The Theology of the Body in a Nutshell


If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely.  If we ask for conditions, that’s not love.  If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love.  If we cannot control our passions, if we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.  If we can’t say no, our yes means nothing.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total.  We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my arm.”  Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other.  If we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.

Fruitful: We must allow relations with our spouse to be fruitful, to be open to children, each and every time we have sex.  That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace.  It just means we need to be open.

Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components of marital love (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When a behavior, device, medication or operation is used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”

Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Want to live the highest expression of your marital love?  Use NFP and be open to life.

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About Author

Ellen Gable Hrkach is a freelance writer and award-winning author of three novels. Her new book is entitled "Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship" and it's available on and at the book's website She and her husband are certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League and they create a Catholic cartoon called "Family Life" for Family Foundations Magazine.

  • Terri Kimmel

    I would just add that mucus-based methods of NFP (namely Creighton and Billings) don’t work for some couples. My husband and I finally found the Marquette Method after years of struggling to make Billings and Sympto-thermal (CCL’s method) work for us. Taking a waking temp every morning doesn’t fit into our lifestyle either. Marquette uses an electronic monitor combined with a developed protocol to read estrogen and leutenizing hormone levels to indicate when ovulation has occurred. It’s been a godsend for us. It costs more than the other methods, but after having struggled with methods that don’t work for us, we’re grateful to have a tool that’s actually useful. I used to be a promoter for CCL and I still believe in the method they espouse, but I know it’s not for everyone.
    NFPandmore. org has the most thorough presentation of theology on the use of NFP and the purpose of marital love, in my opinion. It’s the ministry of John and Sheila Kippley, who founded the Couple to Couple League.

    • Wayward Son

      Different methods work for different women. That’s great that you found something that worked for you.

      Creighton and CCL did NOT work for Mrs. W., but a combination of Billings + BBT did. (Usually if Creighton doesn’t work, Billings will and vice-versa. Fortunately, there is Marquette if neither does.)