Humanae Vitae, NFP Week, and the Feasts of St. Anne & St. Joachim (AKA Marriage, Sex, Babies & Infertility)

Untitled design (14)It’s a big week and I have a lot to share with you!

Today is the 48th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that reinforced the Church’s teachings on marital love (sex!), responsible parenthood (more on that later), and the continued rejection of contraception and abortion (more on those too!).

It’s also the start of NFP Week — Natural Family Planning Awareness Week!

And tomorrow is the Feast Day of Sts. Anne & Joachim. 

Below are some of the best resources for you to check out throughout this week — and please share ’em too! Some of these teachings — the ones on marital love, responsible parenthood and contraception — are some of the most ignored of our Church.

And I believe that’s because of misunderstanding and miscommunication, not simply because people truly don’t agree with these teachings.

So we must become witnesses of the truth.

And bearers of the light.

And there is light here – there’s a lot of light!

“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who “is love,” (6) the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Humanae Vitae)

And yes, there’s some darkness too, because love cannot be built without sacrifice and self-denial. St. John Paul II said so 😉 And those things can hurt. So we should talk about the hurt too — these growing pains of dying to ourselves and becoming more selfless like Jesus.

“We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.” (33) Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live “sober, upright and godly lives in this world,” (34) knowing for sure that “the form of this world is passing away.” (Humanae Vitae)

We should be talking about it all, actually.

So here’s where to get started:

Why I Don’t – And Won’t – Use Contraception:

These reasons go beyond our Church’s teachings, but they encompass those as well.

It’s Not Us Vs. Them:

“We Natural Family Planning promoters must avoid a better-than-thou air of haughtiness. A certain sense of pride is understandable, given our minority status and the kind of dedication it requires to practice it. NFP is, however, only a tool to space births, not the marital end game. A merciful attitude towards Catholics who struggle to keep this teaching, instead of an us-and-them approach, would serve all lay Catholics well.” (Maura Wiering, Catholic Review)

Ditch the Risk – The Pill Kills:

Estrogen-Progesterone Oral Contraceptives are on the list of the American Cancer Society’s known carcinogens — substances that are known to cause cancer in humans. They’re on the list with tobacco, UV tanning beds, asbestos (you know how dangerous that is, right?), and many others. These pills do cause cancer in humans. Oral contraceptives are linked to pre-menopausal breast cancer… (read more)

A “Reversion Story:”

A really beautiful story of how one couple became open to life later in their marriage & reversed a vasectomy.

“Now Natural Family Planning Shaped My View of Sex”:

“NFP also taught me to relinquish control (or better said, recognize I didn’t have it to begin with) through honoring the mystery of the human body. Based on the Theology of the Body teachings by Pope John Paul II, NFP advocates a profound respect for the human body as the outward manifestation of the human person… I agree with the core premise that there is something sacred about our bodies’ design and function, not to be meddled with lightly…” (read more)

Natural Family Planning “takes a lot of guts”:

“NFP… takes a lot of guts. Dealing with any life or death issue takes guts, but being “open to life” is not as easy as it sounds. Teetering on the edge of “to bring or not new life into the world” crashes directly into all our priorities and goals in life. NFP is scary because you are not as “in control” as with contraception. A little mistake and oops, you have a baby. Big deal. It takes a world view completely different to that of our current western mind-set to deal with this teetering on the edge. The Catholic worldview works well with this method, in which God is almighty and totally in control. We should trust Him with our lives instead of failing at trying to control them because He truly knows best. It works well with a “natural/ecological” worldview in which the body is beautiful and it isn’t necessary to pump it with hormones or plastic. It works well with worldviews of other cultures, in which a baby is a blessing and not a limit to your freedom or your lifestyle…” (read more)

Where Intimacy Begins & Grows While Using NPF:

Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Creative and Communicative, and Emotional. These are all aspects of our sexuality, and learning about SPICE was all about learning how to express and share our sexuality, as spouses, with one another — which is especially useful at times when we couldn’t be together — during a time when we would have to abstain from being together (think: postpartum, while trying to avoid pregnancy, while trying to conceive but your hormones aren’t right yet, etc.). There are plenty of times throughout a marriage when the spouses are called to practice chastity, and during those times, it can be difficult to still connect and communicate the love that you normally would. Learning SPICE, and practicing SPICE, is supposed to help fill in those gaps… (read more)

