NFP Awareness Week

NFP is an acronym well-known in many Catholic circles, but not recognized by all Catholics and certainly not understood in the secular society. NFP stands for Natural Family Planning and it is NOT your mother’s rhythm method. Last night I asked my husband if he was aware that this was NFP Awareness week. He quipped, “I am well aware!” I can only laugh because with my poor health, practicing NFP has been both a blessing and a cross. Isn’t that true of love? It brings us great pleasure and abundant blessings, but can be unbearably painful as well. Christ is love and he calls us to love completely too. This is why the Catholic Church puts forth NFP for married couples and denounces all forms of contraception, because she calls us to utter and complete love knowing the true cost is a laying down of our lives.

 

I didn’t understand this in my youth. Oh, I argued against the Church’s teaching on pre-marital sex and contraception. I mean, if you love somebody . . . Ah, the ignorance of youth. Early in my marriage I was called to a deeper understanding. After experiencing depression and the reality of my new marriage: mainly being the second wife and realizing that my husband had had relations with another woman, had a child with another woman, that another woman had lived in the home in which I was residing and that she would continue to be a part of our lives for the duration of their daughter’s life. I wondered who I was and what I brought to this marriage. I wondered if I could ever have a greater bond with my husband than he had with his first wife. This was my first taste of the truth that sex bonds and that the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce had great significance. Accepting this truth opened my heart to the teaching on contraception. As I sat crying, I asked Mary to guide me. I asked God what I was supposed to do.   The answer came almost instantaneously: I was to be the best step mother I could be and I needed to obey the Church in all things. My heart was forever changed. Patrick supported me without question and I delved into learning NFP from a book that I had checked out at the library. I had never heard NFP mentioned at church. I had no knowledge of the teachers and support groups that existed in our diocese. We gave my body three months to clear the carcinogens and then it took three more months to conceive Lauren Elizabeth. Every child born since that time was not necessarily expected, as we can never be so presumptuous of God’s gifts, but each child was known to be a possibility. We were open to that possibility, we were aware of that possibility, but we did not necessarily always count on that possibility becoming a reality. In other words, there were times that bringing a new life into our family didn’t seem to be optimal from our point of view; but, we still engaged in activities that made new life possible. This is what makes NFP so radically different from contraception. God gives total control of that decision to us in the very moment that life can be created. It is still dependent on His will, but we choose how we live out our wills in that moment.

 

This is not something that is easily explained in line at the grocery store when, after finding out how many children we have, we are asked, “Are you going to have any more?” There is not time for a theological discussion and I could never answer “no” even when my body is screaming at me from being overwhelmed and overburdened. I have finally come up with a charitable reply and have exercised it once with good results. To the receptionist at a doctor’s office I calmly sighed and said, “I’m not sure what you are asking. Are you asking if my husband and I will continue to have marital relations? Because if you are, the answer is a definite, Yes!” At this point, the conversation will get awkwardly quiet. This is because the statement makes the person realize that they have just asked a deeply private and intimate question. The intention is not to make the person feel embarrassed or awkward, but to make them think more deeply about their question. We should be thinking more deeply about life and stop taking the creation and extermination of human life so glibly. I broke the silence with explaining that we are open to life and use NFP to plan and space our births, but ultimately it is up to God to decide if we will be blessed with another child. Sometimes the conversation can go much deeper if the person is open to learning more about NFP.  These are great opportunities to evangelize.

 

Even greater than the opportunity to participate in the planning of life, NFP has extraordinary health benefits. The doctors, through encouragement of Pope Paul VI and his encyclical letter, Humane Vitae (a must read!) have researched and discovered so many new and amazing things about the female reproductive system. Now, they are able to treat infertility with a 50-80% success rate (vs 10-60% for IVF), as well as treat heavy bleeding, PMS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and a host of other hormone related ailments. In other words, NFP is allowing for natural healing at the underlying causes of these issues vs. prescribing chemical contraception, performing invasive surgeries, or performing unethical procedures like IVF (In Vitro Fertilizaion).

 

Through the use of NFP I have come to know my body intimately and have been empowered to trust myself and my intuitions. My husband and I have an amazing marriage. His sacrifice and mine in practicing NFP continually call us to communicate about intimate matters that we humans tend to avoid. It is a way for us to lay down our lives for one another and lift each other up during the difficulties. It is not always easy, but it is always rewarding. The best gift married couples can give one another is the gift of themselves and NFP allows that to happen without our selfish wills obscuring our view.

 

For more information on NFP, visit the Creighton University site for NaPro Technology.   For couples, engaged or married, I highly recommend Simcha Fisher’s book, A Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning. This is the most down to earth, realistic discussion on NFP ever penned. Also, this site has great articles that delve into the various subjects surrounding the use of contraception and NFP.

 

Happy NFP Awareness Week! Now you know 😉

Where’s the Outrage?

