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Archdiocese plans virtual events to mark Natural Family Planning Awareness Week


The 2021 National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week poster prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. USCCB graphic

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BRAINTREE -- In honor of the upcoming National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, the archdiocese's Family Life Team will hold free virtual events to promote prayer for families and share information with couples.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is an umbrella term for 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 (FAM), respect Church teachings on the unitive and procreative purpose of the marital act and cause none of the side effects of artificial contraceptives.

National NFP Awareness Week is an educational campaign held by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which provides basic materials for dioceses to promote NFP in their communities.

Taking place this year July 25-31, the week encompasses the anniversary of the papal encyclical ''Humanae Vitae" on July 25 and the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Mother, on July 26, which Pope Francis has designated as World Grandparents Day. The week's theme this year is "To Have, To Hold, To Honor."

"This week is to bring awareness to the beauty of God's plan for love and for our lives as married couples and for the family," said Kathryn Griffin of the Family Life Team in a July 6 interview.

She said NFP Awareness Week celebrates God's design for marriage and family and "how we can live according to God's plan."

"I think this week kind of opens that up to the greater community and helps others to come into an awareness," she said.

It is also an opportunity to educate people about how the human body works and how to care for it through "natural and organic means." Griffin noted that it is a great way to promote health "not only physically but spiritually and emotionally as well within a marriage."

"We know a deeper truth and a deeper reality through the practice of Natural Family Planning," she said.

The archdiocese's first NFP Awareness Week event, to be held on July 26 at 7:30 p.m., will be a virtual rosary offered for families experiencing infertility, difficult pregnancies, or infant loss. Father Ed Riley will lead the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, but Griffin said they hope to have participants lead decades.

Griffin recalled something surprising about last year's virtual rosary: they had an unexpected number of male participants.

"That was really nice as well, to have the men come and support their wives and to just be there, be a real presence and support this mission with one another," she said.

The second archdiocesan event will be an interactive webinar called "Method Match: How to Choose a Natural Fertility Awareness Method That Works for You," held on July 28 at 7:30 p.m. This webinar will feature two certified NFP instructors, Mikayla Dalton and Christina Valenzuela, as well as a gynecologist, Dr. Patricia Jay.

Unlike the virtual question-and-answer panel that the Family Life Team held last year, this webinar will more deeply examine specific NFP methods, which are numerous. Some involve the use of different aids, such as monitors, or charting different symptoms, such as temperature and hormones.

Griffin noted that there are many misconceptions about NFP. Though it is based in modern science, it is often mistakenly thought to be outdated or unscientific.

"I think there's a lot of confusion between what a method is and what the tools that we use for those methods are," she said.

She said the webinar "will hopefully help to outline what each method is specifically, and then how you might benefit from that personally."

NFP also helps married couples better connect with each other, she said. Couples who employ NFP must communicate about their physical symptoms and whether to take advantage of fertile and infertile periods of the woman's cycle.

Griffin spoke of the misconception that abstaining from sex for periods of time will drive a married couple apart. She thinks it does the opposite, bringing them closer together.

"It teaches you temperance, it teaches you a sort of wisdom in your love, and it helps that love to grow. I think that a lot of people don't understand that until they experience it, much like the love of Jesus Christ. We love deeper when we experience things like this," she said.

Griffin said she and her husband use NFP, and that it "has definitely deepened our relationship with one another and with the Lord, and it's helped us to be better spouses to one another, better disciples for our greater community, the Church, and better parents to our children."

It has also, she said, helped them to see children as "a gift from God."

"When we are gifted with that child, we treat them as the Lord's child," she said, adding that the practice of NFP has taught them how to do that in the best way possible.

Griffin said she hopes that people will gain "a better awareness of what Natural Family Planning is" through the events and become "more open to the beauty and the truth of it all."

More information about Natural Family Planning is available on the Archdiocese of Boston website at bostoncatholic.org/nfp and on the USCCB website at www.usccb.org/topics/natural-family-planning.

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