NFP and Practicality

In November 2016, Katie Prejean McGrady wrote a post for the Chastity Project’s blog entitled “NFP: Not Freaking Practical.” Providing an honest glimpse into her (young) marriage, she wrote:

NFP is tough. Let’s call a spade a spade. It isn’t easy, it can be frustrating and confusing, and I find it remarkably annoying from time to time. NFP is not the best part of our marriage, but it does bring out the best of our relationship when we are trusting and patient with it and each other. NFP is a daily sacrifice, a weekly struggle, and occasionally a monthly toss-up, but no matter how impractical we may feel it can be, NFP has proven to be a remarkably practical way to practice becoming holy, and for that, we are grateful.

As you can imagine, this engendered some passionate responses—grinding of teeth and quoting of the Catechism—in the comments section. It’s easy to touch a nerve on this topic, and sex and babies and marriage is a big one. For most people reading this, I bet it’s one of the foremost components of your faith life.

I can sympathize with McGrady’s overall point. NFP is hard. When my wife and I got engaged, we took the class at St. Theresa and dutifully started charting her cycles over the phone (and to be honest myself, sometimes in person). We were ready to start a family but wanted to try out the Church’s system for family planning first. I was probably more enthused and willing about it than my wife, who considered it similar to birth control.

It wasn’t very practical. It added stress to our life. I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive on a lot of things, and I got crazy about the charts. The Mrs. had a difficult time taking her temp’s at the same time every morning and measuring the other symptoms. So we threw out the charts, stuffed away the thermometer, and went headlong into God’s plan for our bodies.

Seven heartbeats and five kids later, in eight years, and we need a break. It’s time to put our money back where our mouth is on NFP. We have to get serious about being careful, because another baby right now would be too much for my wife and, consequently, me. I’m pretty daunted by the prospect. There are apps now and my wife’s best friend (you read her conversion story on the Kindling) teaches NFP, so we’re in a better spot to understand and practice the program than we were eight years ago.

Still, we’re pretty heavily leaning toward near-outright abstinence for a fair amount of time. To some that would be a greater Cross than NFP. Obviously, as a man, it’s harder on me, at least in our relationship. We are looking at it as a sacrifice, which it is, for enabling us to get outside ourselves and think about the good of our whole family. It won’t be very practical, but not much in marriage with kids is. Hopefully it will be sanctifying. Here’s to Natural Family Holiness.


Doug Paul