A true openness to love, life and ultimately, God’s will, are at the heart of the Catholic Church’s teaching on procreation.
Unfortunately, recent media reports of court battles over the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act are an example of how Church teachings on procreation are often portrayed negatively by focusing on what the Church opposes rather than on the positives of what the Church promotes, which is a complete self-giving in the marital embrace that is both unitive and procreative.
To highlight the Church’s teaching the Denver Catholic Register spoke to three couples who adhere to it and to Carrie Keating, Natural Family Planning, Family Life and Marriage specialist for the Denver Archdiocese.
Contraception vs. NFP
Catholic marriage is based on the concept of “self-gift,” said Keating, which differs from secular society’s emphasis on “self-fulfillment.”
“Because we are created in God’s image and God is love, we are called to mirror that same love in our marriage relationship,” she explained.
God doesn’t hold anything back from his children and the Church teaches that couples are not to hold anything back from each other in marriage, including their fertility.
“The wider culture is more about how the individual is fulfilled through the marriage relationship or how they can create or control the life that they desire,” Keating said. “More and more couples are choosing to not have children and are turning to contraception and sterilization. They are cutting themselves off from the true meaning of marital love that they deeply desire.”
While secular society promotes the use of contraception, which blocks and can even abort pregnancy, the Church advocates the use of natural family planning as a way for couples to understand the natural cycles of fertility and infertility that occur within the woman’s body. The Church permits the use of NFP because it is not contraceptive. Whether a couple uses it at times to postpone or achieve a pregnancy, every act of intercourse is open to the possibility of life.
“Even when a couple uses NFP to space or delay a pregnancy, they are not preventing or obstructing a pregnancy,” Keating said. “There is nothing that is separating the unitive and procreative aspects of their union.”
Natural family planning helps couples “to experience the unity and grace that comes from living out marriage the way God intends,” Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila said in an October interview with Family Foundations magazine.
In the United States, “the typical divorce rate for contracepting couples is well over 50 percent,” the archbishop said, adding that “for NFP couples, the divorce rate is sometimes cited to be as low as 4 percent.”
“God’s plan for marriage is good for us body and soul,” emphasized Keating. “It is a beautiful teaching based on love that is overflowing. What’s more romantic than that?”
The Glantzs: Learning to trust in God’s will
Newlyweds and parishioners at Sacred Heart of Mary Church in Boulder, Nicholas Glantz, 27, a software engineer, and Andrea, 28, a homemaker, were married a year in May.
“We had never heard of NFP until we looked at the diocesan requirements and are so fortunate that NFP instruction is required of couples marrying in our archdiocese as it has been a huge blessing to us,” said Andrea.
While engaged, the couple took a class in the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP, which relies on observations about changes in a woman’s body as well as changes in body temperature during her cycle to determine the time when she is most fertile. They’ve practiced the method for a year.
“Practicing NFP has been such a blessing to our relationship, our family and our spiritual lives,” Andrea said. “NFP has allowed us to understand what it means to truly be open to new life and has been a tool in helping us to prayerfully discern God’s will and plan for our lives.”
Prior to marrying, the couple had agreed they wanted a large family if that was God’s will. They credit NFP with giving them a way to express their willingness to receive the gift of children.
“We spent a great deal of time praying regarding the timing of children in our life and if we would be open to new life right away, as we found ourselves in a fertile window at the time of our wedding and decided that we were open and ready for the gift of a child,” recalled Andrea. “Although we did not conceive at that time, having to trust in God’s will from the very beginning of our marriage has had a powerful impact on our relationship.”
Within a few months, the couple did conceive a child. Their son, nearly 3-month-old Anthony Michael, was born just two weeks before they marked their first wedding anniversary.
“Our class and the practice of NFP have solidified for us what the Catholic Church teaches regarding sexual union in marriage and responsible parenthood,” affirmed Andrea. “We have formed such a strong bond and we believe that this can be attributed to both the amount of time we have spent in prayer as well as the increased openness to God’s will for our lives and trust in his plan.”
