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NFP: Cooperating with God's design

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

July 31, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

At one time or another, we’ve heard the persistent voice of a child very much wanting to know, “WHY? But WHY?!” Every parent is familiar with this questioning – and so is our Mother, the Church, as her sons and daughters struggle to understand Church teaching on sex, love, and marriage.

With her annual celebration of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, the Church invites us to ask “WHY,” to better understand the reasons behind her teaching. This year’s theme: LOVE NATURALLY! COOPERATING WITH GOD’S DESIGN FOR MARRIED LOVE, reminds us that Natural Family Planning is, in fact, God’s plan, as revealed in Scripture and understood through two millennia of the life and teaching of the Church.

The heart of this teaching: God made us. He loves us and wants us to be happy with Him forever. The beginning of this love story is told in the Book of Genesis. There we learn that God created human beings in His own image, that He created us male and female, blessed us, and commanded human beings to be fruitful and multiply. We learn further that a man shall leave his father and mother, and cling to his wife, so that the two may become one flesh. And God, looking at what He had made, found it very good.

What is God teaching us in this familiar story? First, out of all that He has made, human beings alone have been created in God’s image – the image of a God who is Himself a community of loving persons. Secondly, we are created male and female so that we might image and participate in the free, total, faithful, fruitful love of the Blessed Trinity. Thirdly, this participation is made possible, in a special way, through the marital union of man and woman, which makes them one flesh and at the same time opens them to becoming co-creators with God of new persons.

So, what is God asking of married couples? Is it even possible for them to respect both the life-giving and love-giving meanings which God has written into the conjugal act? Consider Pope Francis’ emphasis on the wisdom of the Church in this regard: “The use of methods based on the laws of nature and the incidence of fertility are to be promoted, since these methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom.” (Amoris Laetitia, 222)

In proposing Natural Family Planning, the Church invites couples to live in harmony with their fertility, to accept it as a gift from God rather than attacking the gift as one would a disease or an invader. NFP is an invitation to see things from God’s perspective. After all, no one knows more about love than God who is love itself, and no one knows more about sex than the God who created it.

NFP accepts fertility as the wise design of a loving creator and educates couples to recognize and interpret the regularly occurring signs of fertility and infertility. A couple then uses this shared knowledge to avoid (or achieve) pregnancy according to their family planning intention. But NFP offers much more than effective family planning. As St. John Paul II explains in Familiaris Consortio, “The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility, and self-control.” Growing in these qualities can only deepen a couple’s love and strengthen their marriage. (# 32)

So, yes, God’s design for marriage is good, very good, and cooperating with it brings blessings to couples, their families, and the Church. NFP is a way of life and love that values children as uniquely precious gifts of God and understands why the Church sees them as “the supreme gift of marriage.” Faithful marriages and generously responsible parenthood will build up the People of God for years to come.

There is no time like the present to learn more about God’s design for married love – especially now when it is being rejected and re-shaped by so many. Church documents, and other materials are available through our diocesan NFP Office at (518) 483-0459 or via email at apietropaoli@rcdony.org. Feel free to contact the office with any questions or concerns you may have, and/or visit the website at www.rcdony.org/nfp. We are grateful to Suzanne and Angelo Pietropaoli who lead so faithfully our NFP efforts in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

May you discover all the blessings God intends for you!

Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend
Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

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