What You Can Do to Promote NFP & God’s Plan for Married Couples:

I’ve seen the joke that NFP is one of the Church’s best-kept secrets, because it’s something that so few members of the Church actually know about. That is such a shame! I recently asked a group of people I know where they first heard about NFP. For some, it was in covered (more like skimmed over!) their marriage prep., for others, they knew about it from their friends — or in rare cases, someone in their family. For very few of them, they had heard about it from their priest or in a homily; again, that was the rarest of cases. This leads me to believe a few different things about what you can do to promote NFP & God’s plan for married couples… (read more)

Endometriosis, Infertility and the Church:

NaProTECHNOLOGY uses the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (a Fertility Awareness Method of family planning) to monitor and track the various hormonal events during the menstrual cycle. This system uses biomarkers (mainly cervical mucus) to identify days of fertility and days of infertility throughout the cycle. If there is an abnormality, NaProTECHNOLOGY identifies the problem and cooperates with the woman’s cycle to correct the condition — all the while maintaining the human ecology and sustaining the procreative potential. It does not destroy, suppress or alter a woman’s body to do anything that it is not meant to do. In other words, NaPro’s approach is to bring the woman’s body, hormones, etc. back into balance. It does not seek to trick the body into doing anything it shouldn’t be doing — like how the contraceptive pill tricks a woman’s body into thinking she is pregnant. This way, women are empowered and able to understand their cycles, and understand what causes the debilitating symptoms they may suffer from — whether it’s cramps, irregular cycles, problems ovulating, or multiple miscarriages… (read more)

(Still) A Party of Two:

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can personally be a witness of being open to life  when I don’t have children… yet. I’ve struggled with the notion of whether I’m any less than the women – the mothers – who have been welcoming new life into their families since the day they were married. I’ve wondered where I can fit in, in the pro-life movement, as a wife — but not (yet) a mom?… (read more)

“Why haven’t I heard this before?” — Asking our priests to preach on NFP:

Too often, we hear, “Why haven’t I heard about this before?” “Why doesn’t my priest talk about this?” This post is to answer those questions, and hopefully to overcome whatever holds our priests back from preaching on these matters.

I Do: From our Worst to Our Best:

Life is difficult — not just marriage, not just being single, not just any other vocation out there. It’s all hard. Marriage can highlight problems, but it can also give us what we need — direction, clarity, and the strength to transform into the best version of ourselves. It is not an obstacle to our growth in holiness — it is, in many cases, the way to our holiness Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Casti Connubii, “Let (the married couple) constantly keep in mind that they have been consecrated and strengthened for the duties and the dignity of their state by a special sacrament, the efficacious power of which, although it does not impress a character, is undying.” … (read more)

“I didn’t sign up for this”:

How easy must it be to say something like, “I didn’t sign up for this,” when life changes after getting married? How easy it must be to say something like, “I didn’t sign up for this,” when your husband loses his job and money gets tight, when he gets sick and you become the leader and money-maker for the family and care-taker of your husband, or when your husband decides he wants to go  back to school and enter a new career, or when someone else in your family is sick and it exhausts you. It is too easy. When life is nowhere near what you expected or planned or hoped for, and when you’re feeling down and out… that’s when we need to remember what we did sign up for — and the graces that came by doing that… (read more)
“A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”Add heading (3)

One Thing I Want You to Know For Sure

loveisthereasonI saw a prompt the other day that really made me stop and sit in silence for a few minutes — which, if you’ve been following me, you know is something I like to try to do once in a while. Because silence is underrated. And I think we all take it for granted, and I’ve only learned that from my own experience of desperately wanting it back once it was gone.

Here was that prompt:

“What do you know for sure?”

It made me think about God. And about His love for me.

His love that is unconditional. 

All-merciful;

Ever-forgiving;

His love that doesn’t hold grudges;

And isn’t easily angered;

And is patient.

And as for that very last one — as for God being patient — I’m very grateful.

Because even though I know these things to be true, sometimes they really don’t feel like that to me.

Sometimes, I don’t believe them 100%.

But here are things that I do know…

I know that even though I know those things are true, there are still times when I struggle with not entirely allowing myself to believe in them.

I know that usually that’s not necessarily because of who God is, but because of who I am.

I know, though, that if God is all of those things — and He is — then it’s okay for me to struggle.

Because God is patient.

He’s patient with me. And He’s patient with you.

