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  • Mary Shivanandan

The Challenge of Love

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

By Alice Knable.



Mary’s Fiat offers a profound model for every woman practicing Natural Family Planning. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Mary is so “open to life” that Life Himself became incarnate within her. Each woman is called to respond to God’s plan for her life with the same generosity. As Mary Shivanandan’s book, “Holy Family Model Not Exception” illustrates, it is not just the woman who is called to be open to life, but her husband too--indeed her whole family. This is why it is not just Mary’s Fiat that offers a paradigm for understanding Natural Family Planning (NFP) but that of all the Holy Family.


As a convert to the Catholic faith I have noticed a pattern in the growth of my faith: it is the things that I first had the most resistance to about the Church that I now find the most beautiful. I converted to the Catholic faith at age 15 (I am now 23) but I wasn’t confronted with the question of contraception versus NFP until college. In discussions with my friends NFP seemed archaic and convoluted. Waiting until marriage to have sex already seemed like enough of a challenge and then not being able to have sex when I wanted in marriage was just unfair. However, as I began to research more about NFP my opinion changed into thinking that it was the most loving way for a couple to interact, one that truly honors their love. The transformation in my faith did not come overnight; it required lots of reading and questions to mentors, family, and my priest. At first I considered NFP simply a woman’s issue but as my understanding expanded I realized its profound and vast effects on the interactions between men and women and children.

Because I was a pre-medical student in undergrad, my first queries were scientific in nature. Much to my surprise I learned that not only was NFP a much more healthy and safe option for the woman and child, it was extremely effective and scientifically sound. There went all my arguments for it being an outdated and backward practice.

As I grew in maturity and faith I began to be a bit more open to NFP and my questions became more theological in nature… What does it mean for a Catholic to be open to life? How does one pursue sanctity in marriage? How is NFP different from contraception if the results are the same? How does one’s spousal relationship mirror one’s relationship with Christ? What is the point of sex? While this blog post is certainly too short to offer answers to all these questions, I found that NFP gave me robust answers which helped me understand the beauty of marriage and sex much more deeply. God was working through my heart, and far from thinking of NFP as an imposition of the Church I began to think of it as one of her greatest gifts--a clear icon for married couples of Christ’s love for the Church.

Alice Knable is a 23 year old Catholic currently living in D.C. She has studied at Baylor University and The John Paul II Institute. She is passionate about medicine and faith and will be pursuing a degree as a nurse midwife.


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