Ben and Vanessa
"We started practicing NFP at a point when neither of us were fully comfortable in the Catholic Church. As we learned more about the Church and its teachings, we came to see a truth and beauty we'd never understood before. The Church became our home."—Vanessa
Convinced through solid teaching
BEN: Vanessa and I were both agnostic before we were married. Looking back at the beginning of our relationship, we made some harmful choices because we lacked a perspective of faith. We met in college and soon were sharing a bed, which was common in our circle of friends. We started using barrier methods and then Vanessa tried a new version of the pill. It was supposed to give women only four periods a year and the nurse told her it was safe and revolutionary. Far from it. Vanessa had intermittent bleeding and huge mood swings. It changed her personality. She stopped taking the pills and we used condoms again. The summer of our senior year, we moved in together. Nine days later, our apartment burned down.
VANESSA: Thankfully everyone in our apartment complex was OK. That evening, Ben proposed. (He had stashed the engagement ring in the car!) Such a disaster had made us take stock of our lives. I prayed for the first time in years that day.
After things calmed down, we discussed where to get married. We both wanted to be married in a church and I felt, well, least uncomfortable in the Catholic Church. I was raised Catholic but fell away as a teen. I believed the lies my peers told me — that faith is a crutch for insecure people, and that the Church is corrupt and controlling. I know now how untrue that is.
BEN: We began our marriage preparation with a young priest in our local parish, Father Seamus Griesbach. We were both guarded and uncomfortable at first. Father Seamus encouraged us to attend a Catholic young adult group he led. This group was the first place I had been able to ask any question about the Catholic Church and receive a valid answer that made sense. It became one of the most influential pieces in our conversion process.
VANESSA: One of the young adult group meetings was about NFP — something we’d never encountered. The couple witnessing about their experience made us rethink the nature of our relationship. Sure, we loved each other, but had to admit that at times we were selfish. Our physical relationship was influenced by so-called “experienced” friends, the media and even pornography. Really, our relations were based on satisfying urges. I was growing increasingly insecure and felt like I was always under pressure to perform. Our relationship was suffering.
BEN: Thank God for marriage preparation! Father Seamus challenged us to love each other in the way God loves — without selfishness, truly giving ourselves to each other. We were introduced to Theology of Body, which taught us that our bodies are good, sex is good, and both are meant to join us to each other and to God. Further, it encouraged us to be completely open to the creation of life. We decided to abstain for the rest of our engagement and learned NFP through CCL’s Home Study course. [Editor’s Note: The Home Study course has been replaced by the Self-paced Online Class.]
VANESSA: Though we were a bit squeamish about things like mucus and cervix observations, we felt contraception was out of the question at this point. After all, we had tried contracepting and experienced firsthand how it distorted our approach to each other. We surprised ourselves when, a few months after getting married, we discerned we were ready to start our family. Within a year, we had a little baby girl.
BEN: As we learned to communicate about our physical relationship, communication in other aspects of our marriage improved, too. Talking constantly about our fertility naturally caused us to confront how much the media and pornography had affected our relationship. It took years, but we have both experienced great healing.
VANESSA: Ben has always had a role in our practice of NFP. He sets up charts, keeps me on track with taking temperatures and observations, and initiates monthly “are-we-open-to-life” discussions. Neither of us are terribly disciplined people, so it takes both of us to stay consistent with charting. What I appreciate most is his steady, unfailing resolve never to objectify me. After a few years of practicing NFP, I found that the insecurity that had plagued me earlier in our relationship was gone. Letting God into our marriage probably saved it.
We started practicing NFP at a point when neither of us were fully comfortable in the Catholic Church. As we learned more about the Church and its teachings, we came to see a truth and beauty we’d never understood before. The Church became our home. I came back into the Church around the time we were married, and Ben became Catholic two years later. We have since welcomed a second child into our family.
BEN: The path to becoming a teaching couple took a lot of deliberation, but ultimately we found ourselves saying, “Why not us?” As a method, NFP has proven itself to us in both periods of postponing and conceiving, brought faith and God into the heart of our relationship and enabled a greater level of communication. Due to this, we felt the call to share this positive life-changing experience with everyone willing to listen.