By Savanna Duca for Family Foundations magazine.
If Crystal Wen wasn’t an eye doctor, she’d be an OB-GYN. An optometry professor in awe of human creation, she realized early on that teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP) was a way she’d love to strengthen her marriage and serve the Church. Her husband Matthew agreed wholeheartedly.
“We both have experience with ministry toward peers,” described Matthew. “In high school we were student leaders, then in college we were leaders within the Catholic communities there. Once we got married, we looked at other ministries open to us. Teaching NFP is a good gateway to married and engaged couples; it’s also an evangelization opportunity because people come from all different situations.”
Matthew and Crystal married in 2020, but their friendship began more than a decade ago in a high school Church group. Youth group and family life were both foundational for their desire to build up the Church.
“Family life is so important,” said Crystal. “I grew up in a very tight-knit Chinese Catholic community, so all the families knew each other. My parents were really involved in the Church as marriage counselors and were great role models to me. They encouraged my brothers and me to be involved. I chose to be a mass lector and still lector to this day.”
Since starting their own family, the Wens have brought a similar intentionality to fostering faith at home — such as by praying nightly over their young son and carving out prayer time as a couple. “For us, it’s reviewing the day as a couple,” said Matthew, “like an examination of conscience, to repair wounds so they don’t fester, and also revel in the good things that are easy to gloss over in the busyness of family life.”
“Prayer doesn’t have to be an extravagant ordeal,” added Crystal. “During Lent I posted a prayer above the changing table so that whenever I changed a diaper, I’d read it. Little things like that — you can put reminders throughout your household.”
“Your prayer life is important, but there will be times you’re praying the rosary and the baby cries, and you can’t finish,” Matthew continued. “God is with you in the messiness. God made babies and He made them cry at random times! More and more, as parents, we’ve been able to explore the idea of praying without ceasing.”
For the Wens, these prayer habits in the home are what their Church ministry flows from. “When you have kids, you don’t have a ton of time, so you figure out what will offer the most fruit for your spiritual life for the limited time you do have,” said Matthew. “The same goes for ministry. Think about what charisms you can bring, the gifts God has given you, and how you can harness those for your community.”
Teaching NFP has tapped into Matthew’s gift for making subjects approachable, and it’s fed the passion Crystal has had since high school for studying the human body. “I took a human reproduction course in college at the University of California, Berkeley, and became even more fascinated by the body and the miracle of life,” she said. “Sharing the awe of the human body with couples through CCL has been so great.”
In serving the Church community you impact others, Crystal and Matthew shared, but be open to it reshaping your marriage and community life too. “Something that really drew us to CCL was you actually see people living it and have role models,” Matthew said. “That witness component of NFP wasn’t as prevalent elsewhere. In the San Francisco Bay area, we’re in the lion’s den when it comes to an environment not exactly friendly to the faith,” said Matthew. “CCL has helped us plug in with communities that are nourishing.”