The theme for this year’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 19-25, is "Live the truth and beauty of God's plan for married love!" CNS photo/USCCB
The theme for this year’s Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 19-25, is "Live the truth and beauty of God's plan for married love!" CNS photo/USCCB
Faithful in the Diocese of Trenton will join their counterparts across the nation in recognizing National Family Planning week, set for July 19-25.

This year’s theme is “Live the truth and beauty of God’s plan for married love!” Married couples are being encouraged to learn more about the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national educational campaign.

Natural family planning, or NFP, is a practice for married couples to monitor the various biological signs indicating a woman's time of fertility and infertility. It can be used both to avoid pregnancy or to aid in becoming pregnant.

In speaking about the importance of NFP week, Peg Hensler, diocesan associate director of marriage ministries and NFP, said, “I have the privilege of working directly with many engaged couples, and I’ve noticed a common theme. Most are interested in learning more about healthy, natural options for family planning and responsible parenthood.”

NFP week annually highlights the July 25 anniversary of St. Paul VI’s encyclical “Humane Vitae” ("Of Human Life"), published in 1968. The encyclical affirmed Catholic teaching against artificial contraception and provides clear teaching "about God's plan for married love and the transmission of life." The week also celebrates the July 26 feast day of Sts. Anne and Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Mother.

“Couples find many compelling reasons to explore the multitude of online, self-paced and face-to-face options for learning a method of NFP,” Hensler said of NFP resources. “They are impressed with the extensive research, documented results, and high effectiveness rates for the scientifically based natural methods.”

Hensler also explained the benefits couples who embrace Natural Family Planning have reported, including “enhanced communication, mutual respect, a more satisfying sexual relationship, and a stronger, happier marriage.”

The USCCB website offers materials for NFP Awareness Week, including stories from couples, prayers, Church teachings and more.

In one story on the USCCB site, Jennifer and John Campbell talk about the role NFP planning plays in their marriage, saying, "At the beginning of our married life, we used NFP to avoid pregnancy, as the time was not right for it. Currently, we are using NFP to achieve pregnancy. We were delighted to find that the two focuses of NFP have made our young marriage both more focused and more intimate."

They continued, "Unlike artificial contraception, which usually places full burden of family planning on the woman, NFP promotes shared responsibility of the fertility of both the husband and wife. It lends a spirit of togetherness to a marriage."

The Campbells acknowledged that NFP "can be a challenge and a sacrifice at times."

"We're not saying it's always easy, but that is part of true love, a bit of sacrifice for the beloved," the couple said. "We find a noble joy in sacrificing ourselves for each other, even in so private a way as withholding intimacy until the time is right; self-sacrifice is an important root element of love, and it builds respect for each other and ourselves."

For more information on NFP and Awareness Week, visit usccb.org.

Catholic News Service contributed to this article.