I have a proposal. It’s about bringing NFP out of the shadows and into parish life. Because as young Catholic married folk, we need help.
We love and embrace the teachings of the Church on marriage, fertility, and openness to life. We desire to be faithful to these teachings by choosing not to contracept and acknowledging the truth that sex and babies are designed to go together. And we are grateful for Natural Family Planning to help us space those babies when finances and physical or mental health make spacing necessary.
But here’s the thing: to practice NFP, you have to learn NFP. And there’s plenty of us out there with no resources to do so.
Take my family for example. We converted two years after our marriage and fully embraced what the Church taught us about openness to life. We wanted to learn NFP, but no one local teaches it. We live in a city of close to 400,000 people. We have 4 parishes. So, it’s not a tiny town. And if you go to the diocesan web site, you can find a couple of contacts for NFP, but if you actually call the numbers, you’ll find out they don’t teach anymore because their certification has expired. There are exactly no resources for NFP. Exactly zero instructors.
Marriage, RCIA, baptism, and confirmation are all part of parish life. But NFP? You’re on your own! Here’s a number to call. Oh, they don’t teach NFP anymore? Well…..good luck figuring out those post partum cycles all by your lonesome.
Are we really surprised at how many Catholics end up contracepting?
Surely we can do better than leaving a segment of each parish without the support they need to follow Church teaching, right? Why can’t each diocese or a local lay ministry support at least one person to be trained in a method of NFP? Then that instructor, paid for their time by the diocese or lay organizations, can team up with Pre-Cana and RCIA to provide training for those couples being married or entering the Church as well as any other Catholic couple desiring to learn.
A friend of mine shared with me that the Knights of Columbus supported NFP instructors in her diocese by covering their training costs. Because of this support, there are several certified teachers available at her parish. That is so awesome!
And considering the costs, this kind of support is so necessary. In addition to the huge time commitment, becoming certified to teach NFP takes considerable funds. A friend of mine is facing $8,000 in expenses (training, travel, etc) to become a Creighton instructor. So, no wonder there aren’t certified instructors around every corner. Training for other methods of NFP may be less expensive, but still won’t be free.
And then there’s the expense for couples who want to be trained. With certification being so expensive, instructors need to charge for their time and expertise. While most couples I know are happy to pay for training, sometimes learning a method can be cost-prohibitive for young couples. And indeed, if you’re needing to postpone pregnancy due to financial crisis, it’s very likely you don’t have the money needed to be trained in NFP so that you can postpone pregnancy.
Since there were no instructors nearby, my husband and I learned Marquette method online, but the monitor costs almost $300 and the test sticks cost $50 a box which makes Marquette method out of reach for many couples.
If faithful families who understand and love what the Church teaches about sex and fertility find it difficult to live out those teachings, are we surprised that many couples find no resources available to help them and just opt to contracept instead? Because I’ll be honest. NFP can be difficult. And my heart’s desire is for young couples to be supported in the difficult road they are walking so that they can be faithful.
As it is, we’re putting couples in a very difficult situation when we explain that the only licit way to postpone pregnancy or space children is NFP and then neglect to offer the resources to actually learn NFP.
What if the Church could provide that training to couples who desire to embrace these truly good and beautiful teaches of the Church? What if NFP was brought out of the shadows and into parish life instead of being ignored because it’s difficult? What if we heard encouraging and supportive words from the pulpit about NFP so that we don’t feel like weirdos for following Church teaching? What if it was easy to find information on every diocesan web site and a real person to contact and talk to about learning NFP?
Well, I think it would be pretty awesome.