Declares: “No topic off limits!”


CONTACT: Lisa Mladinich

For Immediate Release Declares: “No topic off limits!”

New York, USA – Just four months after the popular site underwent an exciting re-design, has established itself as a premiere haven for catechetical leaders, catechists, and parents for connecting and exploring topics of urgent importance.

“Our readers like us because we believe two things: 1) That absolutely anything can be illumined in the light of our Catholic faith; and 2) that teaching and learning the Catholic faith can and should be thrilling!” says the site’s founder, Lisa Mladinich, author of Our Sunday Visitor’s highly-regarded catechetical series, “Be an Amazing Catechist.”

“It’s a phenomenally vibrant and engaging team of contributors,” says Mladinich. “Many of the site’s 25 veteran catechists and catechetical leaders are also active in the Church as authors, bloggers, podcasters, speakers, and retreat leaders.”

A special column in the Catholic portal at this week called, ‘Faith, Sex, and Suicide: Nothing We Won’t Talk About,’ highlights the distinctive flavor of the site, achieved through a wide variety of faithfully Catholic approaches to teaching, living, and learning the Catholic faith, and provides links to help readers join in the conversation.

Hot topics addressed in recent postings include: the spiritual effects of voluntary sterilization, talking to teens about suicide, the power of the Passion, the dangers of yoga, finding a slice of heaven on earth, evangelizing through storytelling, and much more.

Amazing Catechists TM

Healthy Habits for the New Year Include NFP

My latest post at Amazing Catechists talks about Healthy Habits for the New Year: The beginning of a new year often prompts the making of resolutions regarding lifestyle. Some will decide to exercise more or to eat better.

Nowadays healthier lifestyle choices are encouraged: a diet rich in whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat. Unhealthy habits are discouraged: poor diet, inactivity, smoking, excessive drinking.

An important part of a healthy lifestyle also includes making good choices regarding birth regulation.

Moral considerations aside, Natural Family Planning, or NFP, is very healthy. It is a highly effective method of birth regulation, and it also poses no physical side effects. In my experience, NFP fosters a greater understanding and appreciation of the couple’s natural combined gift of fertility. There are no pills or chemicals to harm a woman’s delicate system. There are no devices or operations for either man or woman.

Other methods, however, are not so health-inducing.

Each prescription for chemical contraception (Pill, patch, vaginal ring, injectables) includes an extensive insert outlining the many physical side effects: an increased risk of weight gain, mood swings, headaches, breast cancer, blood clots, strokes. Vasectomy comes with an increased risk of prostate cancer and dementia. Women who undergo a tubal ligation have a greater risk of chronic pain and hysterectomy.

For those who are especially concerned with the health of the environment, chemical contraception is a likely culprit in contributing to the feminization of male fish. Although chemical contraception isn’t the only cause, the following link includes more detail on chemical contraception’s effect on fish:

A new year can be an opportune time to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. It’s also a great time to learn NFP.

My husband, James, and I are certified NFP teachers and we even teach NFP online. For more information on NFP, check out my previous Amazing Catechists column entitled, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About NFP, But Were Afraid to Ask” or email me at info(at)

Text Copyright 2012 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Photo purchased on iStock

Using NFP in Challenging Times

My latest column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “Using NFP in Challenging Times.”

The postpartum (after having a baby) and pre-menopause (before menopause) times are two very challenging periods to use NFP. Even more challenging is when a couple decides to learn NFP during these times. It’s not impossible, but more difficult to use NFP and it often necessitates longer periods of abstinence if the couple is avoiding pregnancy.

Postpartum Period:
For the postpartum woman, it depends on the type of baby care as to whether her fertility will return immediately or up to a year or two afterwards.

The bottlefeeding mother will have an early return of fertility (which means that her periods and ovulation will start soon after birth). The part-time breastfeeding mom will generally have an earlier return of fertility. The totally breastfeeding mother will likely not see fertility until her baby begins to wean or begins to take solids. All these factors must be taken into account when using NFP in the postpartum period. Regardless of how a mother feeds her baby, fertility observations are essential in determining when fertility returns.

