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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Natural Family Planning supports beauty and authenticity in marriage

The world hungers for something authentic, and Natural Family Planning helps satisfy that hunger

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

People these days are hungry for something authentic. It might be original art rather than a poster. It may be live music or theater. It might be an authentic local restaurant. It might be a video that’s not overproduced. It’s in the context of that hunger for something authentic that I’d like to say something about Natural Family Planning (NFP) on the occasion of NFP Awareness Week (July 23-29).

This year marks the 55th anniversary of St. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”). In it, he articulated a clear Church teaching: Contraception is contrary to God’s plan for marriage. He was also prophetic in stating what would happen if culture embraced contraception: Women would come to be seen merely as instruments of pleasure, used rather than loved; families would increasingly fall apart; and passions would come to rule men, rather than men governing their passions.

Of course, given the widespread embrace of contraception by American culture since then, one might rightly ask: “Sure, but what’s the alternative?”

St. John Paul II labored mightily, in his Theology of the Body, to articulate an alternative vision. One of his central ideas was “the law of the gift.” We might put it this way: In the Eucharist, Jesus reveals who God is. In the Eucharist, God makes a gift of Himself to us, and that gift is life-giving. Because we’re made in the image and likeness of God, every aspect of our lives — including our sexuality — is meant to mirror that gift of self and its life-giving quality. NFP puts that vision into action. Contraception seeks to set aside or override both the “gift” and the “life-giving” qualities of human sexuality; NFP seeks to work with them.

The theme of NFP Awareness Week this year is “One Flesh, Given and Received.” This strikes me as uniquely fitting! As American Catholics, we’re in the midst of a Eucharistic Revival. Additionally, Pope Francis’ monthly intention for the month of July is for a eucharistic life. This theme — “One Flesh, Given and Received” — highlights the connection between marriage and the Eucharist and shows us an important dimension of living a eucharistic life.

People may object that NFP takes a lot of work, discipline, sacrifice and creativity. What I would say in response is: so did the 1904 World’s Fair, the St. Louis Arch and the revitalization of Forest Park. So does Shakespeare in the Park every year and every show at the Muny or the Fox Theatre. So does every original restaurant and art gallery in town. In all those instances, we think the work, discipline, sacrifice and creativity are worth it. The result is authentic and beautiful and makes an impact on the well-being of the city. What I want to say is: That’s exactly what the world needs when it comes to marriage — that kind of beauty and authenticity. NFP has shown itself to be the most secure pathway to that kind of authenticity.

To learn more about NFP, visit the Office of Natural Family Planning website: https://www.archstl.org/natural-family-planning

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