Celebrate God's vision of human sexuality through NFP
July 13, 2006
Dear Brother Priests and People of the Diocese of Sioux City,
Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, July 23-29, 2006, is a call to celebrate and reverence God's vision of human sexuality. The dates highlight the anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25) and mark the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (July 26). God created man and woman in His own "image and likeness," giving them the capacity to live life in love and communion with others. Therefore, human beings find fulfillment whenever they selflessly give of themselves to another, daily seen in the covenant of marriage, with its tremendous responsibilities, joys and sometimes sorrows.
In marriage, the conjugal act becomes the central point for a renewal of vows to a faithful love, a union of persons, and the empowerment that comes from God alone to be co-creators with Him of another human person. This is why it becomes crucial that both engaged couples and already married couples understand the full meaning and purpose of marital love in God's plan. Natural Family Planning Awareness Week presents us (priests and laity) the opportunity to encourage one another to reflect upon God's plan for married love and respond to His message of truth.
False teachings about sexuality abound in our world today. Saint Mark, in the Gospel for July 23rd - the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, refers to the vast crowd who comes to see Jesus as "sheep without a shepherd." They needed someone to show them the way. We still need the good Shepherd to teach us the Way and the Truth so that we can all come to know the eternal Life of heaven. We also need the good Shepherd to help us overcome our fears. Many couples today are afraid to practice Natural Family Planning. The reasons are many. The Lord comes to strengthen us and take away our fear. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God "will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble."
My brother priests join me in the role of shepherd. Please pray for us that we lead you in the truth, especially in the beautiful truth of God's purpose and plan for human sexuality and the true meaning of married love. Married love must always be open to life and love. Let us not be afraid.
I urge all of us, especially priests and those assisting with marriage preparation, to encourage all married couples, and especially engaged couples, to know God's plan for married love. In my experience of being a pastor preparing couples for marriage, I found couples to be initially hesitant toward learning about Natural Family Planning, yet when they did, most found it helpful. In the future we hope to do more in this area in our diocese. For now, I express my gratitude to those who teach Natural Family Planning in our diocese, and to all of you who encourage one another to follow God's plan of love.
There are many resources available as supports for raising awareness of Natural Family Planning. Please contact our Family Life Office for their assistance in providing these to you. Together let us ask the Lord to bless our efforts as we seek to know His truth evermore deeply.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless