Investigating NFP: Newman’s Prayer for Seekers

Since my motives have been questioned on multiple occasions throughout this series, I’ve decided to post the following prayer by John Henry Newman for use by myself and anyone else who is struggling with the Church’s teachings regarding periodic abstinence.  (Fedora Tip: Pontifications)

O my God, I confess that Thou canst enlighten my darkness—confess that Thou only canst. I wish my darkness to be enlightened. I do not know whether Thou wilt; but that Thou canst, and that I wish, are sufficient reasons for me to ask what Thou at least hast not forbidden my asking. I hereby promise Thee that, by Thy grace which I am seeking, I will embrace whatever I at length feel certain is the truth, if ever I come to be certain. And by Thy grace I will guard against all self deceit which may lead me to take what nature would have, rather than what reason approves. Amen.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

8 thoughts on “Investigating NFP: Newman’s Prayer for Seekers

  1. Rob

    Nancy and I have been praying similar prayers, though spontaneous and not as well-written.

    At some point, I hope you’ll have cause to remember that’s what we prayed.

  2. Eusto

    I apologize for coming so late to this discussion and if I have missed any of it, but, as a non-Catholic, one fundamental question I have always had is that the Church’s position doesn’t seem viable in terms of population. Anyone who has a grasp of exponential growth should understand that allowing so many births with so few deaths would lead to an unsustainable population explosion. I mean at some point even if you hollowed out the earth and stuffed it full of people it would be overflowing. For instance in just 2 millenia from now, assuming a doubling of the population every 50 years, we would have 6*2^40=6,597,069,766,656 BILLION people instead of just our 6 billion. That’s more than a TRILLION TIMES our current population.

    This is serious question. I mean have Catholics thought of this, or do they just expect the infant mortality rate to go up, or that most people will not be Catholics, or that the second coming will come soon enough so that it’s not an issue, or do they just trust that by that time our technology will be so advanced that we’ll be colonizing lots of other planets. But I’m pretty sure that after a while that we would just run out of suitable planets. I mean exponential growth is unrelenting. Every fifty years you’ll have to find TWICE, FOUR TIMES, 8, 16, as many planets as have you so far . . .

    What’s wrong with my thinking here?

    Finally, what’s the difference between being open to the possibility that the condom may break and being open to the possibility that a child may be conceived upon NFP. The periods of abstinece do seem conducive to self-discipline though.

  3. Eusto

    One addendum. Maybe the church is expecting that it will change this policy in the future, but since we haven’t maxed out the population yet, why not?

    Or maybe the church is just expecting that when the time comes abstinence will be more critical. Finally, you have to realize that many people think this whole idea is just some devious ploy to massively increase the number of Catholics, and that it becomes especially suspect in poor countries with very few resources for raising children. If the kid is likely to starve, wouldn’t that condom have been a pretty good idea?

    How do Catholics respond to these questions?

  4. Lightwave

    “Soilent Green! Don’t you know what it is? It’s people!”

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to quote a Charelton Heston movie 🙂 For those who havent seen “Soilent Green”, its about an excessively over populated Earth.

  5. Stuff

    I apologize for not having specific resources to point to at the moment (maybe someone out there can point to a link or something), but I do know for a fact that the type of population scare tactics you refer to have been investigated and answered by Catholic population ethicists. A few statistics I can recall offhand are that the ENTIRE population of the world, right now, could live in the state of Texas in single-family dwellings with yards. Space is not particularly an issue. If you are worried specifically about resources, keep in mind that the United States alone THROWS AWAY enough food to feed all the starving 3rd-world countries. And many of the population estimates that are used to scare people away from large families are based on calculations made decades ago, before we had the technology and/or desire to more efficiently produce food/energy like we do today.

    Not only that, have you looked at actual population growth statistics lately? You are worried about the population doubling every 50 years, but many of the most populated countries (i.e. India, China, the U.S. and much of Europe), if I remember correctly, are either just barely above, right at, or falling below replacement rate. When you add in factors like the recent natural disasters that claimed so many lives, the population is getting *smaller*.

    As mentioned elsewhere in these discussions, I don’t believe God would give us a specific mandate (i.e. be fruitful and multiply and subdue all the earth) and then make it impossible to comply with his will – either at the personal or the social level.

  6. edey


    i think the point of overpopulation is a good one. however, it has a very fundamental flaw. it neglects the Church’s teaching on living simply and unselfishly. the Church does not call us to live a life of consumerism, consumption, materialism, and selfishness. She calls us to do the opposite. if we are trying to determine the impact on the environment, it’s the impact per person times the number of people. i would contend that if we were living as the Church calls us to live, there would be a decreased impact per person which would allow more people at a contstant overall impact on the enviroment.

    on the topic of how is nfp different from risking the condom breaking, the condom changes the nature of the sex act by putting a barrier there whereas the sex act itself isn’t changed when you are abstaining for periods of the woman’s cycle. for more discussion on this, i’d recommend checking out the comments in a previous post.

  7. Stuff

    Here’s another good prayer that the presenter of the Theology of the Body talks we attend began one of our sessions with. We figure you can never have too many good prayers! It’s from St. Anselm of Canterbury, and I can’t guarantee I’ve transcribed it exactly as written, but you’ll get the idea:

    “O Lord, You are my Lord and God, yet I have never seen you. You have created and redeemed me, and have conferred on me all my goods, yet I know you not. I was created in order that I might know you, but I have not yet attained the goal of my creation. I confess, O Lord, and give you thanks that You have created me in Your image, so that I might be mindful of You, and contemplate You, and love You. I seek not to understand in order that I may believe; rather, I believe in order that I may understand.”

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