It is typical for the postpartum woman to have longer cycles initially, but eventually her cycles will return to the normal pre-pregnancy length. Fertility observations are extremely important in this transition period and sometimes there are long periods of abstinence depending on how serious a need the couple have.

Pre-menopause can be equally challenging. For the middle-aged couple who are avoiding pregnancy, periods of abstinence can be lengthy. Cycles can become irregular: they can be shorter or longer. As fertility drops, cycles can often be anovulatory (without ovulation), can include breakthrough bleeding and/or weak or lengthy luteal phases (the time from ovulation to menstruation).

Women approaching menopause may also have to deal with hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, anxiety, depression, weight gain, sleep issues and problems with concentration and memory.

The Couple to Couple League has published two excellent books on both the Postpartum period and Pre-Menopause (CCL Store). They also offer supplemental classes for both postpartum and pre-menopause. (These classes are free for couples who have already taken the regular CCL NFP course). If interested in one of these courses, please contact the Couple to Couple League at their website:

copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Is NFP Effective?

My latest column at Amazing Catechists is entitled: Is NFP Effective?

Although there is less skepticism with regard to NFP’s effectiveness these days, Natural Family Planning still gets a bad rap from many in secular society. I’ve heard more than a few people say, “NFP didn’t work for us.”

When the rules are followed, NFP can be 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy.

First, a brief overview of how NFP works: a couple charts the woman’s signs of fertility and determines when she is fertile. If the couple is avoiding pregnancy, they abstain from marital relations in the fertile time and only have relations in the infertile times (the average amount of abstinence is between one and two weeks, depending on the couple).

Here are some of the most common reasons why people think NFP isn’t effective:

1. The couple choose not follow the rules or they take “shortcuts.” I have seen numerous occasions where a couple indicated that they were using NFP to avoid pregnancy, then they became pregnant. Upon questioning them, the couple shared with us that they had relations during the fertile time. “It was only one time.” One time is all is takes for a normal healthy young couple to become pregnant.

2. The couple choose to use barrier methods in the fertile time. Couples who use contraceptive methods (condoms, diaphragm) during the fertile time may experience an unplanned pregnancy at some point if they continue contraceptive use. NFP’s 99 percent effectiveness rate depends on abstinence in the fertile time. If a couple do not abstain, the effectiveness rate will drop to whatever barrier they’re using. As well, contraceptive use is contrary to the teaching of the Church and is considered serious sin.

3. “We can’t abstain.” Abstinence is difficult. We don’t try to skirt the issue. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. A strong sacramental life is essential to assisting couples having difficulties with abstinence. Humans do not need to be slaves to their passions.

4. “My cycles are irregular.” NFP is not the old rhythm method. Most of the calculations and rules are based on a woman’s present cycle. Therefore, women with irregular cycles can use NFP very effectively. As well, irregular cycles can sometimes be an indicator that something else is going on in the body. Improved nutrition, exercise and simple changes in lifestyle can often produce dramatic results.

No method of birth regulation is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. NFP is around 99 percent when the rules are followed.

I think our own experience illustrates the effectiveness of NFP. My husband, James, and I were very young when we got married, so during the first four years, we used NFP to avoid pregnancy. At the end of James’ last year of university, we decided to use NFP to seek a pregnancy. We became pregnant (with twins) in the first cycle. Over the next 23 years, we were successful in avoiding pregnancy when we had serious need to do so; and equally successful in becoming pregnant when we have desired it. We were able to use NFP in the postpartum periods and have been able to use it effectively during pre-menopause.

When the rules are followed, NFP is extremely effective in avoiding pregnancy and can work equally well in helping couples to achieve pregnancy. (And is the only method which can work both to avoid and achieve pregnancy.)

We are offering an online NFP class in June (class is limited to five couples). If you’re interested or have any questions about NFP or its effectiveness, please contact me at

copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Birth Control: Relevant Quotes From Scripture

My latest column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “Birth Control: Relevant Quotes From Scripture.”

Many Christians (and some Catholics) attempt to cite Scripture to justify their use of artificial contraception saying that the Bible has nothing to say on this topic. I agree that nowhere in the Bible are the actual words “birth control” (since this term was first coined by Margaret Sanger in 1914). However, Scripture does have a lot to say in support of the 2000-year Catholic teaching which states that the use of contraception and non-life-giving behaviors is immoral. Fertility and children are always seen as a blessing.

