Monday, December 8, 2008

The "Why" of NFP

If you have a moment check out Mary Alice's new article at Busted Halo. Mary Alice discusses the "why" of NFP--and does so beautifully. I hope and pray that some hearts are changed by her words.

And while we are on this topic, I want to add a little bit about why me and my husband teach NFP.

Mr. Red and I began our own NFP journey in college. Like most young women who don't belive in artificial methods of contraception, I was a nervous wreck that NFP wouldn't work and I'd be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen with 10 children. Once I realized that NFP actually worked, we were relieved and then excited to share the good news with other couples.

We didn't decide to become NFP instructors, however, until we started helping with the pre-cana at our local parish. At any pre-cana, divorce is on the minds of those running the workshop. Seeing how Catholic engaged couples have a similar divorce rate to the national average (over 50%!), and couples that practice NFP have less than a 2% divorce rate, we saw NFP as a basic self-help principle to creating more stable lasting marriages.

And that gets me to the point of my post, and the heart of what Mary Alice has already written. If NFP was really just Catholic contraception, these divorce rate numbers wouldn't make sense. While NFP is just as effective as the pill or other chemical contraceptives, it is fundamentally different than these other methods of contraception. NFP alters the way we think about our sexuality and it alters the way we think about our marriage. It radically changes our hearts to love and to listen to God's call for our lives. And this is the reason that many couples who practice NFP have larger families. God has changed their hearts and given them the grace to welcome a larger than average number of children into their family.

The Church doesn't condemn the use of contraceptives in our marriage because She wants to be mean and make our lives difficult. Rather, the Church wants our marriages to succeed, and our lives to be holy and full of love. The Church in her great wisdom has laid out a blueprint for success in marriage. We teach NFP because we want other couples to have a successful, love filled, and blessed marriage.

Thanks Mary Alice for engaging this really important topic. You are a wonderful example of the beautiful openness to life in marriage. Prayers for you as you prepare to welcome your newest addition.


Laurie said...

I've been a regular follower of the Building Cathedrals blog for several months and I've never commented before. Tonight's post was so timely that I couldn't help but comment. My husband and I made the decision to practice NFP early in our marriage. We've been very happy with our chosen method of contreception. we have a beautiful 2 and a half year old daughter and a brand new little baby boy. Lately I've really been struggling with our decision to practice NFP. While I was pregnant with our son we discovered that our daughter has a rare but very serious genetic disability that she inherited from both of us. This tragic news has shaken us to the core and has left me questioning if NFP was still right for us (any future children, including our son, have a 25% chance of having the same genetic defect). Your post tonight reminded me why we decided that NFP was right for us. Tonight's post is an answer to my prayers and I have renewed confidence in our decision to practice NFP.

Jaime said...

So...yeah...I think the H.Spirit is doing something about wanting to get the word out about NFP. I just spent an entire work day trying to answer questions and comments on a BBC message board that I happened upon which started with a question (quickly followed by many affirmations for the writer from others) along the lines of "Is the Catholic Church the only one that still holds to its archaic ban on birth control?" ...I signed up to be a messager immediately, and it was a rough back and forth for most of the day, but hopefully some of the arguments for the beauty of NFP are now out to the BBC message-board public. I had to stop at a certain point, and have no doubt that things got ugly after that (I feel God not wanting me to go back to check actually), but my hope is that at least one person reading the posts will see things in a different way. Thanks for the post Red, and thanks to MA for the article!:)

Molly said...

First, Laurie, we will be praying for you and your family. Your courage is an inspiration.

MA and Red, thank you for this. My husband and I are the only people we know (outside of you all in cyberspace) that practice NFP, and it can be a little intimidating. At the same time, it gives special opportunities to spread the word. I'm a law student, and there's usually a point in my new friendships with others when they comment that I seem to do a lot of what the Church says, but there's that pesky problem of birth control, right? That gives me an opening to talk about NFP and how it's been a blessing for me and my husband.

Red, I have a practical question. I would be interested in teaching NFP at our church. Our church didn't teach NFP during pre-cana, and pretty much avoided the contraception conversation altogether. It was because I knew some of the builders at college that I knew about it, and my husband and I taught ourselves through the mail-order Couple to Couple package. How did you go about learning to be a teacher? And how would you suggest approaching our church about strengthening that portion of the pre-cana?

