Wednesday, May 27, 2009

On NFP and St. Bernadine of Siena

What is the meaning of ovulation?

How does the woman know if and when she has ovulated?

How long is a woman fertile during her monthly cycle?

Does NFP-BOM apply to irregular ovulation cycles?

What is the scientific explanation behind sex determination?

Usually, my wife and I ask some of these questions upfront from our NFP (Natural Family Planning - Billings Ovulation Method) seminar participants to get a feel of how we should focus the seminar topics. We are not surprised anymore when nobody from the audience can volunteer to give quick answers or even guesses. The same is true during our conduct of marriage precana seminars when the topic of Responsible Parenthood-NFP comes around. Interestingly, even highly-trained professionals seem to be in the dark about NFP. All the more it gives us greater reason to believe that a bigger deal of attention and resources should be directed into promoting and advocating NFP. For example, it surprises (and disappoints) us that we did not get any response (as in zero, nada, zilch) to the seminar invitations that we had announced on all Sunday Masses for three weeks. The sparse attendees to last Saturday's free NFP seminar only came due to personal invites. I guess we need genius marketing people real fast. This led me into thinking if there was a patron Saint for advertising/ marketing, to bring about divine intervention and inspiration to the NFP advocacy. It appears there is: Saint Bernadine of Siena, whose feast day was recently commemorated on May 20. According to this site, his preaching skills were so great, and the conversions so numerous, that he has become associated with all areas of speaking, advertising, public relations, etc. The eloquent, energetic and charismatic St. Bernadine has often been compared to St. Paul. When he started out in a branch of the Franciscan order, there were 300 friars in the community; when he died there were 4,000. Got to learn more from this awesome saint. It also says that his surprising allies in his peacekeeping mission were the women who comprised the majority of his audience. Well, most of our participants are women. Hmm...


bill bannon said...

St. Bernadine, if I remember correctly, was also one of those saints who saw oral sex as "the use of the unfit vessel" and who would have fainted at news that NFP people allow oral sex as foreplay and if it ends in actual intercourse ejaculation. Be careful what you pray for. Pope Sixtus V by the way was the most anti contraception Pope...but he wrote a bull appointing four castrati to the Sistine Chapel and thus inaugurated about 300 year of papal cooperation with sterilization which ended in 1904 thanks to Pius X but 100 years after opera ended it.

Matthew said...


I just found your blog listed under the New Blogs in the St. Blog's Parish Directory. Welcome to the Directory and welcome to the Catholic blogosphere.

Laudetur Jesus Christus!

WillyJ said...

bill b,
Interesting! I'd be much obliged if you point me to the resources. Thank you.


bill bannon said...

Willy J,
I saw the original topic of the unfit vessel long ago in a book by Tan publishers and do not know which one it was; though I'm guessing it was on hell wherein this topic for the early Renaissance would have come up as to how to get there since Catherine of Siena saw it (sodomy broadly within marriage) as getting the most punishment in hell as reported by Blessed Raymond to whom she said it (below Noonan book, footnote p.227).

See Contraception by John T. Noonan Jr. pages 226 and 227 (Harvard 1965..rare book stores have it like Alibris on line) which pages deal with the prevalence in the 13th to 15th centuries confessional of the topic of forms of sodomy (to include oral sex) rather than the topic of "poisons of sterility" as dominant. The presumption seems to be that ejaculation ends in the "unfit vessel" but of course saints at that time do not then proceed to discuss any good that comes out of oral sex should efaculation end within the fit vessel.
St. Bernadine of Siena thus said this about marriage (ibid p.227 quotes it and gives the source and opines that it is about this broad topic of sodomy which for them included oral sex since they presumed ejaculation there)...Bernadine states:
" Of 1000 marriages, I believe 999 are the devil's"...( Le Prediche volgari, ed. Piero Bargellini (Milan,1936),p.400.
St. Antoninus (page 226)states " A man with a man, a woman with a woman, or a man with a woman outside the fit vessel, is called the sodomitic vice." So it is determined from not being the only fit vessel between man and woman.
St. Catherine during the same time frame held that "those who sinned in the married state" had their own section of hell and they alone had such (p.227 ibid).

The NFP theorists would agree with them but minus the revulsion and with the emendation that used as foreplay, oral sex is not what these saints were protesting (even though they would have protested the new concept as foreplay had they considered it which they seem not to have).

It must be remembered that St. Antoninus quoted above once noted during his time period in history that most of the curia had mistresses (Theologia Moralis). Given that, it seems strange that these saints of that time worried more about married people than they did about the curia. Near the end of this period, Pope Alexander VI was to have 6 children while a Cardinal (inter alia Lucretia Borgia and Caesare Borgia..two gems) and Pope Julius II was to have three daughters while a Cardinal (Borders books now has "The Pope's Daughter" about Felice, the daughter of Pope Julius II).

Why in the world St. Catherine was putting married people in a special part of hell while not doing so for such clerics is beyond comprehension and bespeaks clericalism in its thickest form.

WillyJ said...

bill b,
Again, very interesting. On a related note, some prominent Catholic theologians are currently in a debate over the proper interpretation and presentation of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
More here.

sunnyday said...

Hi WillyJ,

You know, I had emailed you twice several months ago because some friends of mine (and one acquaintance) wanted to learn more about NFP. Also, I wanted to post resources at our website because discussions back then had turned to a comparison of brands of birth control pills, and so I wanted to offer another option on a positive note. Did you get either of my email messages?

Anyway, some of those friends are set to attend classes at the John Paul II Institute (or something like that) -- the one in San Carlos Seminary. I'm so glad to hear about their attending the classes because they were able to persuade their husbands to come along.

WillyJ said...

Hi Sunnyday,
Sorry, I did not receive the emails.
I sent you an email just today indicating also my mobile number. Pls use that email address as I use it more often. Just in case, we could also accommodate a few participants from outside our parish. The next one would be late July or early August.

Manny said...

Hi Willy. Please let me know about the schedules of your NFP seminars. I will gladly post them on my websites. People really need to learn more about the pro-life lifestyle that comes with NFP.

WillyJ said...

That's great, Manny. I'll send you a wall to wall message when the schedule firms up. Thanks!

sunnyday said...

Ok, got your email. Better email addy noted. It's strange when email messages don't reach their destination -- even if I sent it twice.

Okay, will keep the next NFP classes at your parish in mind. Thanks!