Humanae Vitae Mass — A Request for Help

NFP Awareness week – 2012 was last week. I made a concerted effort on this blog to write a bit about NFP, the fear, challenged others to consider how it can positively impact marriage, why it is good for the body and why we should talk to our children about it alongside any other information they get as they enter puberty and adulthood.

Last week, I organized a Mass on the anniversary of Humanae Vitae.  It was our 2nd year to have the Humanae Vitae Mass, as we called it.  I am trying hard not to feel disappointed in the turnout because the people who did show up were so grateful to have the Mass said and to hear Father’s words of encouragement.  It can be a lonely life of sacrifice when families embrace and faithfully live the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.  Those of us walking the walk need a Mass like this to lift us up and help us remember why it’s worth it.  For the most part, I had been pretty successful at suppressing the disappointed feelings…

Until Father came and spoke with me after Mass yesterday and asked if we had gotten the word out and wondered why more people hadn’t shown up.  Yes, we got it into the Catholic Key (diocesan newspaper).  Yes, we had gotten it in bulletins.  Yes, we had gotten it out on e-mail loops.

Part of me wants to make excuses.  There are ball games and vacations and lots of busy things happening the latter part of July.  Many of the families that might have come to the Mass (who didn’t) had already attended Mass that day through the Totus Tuus program.  Our parish had Totus Tuus that evening at the same time Mass was going on.

And then, part of me wants to ask Father if we could please have this special Mass worked into a Sunday.  In his homily, Father mentioned that maybe he was “preaching to the choir” at the Humanae Vitae Mass…well, if we were to add this Mass on a Sunday he could reach others.  The people who are coming to a Humanae Vitae Mass on a Wednesday night in the middle of an already packed summer week already believe and live this value and Church teaching in their marriages. We appreciated the Mass for sure.  We still wanted it.  We NEEDED it.  But, if the goal is to spread the Good News about the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, unfortunately, it’s just a fact of life that we’re gonna have better luck reaching a broader audience on a Sunday.  

My perfect vision of a big Mass celebrating Humanae Vitae and the Catholic church’s unwavering and loving teaching on marriage and sexuality includes the Mass being on Sunday including a forum for information sharing afterwards. Perhaps, in the parish hall, in addition to the information re: NFP, we can offer some healing information for post-sterilization, or a support system to help couples make that leap out of the contraception culture.  There are lots of couples out there that didn’t hear, know or understand the Church’s teaching that made some irreversible decisions and they are hurting but may feel like they have nowhere to turn.  And it’s difficult to make such a drastic change in marriage to accept and learn NFP vs. continuing on using hormonal contraception or barriers or other devices.  Maybe we could have information and support for educating teens within the family structure.  Perhaps have stock of books like The Good News about Sex & Marriage or something on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or TOB for Teens, or Pure Manhood.  I admit…that’s a lofty “perfect” scenario.

Since we have started this thing of having a special Mass on the anniversary of Humanae Vitae …how can I drum up the support for this Mass?  How can I get more people of our diocese, let alone more people from our Parish, to attend this Mass?  Are people queasy about bringing their families with children (my children come to this, I don’t find it objectionable…but is this one of those instances where I am weird?)

I suppose I could try to have some influence as to when Totus Tuus happens at our Parish.  The past two years it has been the last week in July.  If our parish is going to continue to have a Special Mass on July 25, we should try to make sure no other big attendance-draining activities are happening.

I have a year to try and do this thing better. I would like it to continue, so I’m afraid that I need to grow my vision and make it happen.  I know the families who attended the Mass the last two years would also like to see it continue. We have two supportive priests at our parish and on that I’d like to capitalize. 

Help me?  Please?  Email me at  Tweet me:  MichellePHughes.  Leave a comment.  Retweet this for me to your followers.  I would like to get some ideas that I could get started on to make next year’s Humanae Vitae Mass more memorable.



7 Quick Takes (29)

— 1 —
My children attended Totus Tuus this week at our parish.  What a wonderful week for them! Dominic even went in the mornings where they had Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for preschool age children. My children have never attended a “Vacation Bible School” or anything.  So I really can’t speak to what goes on with those by any personal experience.  And I often say that Totus Tuus is “Catholic Vacation Bible School” for ease of reference for people.  But it seems so different from what I read about VBS at other churches.  Totus Tuus incorporates daily Mass, increased study and reflection on the mysteries of the Rosary, Adoration, plus lots of fun games that keep the children entertained and focused.  When I asked Dominic what he did at Totus Tuus this week he said, “I learned about Jesus and that He LOVES me!!!”  It was probably one of the most precious things I have ever heard.

— 2 —
As you know if you’ve been hanging around here this week, it has been NFP Awareness week! I was on the ball this go-round and had an idea for posts all week.  There were some other interesting posts around the blogosphere, too.

— 3 —
I have decided the time has come to put shoes on the baby boy. Probably tonight, I’ll cart the crew out to a local Stride Rite to get him fitted. I think it is probably time for new shoes for Dominic as well. Stride Rite loves me. Or at least they should.

Speaking of that…why do people try to make me feel bad for not shelling out a gajillion dollars to put shoes on a baby that doesn’t walk? My mother-in-law is very disapproving of a baby with no shoes. And several women at work make comments like, “I always put my babies in shoes, their feet get cold!” And it’s not like I didn’t have SOMETHING on baby’s feet. Socks keep their feet from getting cold! I just don’t see the point in spending 40 bucks on a pair of shoes the kid is only going to fit into for a month and on which he doesn’t walk! Am I out in left field on this?

— 4 —
As I perused the school handbook/policy manual, I was excited to see that in middle school all children are required to wear tennis shoes. Every day. But then I was wondering why it is a requirement for middle school and not all grades. I mean, how can you run around and get exercise in non-tennis shoes? I find this requirement being imposed in 6th grade to be odd because in 6th grade is when recess is removed from the daily schedule.

So, unfortunately, while I think of the requirement that all children wear tennis shoes to be a practical, common sense type of thing…I get the feeling it is a requirement borne out of fears of household income differentials. Am I alone in that thought?

— 5 —
Vincent has reached the point where walking is the way he attempts to go almost all of the time. Even when he loses his balance and falls to his bum, he simply gets himself back up again to walk instead of continuing on his quest in crawling position. This is great! Oh, and hence, the reason it’s time for shoes.

— 6 —
I have a question about my readers’ opinions on rewarding children for grades. I want to dangle a carrot for Sarah to have a goal that incorporates getting nothing less than a B+ all year long. For frame of reference, at our school a B+ is a 92% or better.

I guess as I think about it, I really expect a B+ or better out of her regardless of what is on the line and I don’t think I should have to offer up some sort of reward.  But then, I think…well, I really want her to work hard and attain the goals academically, and it seems sometimes the best way to do that is to provide something to work for.  So, what are your thoughts?

— 7 —
I have been marveling recently at the differences in my children’s temperaments.  It really is amazing how two parents, doing things basically the same way, end up with 5 completely different kids.

Specifically, lately, my marvels have been about the fact that Vincent (#5) is the first child of mine to enjoy screaming at the top of his lungs and laughing at the reaction (or lack thereof) he receives.  Last night, he made Dominic cry in the van because he would. not. stop. screaming!  And if you tell him to stop it, he just laughs and does it again.  Seriously…NONE of my other children have done this sort of thing.  And Dominic has a playful and quiet disposition and doesn’t like that sort of thing.  But he has taken to using some sarcasm in his tone lately.  And because he is 3…it is cute.  Or take Dani, for instance.  Dani enjoys a quiet existence. She doesn’t particularly care much for the chaos of a house full of people.  Sometimes, she retreats to her room and shuts the door and I promise to keep Helen out so she can have some peace and quiet.  Then Sarah, my oldest, likes being in charge and has shown recently that she can handle more than I gave her credit for.  She was in charge of the kids for about an hour Wednesday until I got home from work since her dad had a meeting at work and I got home to all five kids fed and ready to go to our Humanae Vitae Mass at Church.  She had made macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches.  Then there’s my sweet Helen.  Helen is loud and insistent and tenacious for what she wants.  She can be mean and she can turn right around and be a sweetheart.


