A Young Voice for NFP
Blogger reaches out online with the Church’s beautiful message on marital love
Is the Church’s message on natural family planning (NFP) reaching young couples? Jessica M.H. Smith thinks we all could be doing a better job of spreading the good news on NFP so she started a blog that has created an online buzz.
She is married for five years (with no children yet) and lives with her husband in Central Wyoming, where Fathers for Good flagged her down via e-mail in advance of “NFP Awareness Week” (July 24-30).
Fathers for Good: How did you get into blogging about NFP?
Jessica M.H. Smith: Four years ago I became the first full-time coordinator in the Diocese of Madison. I quickly realized that a lot of NFP promotion was boring, unfunny and uninteresting. Although the target market for NFP was largely (though not exclusively) young adults, there was a distinct un-young staleness to it all. My well-formed Catholic peers think the culture of Humanae Vitae is beautiful, relevant and exciting, so why was NFP promotion so uninspired? A simple and free way to light some fires and get the gears going and drive traffic to our diocesan site? Start a blog with a commentary on all things NFP/ Family Life related.
FFG: Your tagline for NFP is “Real Love. Real Natural.” What does that mean?
Jessica M.H. Smith: I have a couple taglines that I’ve used. One was “NFP: It's supernatural,” a play on words, meaning it's really natural but also necessarily spiritual.
I thought “Real Love, Real Natural” had the most universal appeal, even to non-religious folks. While it sounds pithy and simple, the essence is profound: contracepted sex cannot be fully true, and therefore fully real (natural). It’s not so much that NFP is the marital silver bullet, but that contraception can absolutely never be.
FFG: What is the basic message you want people to know about NFP?
Jessica M.H. Smith: I want people to keep in mind the tag line, "NFP: It's supernatural." NFP is inherently different from contraception. The world thinks contraception is a medical, relational and social panacea. NFP is not Catholic contraception. We shouldn’t impose the same expectations on NFP. Likewise, NFP is not a Catholic panacea, a silver bullet. It can be a great gift to marriages (for achieving or postponing pregnancy for serious reasons) or even for treating women’s wellness issues, but it's a gift to be learned, and a way of life to grow in. This takes virtue. It takes suffering. In a culture of quick ‘n easy, NFP is the anti-easy, but that’s what makes it beautiful.
FFG: Do you know couples who have moved from contraception to NFP and loving it? How about you?
Jessica M.H. Smith: Yes, I do! Some are friends, including a pharmacist friend who also made the courageous decision to stop dispensing all forms of contraception. Others are leaders in the family life apostolate, like Patty Schneier. Patty has one of the most compelling and pertinent stories of conversion through embracing a non-contraceptive way of life (see her website PattyScheneier.com). One friend, who I met as a reader of my blog, was a fallen away Catholic who gave up contraception as a Protestant, and ended up learning and training as a teacher for two methods! She returned to the Church and the sacraments this year, and now is a moderator at the NFP Forum, Living the Sacrament. Each journey is totally unique.
FFG: What is the best comment you have ever received on your blog?
Jessica M.H. Smith: I've had over 1,500 comments on my blog in four years (which relatively speaking is not that many), so a single one doesn't really jump out. I must say that I'm really grateful for my readers who are friends and fellow servants in the family life apostolate. I have a handful of NFP coordinator readers who are working in this field who give me great feedback and encouragement with their comments. If 90+% of Catholic spouses are contracepting (imagine the negative spiritual effects of this), why is it that in almost 200 dioceses, I can count full-time NFP coordinators on one hand? The fact that they persist in working in one of the most important fields with very little or no ecclesial or material support gives me encouragement to keep going.
Visit Jessica’s blog: NFP Works Blog