I am Torn About NFP

Our new pope, Pope Francis, has said that we need to step out of our comfort zones when it comes to our faith, that we need to challenge what we have been doing all of our lives and look at what the Catholic Church really teaches.

I have been trying to do that, but I admit it is not an easy task. He (the Pope) has been taking us to task on the poor and the oppressed, As well as challanging a lot of people’s conception on what it means to lead a Christian life.

For me this means looking at what I am doing. Looking at what I have been doing and trying, the best way that I can, to understand why it is that I am doing it. That means understanding the churches teachings behind it.

As I have shared before, my wife and I are NFP Teachers. In the last couple of years something about doing this has been niggling at the back of my mind. I do feel called to help people understand NFP. But It was not until I had a conversation with my wife that I think understood some of what has been eating at me.

The conversation was about a question that came up. What do you do / how do you approach a family who is totally open to life. This came from a teaching couple who live in a diocese where the NFP class is part of the marriage preparation. The answer my wife gave, which at first startled me but the more I thought about it the more it made sense was, “You don’t need to do anything with them.”

I understand that using NFP is a choice. Heck if you read my other post, you know that we call ourselves the NFP dropouts, because while we know it, and we teach it, we don’t usually feel called to use it.

That has kind of set me on a path of trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that the Church teaches about NFP. This morning, at my wife’s suggestion I read the following article. (Yes, my wife is very smart) Heroic Parenthood and The Sorrow of Natural Family Planning

NOTE: Below I have stolen (borrowed / Made Reference to) several parts from the article. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, but here are some of the things that I found important and relevant to my topic today.

One of the things that I was, well surprised is not the right word maybe interested to find out, was that NFP is a dispensation.

the Venerable Pius XII in his Allocution to Midwives:

The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life. Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.

(I used wikipedia but this appears to be pulled from canon law)
A Dispensation is defined as In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a dispensation is the exemption from the immediate obligation of law in certain cases.[1] Its object is to modify the hardship often arising from the rigorous application of general laws to particular cases, and its essence is to preserve the law by suspending its operation in such cases.

And this is also backed up again by Pope Paul VI, and Pope John Paul II in Humanae Vitae

What does all this mean? In plain simple language that someone like I can understand, Pope Pius XII said that sex, (the marital embrace) has a procreative aspect that cannot be divorced from the rest of it. Despite that, the church recognizes that there are times when a married couple may have serious reasons such as medical or economical to avoid a pregnancy. It is in those cases that the dispensation of NFP is permitted.

That in short means that unless you have a serious reason, you should not be using NFP. (a little side note here, and this is going to be me talking. Keeping up with the “Joneses” economically, is not a serious reason. But tif you can’t put food on the table, cloth your kids and for goodness sakes a roof over your families head that is a serious reason. You might find you are are happier if you are not keeping up with the Joneses, maybe even move out of their neighborhood and find a community of people who, like you believe that the Joneses have it all wrong in the first place.)

Alright so where to I stand:

Up until recently I would have said that I thing all married couples should learn NFP. I still don’t think that is a bad idea. I am a big believer in knowledge is power. I also believe that you can’t make informed decisions without all the information. I believe that having the information about knowing how to read a woman’s body is not a bad thing. But as my wife points out, once you know NFP and know how to read the signs, it is not like you can ignore them. (See I told you she was smart.) So the temptation would be to use them. Even if you are not actually charting or any of that, if you have really learned NFP, then you know what you are looking for and you know when you are fertile or not.

So the argument might come up that NFP can be used to achieve pregnancy as much as it can be for avoiding it. To that I say, “Yes! of corse it can.” But if you are open to life, and you trust that God take care of this, then shouldn’t it be more like, you will get pregnant when the time is right? Again there is the dispensation for couples who are having trouble conceiving.

So how do I plan to approach this in the future? I’m not sure yet. I still thing teaching NFP is very valuable. If nothing else it keeps women from being put at risk by using the really dangerous hormones in artificial birth control. But I really believe that we need to approach it differently, and to do that we need to approach family differently, and to do that we need to approach marriage differently.

One of my favorite parts about the article I read this morning was the suggested way that we approach the subject in marriage preparation. I am guilty of having approached it like this:

Catholicism does not require that you become parents of a large family — rather it wants you to be responsible parents. NFP offers you a reasonable alternative to artificial contraception: a way for you young couples to be responsible while not availing yourselves to drugs or devices that degrade your humanity. You should use these NFP techniques to grow closer, to communicate better, and prayerfully consider whether and when you should bring children into the world in a responsible manner. If that means that you need to delay — even permanently — having children, that is acceptable today with the use of NFP. And what’s more, NFP is proven to be 99% effective for avoiding pregnancy — just as effective as the pill.