Again, thank you all.

Kat said...

Thank you, MA and Red, for both of your articles on NFP, they are a huge encouragement and a good reminder of the core reasons for why we use NFP. Before coming to Princeton I didn't know much about NFP, and I came from a Catholic high school! I had a wonderful teacher who broached the subject once, but we didn't go into much of the theology behind why the Church teaches what She does. When I came to college and started to get involved in the Catholic community, I started to learn more and more about NFP and it made sense! I was in Red's Bible study (along with Texas Mommy and AWOL - thank you, Red!), and taught us in simple, straightforward terms all about NFP. Again, it made sense to me! So, thank you to all of you wonderful women who taught me so much!

Anonymous said...

The divorce statistics seem a bit misleading, and you seem to be conflating causative with correlative. In other words, people who use NFP might not have a much lower divorce rate because of NFP. It could easily be that couples who are more committed to Catholic marriage and are less likely to divorce to begin with are much more likely to use NFP. As MA points out in her article, a couple can use NFP with a contraceptive mindset, and when that is the case, it ends up being a struggle/burden and doesn't necessarily strengthen the marriage.

That said, I of course agree that the divorce rate is too high, and I also agree with the church's teachings on contraceptions.

Rivqah said...

My husband was born and raised Catholic, but I was raised Lutheran (pastor's kid!). I agreed to go to the NFP classes with him before the wedding mostly because it was important to him to obey what the Catholic Church teaches, and my Lutheran church couldn't have cared less what we did in that area. So I figured I could at least go along for his sake and see if it wasn't a royal pain. To my surprise, not only was NFP pretty easy to learn, but I really liked it for practical reasons (little to no ongoing cost, no pumping hormones into my body, actually knowing what my body's up to on any given day). And the CCL class presented the Church's teaching on NFP in a way that made me realize, it's not just rules for the sake of controlling people, but there are actually good, sound reasons behind it. That realization is one of the things that helped me be open to becoming Catholic, three years after we got married. So thank you, NFP!

Joanne said...

I think the reason that the divorce rate is so low for couples that practice NFP is exactly what it seems like - I think that when couples practice NFP they allow and invite God into their marriage in a way that can't possibly let it fail. I know that my husband and I are completely blessed to practice NFP, even as I am sort of reeling from the surprise of my pregnancy, which happened when my baby was eight months old. We don't have any NFP guidance at our church either, so we ordered our kid from the CCL and had charted only one month when I got pregnant. There are a million reasons why *I* would think this is not the right time for us to have another baby - my oldest is autistic and really struggling with therapy and school, my second will be just 16 months older than the new baby, I am 40 and feeling every second of it, etc., etc., but there is no way I could convey how happy and comforted I feel knowing that God wants us to have this baby! It's almost too much for me to think about.

My husband and I thought that we were interested in delaying the birth of our next child, we have been so worried about our son and worried that future children that we have will be autistic. I truly feel that this baby is God's way of telling us that we don't have to worry about it, I see it as a reminder that He is with us every step of the way.

Mary Alice said...

I love your new picture Red! I am totally embarrased by the "just had twins, still in the hospital" picture that they put up on BustedHalo -- I did not mean to give it to them, I think they grabbed it off my family photo site when I linked to a different pic!

Still pregnant, begging Our Lady for patience,


Right Said Red said...

It was about time that I updated my photo!

I thank you all for your wonderful thoughts on NFP. It was really encouraging for me to read all the positive feedback both here and at BustedHalo.

Molly as to your specific question on teaching NFP, I can only answer for CCL (, because we are certified to teach through them. They have a fairly rigorous teacher training. It is all online, but it is about 40 hours of on-line training and testing. It took us several months to complete their training (we did this in the evenings). The training is excellent, but time consuming. Once you are certified, you can either contact your local diocese or CCL central about teaching classes. Our diocese works directly with CCL, so they help us schedule classes. We have been giving the NFP talk at our local parish for about 4 years (2 times per year) and we schedule our NFP courses to begin immediately after pre-cana. We maximize the number of students this way.

