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Growing in grace: Our NFP journey Print E-mail
Guest column
Thursday, Jul. 22, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

This story begins in 1992, when one man married one woman the old-fashioned, non-destination way with eight bridesmaids, a wedding march, a dollar dance, and a DJ.

Cradle Catholic married Purely Protestant and the first issue up for debate was how to postpone pregnancy (the arguments about in-laws and money came much later).

National NFP Awareness Week: July 25-31

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week is a national educational campaign to highlight the marriage-enriching family planning methods that reflect the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promote openness to life, and recognize the value of the child.

The dates of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week highlight the anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25) which articulates Catholic beliefs about human sexuality, conjugal love, and responsible parenthood. The dates also mark the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (July 26), the parents of the Blessed Mother.

NFP classes are ongoing throughout the diocese, in both face-to-face and online/correspondence formats. Those who would like to have more information about NFP before deciding whether it's right for them are invited to attend a one-hour presentation, NFP 101: The Basics. Upcoming summer class dates are listed below. The fall schedule of classes will be posted on www.madisondiocese.org/nfp at the beginning of August.

Creighton Model Intro Session (choose one date): August 2 and 17, 6 p.m., at Bishop O'Connor Center, Madison.

Couple to Couple League Course (attend all three dates): August 27, September 24, and October 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital, Prairie du Sac.

NFP 101: The Basics: August 4, 7 p.m., at Bishop O'Connor Center, Madison.

For more information or to register for local and online classes contact the NFP Office at 608-821-3134 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Initially, the Catholic wife, who grew up in the confusing days following Vatican II, wasn't able to explain or defend the Church's teaching on contraception, so she willingly agreed to go on the Pill. About a year later, when she was experiencing severe symptoms of depression, she sought professional help.

When she arrived at her first appointment, she cried for the entire hour; the therapist asked if she was, by any chance, on the birth control pill and she sobbed "yes." The therapist explained that her doctoral dissertation was on the emotional side effects of the birth control pill and further suggested that the woman go off the pill to see if she felt better. The woman felt so much better so quickly that she never returned for a second appointment.

Now the "what to do about pregnancy" question was back on the table and the wife's husband was not happy about the new dilemma. That weekend at Mass, the wife happened to see a brochure about Natural Family Planning (NFP) on a church bulletin board. She brought it home to share with her husband; he very reluctantly agreed to take an NFP class, and the seeds of faith fell on fertile ground.

The husband thought NFP was basically a joke, but he agreed to attend one NFP class with his new bride. He sat in the back row, arms crossed, and refused to return for the following session. The wife completed the classes and learned to chart on her own. The husband remained dead set against NFP, but eventually he had to admit that NFP was "working" the way his wife (and the Church) said it would. His heart began to soften.

It softened more when the couple was able to conceive their first child on the very first try, while other couples they knew were having trouble detecting their fertile days. The husband began to wonder, "If the Catholic Church was right about NFP, could She possibly be right about other things?"

Dealing with relationship changes

The Protestant side of the family was not pleased with the Catholic influence on this marriage; this initial step towards God's plan for marriage and family eventually led to a conversion of faith for the husband, which in turn led to further distancing from his family of origin. Both families, in fact, did not take the couples' new found zeal for their faith well. The wife grew deeper in her Catholic faith once the window of NFP opened the way for grace to flow in her marriage. This faith conversion led to a further distancing from her family of origin as well.

Their friends, though not fully supportive, treated their use of NFP with humor. They didn't openly debate the topic of NFP, but they didn't line up to sign on either. These changes in relationships posed challenges for the couple, but they learned to trust the wisdom of God's plan for marriage and family life. God answered their prayers with church family and pro-life friends who helped fill the void of lost family relationships.

The marriage improved as well, which made the choice to use NFP more of a benefit than a risk. The couple felt strongly now about using NFP for health and moral reasons, so much so that the husband (who converted to Catholicism shortly after the first child arrived) suggested that they train to become NFP teachers with the Couple to Couple League. As you might imagine, the wife was sure that some sort of minor miracle had just occurred!

Years of grace

What followed next were years of grace: grace that arrived with the use of NFP, grace that allowed virtue to grow. Hearts were converted and faith deepened. Children arrived and brought more grace. The couple soon realized that God had invited them onto this path of grace via NFP, allowed them to grow strong there, and then worked through them to reach others with the NFP message, as the opportunity to share this story shows.

Learning to cooperate with God's plan, through the use of NFP, turned out to be a plan that worked for their entire marriage: the couple learned how to be chaste, how to postpone pregnancies for serious reasons, how to space their children naturally, and how to be open to life.

This couple will celebrate 18 years of marriage this year. Not every moment of their marriage has been full of happiness and health. There were some hard times (the "for worse" part of the marriage vows), but as they look back, they know that the use of NFP was one of the best decisions they made; it kept the marriage graces flowing when they needed them most.

Using NFP, becoming NFP teachers, and sharing their NFP journey was a fountain of grace that brought life and joy into their lives and into the lives of the people they touched. It was a way to be pro-life in the culture of death. It began as a quest for health, rolled into a conversion of faith, emerged as a pro-life ministry, and who knows what God has planned next!

Andy and Mary Fabian live in Sauk City with their four children. Andy is the executive director for Dental Health Associates. Mary is the manager of their home. They have been teaching NFP with the Couple to Couple League on and off for 10 years. They hope that their story will inspire you to give NFP a try. If you support NFP, please consider becoming an NFP teacher. Grace awaits!