I would love to think that I have the strength of faith to approach it more like this:

For you young Catholic people who are marrying in your twenties, you can expect, God willing and absent a physical impairment or grave reason, to have a home filled with many children. You should mentally, physically and spiritually prepare for seven, eight, nine or more children given your ages. You should be prepared to accept the hardships that come with having a large family for two important reasons: children please our Lord and your cooperation with the Lord in bringing forth new souls will in turn please our God, which will bring you many graces. Second, having a large family will help you be saved, it will re-focus your attention from the material attachments that are both rampant today and hazardous to your eternal destination. Your many children will help you to become better and holier people and will stand as a contradiction to a world that has forgot how live the abundant life. You, and your large faithful families, will turn the tide against the scoffers and misanthropes who would revile God’s creation and man’s place in it. We cannot promise you it will be easy because it won’t, but if you persevere in prayer and virtue, you will overcome with God’s grace. And should you live to see your children’s children, you will praise God all the more that he saw fit to give you the gift of faith.

This will not be popular. This will not be easy. But, this, I think, is where we are falling down and where we need to start, with God’s Grace, to pick ourselves back up.


Wow What a Week

100_4386Obviously this has been a strange and incredible week. It really has been one of those kind of bridge weeks, moving from the old to the new. It started with my web site being down, transferring everything over here, (more on that later) I picked up some addition duties at my day job that have me doing both audio and video work. It looks like there is enough of that to keep me busy for some time to come so I am pretty excited about that. It gives me a chance to do something I do out the outside and now get paid for it so that is really very cool. And then yesterday, oh my goodness yesterday, we got a new Pope.

His Holiness Pope Francis Image credit: Zenit News Agency
His Holiness Pope Francis Image credit: Zenit News Agency
I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the new Pope. If you want information about who he is and where he is from I really am not the right person to ask. There are lots of great articles about him, and what he has done and so forth at other sites so I am not going to try to repeat any of that here. (Just a few of the sites you might try The Vatican website, Vatican News, Catholic Mom, The Word on Fire, SQPN, Father M. N.’s Blog, and there are literally hundreds of others but these are the ones I like and follow)

What I do what to talk about that relates to this topic and sort of relates to the Living in the future post from Tuesday. I had been listening to Father Roderick of SQPN for the last couple of days. He said early yesterday that he thought yesterday would be the day (It turned out he was right) so I was watching all the social media channels pretty closely. 20130314-142954.jpg I had my phone sitting on my desk waiting for Pope Alarm to send me a text, and it was still my wife that got to me first. I got an IM from her saying that there was white smoke. Then I saw the literally thousands of people saying the same thing on social Media. Pope Alarm was about 6 minutes late, but I did get a text message from them in time to see the white smoke still billowing out of the chimney. In all Fairness Pope Alarm did say that they were totally overwhelmed by the response they got.

As cool as all the technology was, what I found great about it was the number of ways that were would experience the moment. When my wife IM-ed me she turned on EWTN, my eldest son was streaming it to his laptop (I don’t know what stream he was watching probably the same one as his mother and the younger kids but being that he is 15 he has to try to be a little different.) As soon as I heard about it, I found a link to the Vatican’s live feed on YouTube and watched it there, and I know that I could have streamed it though any of the major media outlets. This morning I downloaded Father Roderick’s podcast version. He was in the square and had been watching the smoke each and every time it went up, and just continued to record all through the whole thing. I will be honest, when I listened to this on my way in to work this morning I got all choked up listening to people completely jubilant at the news and announcement. And there were tons of other options of watching it live or hearing the reactions from the crowd and just in general all day long and even today there is new stuff coming out. I suspect that it will still be coming out several days from now. I just find the whole thing totally amazing. I will say it again, I love living in the future.

So on with the other news of the week. I don’t talk about my day job a lot. Part of it is because it really is not all that interesting, and part of it is because I don’t really want to mix what I do outside work and what I do inside work. That might start to change, at least some. I work as an IT guy by day. How many times have I said that. For years now it really has not been the truth. I have not worked in the official IT department for over 10 years now. I to work in technology, but the description of my job is so complicate that I usually just say the IT group so that I don’t have to spend ten minutes explaining what it is that I do. RecordFor a while now I have been trying to get away from the work that I was actually hired to do and into more of a training / out reach / social media type role. I have been so close in a couple of times in the last few years that I could almost taste it only to have the rug pulled out from underneath me. I am not really holding my breath but, they have given me space to work on audio and video production, I actually have the software loaded on my machine and a clear goal ahead of me. On top of all that my boss said the other day, Wow you know there is enough here to make a full time job. (I have been saying that for years.) So I am pretty excited about it. I just hope it lasts.

