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NFP Uncensored: Single and charting

NFP Uncensored is a series of candid accounts of the way NFP informs every aspect of life. You can follow the posts by searching for “NFP Uncensored” here in the Living the Love blog (use the search bar on the right-hand side of this page), or by searching #NFPUncensored on social media.

 

I was three years into my nursing program when I decided to transfer from my former college to Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was there — not in my nursing classes — that I first heard about Natural Family Planning.

 

I was in a Catholic Marriage course with Dr. Scott Hahn when he explained the Church’s teachings on contraception and responsible parenthood. I was shocked that, despite having gone to parochial school and receiving all of my Sacraments, this was the first time I was hearing this truth. I began to reconsider what I really wanted to do in life. I could continue in nursing and help people become physically healthy, or I could shift my focus and help people become spiritually healthy. After discernment and prayer, I changed my major and graduated with degrees in theology, philosophy and catechesis. (It’s a good thing my parents were not paying my tuition…)

 

In 2010, about a decade into my career, I entered a Benedictine Oblate order and discerned the consecrated life with other women. It was then that my spiritual director, a woman in the community, asked if I charted my cycle.

 

“No,” I told her, surprised she would ask. “I’m not married, so there is no need.”

 

She told me that it was important that each woman understood the beauty of the femininity that God created within her, both physically and spiritually. I started to chart using the Billings Method and was amazed at the little things I began to notice. I began to pay attention to cyclical physical symptoms that I hadn’t noticed before, but suddenly my emotional phases began to make sense. I knew why I was so tired on certain days and patient on other days. Everything fell into a pattern. Most importantly for me, I realized my migraines were synchronized with my cycle and, by simply introducing vitamins into my diet around that phase, I could avoid the hormonal headaches altogether!

 

After two years with the Benedictine Oblate order, I discerned that I was not called to consecrated life. It was a bit like being engaged for two years and then calling off the wedding. It was difficult to leave but I was grateful for the incredible gift of those two years. The time at the community developed a new spirituality within me, gave me a beautiful understanding of my femininity with God’s eyes and a new direction in life.

 

I’m no longer an oblate, but I still chart.

 

Some people ask why a single, chaste woman would continue to take her temperature and record all of her symptoms. The answer is that, in the beauty of our feminine genius, my spirituality is only one aspect of who I am. God gave us the incredible gift of the female body and, while it’s complex, it’s easily understood through basic signs. When I get a headache, have less patience at work, or lack energy, it’s helpful to look at my cycle and see if there’s any relation. When I know this, I can better understand why my emotions may be swinging or I might be in a bad mood, and I can manage the symptoms throughout the day. I sit in prayer a little longer. I work extra hard on patience or energy. These hormonal effects aren’t bad things, they’re very much a part of who I am as a woman. After all, I am beautifully and wonderfully made! (Psalms 139, RSV)

 

In my feminine genius, I am called to turn heads to the good. Natural family planning is an incredible apostolate in which to do that. Yes, I am passionate about NFP. (Who wouldn’t be?) Working with marriage prep and seeing the evils that contraception has caused in society — from the hookup culture to abortion, pornography, human sex trafficking, divorce, and the underlying loss of a true understanding of the beauty of masculinity and femininity — all motivates me to share the antidote of NFP with the world.

 

Living in this time, knowing what I know, I feel a calling to share the truth with others about NFP. If I am not charting and sharing my own experience with others, then I would not be as effective at what I do. I have been blessed to learn Billings, Creighton and now the CCL method. All of these give me more information to learn about myself and the beauty of how God created me, and I can help to teach others to identify that beauty in their own bodies as well.

 

As a single person, I believe it has been a blessing to understand my cycle and phases as a woman. I think every mother should teach fertility awareness basics to her daughters at an early age. If it becomes normal, like menstruation is to all women, then NFP would be readily accepted in marriage, by the medical field and in pastoral outreach. There would be more statistical proof of the accuracy of NFP methods, there would be more statistical proof of the better health of women who do not contracept, and the virtue of chastity would be more widespread. This is because fertility awarenss can’t be taught without an understanding of the beautiful spirituality and dignity found in our femininity as an intimate part of how God created us.

 

— Angela Exner
Director of Promotion & Enrollment