NFP Week: Saturday Saints–Anne and Joachim

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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Saint Anne and Saint Joachim

 

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The Holy Family Generations statue at the Saint Anne Shrine in Sturbridge, MA.

Saint Anne and Saint Joachim are the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. Today is their feast day! I never learned much about this couple growing up, but now I have an increased interest in these two, they who brought up the world’s most perfect woman. Now, we don’t have much to go on except tradition–we’re not even sure Anne and Joachim are their real names. But the story of their lives has much to tell us. Here’s a neat little legend from the USCCB:

An ancient story dating to the first centuries of the Church’s life recalls how Saints Anne & Joachim, like Abraham and Sarah, were scorned by their neighbors because they had no children. Years of longing did not weaken their trust in God, but grief eventually drove Saint Joachim into the wilderness to fast and pray. Saint Anne, remaining at home, dressed in mourning clothes and wept because she had no child of her own. Seeing her mistress distressed, a servant girl reminded Anne to put her trust in God. Saint Anne washed her face, put on her bridal clothes and went to a garden to plead with God for a child. Angels appeared to Saint Anne in her garden and Saint Joachim in the desert, promising that, despite their old age, they would give birth to a child who would be known throughout the world. The new parents ran to meet one another at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate, and with a kiss rejoiced in the new life which God had promised would be theirs. Saints Anne and Joachim are powerful intercessors for all married couples, expectant mothers and married couples who are having difficulty conceiving, as well as all who have grown old.

Though Scripture does not mention Saints Anne and Joachim, and tradition does not even hold how long they might have lived, it’s nice to think about Jesus and his grandma and grandpa. :)

I’m not sure why (but if someone knows, please do tell me!) Saints Anne and Joachim are honored during NFP Week, but it does make sense. Take these words from Catholic Online: “It was their teaching that led her to respond to God’s request with faith, “Let it be done to me as you will.” It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the cross as her son was crucified and still believe. ” First, the core of NFP is saying to God, “Your will, not mine, be done.” And NFP requires a strong faith, courage, and fortitude to live out God’s plan for love. Finally, as Simcha Fisher points out in her book, NFP can be a cross. It is sacrifice. And couples making this sacrifice can look to the holy parents for perseverance of faith.

7QTF: NFP Week

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*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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[1]

Perfect post for this week when comparing NFP with artificial contraception. Catholic Sistas on why we DON’T use birth control.

[2]

A great resource on NFP! Plus blog graphs! IUseNFP.

[3]

Like graphics? 1flesh.org has more! Plus, it has stories from real women!

[4]

Like stories? The delightful Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas started a series called Women Speak on NFP. Check them out!

[5]

THIS sounds AWESOME!!!! Women’s Health Care that focuses on the body, not giving you drugs!

[6]

NFP doesn’t mean no kids ever. It’s just a tool to discern your family. It does mean kids. And babies are good things in marriage. Here’s a nice reflection on that one particular phrase of our Catholic marriage vows: http://worthyofagape.com/2014/06/09/accept-children/

[7]

Want a directory for doctors? Here’s a start: http://onemoresoul.com/

NFP Week: Thoughtful Thursday–We Can Do Better Part 2

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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On Tuesday I went through the issues I see with pro-NFP tactics and concluded by asking what we can do better. Here’s some suggestions from my limited experience:

-       Be gentle in our conversations—ask questions before pronouncing judgments.

-       Accept that Humanae Vitae allows for the Pill under the principle of double effect (according to some interpretations). No it’s not the greatest solution, but sometimes it’s all a woman’s got.

-       Be informed and focused on the positive. This means doing some homework—reading medical journal articles with good statistics on NFP and NaPro treatments.

-       But recognize anecdotal evidence convinces people much more than numbers. Find “success” stories when it comes to TTA, and sharing (whatever’s appropriate) the cool things you’ve learned about.

-       Go public (and anonymous if you want to). On every article you find, post thoughtful, charitable, factual comments about the positives of the NFP/NaPro approach. Example: I once read that progesterone shots can help alleviate post-partum depression, but many do not know this and resort to drugs with worse effects, and now there’s a spate of articles about PPD.

-       Encourage loved ones interested in medicine to consider pro-life nursing or doctoring.

Obviously, we can’t win over hearts and minds (and souls) overnight. This evangelizing takes time. If anyone else has suggestions for what’s been helpful in witnessing NFP/NaPro that’s positive and pastoral, please pass them on!

NFP Week: What We’re Reading Wednesday–The Sinner’s Guide to NFP

*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

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Hilarious. Frank. Encouraging. Blunt. Wish there was more. TMI. This book is all of these things and more. What it is is a collection of essays by Mrs. Fisher. You might recognize some of the content from her blog “I Have to Sit Down” and columns for the National Catholic Register online. Those selections have been edited and incorporated into this book to form a cohesive point, which you get to by the end. Meaning, you essentially have to read the entire thing to see the big picture. But that’s okay–one chapter builds off another. And they’re an engaging read. The brilliance of this book is that you can also get the same great reading experience a la carte if reading one chapter at a time. You may find yourself wanting to go back again and again to the one on discerning God’s will—even when you’re discerning something other than a pregnancy.

What I loved most about Mrs. Fisher’s tone is how non-judgmental she is. I am a bit of a weirdo in that I read family life forums, worked on materials that edified readers on NFP, and write about it myself, so I know there’s a whole lotta judgment—too many kids; too few kids; just reasons; selfish reasons. In one chapter,  Mrs. Fisher lays out (like I tried to do the past few days) different scenarios in which concrete human beings anonymously lay out their thoughts for wanting/not wanting another baby at a particular point in time. She presents the very human face of NFP.

