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Learning, Trusting, Witnessing

7/1/2015

Matthew Mack

Natural family planning chart

(Photo by Thinkstock)

When my wife, Andrea, and I got married 13 years ago, I wasn’t ready for natural family planning. I’d been praying for my future spouse long before I met her, and now that we were married, I wasn’t willing to let anyone else tell me about marital intimacy.

Since then, I have grown not only to accept but to actually cherish the Catholic Church’s teaching on the matter. NFP has been an integral part of the journey of learning about, trusting in and bearing witness to God’s will for our marriage.

Within a few months of getting married, my rejection of NFP began to subside as I learned about the medical benefits it can provide. Andrea suffered from endometriosis, which caused painful cycles, but the secular health community’s only recommended treatment option was to mask the condition with a hormonal contraceptive pill. I recognized that the pill can act as an abortifacient by preventing the implantation of a conceived embryo, and reasoned that the Catholic Church must have a better solution.

By God’s grace, we discovered the Pope Paul VI Institute and its “NaProTechnology” approach to treat the underlying causes of Andrea’s endometriosis, beginning with learning the Creighton Model of NFP. My skepticism began to disappear as we learned about the science of fertility and as NFP helped us to embrace all aspects of married love.

A couple years later, Andrea became a teacher of the Creighton Model and learned more about how the charting information can be used by trained physicians to treat many underlying causes of infertility. She also recognized from our own charting that starting a family would not be easy for us. Through testing and surgeries, doctors at the Paul VI Institute worked to get Andrea healthy and restore her fertility. But as months and then years passed, the possibility that we might never have children on our own began to weigh heavily on both of us.

I now see that God was calling us to the next phase of trusting him and his will. Trusting myself is natural, and trusting my spouse became easier through the trials. Somehow, trusting in the all-knowing God proved hardest; realizing that my plan was meaningless unless it matched his will was not easy to swallow. Yet while attending Mass after Andrea’s final surgery, I said a prayer of surrender to God, accepting the fact that we would likely never have children. I remember leaving church that evening at peace.

The next month, we learned that through the beautiful mystery of God’s grace, a tiny but mighty miracle had taken place: my wife was pregnant. Our overwhelming happiness, though, was quickly followed by the anxiety of not knowing if we could maintain this pregnancy.

After facing so much uncertainty for nine months, and with the support of the Pope Paul VI Institute and many prayers from family and friends, we welcomed the birth of our first son. Our second son was born two years later, and we were overjoyed with the direction our family was going.

Unfortunately, Andrea’s endometriosis returned, and in recent years we’ve faced additional surgeries and the unbearable heartache of multiple miscarriages. During this time, which has often felt hopeless, we have leaned on our faith to sustain us, looking to the intercession of Mary and Joseph and knowing that God’s plan is grander than ours.

Through this experience, Andrea and I have felt called to a new phase of witnessing to others, including engaged couples, about the simple beauty of life. We start with our sons, teaching them to treat each other in a way that reflects the love of Christ.

Are new trials ahead? Certainly. But with new challenges come new blessings. God has once again done what we thought was impossible: We are awaiting the arrival of our first daughter in July. To God be the glory!

Editor’s Note: National NFP Awareness Week is July 19-25.

MATTHEW MACK is a member of Resurrection Council 11363 in Grand Island, Neb.