Check out this clip from one of my favorite movies.  The kids borrowed Yours, Mine and Ours, circa 1968 (starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball) from the library.  I love this movie.  My kids love this movie.  And this right here is one of my favorite scenes (“What Love Is”):

For more Quick Takes, be sure to head over to Conversion Diary.  Thank you, Jen, for hosting!

NFP Awareness – For The Kids

12 years of using NFP in our marriage have not yet presented an instance where I have had to explain it to my children. In the context of a new pregnancy, it’s been easy to explain that God sent us the baby and we’re excited to meet him/her when the time comes. The kids are always excited for a new sibling.

Our daughters are getting older and so far, I have had discussions with both of the oldest two about changes they will see coming in their bodies in the near future.  I have had THE talk with my oldest (just turned eleven).  But that really centered around what sex was and how it worked and all that stuff.  So the other day, I mentioned I had an NFP Awareness poster to put up at church and Sarah says, “What is NFP?”

Well, honey, I’m so glad you asked!  Or am I?

I have an opportunity to help my daughters understand their bodies.  I have this glorious chance three times in a row to help my daughters be knowledgable and powerful about the decisions they make in their lives.  I can present all the information I did NOT have at my disposal as I was navigating the crazy waters of teen-to-young-adult life.

I plan to discuss this soon with my oldest (she asked “What is NFP” in the van while we were about to leave and go somewhere, so it really wasn’t the time or place to give her the low-down).  Through what I envision to be multiple/separate discussions, here are some points I hope to cover…

  • Changes in her body that can help alert her to the fact she may begin menstrual cycles
  • High-level discussion re: changes in boys’ bodies (i.e., boys’ bodies mature into mens’ bodies, etc)
  • How she can protect her body and keep it healthy both in generally and reproductively
  • Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 – and how she can pay attention to how she is feeling in each phase, and how it works together with the information she already knows (how a baby is made)
  • Charting — I emailed the lady mentioned in this blog post by Simcha Fisher, but never got anything…I will probably need to call her.  But I really want to get those charts for girls (I mean, who wouldn’t love to have a spot to chart that they were craving pizza!?!?)
  • Discussion on chastity, making good choices
  • High level — what forms of contraception are, how they work, various reasons people think they should use it
  • What sexually transmitted diseases are
  • That I will probably start taking her to see my doctor instead of the pediatrician whenever she needs a doctor visit
My own confidence will see me through these discussions.  I’m glad I know what’s going on with my body.  I feel good about telling her how to handle the coming changes.  I’m grateful for my faith-based view on these things.  But more than that, I am thankful for the science of the matter.  The information at my disposal to pass on to her is so rich in objective measures and ways to help it all make sense.  I don’t have to simply attempt to scare her into abstinence – giving her all kinds of horrible scenarios of what might happen to her if she has sex outside of marriage.  I can explain why it makes sense to reserve sex for marriage (avoid STD’s, have maturity to discern the right time for children, etc) but give her the tools to see the natural purpose for sex played out in charts where she can see her body preparing to conceive each cycle, make it through the fertile phase, and being able to predict the day her cycle will end and a new one will begin.  I can reinforce that she doesn’t need a pill full of hormones to make her body into something it wasn’t designed to be.

I am grateful for NFP because I can show my daughters a better way.

As we close out this NFP Awareness week, I really do hope that if you are part of a couple that hasn’t tried NFP, that maybe you’ll try to overcome your fear.  I hope that you will think about it and perhaps agree to give it that honest-to-goodness try.  I bet if you do, you have a good chance to find that your body will thank you.  One big benefit just might be that you will have a fresh perspective to educate your children and give them the power through the knowledge to make positive choices for themselves.

NFP Awareness – For Your Body

The last thing I worried about when my husband and I gave Natural Family Planning (NFP) a try, was whether it was good for my body.  I was mother to a 6-month-old baby girl.  I had zero complications during pregnancy, labor and delivery outside of obesity (I was overweight/obese when I became pregnant with her).  I enjoyed a fairly healthy existence for most of my life, unaware of any problems in the reproductive area as well.  I used hormonal contraceptives off and on for 10 years prior to learning NFP.  I began taking them when I was 18 and I was just over my 28th birthday when I said goodbye to “the pill” for good.  

I never paid much attention to how I felt on a day in day out basis before I started using NFP.  Growing up I was a fairly healthy child.  I had suffered one 8 week episode with cellulitis that ended with me understanding that bacteria had “colonized” within my right leg/foot and I would always be at risk for another bout with the nasty stuff.  But, I didn’t get ear infections or the flu or strep or anything like that growing up. That pattern continued in my adult years.  I was never sick enough to stay in bed, succombing only to a common cold once in awhile.

When it came to fertility, I had always considered myself “regular” with my cycles because I was faithful taking “the pill”, and the withdrawal bleeding came right on schedule with the week of placebos.  As I started to watch and learn my cycles with NFP, I was fascinated and frustrated all at the same time!

I was fascinated because I made internal and external observations and took my temperature and I could see that my body had an established biological rhythm that indicated the opening and closing of the fertile window.  I was frustrated because instead of 28-day (pseudo-) cycles, I entered the realm of 35-40 days cycles and I didn’t understand why.  Even though I learned through the Method classes that ovulation could happen later than days 14-18, I still didn’t expect that it would be ME that would be one of the women ovulating late.

I didn’t begin seeing my NFP-only doctor until I was pregnant with my 2nd child, but in the months following her birth as I tried to make sense of my cycles post-partum and beyond, my doctor was instrumental in helping me understand my charts.  He was open to the idea that my ovulation might not be happening as early as I kept almost willing myself to see it happen.  With the extended phase II (that’s the fertile phase, in case you’re not sure) and the seemingly extremely short phase III/luteal phase, he began to suspect that I had a hormonal imbalance and he ordered bloodwork.  I had my blood taken/tested for increased progesterone on Peak + 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.  Through these measurements, he was able to see that progesterone was not increased as much as it should be post-ovulation.  The increased estrogen in my system was causing issues with timely ovulation and the decreased progesterone post-ovulation was causing short luteal phases (mine were 6 days max and he wanted to see me get to 10-12 days). Beginning then and ever since, I now take regimen of 10 days of progesterone (in pill form) beginning Peak + 3 days. 

While my doctor and I were able to identify the luteal phase defect/progesterone deficiency, NFP can help women identify a plethora of issues that are often masked by using hormonal contraceptives or IUD’s.  I find that my expanded understanding of my body has led to an ever-increasing respect and amazement at the way I am made.  And this also provides me with a very good reason not to change the way I am made and the temptation toward sterilization has never reared its head.  The support of my husband and even his own amazement and awe at the way our bodies are made has also stunted any sort of inclination he may have had toward his own sterilization.  

With an increased awareness of our biological rhythms and that they are geared toward a cycle in which fertility comes and goes in cycles over a fixed period of time in our married lives comes a spirit of amazement and awe at the miracle of how we are made. This awe and amazement at God’s creation elicits a feeling akin to horror at the idea of destroying it.  It is unfathomable to reject this amazing gift we were given.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;”
–Psalm 139 (13-15)

I did not consider that NFP was good for my body when I started this journey. 

But I should have.  

And now, I would like to encourage anyone who has come upon my blog this week during NFP Awareness Week, to try NFP…

...because it’s good for your body.


NFP Awareness – For Marriage

This week is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness week.  And TODAY is my 13th wedding anniversary.  The beautiful irony that my anniversary always falls during (or very close to) NFP Awareness week is not lost on me.  NFP was a “game-changer” in my marriage, in my opinion.

Today, I wanted to write a post to encourage couples who might read it to just give NFP a try.  An honest-to-goodness try.  That is all Craig and I agreed to do at the beginning of our journey 12 years ago.  There are many things I could point to that have happened in our marriage as a result of NFP, but here are a few.

Because we tried NFP…

we grew in our understanding and acceptance of the Catholic faith
we learned to be more open with each other about sex
we grew in respect and understanding for each other
sex, fertility, having babies became a safe, sacred space in our marriage
the physical observations led to treatments of hormone imbalances and luteal phase defects
and because of the above, I believe we have avoided some heartbreak due to monitoring my progesterone early and often in pregnancy

These days, there’s not a lot of encouragement to forego hormonal contraception, devices or barrier methods.  There is a huge amount of encouragement to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and then get sterilized.  But it’s possible to have one or two (sometimes three) kids and continue on in life without altering your body or ingesting harmful chemicals or putting a barrier between you and your spouse.  

While openness to five (so far) children has been a part of using NFP for my husband and me, it is not necessarily the plan for everyone.  If there are reasons to limit the number of children, NFP is very good at accomplishing that.

So, I want to say to couples out there that might happen up on my blog today…

If you find yourselves in a place where you need to space babies or postpone pregnancy for a time, there is another way different from “the pill” or sponges, or diaphragms or condoms or IUD’s or any other form of hormones.  There is a way you can use that doesn’t require sterilization.  There is a way that is good for the environment, good for your body and I would challenge you to consider that it’s good for your marriage.

NFP is another way.  NFP is reliable.  There are many methods of NFP, perhaps you will find one that works for you – different bodies have different challenges.  We have used Sympto-Thermal, a variation of Creighton and now, Marquette.  We’ve successfully avoided and achieved pregnancy for 12 years.

It might be hard, but in the end…it’s all at least a little bit hard.  Sometimes I think that because something is unknown, it seems like it would be too hard.  Many times, I think we humans sell ourselves short in the self-control department because it takes work and discipline…and as humans, we’re naturally averse to work and discipline.

It might be easy…you never know.  Maybe you’ll be happy to understand what is going on with a woman’s body.  Maybe it will excite you to learn something new, follow the rules and see how it works!  My husband and I have been blessed with a temperament in our marriage that has made conforming our reproductive lives to this way using NFP peaceful and positive.  It’s true that our Catholic understanding of marriage had a big hand in that, but I think that a mature view of marriage – Catholic or not – lends itself to opening the marriage up to include a holistic approach to family planning.

My husband and I could have been married all these 13 years and never tried NFP.  I honestly can’t even think clearly about what our marriage and family would look like.  My faith tells me that God planned and intended each of my children for the times and places in the world they have arrived.  It scares me to think I was ignorant and would have had the power to change that if we hadn’t given NFP a try.  

I’m so glad we agreed to try NFP.  It’s made a world of difference for our marriage.


NFP Awareness – The Fear

One obstacle that my husband and I had to overcome as we embraced Natural Family Planning (NFP) early in our marriage was fear. Not mine, but the fear I perceived was his.
I can’t say I was ever scared of learning NFP.  I wasn’t even scared of using NFP.  I try to limit the amount of fear I allow myself to have.  I’m the kind of person who will just plow forward and understand that I don’t know what’s ahead, but cling to my faith that there’s nothing out there that I can’t handle.  
And so it was with NFP.
I was aware enough to understand, that I needed to have some empathy for my husband.  I think the leap was a little farther for him when it came to NFP.  Perhaps he was afraid we’d never have sex.  Or maybe he was afraid we’d have more babies than we could handle.  
Over the years, he’s been a bit more afraid than I when it came time to “plow forward” into the unknown abyss of another child.  I’ve learned to accept that his fears are well-grounded and I’ve maintained my patience and trust that God would get the two of us on the same page eventually.  I haven’t always believed it was my husband who needed to get on my page, nor do I feel that way today.  I try to remember that God may, and does, move my heart to be in line with my husband’s whatever place that might be.
It’s a good reminder that NFP can and often is difficult for many people, for different reasons.  We live in an instant-gratification culture, which has applied “I want it now” so thoroughly to sex that many kids “hook up” before they make it official and go exclusive with someone.  There’s the mentality out there:  “Yeah, I guess I *could* use NFP…but why WOULD I?  Or why SHOULD I?”
I have found my discussions with non-Catholics about this topic don’t change too many hearts and minds.  I’ve had some minor success encouraging Catholics to open their hearts to acceptance on the Church’s teachings.  But a non-Catholic doesn’t have the same draw on the issue, and therefore the stakes don’t seem that high (to them).  Personally, I think that the NFP way of life would be beneficial for everyone, but without a common ground rooted in faith, it seems I don’t have a way to connect. Often, the fact that five children accompany me most places I go is enough to shut down the conversation (even though I could explain that we were quite open to receiving all five of them).

