The Wonderful Benefits of NFP

In this year of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) by Blessed Pope Paul VI, this is another reprint of an article I wrote seven years ago on the benefits of NFP.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) provides many benefits that not only promote healthy living, this remarkable method of birth regulation is also environmentally friendly and fosters authentic marital love.

NFP is safe
There are no harmful side effects for either the husband or wife. It is completely safe, 100 percent natural, and involves no potentially harmful devices or drugs.

NFP is healthy
There are no pills, invasive procedures or long-term drugs. Women who use NFP know more about their bodies and can discover health problems sooner.

NFP is effective
Used and taught properly, NFP can be 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy. In our experience as an NFP user couple, we have never had an unplanned pregnancy in over 30 years. NFP can also assist some couples in achieving much-wanted pregnancies without chemicals and operations.

NFP costs very little to use
In this economy, NFP is very cost effective. Other than the cost of the course, materials and the replacement of thermometers, NFP costs very little to use over a couple’s 20 or 30 years of fertility, compared to purchasing condoms, diaphragms, pills and other chemicals or operations.

NFP is environmentally friendly
NFP does no harm to the environment. Charts can be recycled and there are no chemicals or other devices used.

Here's to 20 yearssm

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

NFP is marriage insurance
In a study done by the Couple to Couple League, couples who used NFP had a less than two percent risk of divorce compared to the national secular average of 50 percent.

NFP is morally acceptable
Married couples who use NFP are spiritually healthy because NFP fosters authentic marital love and allows a couple to love as Christ loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

NFP works with irregular cycles
NFP is not like the old rhythm method, which depended on regular cycles. NFP’s charting system works with a woman’s present signs of fertility.

For more information on NFP:
ccli.org
www.serena.ca
www.woomb.org
http://www.creightonmodel.com/

Text copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Cartoon copyright Full Quiver Publishing/James and Ellen Hrkach

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Theology of the Body to Focus on Mercy and the Family #TOBTalk

TOB-Congress-logo-20162016 Theology of the Body Congress to focus on mercy and the family
Archbishop Jose Gomez, Dr. John Grabowski and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield to give keynote presentations

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Inspired by the Jubilee Year of Mercy and last year’s Synod on the Family, the 2016 Theology of the Body Congress – an expansive gathering of experts, Church leaders and laity – will focus on how Theology of the Body and mercy play a vital role in how we live out family life.

“We live in a time of unprecedented confusion on gender, marriage, and family life,” said Jen Settle, Managing Director of the Theology of the Body Institute. “In a time such as this, it is important for all of us, whether married, single, celibate, or those working within parishes or schools, to come to know the beauty of human love through Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.”

The 2016 International Theology of the Body Congress: Love, Mercy and the Gift of the Family is set for September 22-25 in Ontario, California at the Ontario Convention Center. This will be the third Congress sponsored by the Theology of the Body Institute, but the first to visit the West Coast.

“We hope that our presence will infuse the area with an enthusiasm for Theology of the Body, and we are thankful to Most Reverend Gerald R. Barnes for his warm welcome to the Diocese of San Bernardino,” said Settle.

The Congress features a prime line-up of speakers, most notably Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, Dr. John Grabowski of Catholic University of America and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Theology of the Body Institute is honored to have Archbishop Jose Gomez giving the keynote address,” said Damon Owens, Chairman of the TOB Congress Planning Committee.  “Through the expertise of our speakers, those attending will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving, merciful love which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant to be.”

The Congress will also feature presentations from Christopher West, Dr. Edward Sri, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, Jason Evert, Matt Fradd, and many more.

In addition to the seminars and panels from top Theology of the Body experts, the Congress will feature daily Mass, Reconciliation and Eucharistic Adoration, as well as an exhibit hall with wide array of products, programs and ministries related to Theology of the Body and Evangelization.

The Theology of the Body Congress hopes to reach clergy, religious and lay leaders involved in the New Evangelization at all levels in the Church. From diocesan leadership, priests, religious and seminarians to married couples, single people and Theology of the Body enthusiasts, the 2016 Theology of the Body Congress will be a meeting ground for all those interested in reaching a culture that has forgotten the true meaning of the body and therefore, the family.

