I am convinced that a very important part of preparation for marriage is the right kind of instruction about natural family planning (NFP). I emphasize the “right kind” of NFP instruction because much of current NFP instruction is too secular and too focused on the cervical mucus sign of fertility. Too often the NFP instruction is not placed in the context of Christian discipleship, and the Ordinary Magisterium is ignored. Further, most current NFP programs ignore Ecological Breastfeeding, and many ignore the value of the temperature sign. There is nothing esoteric about any of these factors; every person, Catholic or not, has a human right to know them.
So why do I write? Because it is pastorally imperative to require that every engaged couple take the right kind of course in natural family planning as a normal part of preparation for marriage. The course I envision is definitely not just a course in fertility awareness. It is an effort at evangelization and specifically the New Evangelization which seeks to show that Jesus is the ultimate Author of Catholic teachings on love, marriage, family, and sexuality.
My wife, Sheila, and I have been teaching natural family planning since 1970. We came to the NFP apostolate from backgrounds that are reflected in what we teach. I was a parish lay evangelist when we taught our first organized course, and Sheila was a leader with a breastfeeding organization (La Leche League International). I have also taught theology at the college level. I think our experience has been and can be helpful to the Church. Essentially what we have been teaching for almost 45 years is very low cost compared to other programs, and experience has demonstrated that it can be taught just as well in Europe and Africa as in the United States. Experience has also demonstrated that Humanae Vitae is a great blessing, not just a burden.
The NFPI teaching program includes three areas that we think are very important, even imperative, for couples to learn. We call this the Triple Strand approach to natural family planning.
1. Theological support for Humanae Vitae
2. Ecological Breastfeeding
3. Open-ended fertility awareness
The NFPI Home Study Course is available to any couple who wants to learn natural family planning.
John F. Kippley