It's totally fine if this question ran through your head upon reading the title of my post. In fact, maybe I am crazy, and the correlation only works in my mind, but not in anyone else's. After all, how can the followers of St. Francis, a poor man of Assisi, have anything to do with fertility awareness? As I've pondered this question more and more over the past couple days, I will venture to say that while the Franciscans may not have much to do with the fertility awareness of NFP itself, they can relate to how we speak about NFP. So I'm linking up with the ladies at Tuesday Talk to discuss this today!
When St. Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscans, he formed three orders: the Friars Minor, the Poor Clares, and the Third Order. Over the years, as different people emphasized different parts of Franciscan spirituality, a variety of communities sprung up. For example, as Fr. Glenn Sudano, CFR, puts it,
In this old, huge tree of the Franciscan Order, the different communities have different focuses, but that doesn't make one community holier or superior to another. Just because the TOR friars I met in college focus more on metanoia than poverty doesn't mean that they are "less holy" than the people I know in the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Different groups with their different emphases are good for different people-and that's okay. It is vital to humbly acknowledge that in the beautiful Franciscan family, God has different paths for different people, and that this doesn't make one person superior over another.
The same thing is true with NFP. Also known as FAM, or "fertility awareness methods," NFP is a way by which women become aware of their bodies. Each woman has many different signs that show whether or not she is fertile, and NFP methods help a woman to recognize and record these signs. Some couples use NFP to figure out when they want to abstain or have sex if they are trying to achieve or avoid a pregnancy. Some single women use NFP because it empowers them and helps them to truly know themselves. Other women use NFP to help with different health problems that they have. Whatever the reason, many women use NFP.
But, in the big family of NFP, there is a variety of different methods that can be used. Some women primarily focus on the presence or lack of their cervical mucus. Other women focus on their hormone levels using a machine. Other women use their temperature in conjunction with their cervical mucus-and some women even throw in a cervix observation!
In many NFP articles I've read, or online conversations that I've seen, I've observed that many women become extremely attached to their particular method of NFP. As this bias will come out, women have used phrases like, "Well, in X method, ovulation can still happen after peak day."
In moments like these (and there are plenty of them in the world of NFP conversations and articles!), I want to gracefully-and lovingly-jump through the internet and say, "Excuse me, but the fact that ovulation can still happen after peak day is not dependent on your NFP method. Ovulation is a scientific fact and reality. Whether or not you practice X method won't change that! It doesn't matter if you prefer to pee on a stick or stretch your mucus. You can still ovulate after peak day."
I find the whole "My NFP method is better than yours" attitude extremely frustrating at times. Yes, I understand that women get attached to their method of choice. But just because we like the method that we use does not mean we should strut around like our method is the best one out there. It's not helpful for the women who are trying to learn what NFP is, and it's not helpful for the women who want to have genuinely open conversations about fertility.
Remember the Franciscan Order? How there are multiple communities, each with a different focus? Just because one community focuses on poverty and another on conversion does not make one superior to another. In a similar way, just because one NFP method requires a woman to use a monitor, and another involves temperature and mucus, does not make one superior to another. The plethora of NFP methods focus on different elements of a woman's fertility. This is really helpful because all women are different. Some women have lifestyles that work out well with them taking their temperature each morning. Other women have lifestyles where most of their signs are hard to distinguish and their schedules are erratic, so using a monitor is the simplest route. "Different strokes for different folks" is an old adage, but I find that it really rings true with NFP.
We need to have the humility to admit that practicing Creighton instead of Marquette is not the best option for everyone. We need to have the humility to admit that practicing Sympto-thermal over Billings is not the best option for everyone. We need to humbly admit that we are all different, and that it's okay to practice different methods without going into battle over which is "better."
Rejoice in the awesomeness of NFP! Knowing how one's body and fertility works and manifests itself is empowering, awesome, and very, very helpful, no matter what a woman's marital status is. Let's just throw in a dose of humility, so that we can accept that there are many awesome NFP methods out there!
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Ladies, do you want to learn about yourselves? Take a look at NFP!
Also, the Natural Womanhood website is very informative and quite amazing.