And He’s waiting with us in those times of struggle, and in those moments of doubt.

For whatever circumstance you’re going through, and in whatever hardship you’re facing, I just want you to know (at least) this one thing for sure:

that God loves you.

You can be certain of that.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

And I hope that your husband, your family & friends, remind you of this daily.

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” ― Thomas Merton

“One thing and One Thing Only Will Matter…”

-One thing and one thing only will matter- Was I a faithful witness to the Gospel--

What Matters Most: “The Quiet Witness of Our Daily Actions”

Blue cup of coffee with open book on sofa in room

I was just reading a reflection about a Saint that keeps coming into my mind, St. Therese of Lisieux, and this particular excerpt from that reflection stood out to me as something that could help us all get through this next week.

Michael Novak writes at Crisis Magazine:

“To say “saw” of Thérèse—she “saw” God’s redeeming love—risks falsifying Thérèse’s witness.

“Often, for years on end, she saw nothing; she looked for her beloved, and no one appeared. It is wrong to imagine that Thérèse constantly experienced burning ardor, eyes afire with vision, faith alive with sight. She didn’t. She spent years in darkness, seeing what you and I see, ordinary things, and of God, nothing at all.

Faith is not a feeling, not even a feeling of devotion, not an ardor. It is often, so far as ordinary sentiments go, an emptiness, an aridity, a dry torment, a mind jumbled with distraction, directionless, unfeeling. Faith is a calm and feelingless redirecting of mind and will toward the unseen love, notable more for its steadiness and willingness to go on acting just as it would if it had been carried along by transports of joy, instead of being left bereft of signs and comforts. Only in that way can faith be tested for truth, steadfastness, and authenticity. Only in that way is it shown to be the real thing.”

Novak goes on to say that St. Therese experienced feelings of doubt and emptiness for years, and that during much of that time, she could not feel belief in God or heaven or eternal life. She was afraid she was deluded in her choice of life — in her living for, and loving, our Lord.

I am so thankful that our God gives us Saints who we can relate to so well. Because sainthood and sanctity can often feel so un-relatable — so out of reach, so impossible, etc.

And here we have a young woman with so much love in her heart, a woman who felt so many things — and so deeply, and yet she also didn’t feel the depths of God’s love for her at many times in her life.

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine feeling all the things around you so intensely — and not feeling God’s love?

It sounds torturous to me.

It sounds like a version of hell, to be honest.

When I look at these situations and hear of these stories — stories of saints who felt abandoned, who felt alone, who lived in darkness, and yet who still persisted in their faith, I think of two things: one, that that person(s) must have had someone close to them in their life to encourage them to keep their faith during those times, and two, that God’s graces must have certainly been sufficient for them in their lives, in those moments.

A couple of years ago, when I was going through a particularly rough time, and was really struggling with not feeling God’s love, my husband sent me a message that I’ll never forget. It was this quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.”

That sentiment, along with my husband’s encouragement, helped tremendously. And I have to believe that going to Mass, that receiving the Sacraments, that still speaking to God must have also brought along the graces to carry me through that time.

I imagine that one of St. Therese’s confessors led her to believe what my husband shared with me.

Novak says, “A new confessor at the convent told her this was a trial that many most loved by God had long endured; what matters is not our feelings, but the quiet witness of our daily actions (which express our will, despite our feelings). This is just what she herself believed, but she was much helped by knowing that she was walking a recognizable path. From then on, she flew. One day, some months later, as suddenly as it had descended, the cloud of doubt lifted.”

And that’s sort of where I want to leave it for you today.

With this reminder: that our feelings don’t matter, but what does is the quiet witness of our daily actions.

Like loving our husbands. And folding their laundry. And cooking them dinner. And making our houses homes.

Doing these ordinary things.

And doing these things for our children, too.

And our other closest family & friends.

And lastly, I’m wondering if you can think of a friend or family member who might need the reminder that their quiet witness is what matters most.

That it’s okay to not be feeling our faith today, or this month or this year.

That God still loves them greatly and unconditionally even in their dark days.

That God still sees them, even when they don’t see Him.

Share this post with them. Share this post on your Facebook page, and tag them. Let them know you’re thinking of them, you’re praying for them, you’re walking with them on this journey.

That sort of friendship, along with God’s graces of course, can give us all the sort of strength we need to reach for Heaven.