“The Congress has been, and will continue to be a place of refreshment for those trying to advance the Church’s vision for the family,” Owens said, noting that the Congress’s powerful blend of expert knowledge, networking and idea sharing has led to flourishing ministries and a greater understanding of John Paul II’s vision of life for every person.

Special early bird pricing of $199 for full Congress access is available now through June 30. Visit tobCongress.com for more information.

Theology of the Body Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit, educational organization located in Downingtown, PA, celebrating ten years of promoting the Theology of the Body at the popular level of both the Christian and the secular cultures. Through graduate level courses, on-site programs and clergy training, Theology of the Body Institute seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union. Find out more about the Theology of the Body Institute at tobinstitute.org and more about the Congress at tobcongress.com.

To interview Bill Donaghy, Theology of the Body Congress speaker and Theology of the Body Institute spokesperson, contact carrie@kennedybrownrigg.com.

The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae and the Joy of Being Open to Life

The end of June every year marks two very difficult anniversaries for me. On June 26th, 1986, I was rushed into surgery to remove a tiny baby from my right fallopian tube. This, after already miscarrying a baby from my womb. I woke up in the hospital with the knowledge that I had conceived twins…and I would be leaving the hospital with neither in my arms.

At the end of June in 1993, I found myself in an ambulance fighting for my life, bleeding internally as the result of ectopic pregnancy complications. It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years.

The following is a reprint of an article I had published a few years ago which deals with the difficult decisions James and I faced when deciding whether we should limit our family to three boys after a life-threatening pregnancy in 1993.

Pope Paul VI in his papal encyclical Humanae Vitae states: “ Responsible parenthood… has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

In the ambulance, as I drifted in and out of consciousness, I didn’t have much time for retrospective thoughts, except “Please God, I can’t die. I don’t want my little boys growing up without a mom.” I was bleeding internally, the complications of ectopic pregnancy surgery two weeks previous, and quickly becoming weaker and weaker. Waking up later in the recovery room, I was thankful to be alive.

“You should not be having any more children.” The words were harsh and at first, we took them as truth. I was capable of having more, but after two ectopic pregnancies and complications from one of the surgeries, we were told that we must limit our family to three boys. The doctors suggested that I be put on hormonal contraception. They later urged me to have my remaining fallopian tube tied. The physicians weren’t the only ones to give the ‘order’ to stop having children. Well-meaning relatives and friends felt it was their duty to tell us that we should not get pregnant again. “You don’t want to be irresponsible, do you?”

“It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God…”

It became evident, as we dialogued with both the physicians and the well-meaning relatives and friends, that they were concerned only about my physical health. Most of them cared little, if at all, for my/our spiritual well being. And, initially, in those first few weeks after my surgery, we felt that we ought to listen to the “doctor’s orders.”

However, as the months went by, I began to regain my strength. We continued using NFP in the most conservative way, often adding one or two days to the rules for extra security. A year later, with heaviness in my heart, I thought of the future and the fact that we would not have anymore children. I wondered whether God was calling us to actively seek another pregnancy. My husband and I discussed it, then brought our concern to our spiritual director, explaining to him that the doctor told us that we should not have any more children. “James and Ellie,” he said, “that is a decision to be made between the two of you and God.” He encouraged us to pray about it and he further recommended that we talk to a faithful Catholic doctor. We knew of a Catholic physician through a neighboring homeschooling community. Her response after reviewing my file was that we could try for more children, but that I would need to be monitored carefully in the first several weeks to confirm that it wasn’t another ectopic pregnancy.

… a right conscience is the true interpreter…”

For the next several months, we prayed together. We deeply desired another child, but we did not want to be careless or irresponsible. After much prayer and discernment, and weighing all the risks, we decided to actively seek another pregnancy.

“…the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities…”

Ten cycles later, we were still not pregnant. We felt at peace with our decision to seek another pregnancy and, although disappointed, we trusted that God knew what He was doing. Eventually, we stopped charting. Another eight cycles went by with no pregnancy and I began to sell off most of my baby furniture. A few weeks later, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a period in six weeks. The next morning, I took my temperature and it was 98.9. After 18 months of saying no to us, God was saying yes and blessing us with another eternal soul. I was thrilled that another new life, the fruit of our love, had begun, and would be sheltered lovingly in my womb.

