Pope Paul VI
Pope Paul VI

By Christina Leslie | Correspondent

There is no dichotomy between new, natural fertility practices and an encyclical from 50 years ago, maintains Peg Hensler, associate director for the diocesan Department of Marriage Ministry and NFP.

“What is old is new again. The Church is showing us this is still the way to go,” Hensler said, introducing a pair of July workshops hosted by the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life: “Humanae Vitae” on its golden anniversary, and the practices of natural family planning, or NFP.

“Not Your Mom’s NFP,” will be held July 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. in St. Benedict Church, 165 Bethany Road, Holmdel. Presenter Kait Mayer, a fertility care practitioner of the Creighton Model of NFP, will share new methods for NFP, an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the woman’s fertility phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices or surgical procedures are used to aid or avoid pregnancy.

A two-hour discussion on “Humanae Vitae” and what it means for today’s Catholics will be held July 25 beginning at 7 p.m. in St. Joan of Arc Parish, 100 Willow Bend Road, Marlton. Translated as “Of Human Life,” the document was promulgated July 25, 1968 by Pope Paul VI and discusses God’s plan for the creation of new life within the bounds of married love.

This year’s Natural Planning Awareness Week, sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is scheduled for July 22-28 with the theme: “‘Humanae Vitae’ (1968-2018): celebrate the gift of God’s married love.” The wine-and-cheese gathering will be a discussion of the most prophetic, controversial and transformational papal encyclical of our time.

Hensler noted the pertinence of the document to current society despite its release a full half-century ago.

“In some ways, for young people this is an unsettling document [which] calls into question how they have been formed in this culture,” she said. “Look at where we are in this ‘sexual revolution:’ all those projections the Pope made about objectifying each other for their own gratification, the divorce rate skyrocketing and some governments force sterilizations and abortions. All those predictions have happened.”

Hensler continued, “We are trying to turn this whole notion of human freedom on its heels. Jesus said, ‘The truth will set you free,’ and the truth is we are made in God’s image and likeness. As such, our bodies, our systems are a beautiful reflection of God’s design. The contraception industry has taken this beautiful design [and] says it needs to be fixed.”

The USCCB website, usccb.org, contains resources such as posters, liturgy and prayers, couples’ stories and excerpts of Church teachings, including “Humanae Vitae.” On the diocesan level, each parish was supplied with an updated NFP resource book in both English and Spanish. Further information for parishioners, clergy, teachers, youth ministers and medical professionals can be found at dioceseoftrenton.org/natural-family-planning.

Hensler quoted a statement by Juli Loesch, founding member of the Pax Center, a Catholic peace and justice community in Erie, Pa., in which she calls NFP and the sanctity of the body self-evident as part of God’s design.

“If every man and every woman – fully human, fully alive, and complete in every detail – is made in the image and likeness of God, then we’ve got to protect and reverence what’s natural and healthy,” Loesch maintains. “In the face of incomprehension, scorn, and outright opposition … the pope held up before our eyes the inviolability of the human design.”

She continued, “You can reorganize the government and restructure the university; you can retool the economy and redesign society, but human beings as such – in our minds, our souls, our bodies, ourselves – are not to be redesigned.”

“Society has come to the realization that natural methods are the best,” Hensler said.

To register for either free workshop, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/nfp-awareness.