By Jessica Ragsdale
You and I are called as Catholics to seek truth and justice and follow the church’s teachings as we embark on our trek to heaven, right? Well, there’s no reason to be on this journey alone. Together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can love and support each other along the way.
Recently, God placed it on our hearts for my husband and me to become Natural Family Planning instructors. We didn’t have to do this alone. We had the support of our mother church, family and friends. This recent endeavor of becoming instructors, along with learning the mechanics of NFP shorty after we were married, have opened my heart to see marriage in a new way. Please allow me to share this journey with you.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the practice of spacing pregnancies according to an informed awareness of a woman’s fertility. NFP is for anyone who feels called to live their life in everlasting awe of God’s creation.
I was inspired to learn about and start practicing NFP after I read an encyclical entitled, “Humanae Vitae” by Pope Paul VI shortly after my husband, Nick, and I were married. I encourage you to sit down with it. If anything, you can impress your friends when you tell them you’re reading something originally published in Latin.
Humanae Vitae taught me that God created the human body in his image with purpose and meaning — to procreate, to be apostles for him, and to share his joy with the world.
I shared the encyclical with my husband and then proposed plans for us to study the practice of NFP. Nick wasn’t so sure about all of this, but he was willing to go along for the ride. He was worried NFP would not be effective and it would be overly complicated. He eventually got on board when he learned that NFP can be 99 percent effective and is way easier to understand than fantasy football.
NFP became a lifestyle for us. This is where I want to tell you that we felt so holy and awesome practicing this lifestyle. But I can’t. It was confusing. We had to ask ourselves so many questions every month.
“Are we emotionally/physically/financially ready to have a baby?”
“Do I want to postpone pregnancy so I can lose these pesky 10 pounds?”
“Are we being open to life?”
“Why can’t we always just live in the moment?”
“Are my reasons ‘just’ for not wanting to have a baby right now?”
The title “Natural Family Planning” pretty much implies it’s easy and natural and effortless, but it wasn’t. We became disenchanted with NFP. What were we going to do?
We prayed. We turned to our church, our family and friends for support. It became clear the side effects of NFP were unfolding in our marriage daily, but we had become so lost in our thoughts that we couldn’t see the blessings right before our eyes. Here are some ways NFP tremendously helps our marriage.
We have gained an increased ability to keep God the primary focus in our marriage and family life.
• We communicate better.
• We have gained a renewed sense of togetherness, facing a society where contraception is the norm.
• We have gained a newfound respect for stewardship, the natural world and this God-honoring method of self-care.
• We have a new perspective on life by seeing fertility and children as God-given gifts.
• We have become better at practicing self-control.
• We have become generally happier people as we do our best to live a life in harmony with God’s plan.
Now we would like to extend an invitation for you to learn one of the church’s best-kept secrets of sorts as you embark on your journey to heaven.
Please consider joining my husband and me for a live, onsite NFP class series to learn the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP. Self-paced online classes are also available. All classes will be taught in the context of Catholic morality, relying on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, a document inspired by Humanae Vitae.
Post-partum and pre-menopause classes are available upon request.
For more information about upcoming classes or to register, go to http://www.ccli.org. Please call or email with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in an upcoming class.
(Jessica Ragsdale, a member of St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, can be reached at Jessicamartin84@gmail.com or by calling (563)-343-6809.)