Archdiocese hosts events for NFP Awareness Week

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese of Boston was one of many dioceses that marked National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, which took place this year from July 23-29 with the theme "Marriage: One Flesh, Given and Received."

Natural Family Planning (NFP) refers to various methods used to achieve or avoid pregnancy by observing, recording, and interpreting symptoms of fertility in a woman's menstrual cycle. These methods, also called Fertility Awareness Methods, respect Church teachings on the unitive and procreative purpose of the marital act.

National NFP Awareness Week is an educational campaign organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The week encompasses the anniversary of the papal encyclical "Humanae Vitae" on July 25 as well as World Grandparents Day on July 26.

The archdiocese's Office of Lifelong Faith Formation kicked off NFP Awareness Week with a gathering at St. Mary Church in Waltham on July 23. About 35 people in the local NFP community came, including families with children and grandparents. A Mass was held in English and Spanish, followed by a meal and time for fellowship in the parish hall.

"It was a great way to get to know other families who are practicing NFP or interested (in it), and to share resources," family life consultant Kathryn Griffin said the following day.

She acknowledged that there are many obstacles for couples who practice or want to try NFP, such as finding an instructor, determining the best method to use, and finding a community to support them.

"Through these conversations at the gathering, these families and couples were able to find like-minded families and couples, (with whom) they could share their struggles and joys and overall experiences with NFP," Griffin said.

She said NFP Awareness Week is important because there is a great lack of understanding about NFP, even among medical professionals. She said they use the week to highlight what NFP really is, how it can benefit families, and how it helps people grow in their faith. They dispel misconceptions and try to connect interested couples with counselors, instructors, and other couples who can mentor them.

"It helps women to understand their body, to understand how their body is a gift and how to use it in accord with God's desire and plan for our lives, and it helps a man to see that as well, and see his wife as more than just an object, but mind, body, and soul, and a person they are working together (with) on the path of holiness," Griffin said.

There are many different NFP methods to choose from, based on what works best for a couple. These include the Billings Method, the Marquette Method, the Boston Cross Check Method, and the basal body temperature method.

Griffin said that for couples trying to avoid pregnancy, choosing to abstain during periods of fertility is "a way of becoming intimate, a way of sharing a sacrifice and offering something to God in a natural way that shows him 'We love you, we trust you, and we're trying to do your will.'"

"It's not just about abstaining and keeping families small. It's about (asking) what is God's plan and desire for your life, how many children is he calling you to have, and how can you work with him and one another to fulfill his will in your life," Griffin said.

She also noted that NFP is organic, causing none of the harmful side effects of hormonal birth control or other forms of contraception.

"This is a way to help people naturally, scientifically, but also faithfully," Griffin said.

The Family Life Office planned a Spanish webinar about NFP for July 26, as well as a virtual rosary on July 27 for couples experiencing infertility, difficult pregnancies, and miscarriages. The NFP community also has quarterly meetings to plan community events.

More information about Natural Family Planning can be found at