How ‘The Catholics Next Door’ Found NFP
Published: July 19, 2012
CONYERS—It’s inevitable that once you crack the door open looking for God, he can’t help but enter in. Such was the case for Greg and Jennifer Willits, parishioners at St. Pius X Church in Conyers and co-hosts of SiriusXM’s radio program, “The Catholics Next Door.”
Well into their marriage and en route to a deeper relationship with God, the couple began wondering about the church’s stance against contraception and support for Natural Family Planning, which relies on a woman’s fertility cycle to aid couples discerning their family size.
What they found was a fuller understanding of chastity, a stronger marriage—even amid the sacrifices that come with NFP—and a rich family life as they continue to discern God’s intended plan for their marriage.
“Loosely catechized” is how Greg describes his upbringing as a cradle Catholic during the 1970s and ‘80s. After meeting Jennifer, also baptized Catholic but not formally raised in the faith, they walked into marriage with a “nebulous” approach to their marital sexuality that was “a free fall to do whatever we wanted.”
“There really were no boundaries,” he said.
After a few years and with a rambunctious toddler in tow they began to ask questions as their faith became more central to their lives.
Greg wondered why the church had come out with a stance on the subject of family planning if it were only a matter of individual conscience, as it had been explained to him after seeking spiritual direction.
“But that explanation didn’t sit right with us,” he said. “We wanted to know what God wanted us to do.”
Not long after, the answers began to come. During a Sunday homily their parish deacon introduced the couple to the concept of chastity outside and within marriage.
This teaching furthered Greg’s curiosity. He clearly remembers his moment of clarity. “I checked out one website in particular and very quickly everything began to fall into place. I will never forget where I was sitting. Jennifer was in the kitchen … when I said, ‘Baby, we need to talk!’”
Greg came to a better understanding of church teaching through resources presented by noted scholars such as Dr. Janet E. Smith. She is serving her third term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family.
“Chastity is respect for sex the way God meant it to be,” he said. “The one thing I never looked at (while contracepting) was how to best respect my wife. … I disrespected part of her by putting barriers around that special part of her. I didn’t totally, fully respect the body God gave her, but now I have the biggest respect for her, and in our home there is the greatest amount of love, peace and comfort.”
Understanding what they know now, the Willits practice NFP.
“It’s been an ongoing process with constant questioning: ‘Are we being chaste now?’ Are we living marital chastity now? Is God calling us to be open to a child now?”
While there are sacrifices involved, the journey has had its revelations and rewards.
After four sons, Greg and Jennifer welcomed their fifth child, a little girl, and he can’t imagine the family without her. “There is more pink in my life than you can imagine.”
Greg admits that five kids is a lot by society’s standard, but the couple has witnessed God’s providence in the past as they discern the present.
“Are we open to more children? That’s the seasonal question we wrestle with. How crazy am I this month? Are we broke this month? Are we stretched so thin with the kids this month—what is our stability like?”
The decision to abstain or not is an important decision for every married couple.
“What is your reason for abstaining? It’s different than mine and Jennifer’s. You can’t judge us and we can’t judge you. It’s between you and God,” Greg said.
Amid the ongoing discernment of what is next for them, they are still saying to God, “Thy will be done”—a statement they now understand they weren’t totally embracing when they had contracepted.
“Every Sunday we say, ‘Thy will be done,’ but we were saying that for every area of our lives except in our marriage,” Greg said. “God was in the hall and he knew what was going on in the bedroom.”
Now there are no rooms off-limits. “God comes into our lives in a positive way.”
Read more about Greg and Jennifer Willits’ embrace of Natural Family Planning as well as their journey of faith through marriage, children, job changes and a headlong dive into Catholic new media in their new book, “The Catholics Next Door: Adventures In Imperfect Living” (Servant Books). It is available through their website http://thecatholicsnextdoor.newevangelizers.com/ or www.amazon.com.