So you may think that if I’m in love with how human her approach is and how pastoral that feels, why, when I sometimes beg for no “cross” language in responses to young people on this issue, do I rate this book so highly when the ultimate point is about the cross? Because the cross is a very human thing too. What Mrs. Fisher’s writing did for me is to realize that. Jesus went on the cross because he was human—if we didn’t tap into that and relied only on his divinity, he could’ve ascended to Heaven from the Garden of Gethsemane. But no. He needed to die a very human death for us very humans. Jesus was on the cross for us humans. In embracing the cross, he procured our salvation. We humans are called to be like Jesus. And to do that, we must take up that very cross to procure our salvation.

The easiest answer to give to the proverbial girlfriends regarding NFP and birth control is the hardest one for them to take: like it or not, we have a cross, and there is a purpose to that cross. Crosses are hard, and the side effects uncertain. And even if maybe someday there will be a magic device that takes one reading one time a day and gives us as much ease and clarity in predicting fertility, NFP will always be a cross. Because the cross is not in the method, but the decision to give of one’s self or not. In that light, the Pill seems to be the greater cross: a daily decision to not give your all—the weight of that burden—and to what purpose?

NFP Week: Topical Tuesday–We Can Do Better Part 1

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*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

I’ll be honest—sometimes evangelizing others is a struggle. Sometimes evangelizing myself is an even bigger struggle. “NFP and no birth control” can be one of the hardest issues to cheerlead. I’ve no objection to the spiritual and moral rationale, mind you. But when it comes to the practicalities, and what Saint John Paul II calls “lived experience” in Love and Responsibility (writing as Karol Wojtyla), I find sometimes we’re not as great as we could be.

Issue: Whenever someone writes about how NaPro solutions are better than the Pill for medical reasons, they neglect the following:

- One NaPro solution for a common problem the Pill abates involves multiple, more invasive (and likely more costly) treatments. For example, endometriosis and PCOS can be resolved through laparoscopic surgeries. While effective, (though if problematic uterine lining comes back, you have to have more) they’re still much more involved than taking a pill…

- Those listings of NaPro and pro-life, non-prescribing doctors—some states don’t have any. Or they’re a really far drive. When you tell random women on the Internet they can just go online to such-and-such a site to find a doctor near her, she thinks it will be a reasonable drive. Most women cannot drive 3+ hours for a doctor’s appointment. (Ex. I found one in my new state. One. And no, she does not take my insurance.)

- It can be such a fight with insurance companies to get your very legitimate treatment covered—why pricey laparoscopic surgery when the Pill is so much cheaper. I mean, I suppose you write off the co-pay on your taxes, but that up front cost hurts the budget now. If your works-with-your-faith doctor even takes your insurance, that is.

Issue: Some of the arguments are focused on the negative, and if a woman is relying on the Pill because she sees pregnancy as a negative, snark is not going to help sway her.

  • “The Pill’s a carcinogen.” Yes, but in the hardened mind, every medication carries risk or side effects, and not being pregnant is worth it to many women.
  • “Who wants to be chained to a Pill every day at the exact time?” No one, but isn’t it also “chaining” to have to take a temperature just so and discern consistency of mucus and potentially use a monitor, too?
  • The Pill (and every other non-permanent option) is not effective. Meet my “Pill baby!” Ok. I see your Pill baby and raise you a Clear Blue Baby, a Billings baby, and a Creighton baby. Believe me, I –and many of my friends–have heard of far more NFP babies when TTA (trying to avoid) than from women who used other means over the same course of time.

When it comes to this most intimate aspect of their being, women want confidence, assurance, and in many cases, certainty. I’ve been through this with my non-Catholic friends. They can’t be reached until we meet them where they’re at and can address all their questions.

How can we do better? That comes Thursday!

NFP Week: Modern Media Meditation–Humanae Vitae

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*Disclaimer: I am away on a cruise and may not have access to update/edit this post or moderate comments. Please be charitable!*

Did you know you can read all of the popes’ encyclicals for free? Online?

Happily, the Vatican posts all things papal on its Web site, very often in your language of choice. :)

Here’s Humane Vitae.

A very prescient document that definitely has something to say to our current culture. Just look at the opening paragraphs:

“The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.”

Happy meditating!

 

NFP Week! Intro Post

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Happy NFP Week! Every year the Catholic Church (at leas in the U.S.) raises awareness for natural family planning during this second-to-last-week in July. Why this week? Well, July 26 is the anniversary of the release of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical by soon-to-be-blessed Pope Paul VI. It is also the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim, Mary’s parents.

This week I’ll have a few posts on the subject–as best I can write, for aside from light charting, I don’t practice NFP personally. But in light of court decisions and conversations around women’s health, it’s a practice every young woman (especially those desiring and preparing themselves for future marriage) should be aware of.

The Schedule:

Monday: Modern Media Meditation– Humanae Vitae

Tuesday: Topical Tuesday–NFP: We Can Do Better

Wednesday: What We’re Reading Wednesday: The Sinner’s Guide to NFP by Simcha Fisher

Thursday: Thoughtful Thursday: We Can Do Better Part 2

Friday: 7QTF–Thoughts on NFP

Saturday: Saints for Saturday–Anne and Joachim, parents of the Immaculate Conception, Mary