A rare moment alone in the car yesterday gave way for me to listen to Talk Radio–a habit that my husband got me hooked on during the Clinton years when he always had the latest news and insight, and my News at 5pm left me wanting and wondering. Anyway, the topic yesterday on Rush Limbaugh covered the controversial lyrics of a Beyoncé song wherein she crudely describes a sexual encounter in her limo and uses the term “Monica Lewinskyed” in reference to such encounter. We can debate the appropriateness of the lyrics, but I choose to just avoid such music and other “art” forms that take a degrading path. I cannot, however, in good conscience walk away from the degradation of people–an individual person in this case: Ms. Monica Lewinsky.

Where is the outrage? Why is it okay to use her personal name as a verb in such a crude context? Where are the feminists, the civil rights leaders, the prolifers, and the politicians? Why is it that 16 years later Ms. Lewinsky is still drug through the mud, laughed at and mocked, while the perpetrator, the other person involved in the act that made her infamous is given millions of dollars in donations, invited to speak at galas and women’s rights events, and given prestige and honor? I for one am appalled. This is just wrong and unjust. Ms. Lewinsky was 22 at the time and Mr. Clinton, err President Clinton was 52–30 years her senior and President of the United States!! I’m just wondering why she has to wear the scarlet letter while Mr. Clinton suffers no lasting consequences and in fact seems to have only gained power and affluence. I’m just wondering why so-called feminists and our current President scream for gender equality while ignoring such blatant inequality.

We don’t need more laws and regulations that count how many women hold certain jobs and compare apples to oranges in the job market. We don’t need more regulation, talk and empty promises. We don’t need free contraception and access to abortion. We need respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Individual dignity. To be treated like the uniquely valuable beings that we are.

And, Beyoncé, if you feel like you need to write that crap, you live in a free country and are free to do so; but, allow me to suggest that you use the phrase “Bill Clintoned all over my dress” as it would be more accurately termed. In all honesty you could use your talents to lift the dignity of women instead of turning us into sexual objects to be used and discarded. We deserve better. You deserve better. And Ms. Lewinsky has suffered enough.

Let’s Talk About Sex

marriage act
I know we barely know each other–this is only my 17th post and all; but, it is time to have a frank discussion about sex and our culture, and most importantly, our children. I am not ashamed to say that my views on sex are shaped very much by my Catholic faith. Shake your head if you will, but the Catholic Church has 2000 years of consistent teachings on this topic and she is not too prude to discuss her experience with us if we would only listen. It took me a long time before I listened to my wise mother and what she had to say about sex. And once I started reading from her treasure trove of knowledge (aka Catechism of the Catholic Church) there were no questions left unanswered and she proved herself to be a very consistent, loving and challenging teacher. Just as parents have rules and boundaries to keep their children safe and guide them to becoming independent and stable adults, the Church gives us rules and guidelines to help us love God, neighbor and ourselves and to attain happiness with Him in heaven.

There are two articles that I recently read that have prompted this article. These combined with the full-on assault on our sexuality through the media, music and secular culture have me deeply concerned about our children’s well-being and their future. You see, I want my kids to have great sex if they are called to marriage; but, more than that I want my children to master chastity because that is the tool that is needed in every walk of life: married or single, homosexual or heterosexual, child or adult, male or female, no matter race or creed. For all the talk of sex in our world there is little talk of chastity. Abstinence is mentioned from time to time, but it is either in a condescending tone that we cannot possible abstain and control our impulses; or it is trivialized to the point that all single people should practice abstinence or they will be ruined and used and made filthy for life. Somewhere in the middle is reality and that is where you will find the Catholic Church. She asks us to strive for perfection and remain pure. The graces to do so are given in abundance if one only asks God for them. At the same time, if we fall the Church has provided us with the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can wipe our souls clean and be filled with grace to avoid the same pitfalls in the future. Sadly, the world (and many Catholics) do not know the good news and the ways of the world are very seductive.

