and our bodies. These discussions, in turn, enabled us to overcome the shame which society imposes on the sexual act. While on the one hand we are saturated with sexual media, on the other hand we are implicitly told that sex is not something to be discussed. It is a dirty act. We may make perverse jokes and laugh about it, but we are made to feel uncomfortable and ashamed having serious discussions about our bodies and sexual experiences, especially with our spouse. NFP forced us to overcome those tendencies and to develop in reality the positive perception of the nuptial meaning of the bodies which we had already embraced in thought.

In our experience, practicing NFP has not always been easy or convenient, but it has helped us to enrich our marriage. If anyone have any questions or concerns about NFP, please feel free to ask. I will answer to the best of my ability. IF you have positive comments and experiences, please share them, not only with us, but with someone for whom an increased awareness of NFP could be a great gift.

  1. August 4, 2009 12:31 pm


    Thanks for sharing! I need to write a post about how my husband and I were at first ambivalent towards NFP: we thought it was only good for avoiding pregnancy. We then realized that it had health benefits and it actually helped you conceive… Reading your blog early on before we got married further convinced me that NFP was the way to go and now I only have great things to say about it. Thanks for your witness!

  2. August 4, 2009 9:46 pm


    You are quite welcome :-). However, if you read anything good at Gift of Self on NFP it was probably by my wife, neverthelesss, it is always encouraging to hear when one has made a difference (or at least when God has used one for good). Of course, I am overjoyed to hear you have had positive experiences. It has certainly been a blessing in our marriage.

    Godspeed your move!

  3. August 6, 2009 11:22 am

    Yes, it was your wife… I just didn’t want to say “y’all’s blog” haha 😉 since we’re moving north of I-10 now! The move is slowly coming along… we just want to be moved and set up already, because everything is very chaotic right now… we leave next Sunday.

  4. brettsalkeld permalink
    August 30, 2009 12:52 am

    HI Joshua,
    Thanks for this. I am wondering what thoughts you have for couples that have chosen NFP and struggle mightily with it. My wife and I have had some serious problems, though they seem to be clearing up now (4 years into marriage). We also know some couples that are not fully convinced of Church teaching (we ourselves are), but who follow simply out of obedience. They have also had several ‘surprises’.
    One of the issues is that the teaching of NFP, at least in my experience, is a lot of hype and not a lot of substance. We hear a lot about how it will improve marriages, and very little about the struggles. It is much easier for me to see how people get frustrated and give up on Church teaching now that I have gone through it myself. I am convinced we need to do some serious ministry to those who struggle with NFP and I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this. Perhaps here or, more fully, in a future post. If you do such a post, please let me know in a com box here so I will be notified by e-mail.

  5. September 1, 2009 10:42 pm


    Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

    I was planning to respond via comment, but I don’t have the time to think it through now. Thus, I will respond with a new post sometime in the near future. If I don’t get to it in 2 weeks or so, remind me again, because it is an important and challenging question which is in need of analysis, discussion, and such.



    P.S. I really enjoyed your post on transubstantiation and ecumenism. Good stuff!


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