How Humanae Vitae Inspired a Mission

Humanae Vitae Giving Day

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by Chris Reynolds

In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI wrote, “[T]here comes to be included in the vast pattern of the vocation of the laity a new and most noteworthy form of the apostolate of like to like; it is married couples themselves who become apostles and guides to other married couples” (H.V., 26). Pope Paul VI not only reaffirmed the Church’s teachings against contraception and promoted the use of natural family planning, he encouraged the laity to become missionaries to spread the Gospel, something we are all called to do as Catholics. The Couple to Couple League was founded in 1971 with a specific mission to teach natural family planning by using married couples who would teach other married and engaged couples, to build joyful marriages through teaching NFP, couple to couple.

Seventeen years ago when my wife and I decided to learn NFP, it was my wife who took the home study course, learned the method and charted. I encouraged her because I knew it was good for her health and in line with Church teachings. However, I did not understand what NFP was, and left the details up to my wife. This caused confusion and a strain within our marriage.

CCL advocates teaching both husband and wife the practice of natural family planning; “[a]nd the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). By teaching both spouses, there is less chance of a disconnect between the couple and their ability to communicate develops. Before finding CCL, my wife and I did not know how to discern how God was calling us to live out His design for marriage and family. As a couple, we were not learning together nor working together as a team. Because I did not understand what NFP was and how it worked, our level of communication on the topic was going nowhere. I finally realized that I needed to get in the game, and once I learned the method myself our communication and understanding improved drastically and our relationship flourished.

Another blessing to us was the community that came with being a CCL member. My wife had other women she could relate with and go to for support, and I had other men to call on for advice and thoughts. We received the CCL magazine, Family Foundations, and found that we were part of something bigger than ourselves .

The combination of  the strengthening  our marriage and the supportive community brought us to the second and pivotal part of our CCL experience: the shift from learning to teaching. Many couples who have learned NFP and have experienced the joy and peace it brings to their marriages take on the role of educators. In this way they are following Pope Paul VI’s direction: “[I]t is married couples themselves who become apostles and guides to other married couples” (H.V., 26). In discovering the powerful change CCL had on my own marriage, I became passionate about bringing this news to every couple who is seeking a joyful marriage.

Here at the Couple to Couple League, we are truly unique in that our particular presentation of NFP found its inspiration in Humanae Vitae. We teach the method, the theology and the science, but we do it in the context of being missionary disciples, walking with every couple on their own, personal journey as they are evangelized through their use of NFP. “To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to Men the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the mutual love of husband and wife with their cooperation with the love of God the author of human life.” (H.V. 25)

— Chris Reynolds is the Former Executive Director of Couple to Couple League, husband to Cecelia and proud father of their five children.

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