NFP Raw & Unscripted: An Encounter with Popes & Saints

Rome, Italy- Fall 2018

When I envisioned Rome and the Vatican, shedding dewy tears in the Tomb of the Popes beneath St. Peter’s Basilica kneeling before the Tomb of now St. Pope Paul VI wasn’t my first vision or any vision for that matter. My Italy trip, generously bequeathed by my parents, coincided with the preparations for the canonization for Pope Paul VI and Oscar Romero along with the beginning of the Synod on Youth. I’m a private person (so sayeth the Catholic blogger.) What drove a private, composed girl like me to shed private, composed tears in Rome? Of human life.

For those familiar with Compline or Night prayer you encounter: “When I called out, he heard me, the God of my righteousness. When I was in trouble, you gave me freedom: now, take pity on me and listen to my prayer.” (Psalm 4) My NFP (Natural Family Planning) Story mirrors this Psalm. This verse professes staunch faith and hope in the Lord, proclaims His loving plan, embraces the freedom of His plan, but still pleads and cries out in prayer and supplication for His mercy and grace. My NFP journey is strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles coupled with immeasurable healing sometimes physical but even more so spiritual and emotional.

Three years ago, I “knew” learning, practicing, and utilizing Creighton NFP (a method inspired by St. Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae) as a single, unmarried young adult as a diagnostic tool for my reproductive health would be a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stretch. The method did not disappoint in that regards and exceeded my expectations in providing a plethora of opportunities for personal growth and maturation. What surprised me and rattled me to my core would be the profound revelation of my femininity through the eyes of my Creator. A glimpse that many women and men in our modern times never experience for various reasons or willfully reject.

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands.” – Saint John Paul II. When I passed by the sarcophagus of then Bl. Paul VI now Saint Paul VI, I felt little happiness or liberation in that precise moment. The weight of physical, emotional strain coupled with the confusion of international travel and the stress of unknown outcomes wore heavily on me topped with mind-altering migraine medications. I wasn’t prepared for my encounter with the remains of a man who championed the truth and suffered for it decades before my earthly existence. The precise truth I choose to suffer with and for today.

After celebrating early morning Mass in St. Peter’s a few days later, after a few days of reflection and improved sleep, I chose to encounter St. Pope Paul VI. I bee-lined across the vast expanse of St. Peter’s Basilica towards the entrance into the Tomb of the Popes. My deft footsteps echoed softly on the marble floors. I slid silently onto a massive, glossy wooden kneeler placed before his tomb for the devout onlooker to stop and pray in preparation for his impending canonization. I knelt before the remains of a Saint- a Saint of my century.

My eyes glazed over staring at St. Paul VI’s sarcophagus as a flood of memories, experiences, pain, sadness, confusion, desperation, hope, joy, gratitude, and awe flooded before me. My mind raced as emotions and feelings frantically jumped in a thousand directions. I buried my head into my hands as the tears threatened to tumble down my cheeks. The din of tourists’ footsteps floated around me but left me untouched. St. Paul VI and I had our moment.

In our own ways, we both made a life-altering choice by choosing a lasting but unpopular truth. Amid the cultural clamoring and storms of confusion, we anchored ourselves to the firm foundation of God’s design for mankind in His deliberate and intelligent design for man and woman for family, intimacy, and reproduction. We both paid an earthly price for that choice. We both suffered. We both loved.

Kneeling there in tears, I recognized many of the female and male tourists admiring their surroundings rejected the teachings of Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. We all live with the repercussions. I verged towards angry. Then a young adult man about my age knelt down beside me. Two young adults one man and one woman both products of the St. John Paul II era and the new evangelization knelt before the tomb of St. Paul VI champion for Human Life and Father of Truth in humble supplication. In that moment, I felt hope.

There is more to my story with my encounter with St. Paul VI (more that I’m still processing and accepting) but this gives you a glimpse at how God works in surprising and mysterious ways. “For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. – Humanae Vitae

May God bless and keep you all in 2019!

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