McAdams: From the struggles of infertility to the joys of parenthood
Married seven years and parents to 2-year-old Elizabeth, Brian McAdam, 36, and his wife Sarah, 35, have practiced the Creighton Model of NFP since their marriage, having taken a class while engaged.
Brian works as director of formation for the Fellowship of Catholic University Students in Genesee. Mostly a stay-at-home mom, Sarah works part time for FOCUS. They attend Christ on the Mountain Church in Lakewood.
“We wanted to have children as soon as possible after we got married, so we didn’t anticipate using NFP to postpone pregnancy,” explained Sarah, “but, we’re so glad we learned the Creighton Model and highly recommend it to everyone we know getting married because it has helped us in our struggle with infertility and in conceiving our daughter Elizabeth.”
By practicing the Creighton Model of NFP, which uses observations about changes in a woman’s body during her cycle to determine the time when she is most fertile, the McAdams quickly realized they had fertility issues. Desiring to conceive children, they sought help from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, Neb. Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, founder and director of the institute, used their NFP charting to diagnose and treat their infertility.
“His treatment brought physical healing to Sarah and opened wide the door for God to bless us with a child,” Brian said. “Using NFP to help us understand our infertility and then to dispose us to God’s gift of our daughter Elizabeth brought Sarah and me closer together in both our suffering and in our rejoicing.
“Through our struggles with infertility and the blessing of our daughter, Sarah and I have come to recognize the deep sense in which children are truly a gift from God.”
Brian said he believes those who practice contraception more often than not simply aren’t aware of the beauty and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on procreation.
“Like the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, her teaching on contraception is one that forces people to make a decision,” he said. “Either the Catholic Church is completely crazy—as the world believes—or else the Church is absolutely genius, as would be the case if indeed the Holy Spirit guides her.”
Sarah said listening to seminary professor-author Janet Smith’s talk “Contraception: Why Not?” in college convinced her that the Church’s teaching on procreation “is right, and for our own good and happiness.”
“I’m so thankful to be Catholic and to have the Church to guide me in this area,” Sarah said, “otherwise, I probably would have never been exposed to such a beautiful aspect of my marriage!”
Jaloways: Desiring heaven for themselves and others
Married 43 years and the parents of five children and 12 grandchildren, new Littleton transplants from Austin, Texas, Dan Jaloway, 67, a retired electrical engineer, and his wife Barb, 62, a former teacher and homeschooler, practiced the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP for more than 25 years, until menopause, and continue to teach it online. They attend Holy Ghost Church in Denver.
“I knew NFP worked because my parents used it effectively,” Barb said, “and I wanted something that was ‘green,’ did not harm my body, and respected my fertility and that of Dan.”
Most important, Barb said, was to remain close to Christ by trusting the teachings of his Church. She was convinced that NFP and St. John Paul II’s theology of the body “were for my good, to help me.”
“My respect and admiration for Dan went up drastically when we started practicing NFP,” Barb said. “Our emotional, spiritual and intellectual intimacy increased and our sensitivity to meet each other’s needs improved. We were able to be more open and honest with each other.”
As their relationship deepened, so did their relationship with Christ. They began to pray more together.
“We began to value the gift of children more and were more open to life,” Barb said.
Their openness to life, they discovered, was a manifestation of their openness to God’s will for their lives. Their delight in and desire to do God’s will ultimately led them into the NFP apostolate.
“The Holy Trinity made us to share his joy in his kingdom,” Barb declared. “Over time, we started talking about wanting to help God win souls for his kingdom, heaven! So we got certified to teach NFP together.”
Today, although their two sons are still single, their three married daughters all practice NFP.
“We are very blessed,” Barb said. “God is good!”
For More Information
Find out more about NFP methods and classes offered throughout the Denver Archdiocese by visiting Natural Family Planning or by emailing Carrie Keating at Carrie.Keating@archden.org or by calling her at 303-715-3259.