You can read the rest of Michael Novak’s reflection at Crisis Magazine here.

And, When God Asks Us To Do Big Things

Home Interior with Coffee cup Book white flower on table wooden tray Hipster lifestyle background

The other day, I was talking about what life looks like when God asks us to do things that feel ordinary and mundane.

Today, I’m talking about other times when God asks us to do bigger things — maybe things that weren’t a part of our plan — things we never thought we’d do.

For me, that currently includes getting trained to help educate women on their fertility. 😉

Here’s the big announcement I was hinting at last week: I was just accepted into a FertilityCare Education Program!

That means I’m about to start the process of becoming a FertilityCare Practitioner Intern, and eventually, a Fertility Care Practitioner.

Brunch (6)

If everything goes as planned, I’ll be a FertilityCare Practitioner Intern for about 13 months. During that time, I’ll be a part of an intensive, Master’s Level program/supervised practicum with two weeks of full-immersion study. I’ll also be able to start teaching women the Creighton Model FertilityCare System during that time! (Want to be a client?! More on that below!)

This is something that’s been on my heart & mind for a while…

I have been such a huge advocate of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System — and especially the reproductive science that works cooperatively with the Creighton Model Fertility Care System (NaproTechnology!), since I first learned about it four years ago.

One of my sisters-in-law was actually the first person to tell me about it all, and my life hasn’t been the same since!

In a good way.

In the kind of way that makes you stop and ask, “Why didn’t I hear about this sooner?”

And the more I learned, and the more I talked about it — and wrote about it, the more that same question was echoed back to me.

“Why didn’t I hear about this sooner?”

I believe women deserve to understand what’s going on with their bodies and their fertility. It’s empowering to take charge of your own reproductive health! And unfortunately, many doctors aren’t helping women in this way, and surprisingly, even fewer know or understand women’s fertility, themselves.

Maybe that’s because it’s seriously awesome — and mysterious.

And also not mysterious at the same time (that’s where the Creighton Model & NaProTechnology come in!)

God certainly created women’s bodies in a magnificent way. But I promise you, He didn’t do this to trick us or fool us or make us not understand what’s going on with ’em.

And by becoming a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner Intern, I can’t wait to tell you more, and be able to help more women understand their fertility, or infertility.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions. Let’s go through ’em!

What’s the Creighton Model FertilityCare System (CrMS)?

CrMS is a safe, effective, and morally acceptable method of natural family planning. It utilizes the observation and charting of biological markers to indicate the times in a woman’s cycle when she is naturally fertile or infertile. Couples then use this information to either achieve or avoid pregnancy with great accuracy and without negative side-effects. The CrMS is applicable at any stage of a woman’s reproductive life.

It’s healthy — for all aspects of your life; for your relationship with your husband, for your body, and even your wallet. 😉 Plus, it’s effective!

How Effective is the Creighton Model at avoiding pregnancy?

Take a look at this chart, and you’ll see that the Creighton Model’s effectiveness for typical use is actually higher than that of birth control pills.

creightonmodeleffectiveness

How effective is the Creighton Model at helping women get pregnant?

These numbers are incredible. This chart shows that the Creighton Model FertilityCare System is significantly more effective at helping women get pregnant than IVF.

infertility

Is this only for Catholics?

Not at all! 🙂 This is for anyone and everyone; the right to learn & understand your fertility is not limited by your denomination or religion.

When will you be taking clients?

I’ll be able to start taking clients in just a few months! First, I have to complete one of the two full-immersion study sessions, and then just a couple of months later, I’ll be able to start teaching. If I’m able to attend the first Education Phase I that I’m hoping to attend in June, I may be able to start seeing clients around August/September of this year.

Can you teach clients long-distance?

Not at first, unfortunately. But as time goes on, and as I get closer to finishing my internship, I may be able to start seeing long-distance clients and teaching them the Creighton Model through Skype sessions. I’ll let you know if & when I can!

Please keep me in your prayers as I move forward with this! 🙂 And I will pray for you & yours! 
Annie

More Resources:

How Charting Your Fertility Cycles Can Improve Your Health

Endometriosis, Infertility and the Church

The Cross of Infertility and How We Can Help

The State of NaProTechnology

Top 10 Reasons to Use NFP

 

Young woman holding a beautiful bunch of tulips in her hands. Spring present for a girl in a grey dress. Flowers bouquet