February 5, 2016

Couple to Couple League classes teach natural family planning, ‘open couples to grace’

Julie and Matthew Miller pray on Jan. 30 in the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, where the husband and wife are parishioners. The Millers head the Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Julie and Matthew Miller pray on Jan. 30 in the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, where the husband and wife are parishioners. The Millers head the Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

For nine years, Laura Buening felt tired and moody. She also dealt with weight gain.

Now, all of that is gone. And more importantly, her marriage with her husband Joshua has improved in communication and in closeness as a couple and with God.

There was no magic pill that led to all this healing. On the contrary, Buening credits the improvements to the couple’s switch from using hormonal contraceptive pills to practicing natural family planning, a method they learned through the Couple to Couple League’s Indianapolis chapter.

“It’s allowed grace to build our marriage,” says Laura. “[The problems] disappeared when we worked together and were open to God’s will.”

Such improvements are common results of practicing natural family planning (NFP), according to Matthew (Matt) and Julie Miller. The Millers, members of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, are the coordinators of the Indianapolis chapter of the Couple to Couple League (CCL), a non-profit organization that promotes and provides teachers of NFP through in-person classes in Indianapolis, and online throughout the archdiocese.

“It’s not just instruction in the technical part of NFP,” says Matt. “There’s a good dose of Catholic thought as to why you would use NFP as opposed to contraception to prevent pregnancy.”

The Millers, who have four children ranging in age from 4-10, see many couples grow in relationship with each other and God as a result of using NFP. They laud the practice of the method for fostering communication and deeper respect between a husband and wife.

“It’s about men and women learning to relate to each other,” says Julie. “It gives them an opportunity to talk each month about intimate subjects and to allow God to work with them. It connects you on a deeper level, more than the surface, ‘How was your day?’

“And if you’ve discerned that the time is not right to try to conceive, there are other forms of love, like using courting behavior during that time. That’s so appreciated, especially from women, to know you’re loved and not being used by the other person.”

Matt and Julie had been teaching NFP for several years when the former Indianapolis CCL chapter coordinators stepped down in March of 2014. The Millers took on the role, and have been instrumental in implementing changes made at the national level.

One of the changes is the offering of online classes—classes that follow the same format and schedule of in-room classes, but offer viewing and live online calling from the comfort of home.

A new self-paced online class has also been added, with information broken down into modules that couples view on their own time.

“This allows people from anywhere in the archdiocese to take classes,” Julie explains. “We don’t have a lot of teaching couples down south. Now they can take classes online and have it taught the same way as live.”

Even in Indianapolis, CCL currently has only nine teaching couples and two couples in training, and one couple in Terre Haute.

“That’s why we really want to promote the online classes,” Matt says. “It’s right at their fingertips.”

The Buenings encourage couples to learn about NFP, whether in a classroom or online. It’s a decision they wish they’d made years ago.

After nine years of being married outside of the Church and having three children, the couple had their marriage convalidated at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, where they are now parishioners, in 2010.

“I knew the Church was opposed to [contraception], but I didn’t really know why,” says Laura. After having three difficult pregnancies and childbirths, she was afraid to no longer use contraceptives.

It was about that time that the Buenings met the Millers through mutual friends at a prayer group.

“Julie explained the efficacy and reliability of NFP,” Laura recalls. “They let us know about the concept of responsible parenting,” in which couples discuss, pray and discern monthly—taking certain factors into consideration—whether they feel called to be open to having more children.

“[Joshua and I] have always pushed each other to grow in faith, and [practicing natural family planning] is one more step in accepting the faith and what the Church teaches. We avoided intimacy [during cyclically fertile times] when we felt called to avoid pregnancy, and we were open when we felt called to be open. That method was effective enough for us to consider the risks to us when I’m pregnant.”

According to a 2007 study in the medical journal Human Reproduction, NFP proved to be 99.6 percent effective in avoiding conception naturally when practiced correctly.

The Buenings did eventually feel called to be open to more children. Their fourth child is now 3 years old.

Based on the health, relational and spiritual benefits of practicing NFP, the Buenings say they would recommend CCL classes to anyone.

“[NFP] helps communication, and it opens people to the grace that I think married couples in our society need,” says Laura. “With divorce rates, you need grace to be committed to each other. [NFP] keeps your marriage and the choices you make in your marriage important every day.”

(For more information on the Couple to Couple League of Indianapolis, the natural family planning method, volunteer opportunities to teach or promote NFP, and a schedule of classroom and online classes, log on to www.nfpindy.org. For frequently asked questions on Church teaching on sexuality and family planning, log on to goo.gl/RvCLbs to view the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ page on the topic.)

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