If you’ve attended an NFP course, chances are you’ve heard all about how the periodic abstinence is beautiful, allowing the couple to have a honeymoon period every cycle. If you’ve practice NFP without having textbook 28-day cycles with no issues, you know that that abstinence can be frustrating and difficult. Even so, I say NFP is beautiful.
How can I say that? Well, I say it because I do not think of beauty in the same way that many of the courses paint NFP. Those courses and literature make it sound like it’s all sunshine and roses and rainbows, with no problem at all. If there is a problem or frustration, then it must be the fault of the people using it, not that NFP truly is difficult at times.
When I think of other things that are beautiful, though, I note that they entail hard work and sacrifice. Fasting is beautiful, in that it forces us to focus on God and not on ourselves, and it heightens our appreciation of food. Labor and birth are beautiful, but require a lot of work and pain (you don’t get the good drugs for the afterpains, even if you had them in labor). Marriage is beautiful, but there are rough, messy times, too. Farming is beautiful, but you don’t get the fruit if you don’t put in a lot of work. After all, we’re a people who see the most beautiful thing in the universe in the crucifix. There is beauty in all sacrifice, but you can’t throw out the sacrificial part and still have the beauty.
So when I say NFP is beautiful, I mean it is beautiful in the same sense that fasting, labor, marriage, farming, etc are beautiful. The times of abstinence can be difficult, especially during the times of returning fertility postnatal, or diminishing fertility in perimenopause, or other times when the cycle might be more erratic and confusing. That struggle needs to be recognised and validated, but the beauty – the true beauty, and not the platitudes – also needs to be seen in those moments.