Category Archives: NFP

On Obligation versus Obligation

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.”  It’s my Asperger.  It’s my Americanism.  It’s my modernism.  But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means.  While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.”  Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.”  In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here.  “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.”  So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.”  It is always an act of love.  Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled.  The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations.  The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body.  I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month.  Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children.  Some are difficult.  Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife.  I keep those obligations because I love her.  Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable.  But they’re still obligations.  One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ.  Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God.  Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation.  Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages.  That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ.  It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him.  We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus.  Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation.  Sometimes, it can be dry.  Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ.  And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?

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#NFPAwarenessWeek – Evangelizing By Testimony

Since Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, the week containing July 25 is now considered #NFPWeek.
If someone is able-bodied, and effectively using NFP to space children, whether that means having 6 instead of 12 kids, or “stopping” at 2, or whatever, then I think it’s important to share stories.
If someone is struggling with NFP, pastors and other laity need to be aware of different methods to provide more effective help. It seems like proponents of almost every method say, “Ours is *the one*, and you don’t need to learn about the others,” but each method has advantages and disadvantages and are better suited to different couples and situations. For those who say, “Trust Providence,” I say that NFP *is* trusting Providence.
In our case, I think most people in our families assume we are experiencing secondary infertility. Just this evening, my wife was holding her brother’s new baby, and her sister said, “Next baby will be yours,” as if she’s presuming we’re “trying” but can’t. Yes, from time to time we pause to consider it, and, yes, we have had a few “close calls,” and if God blessed us with another baby, we’d figure it out, but as our close friends have put it, “If anybody has grave reasons, you two do.”
When we were first married, we used sympto-thermal method (CCLI), charting temperatures, getting up each morning to take temperatures, etc. Our first month of marriage, when “phase 2” rolled around, we were praying over whether to abstain.

We tried “Bible roulette,” prayed to the Holy Spirit and found a few passages about not worrying about what other people think, and that addressed a few of our other side issues. Then I looked up from the Bible and saw that my wife was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Consider the Lilies of the field. . . .”
The second month, on the first day of Phase 2, the Gospel was “Anyone who welcomes a child welcomes Me. . . . ”
So while we charted, our prayer led us to openness to a baby. One of our main concerns was my wife being the primary wage earner. We’d hoped I’d be done with my MA by the end of our first year of marriage and able to get a full time job. If that didn’t happen, we figured we should time a baby to be born in early summer, so after September, we began abstaining during Phase 2, until April when we figured we’d at least have Winter break, and in May, my wife woke me up one morning and said, “Good morning, Dad.”
I was never able to get full time work in spite of trying, so we made do withwe a lot of help for a couple years. Over Christmas 2002, when our eldest was 9 months old, the holiday got the better of us, and we got a bunch of signs from God, and we knew a baby had been conceived, and we would name that baby Lewis or Louise. It wasn’t the best timing but seemed to be God’s will. In March, we suffered a miscarriage.
As time went on, we learned how difficult it can be to use sympto-thermal method once you already have a baby, and if you’re using “ecological breastfeeding” as a form of child spacing. However, the charting we’d already done had given us a general sense of the “unofficial signs” of ovulation, such as ovulation pain. We moved from sympto-thermal to rhythm.
That June, we had a “method failure”–early ovulation, which nothing but abstaining from day 1 until 3 or 4 days after ovulation occurred could account for–but better timing in that by the time our second full-term baby was born, my wife’s short-term disability insurance’s maternity leave coverage would be in effect.
Lactational ammenorhea ended about 8 months of time after each birth. When that ended in October or November 2004, we started looking into Billings Ovulation Method, I misunderstood some signs, and by January 2005, we learned there was another baby on the way.
My own career had been on the upswing that year, and a week before our son was born, I started my first and only full time job. My wife was able to get a year of leave from her school district, and started tutoring online part time.
During that period of amenorrhea, we studied Billings Ovulation Model. We also tried practicing NFP more
“conservatively,” waiting from Day 1 till 3 days after we thought ovulation had occurred. That time, weren’t even sure when ovulation occurred, or how it was possible, but our youngest daughter was born in May 2007.
In the meantime, we had moved to SC, I had had a few health scares, and I began feeling a new kind of pain and pressure in my upper back. Over the next several months, I studied the various methods, indicators, and available devices in great detail. I found out that Marquette had developed a model using the ClearPlan Fertility Monitor, so we bought one of those. After a couple years, the device burnt out, and we started just using over the counter test strips because they’re cheaper, and we then knew how to read them. We found a website called myfertilitycharts.com, and we began using that to chart. Our youngest is now 8, during which time both of us have had health problems.
1) God sent us the method we needed it when we really needed it
2) If we had followed the more worldly advice of “waiting,” we might never have had kids at all (which we knew and was why we didn’t).