As for getting your parish to talk about NFP at the pre-cana, many times it is simply a matter of having a couple willing to present the material. I have talked to soooo many marriage prep coordinators who are not able to get a young couple to present on this topic. There is REALLY a great need!!!! If you think this is an area where you can help, please sign up!

The other organization I would recommend is Creighton. They have a different sort of certification process (which I believe is just as rigorous). You may want to do some research on their website,

Thank you all for your thoughtful and uplifting responses!

Mary Alice said...

The thing is, I am barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen most of the time, what I didn't realize is that i would be so happy and that it would be so good for me! I can't believe that I am having my sixth child and that the idea of 10 more years of possible fertility does not scare me. I am not saying that everyone who does not contracept is called to have a large family, but i think that the uniting grace of our marriage has opened us up to this call, and the daily living of it has made it so much more loving for my husband and i.

I used to be really into material gifts as a sign of my husband's love for me, but we celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary yesterday and I looked around and realized, I have a beautiful home, a loving and supportive spouse, a new, huge car, and the excitement of a new baby to look forward to. What a gift our children are, they are a gift from God, but they are also a gift that my husband and I have given to each other. The fact is that we are refined by their very presence, we become less selfish, less proud, more patient, and these things help us in all of our other relationships, as well, so I am married to a much more virtuous man than the one who stood at the altar with me, and he is married to a better woman.

I think about this when I see elderly people caring for very infirm spouses, my grandmother did it with saintly patience, and I know that it was the product of the love and grace that built up over fifty years of marriage. Now, she mentions all the time that her husband continues to "take care of her" because of the financial support he left.

B and C said...

I loved the article on Busted Halo. Like those who first left comments, this is so timely for my DH and me, but in a slightly different way. After six years of marriage and no kiddos yet (and not feeling a sense of urgency about this until now), we are using NFP to try to find some sense of order in what appears to be a bunch of hormonal chaos. Thanks for the discussion.

Heather said...

I loved the article over at busted halo and your thoughts here. I am a protestant evangelical woman who, along with my hubby, have chosen to go the NFP route. It is truly amazing to see how our hearts have been changed as we have sought seek God's will on how many children we are to have and the timing for their arrival.

JimmyV said...

Thanks for the reminder of why I teach, as my wife and I get ready to be the NFP couple at our parish's new pre-cana.

Thanks for the tip on the Busted Halo article. I'm heading there now!

moira said...

I read this a few days ago and came back to ask you what you mean by this, in light of what MA wrote in her column, and now in her comment. You said:
"Like most young women who don't belive in artificial methods of contraception, I was a nervous wreck that NFP wouldn't work and I'd be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen with 10 children. Once I realized that NFP actually worked, we were relieved and then excited to share the good news with other couples."

Right Said Red said...


Good question. It is true that I was a nervous wreck that NFP wouldn't be an effective method of spaceing/limiting the number of children I had. Many young college catholic women feel this way. I wasn't raised in a Catholic home, or really a home that embraced the church's teaching on life issues. Taking a radical jump towards providentialism would have required a "Paul on the road to Damascus" sort of experience. I was therefore relieved that NFP worked, and I could follow the church's teaching and still have some control over my fertility. It was a first step towards a more radical openness to God's call in our life and marriage. Without it, I may have completely rejected the church's teaching on contraception.

While I have matured significantly in my attitude towards what constitutes an appropriate time to use NFP for spacing, I am still relieved and excited that it is effective. Like MaryAlice, I have had a large number of pregnancies (5 exactly!) in only 7 years of marriage. Each of these children/pregnancies was wanted/planned. I realize that not everyone is called to have a large family. If, due to various circumstances, a couple feels called to limit their family size, NFP is both morally licit and just to use.

Like MaryAlice, I have been barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen most of my marriage (or had a needy nursing infant by my side!) I have been truly blessed by this experience, and changed for the better. Yet I realize that not everyone has this same call--some women get sick, others have emotional stress that I cannot even begin to understand, financial strains, sick relatives, etc. It is for these women, and these situations, that I am both relieved and excited that NFP works! The sacrifices that it requires during these difficult times are often just as purifying as welcoming another child into your home. Being open to life and open to God's plan for marriage is going to require different sacrifices from each couple.

I hope this clears things up a bit.