By: Karen D. Poehailos, MD, CFCMC NFP Coordinator, Catholic Diocese of Richmond and St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish, Charlottesville

“It’s Time: Say ‘Yes’ to God’s Plan for Married Love” is the theme of this year’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, a national educational campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to celebrate God’s  vision for marriage and promote the  methods of Natural Family Planning.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for the safe, natural and effective methods of both achieving and avoiding pregnancy. NFP methods teach couples how to observe and interpret the woman’s signs of  fertility and infertility. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, NFP methods “respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them and favor the education  of an authentic freedom.” (CCC, no. 2370)

The foundation for understanding the Church’s teachings regarding NFP is the teaching that the marital act needs to respect its unitive and procreative meanings, as  explained in Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI.  Unitive refers to the act bringing the couple together, and procreative in that it has the potential to transmit life.  Take away one or the other, and the meaning of the act is broken.  The total self-giving of the spouses that is supposed to happen in marriage is broken by rejecting the possible fertility at that moment.

NFP respects the dual meaning of the marital act, whereas contraception does not, as it takes away the  procreative aspect.  In contraception, something (a Pill, implant, condom, or IUD) is used to try to stop God from moving to bring life. In NFP, couples who are trying to avoid pregnancy learn to identify when they are fertile, and abstain from the marital act at those times.  When they do engage in the marital act, the odds of  pregnancy may be less by timing, but they do not say “NO” to God’s plan if He were to bring a life at that point.

The good news is that this IS good news! Instead of being a “no,” this teaching is a huge “yes” to the truth of our bodies and the meaning of marriage.  There are many couples in our  Diocese who have been successfully using all of the  models of NFP taught here for many years.  We have instructors in SymptoThermal Model (Couple to Couple League, Southern Star), Creighton Model, Billings, as well as online instruction in Marquette.  We have physicians who are versed in various NFP methods and can work with you to resolve infertility, irregular cycles, PMS, and more.

The dates of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week are July 23rd – 29th, 2017. These dates highlight the anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25) which articulates Catholic beliefs about human   sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood.

Want to learn more about the methods of NFP offered in our diocese?

See, www.cdrcmfl.org for more information on Natural Family Planning and to learn how to raise awareness in your parish. A list of local NFP practitioners can be found at http://www.cdrcmfl.org/diocesan-instructors/ or by phone at 804-622-5109.