Let’s break down the first article “Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex.” The father is reacting against the premise of owning his daughter. He doesn’t want to treat his daughter like an object that he owns and controls. Let’s give him points for this! Indeed, no person owns or controls any other person. That would be slavery. Yet, what he fails to realize is that a father should be the protector of his children, most especially his daughters. What?! Daughters and sons should be treated the same! No. Women and men are different and have very different needs. Both girls and boys should be taught virtue and self-control. Both should be taught to respect other people. But, daughters are more vulnerable. Rape is a very real crime. It is the worst crime that can be perpetuated on a woman. When a girl is out on a date the role of protection is passed from the father to the man. His duty is to respect and guard her dignity. Now, here is the point of contention. The author is saying that he hopes his daughter has great consensual sex and urges her to follow her instincts. The underlying message assumes that she will use “protection” to have “safe” sex, so STD’s and pregnancy will not be issues. This father does not take into account that ALL contraceptives have failure rates. So, he is giving his daughter permission to play roulette with her body. Let us set aside all the negative side effects of the contraceptive choices and just look at what happens when they fail. Now, your daughter has an increase risk of cervical cancer, contracting a sexually transmitted disease (which are growing at astronomical rates and are becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant) and has a high risk of becoming pregnant (because we know she is not going to just have great sex one time and then stop). I just want to scream, “What are you thinking?!” And after all of this his daughter becomes an object to be used for sex, or she is using and objectifying someone else, or both. This completely negates his original intention of treating his daughter with dignity and as her own person. We haven’t even covered the emotional damage done by the hook-up mentality. Women are emotionally aroused beings where men are physically aroused. Studies prove that women attach to the men they are having sex with. They actually produce hormones during sex that bonds them to their mate. So the promotion of sex outside of marriage is a recipe for disaster and most of the world just continues to ignore the ramifications and tries to treat the symptoms because the alternative of teaching, learning and practicing chastity is just too hard and, well, we are too spoiled to want to try.

The next article, “HuffPo Blog Encourages Teen Sex Sleepovers to Parents” was not a surprise either. I had a few friends in high school that were allowed to have their girlfriends or boyfriends sleep over. It totally shocked me then although it was relatively rare. I would never have mentioned it to my parents because it was so taboo. Now, it is apparently being promoted as healthy and normal and parents that don’t allow it must be some kind of extremist Christians or prudes. There are so many logical errors with this type of thinking I hardly know where to begin. In the second and third paragraphs, a Huffington Post blogger is arguing that parents should teach the children how to have sex well and questions why “unless they ‘just like porn . . . would you create a situation where your children are forced to hide, sneak around, be dishonest, be uncomfortable, take unnecessary risks and make uninformed decisions about their physical and emotional health?'” Well, let us unpack that thought process, shall we? First, why the assumption that our children are looking at porn or having sex behind our backs? It is presented like an either/or situation. We have so saturated our culture that sex is necessary to survive and function normally that we have become enslaved to it. In reality sex is an optional activity. And the premise to “teach children to have sex well” is just plain creepy. Who needs to be taught how to have sex? What we need to teach our children is the purpose of our bodies. May I suggest books based on the Theology of the Body? The Theology of the Body is a compilation of 129 of Pope John Paul II’s weekly audiences given between 1979 and 1984 where he delves into the beauty and “integrated vision of the human person” (www.theologyofthebody.net) Lastly, why do we expect that our children are incapable of living chaste lives? Because we couldn’t? The generations raised since the so-called sexual revolution are so brainwashed into thinking that sex is the be-all and end-all, and that we should do whatever feels good, we have fooled ourselves into believing that there are no consequences for those actions. Do we really think that our children cannot go on dates without having sex because we failed to remain chaste? I apologize for speaking in broad-sweeping generalizations. I do realize that many of us remained virgins until marriage, but many of us did not and we are fighting a culture that portrays the normal family to look more like that of “Rosanne” and less like “Leave it to Beaver”. In any case, I have a news flash: your children can remain chaste and if you haven’t mastered it yet, you can also learn to live a chaste life, nay, you must!

Later in the article we are given another either/or scenario. As parents we are either “responsible-sex-is-good” parents or “scare-them-silly” parents. Really? And what constitutes responsible sex? The Pill, condoms, abortion and the morning-after emergency contraceptives all come with extremely dangerous and ugly side-effects. Is the promotion of these methods responsible? Is it responsible to promote and expose our children to STD’s, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and emotional wounds that will take a lifetime to heal? The article claims that its approach to sex does not lead to “licentiousness, STDs, abortions and despair” but studies and life experience show us otherwise. And what happens when a girl does end up pregnant? Either we force abortion on her to cover up and rid her of the mistake, or she faces her peers and she is the “failed experiment” in the equation quickly shunned by her friends who do not want to face the reality of what results when people have sex–babies. In our complete split with reality we have actually managed to separate sex from babies and babies from sex.

Let us be clear on this, people. Abortion is a billion dollar industry that feeds on the blood of innocent babies. It is fueled by the culture of “do what feels good now and worry about the consequences later.” Your children are the target market. You can sit idly by continue to allow them to be shaped by the television shows, music and culture; or you can discover and share the Truth with them and change how they view the world. Sex is a very beautiful and good thing. God gave us this awesome gift, but it comes with boundaries to keep us all safe. Learn about and teach your children chastity. Work on mastering it yourself. The CCC is a great place to start, but the “Theology of the Body for Teens” by Jason Everett is a great way to break it down and begin living it. Whatever you do, please don’t fall for the crap that is being fed to us as “responsible parenting.” And, by the way, I’m really tired of being pegged as a prude because I expect chaste living from my children which includes abstinence outside of marriage. I have nine children here on earth and two in heaven–proof that I am hardly a prude. And for further validation check out this recent study that shows Catholics have better sex!