Natural Family Planning isn’t good enough. Even a regular and predictable fertile period causes division, frustration, and temptation. The not completely uncommon extended abstinence experienced by couples is enough to severely damage a marriage. Yes, yes, sex isn’t everything in a marriage, but you’d be a fool if you tried to claim that it isn’t something. And a big something at that.
Sex is a participation in the creative work of God. It’s the one thing we can do that most closely displays our being made in His image and likeness. It breathes life into our marriages, it is essential to the survival of the human race, and it’s a whole lot of fun to boot!
I started this series back in Lent searching for the answer to the question of why NFP wasn’t delivering on its promises. The one thing that was going to fix the broken and frequently disingenuous subculture of NFP. I had no clue what I was looking for– if it was the best method, a scientific breakthrough of a new ovulation sign, a mindfulness exercise or the number 42. Well, Hilly, ask and ye shall receive. I found the answer.
As always, the answer is Jesus.
Now don’t click away, just please hear me out.
What are we made for? Ultimately, we are made for union with God and communion with one another. In marriage, we have an opportunity to experience a foretaste of that union through the free, total, faithful, and fruitful physical gift of ourselves to our spouses: the “one blessing not lost by the Fall”. But at the end of the day, that union with our spouses is a lesser image of the union that we will ultimately have with God in Eternal Life. We won’t have (or even want) sex in heaven.
As Catholics, we have the ability to experience that unity with Christ here and now through the faithful reception of the Holy Eucharist. God loves us so much that He didn’t want to wait for the end of time to be united to us, He left us His Body and Blood so He can be with us in a real, physical way right now. Every time we receive Holy Communion, we are united with Christ in His entire being, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
“What, so you’re saying just go to Mass if you can’t have sex? Come on, that’s not the same thing.”
Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. No, it’s not the same thing at all, but it is a better thing. That desire we have to unite with our spouse isn’t just a physical drive. It’s a cry of our heart to be in communion with them. And the closer we are to God, the closer we are to our spouse.
Take the Holy Family, for example. It kind of always bothered me that they are supposed to be our model of a perfect marriage and family, but that it was a perfectly virginal and celibate family. So how is that a perfect example? Scott Hahn explains it in The First Society: the Holy Family is the perfect example because they were in constant contact and union with Jesus Himself. They constantly submitted themselves to the Will of God, and Jesus constantly submitted Himself to them as His parents.
They had no need of sex in any form because that ultimate desire of their hearts was right there in their home.
That is something we can achieve every day as well, and to an even greater degree than the Holy Family. They were merely in the physical presence of God, we can be in physical union with Him.
I know that isn’t very satisfying to hear, but it is the truth. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our Faith. We should orient our lives to that truth. I don’t suspect that frequent communion would eliminate the frustrations of NFP, or magically eliminate our sex drive in times of abstinence. But it absolutely 100% without question will unite you more closely with your spouse, strengthen your marriage, and make submission to the Will of God a true joy for a husband and wife, even in suffering.
Long before we begin to look at “pastoral exceptions” for barrier methods, let’s look at renewing our faith in the Holy Eucharist. Let’s institute Holy Hours for couples in our parishes. Let’s encourage vocations in our families so we can have more Masses that fit daily family life better, not just on Sunday. Let’s encourage frequent confession so we can receive Christ worthily!
Then let’s watch how it transforms not only the broken culture of NFP, but our entire marriages, and the rest of the world.
This is the truth of our Faith. It is time to start living what we believe.
Thank you all so much for joining me on this exploration of NFP and the changes we need to make. Check out the other posts in the series, and stick around to see what other random ramblings I’ll come up with next!