Last, let’s talk about the website move. I still have some issues to work out. If you have scrolled down through some of my older posts you will notice that, there is a big gap between March and January. Those posts are only on my other site. I am working on recovering them but the other host is still down. You might also notice that some of the images are missing from those older posts. cropped-cropped-tinyfeet.jpgThat is because while I was posting things I was kind of lazy. I was linking the images from one site to the other. This is really a bad practice, don’t do it. Why? well when one site goes down your back up site looks silly with a lot of the images missing. I am still hopeful that the other site will be recoverable. Or at least that I can get some of the data from it. If however, it gets to this time next week and things have not returned to normal over there, I will give it up as a lost cause and just repost the pictures from my archives here.

This has been an incredible week. It is not over yet, but even if it was I would have to call it a success. All I can say now, it hang on. If this week was like this, wait until next week.

Living in the Future – The Pope Addition

Picture from Father Roderick Vonhögen
Picture from Father Roderick Vonhögen

Just a couple of quick thoughts about the election of the new Pope.  Obviously I am old enough to remember the election of the last Pope. I am even old enough to have at least been alive for the election of John Paul II, though I was too young to understand it at that point. I remember the not knowing.  I remember waiting for NPR to announce that the white smoke had been spotted.  (Yes, I do listen to NPR.)  


What amazes me most is how much things have changed in just barely 8 years.  8 years ago, I waited for one of the major media outlets to let me know that the new Pope had been elected.  Today, I signed up for a service that will e-mail me and Text me when they spot the white smoke.  I am following several people who either are there them self (Father Roderick Vonhögen) or who know someone there, (Lisa Hendey,) and I could be watching any of the various live video streams of the Sistine Chapel chimney, none of these would be considered major media outlets.  If I wanted to avoid the talking heads totally I could, and really never feel out of the loop.  

Considering my dislike of most of the major media outlets I have to say, this is a step in the right direction.

I love living in the future.

If you Can Understand Just This One Thing

I really love going to Mass and learning something new. Since I have been trying to reading the readings before Mass because I am often distracted by young children, the Homily is pretty much the only part that I have not heard before. We have been incredibly blessed in that we have found several priests in this area that do give incredible homilies. What follows is what I learned this weekend and is all thanks to our wonderful priest.

This past weekend was the feast of Pentecost. This is when we celebrate the gift of the holy spirit to the disciples. It is the last week of Easter, and what we consider the birthday of the Church. I should be careful to say that this is the birthday of the Church and not when the Church of conceived. These are to very different things. Obviously the Church was conceived by God during the life of Christ, but the Church was born on Pentecost because that is when it became “human.”

One of the things that I hear a lot as a criticism of the church is, “What about all the bad and evil things they have done over the years?” I will admit this is something I have struggled with myself. I mean how can reconcile that. The answer is so simple that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, and it has to do with Pentecost.

There are two parts of the Church, the human part and this is the part that we see every day, and the part that comes from God. A good example of this is the Our Father. The words of the Our Father, were given to us from God, from Christ. We use the words that he taught us that is a from God part of the Church. Now how we pray it, what we do while we are praying it, meaning do we all hold hands or stand an pray individually or kneel, do we bow our heads or look to the heavens with our arms spread wide. Those are all human things.

I want to make it perfectly clear. I do not (let me say that again) I DO NOT condone anything that has been done by the human side of the Church, or by humans who were supposed to represent the Church that was harmful to other people. There have been some terrible things done, those were human, imperfect things.

The important part of the Church, the God part of the Church, what you learn in your Catechism, “Take this bread and eat it, for it is My Body,” this is infallible and has never changed. No matter what anyone says from a Layperson all the way up to the Pope himself, they can not change those parts.

God gave us His Grace in the form of the Holy Spirit. He gave us the ability to understand and spread His teachings, but we are human and imperfect and we do make mistakes. A lot of mistakes! I am not giving those that have made the mistakes a pass. All I am saying is that they are not the core, the God part, of the Church.

For the readings from Pentecost Sunday