With the blessing, however, soon came suffering. I began having debilitating migraine headaches and some days I could not get out of bed. Worse than the physical pain, however, was the emotional suffering. Doctors, well-meaning friends and relatives told us that we were being “irresponsible” and “selfish,” and that if I was suffering, “I had asked for it.”

At 30 weeks, our unborn baby was six pounds and I had already gained 50 pounds. That might not seem like much, but with my four feet nine inch frame, it meant that I could not drive (the seat had to be pushed back so far to allow for my large stomach that my feet couldn’t reach the pedals) and I could not walk the last six weeks of the pregnancy.

Our son, Adam, was born eight weeks later at nearly ten pounds. The pro-life Catholic doctor who delivered Adam by C-section told me that we could try for another baby someday, but that the pregnancy would again have to be monitored. Three years later, our youngest son, Paul was born.

“… recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

The words of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae courageously proclaim the truth of responsible parenthood and openness to life. The decision to have or avoid another child remains a decision between the couple and God. No one else ought to make such a life-changing and important choice because no one else will have to endure the consequences (and joys), nor will anyone else have to stand before God someday and explain their actions.

Although we could have used NFP to avoid pregnancy permanently and to limit our family size to three sons, we chose to listen to our hearts, to answer God’s calling, and to seek more children. When I consider that our two youngest sons (pictured above and below) might possibly not be here today, my heart becomes heavy. Both are unique, talented, funny and amazing human beings who have already given so much to our family and to society. I am grateful to God, because I can’t imagine our family without them.

Here they are posing for an updated shot of that same photo! (Now 20 and 17 years old.)

photo courtesy James Hrkach

photo courtesy James Hrkach

 

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk

Stay with Me front coverNeed some spring reading? Stay With Me, by Carolyn Astfalk, published by Full Quiver Publishing, is available on Kindle and in Print.

Synopsis
With her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection.

Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse.

With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

Reviews:
“This is a warning: the book you hold in your hand is compelling and well-written and you may find it, as I did, impossible to put down. It’s a romance that’s not trashy in any way, one that illustrates what a novel of this sort should inspire in its reader. You’ll also be sharing this book with every woman you know!” Sarah Reinhard, author and blogger at SnoringScholar.com

“A romance of rare quality. It takes you to the heart of passion, through various trials of a real life relationship, and into the power of sincere love. And it’s hilariously funny!”
A.K. Frailey, author, The Deliverance Trilogy

“… a beautiful Christian love story that will put a song in your heart. It will make you hungry for Rebecca’s bakery but also hungry for true love that can best be understood in light of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.” Theresa Linden, author The Liberty Trilogy

“… a poignant and believable love story about two young adults from very different backgrounds. The characters are richly depicted and memorable, including the secondary characters. The story is sprinkled with humor and contains the perfect balance of reality and sweetness and her writing entertains while radiating substance and depth. Stay With Me is a journey of discovery, forgiveness, and redemption—a beautiful journey of two hearts that long to beat as one.”
Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author, Frozen Footprints

“A tale packed with desire and determination, pain and longing, healing and hope, not to mention peopled with flesh-and-blood characters who sweep the reader away into a world we all know with struggles so much like our own, Stay With Me delivers the very best of the inspirational romance genre. Highly recommended!” Erin McCole Cupp, author, Don’t You Forget About Me

Here is the book trailer on FQP’s YouTube channel:

Buying options:

Stay With Me Kindle Edition

Stay With Me Print Edition

Come My Beloved: FREE on Kindle through February 15

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” is a wonderful book with 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Check out the book website here. To download a FREE KINDLE COPY over at Amazon, click here at this link.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day seven years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”

I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship/dating stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

Here are a few excerpts:

David and Posie

Robert and Sarah

Mark and Kathy

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

Damon and Melanie

The Kindle edition of this book is FREE today through February 15th over at Amazon.com.