Genesis 1:27-28: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Psalm 127:3-5:
“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children on one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”

Even from the moment of conception, children are seen as a gift from the Lord:

Psalm 139:13-14: “For You created my innermost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Isaiah 49:1,5: “Before I was born the Lord called me…and now the Lord says, He who formed me in the womb to be His servant…”

Barrenness is seen a curse:

Hosea 9:10-17: “And they became as detestable as that which they loved. As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird…No birth, no pregnancy and no conception!”

Exodus 23:25-26: “But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.”

Deuteronomy 7:13-14: “He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle.”

The clearest indication that birth control and non-life-giving behaviors are immoral is the following passage about Onan, whose brother, Er, had died before he was able to father a child. Onan was being asked to follow the Levirate Law, which commanded him to have intercourse with his brother’s widow.

Genesis 38: 8-10: “Then Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also.”

The Levirate Law was in place in order to preserve the family line. If a man refused to perform his duty, his sister-in-law could strike him in the face with his sandal. The death penalty was never involved. God considered this incident more than a refusal of duty. It was such a serious offense that He killed Onan.

The following excellent article by Fr. William Saunders is an extensive list of the contraceptive references in the Bible:

God’s Natural and Beautiful Design

My new column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “God’s Natural and Beautiful Design.”

The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse.” Paul VI, Humanae Vitae

God’s natural and beautiful design is that women are only fertile for a short time each month. Taking into account ovum life (48 hours at most) and sperm life (up to five days depending on the type of mucus in the woman’s body), there are approximately seven days in each cycle that a woman is fertile. Other factors include each woman’s particular level of fertility: the type of mucus, their age (the younger they are, the more fertile) and the man’s level of fertility (sperm count and quality of sperm).

As Pope Paul VI writes in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life),”…new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse.” And contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church does not teach that a couple must actively seek pregnancy each time they engage in marital relations. But she does teach that intercourse must at least implicitly retain its procreative meaning. Contraceptives destroy the conjugal act’s procreative aspect. Therefore, if the couple has serious need, and spacing or avoidance of pregnancy is desired, they may use Natural Family Planning, that is, relations during the infertile time.

Natural Family Planning
is safe, healthy and effective and works as good, if not better, than most of the popular birth control devices and without the unhealthy side effects of contraceptives.

Let us pray each time we approach the marital bed: “I promise to be faithful to you. I come here freely, I love you totally and I am open to creating children with you.”

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

In Each of Us, Christ: God’s Plan for Marriage

This month’s column at Amazing Catechists is entitled “In Each of Us, Christ: God’s Plan for Marriage.”

“Love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34-35

As baptized and confirmed Christian/Catholics, Christ resides in each of us. If we consider the love that Christ gave us when he died on the cross was his freely chosen gift, totally given, faithful to the point of death and that gift was fruitful (redemption of mankind which opened up the gates of heaven), and if we consider that we are called to image Christ, then we must love our spouse in the same way.

Our love must be free. “I lay down my life…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn 10:18) We cannot be coerced to love or forced to engage in relations, even marital relations. Our love must be freely-given. Couples who use contraception have the potential of being slaves to their passions. If one cannot say no to sex, then their yes means nothing.

Our love must be total. “Greater love has no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) There can be no holding back. Within the context of the conjugal bed, this self-gift must be total: no contraceptives or contraceptive behaviors.

Our love must be faithful. “I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Christ was faithful to the Father and faithful to each one of us. In the sacrament of marriage, we have made a lifelong commitment/vow to our spouse and we must remain faithful in everything we do. It is obvious that we ought to be faithful with regard to the conjugal bed, but there are many other areas we can be unfaithful that do not include sexual relations (and this will be a topic for a future column…) The use of contraception or contraceptive behaviors separates a couple during their most intimate act.

Our love must be fruitful. “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) Christ’s death brought life to us and opened up the gates of heaven. Married love must also bear fruit. The most obvious fruit is the gift of children. Couples who contracept are purposefully thwarting this essential life-giving aspect of conjugal relations.

To read the rest:

Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach