The Annunciation and Fertility Awareness: Mary as a Model of Surrender

“How can I tie in the Solemnity of the Annunciation with Fertility Awareness Week?”

It was a self-serving question as I planned a blog post for today—but I immediately realized that there was more to the answer than content strategy.

No form of family planning is 100% effective (other than complete abstinence, of course), but I’ve come to realize that by and large, it’s only fertility awareness methods that truly acknowledge their fallibility. Perhaps it’s because practitioners so frequently cite the research to prove that they are effective—which means we know the effectiveness rating is never 100%. Perhaps it’s because we understand the science of the hormonal cycle so well. Perhaps it’s because there’s more room for human error in a fertility awareness method than there is in taking a pill (hence the often large range of “typical use” statistics among fertility awareness methods—although some research finds higher effectiveness ratings for typical use of fertility awareness than for the pill and certainly for condoms).

The bottom line is that fertility awareness is great at acknowledging the fact that if you have sex, you might have a baby. That acknowledgment, however, can carry some anxiety if you have really, really serious reasons not to get pregnant. Which is why in addition to having health and relationship benefits, fertility awareness has the beautiful side benefit of helping us learn to trust God.

Actually, scratch that. I think that teaching us to trust God might be the whole point of natural family planning. Which is where the Annunciation comes in.

Church tradition tells us that Mary was never planning on having a baby. She was always going to be a consecrated virgin. While the Church also teaches that after having Jesus, Mary continued with that part of the plan, being a mother was a fork in the road. At the Annunciation, then, Mary’s fiat (“Let it be done unto me”) was a huge act of trust in God. She surrendered her body, her plans, her life to God.

None of us will be the mother of God. None of us will suffer in quite the same way that Mary had to, as the mother of God. But, as women, we all have to surrender our fertility (or infertility) to God, which often involves suffering. Sometimes great suffering. The Church asks us to be open to life, and for some, that openness can be incredibly challenging. It can require a heroic level of trust in God, trust that requires a great deal of prayer.

So, as we close Fertility Awareness Week and celebrate Mary’s “yes,” let’s look to her as a model of surrender. If that surrender is as difficult for you as it is for me, here are a few prayers that might help:

The surrender novena (you can pray the entire novena, but I have just the prayer “Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything” on my heart frequently).

Our Lady, Intercessor of Fertility Awareness (a prayer by Bridget Busacker of Managing Your Fertility).

The joyful mysteries of the rosary.

“Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief” (said by the father of the boy healed by Jesus in Mark 9:24).

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