Family Planning and Spousal love.
As the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI's encyclical
approaches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared the week of July 22-28 as Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.
One common complaint that people have of the Catholic Church is its controversial, and often misunderstood, approach to family planning: what gives the Church the right to tell people what they can and cannot do?
Many times the Church is accused of not understanding what is going on between people when they enter a romantic relationship and their reasons behind wanting (or not wanting) children. Quite the contrary:, the Church - given the benefit through millennia of Old Testament writings as well as the Gospel and Sacred Tradition - has a deep and profound grasp of the precious gift of relationship that God has given to those chosen in that lifelong commitment known as marriage, one that is itself open to the creative capacity for new life.
The Church teaches that the sacrament of marriage symbolizes Christ's relationship with His Church. What is this relationship but one of total, faithful, permanent and fruitful love! It's often quite a revelation: when couples live their vocation according to Church teachings, especially with regard to the transmission of life, many benefits are realized. In fact, married couples who use Natural Family Planning (NFP) have said that among these benefits is a new appreciation and progress in their mutual growth in holiness, as well as a deepening respect and awe of God's gifts of human sexuality, marriage and family - as well as better communication and understanding of both their spouse and themselves. These are gifts that call for praise!
What is NFP? It is a term describing certain methods that are used to both achieve and avoid pregnancy by working with the natural cycles of the human body. Far from the original "Rhythm method" of the 1930s, they are based on the scientifically-supported theory that fertile times can be predicted by observing various physiological changes associated with ovulation. NFP methods are known as a "holistic" approach to family planning. Both husband and wife learn to understand their fertility, emotions and family planning intention (both whether to have a baby or not). Its success relies upon a couple's willingness to understand not only the method but also one another. Unlike artificial birth control, this requires the couple to develop their ability to communicate; a talent that certainly could use development in many people today.
NFP promotes openness to new life and recognizes the value of children. Spousal relations are understood as love-giving as well as life-giving. It can enrich the bond between husband and wife and promotes the understanding of what Pope St. John Paul II called the "self donation" between spouses. For these reasons it is an acceptable form of family planning, not only for Catholics, but for all people who want to truly discover the joys of a true spousal relationship and one that reflects very well the love that Christ the Bridegroom has for His Church!
For more information and for resources about NFP and the facts on the Church's teachings on family life, see the following:
Diocese of Trenton website:
One More Soul:
The body, and only the body, is capable of making visible the invisible realities: the spiritual and divine.
St. John Paul II, Wednesday Audience in St. Peter’s Square on Feb. 20, 1980
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Audio (66 minutes) -
God's Plan for Love: Humanae Vitae, Sex, and Authentic Freedom
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical
, Archbishop Aquila explains how Blessed Pope Paul VI’s teaching still serves as a great light amidst a world that is deeply confused about sexual intimacy. He provides valuable insights about how God imbued our sexuality with truths that are reflective of his own divine love. He challenges Catholics to share the liberating truth of God’s plan for sex within marriage and witness this reality as the way of lasting happiness.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, July 20 at 3:00PM