The fear I perceived that my husband experienced with regard to NFP is the norm among a large percentage of people in our society.  It’s encouraging that this issue has taken hold and many young people are spreading the good news about life without sterilization and artificial birth control and the benefits it brings.
Honesty about fears and potential struggles will help us soar to new heights of awareness.


7 Quick Takes – 28

— 1 —
Friday!  For some reason this has felt like a long week, even though it has flown by.  They all fly by anymore.  It was wonderful to see my sister and her family from SC and then last night my sister and her husband (they are newlyweds!) stayed the night on their way to move to Dallas, TX.  It was so great to hang with them and visit.  I really hope someday they will live closer to us, but off to Dallas for their new life together they go!

— 2 —
I took this week off Boot Camp.  It’s been a good break, especially with the heat.  But I’ll be back at it starting Sunday.  I had been going at a pretty good clip for 7 weeks straight, so I hope the break is good for my muscles, but I know it was good for my frame of mind and motivation when I do go to Boot Camp.

— 3 —
Next week is Totus Tuus at our parish.  My kids are very excited to go.  This program is incredibly steeped in Catholicism, I don’t think I could spend my money any more wisely for a summer religion program.  Daily Mass, Adoration, studying deeper into the mysteries of the Rosary, fun with friends, and exposure to solid young adults who are the leaders for a whole week is something my kids look forward to every summer.  I pray they have a fantastic time and come closer to Jesus (again, some more!)

— 4 —
Next week is dedicated to Natural Family Planning (NFP) awareness.  Our parish is having a special Mass said on the anniversary of the release of the encyclical, Humanae Vitae.  We’ll have a little reception afterward.  It’s nice because people from all over the area come to attend the Mass.  Last year, a family we last saw when they had 2 (or was it 3?) children came and they had just had their #6 who seemed about the same age as Vincent (maybe a few weeks older).  It was nice to see people I hadn’t seen in awhile.  This year, I am trying to have the Mass intention be for NFP only physicians and medical staff.  I also got the USCCB posters to put up around the parish for the masses this week and next.

— 5 —
Speaking of NFP… is up and running!!!

So excited!  And yours truly is a contributor to some of the information on site!  I hope to add some more tips and things on Marquette as time goes on.

Anyway, it’s a comprehensive website that looks like it will be chock-full of excellent information!!!  Go check it out!

— 6 —
School supplies.  Ugh, right?  Check out this list.  This is a compiled list of all common items from four children’s school supply lists (grades Preschool, 1st grade, 3rd grade and 6th grade). I hit a sale at Toys R Us last weekend to get the construction paper, markers, crayons and anything else they were having a kick-ass sale on.  But I’m not even a third of the way complete getting everything.  Something I am learning with all these kids in school is to start early!!

— 7 —
And we are barreling downhill to the end of July.  I swear I blink and another month has passed. I need to get Vincent’s 1-year pictures done and I need to get Sarah’s annual pictures done (I’m skipping the school pics this year in favor of the others).  Then there are shoes to buy, uniforms to sort and fill-in where needed.  Not to mention we start volleyball practice 2 weeks from Wednesday!!!  Yikes!

For more Quick Takes, be sure to head over to Conversion Diary.  Thank you, Jen, for hosting!