by Pepper Martin
My wife and I practice natural family planning, but that wasn’t always the case. Natural family planning (NFP) is a method for understanding and working with natural fertility cycles within a marriage. We have done this for about 8 years now. We were not always obedient to the truth in this area of our marriage. (I know it is not the most common sermon subject, so I’ll just remind those that might have forgotten: artificial contraception is not an option for Catholics and is opposed to God’s design for marriage.) Today, the world offers many alternatives and “ways out” of children, and they are generally evil – from contraception to abortion. God’s design for love is that it is fruitful and loving, but one thing you learn in marriage is that submitting to this truth requires perseverance. Things are easy to start but hard to finish, and when something is really good, like marriage and family, we have to persevere in order to both avoid all the pitfalls and easy-outs and to draw all the fruit from it that God has for us. NFP falls in that category.
When we first got married we used the “calendar method.” Do you know what you call a couple using the calendar method? Parents. And that is how we had a honeymoon baby. That was great, we wouldn’t have gotten married if we weren’t open to kids. What we weren’t prepared for is the dynamic of family after having the first child. That child is your world when you are 23 and 24 years old. It was after that first baby that the difficult decision (or temptation) came. We did not feel ready to have another child back-to-back. With much college debt and two teachers in the family, we knew that things would be tough financially. So, we justified the use of artificial contraception – “for the sake of the family.”
Around that same time I went to a Catholic men’s conference where Father Larry Richards stated bluntly to a congregation of men that if you are using artificial contraception, then you are a coward and not a man willing to sacrifice for Christ. That was it. I went home and told my wife what I had just heard and we agreed to trust God and follow the Church’s explicit teaching in this area.
It takes a tremendous amount of fortitude to practice natural family planning, which is the cardinal virtue that perseverance falls under – sticking to what is right even when it is difficult. NFP has particular challenges for the husband too. But it is well worth it. There are few things as rewarding as being submissive to the truth of marriage in this way, in the manner God intended. Being open to God’s will in your marriage – and persevering in that openness – is a true devotion to the sacrament.
Men, if you think you can’t do NFP (like I did), if you think it is too tough, it’s not. It is well worth it. Trust me. Trust God.