Sauk Centre couple to receive Humanae Vitae Award
By Kristi Anderson
For The Visitor
When Don and Linda Christen decided to take a natural family planning class at their parish, they had no idea they would spend nearly 40 years bringing people closer to God through NFP.
As NFP instructors and marriage course speakers on sexuality, as well as being a sponsor couple for marriage preparation, the Christens have impacted the lives of countless couples and families across the diocese.
“At the bottom of the registration form, there was a box that said check here if you are interested in teaching NFP,” Linda explained. “Don said to me, ‘You can do that.’ And I said, ‘No, I can’t!’ but I checked the box and that’s where our story began.”
The couple went through their first NFP course in the spring of 1974 and by fall, Linda was also trained as an instructor. Though Don was not an official instructor, he had a natural understanding of the NFP method through his work as a farmer. And when he suffered from a farm accident, he was given a book on the Billings method, which he read while recuperating.
“Sometimes he thought he knew more than I did,” Linda joked. “During our classes, he would nudge me and say, ‘See? I told you!’ ”
The Christens are recipients of this year’s Humanae Vitae Award for the Diocese of St. Cloud. This honor, presented annually, is awarded to a person, or in this case, a couple, who has exhibited extraordinary courage in promoting the teachings of the “Humanae Vitae” encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and released in 1968.
And it does take courage to teach this course. “When people came to us requesting to be taught, it was easy,” said Linda. “They already had an interest and a desire to learn more. For others, it was harder because they didn’t understand the beauty of NFP and that it is what the church teaches.”
It is through their courage, sense of humor and love that Don and Linda both agree that it has been a great joy to share the teachings of “Humanae Vitae” with others.
“NFP is God’s will and plan for humanity,” Linda said. “When we got married, we were asked to promise our love, fidelity and openness to life. That is what Humanae Vitae teaches. It is who we are.”
“For us, NFP is a way of life,” Don added. “Our thoughts, words and actions reflect it in our daily lives and we want others to experience a life filled with love and meaning that reflects the church’s teaching.”
The couple agrees that their focus has been on bringing couples and families closer to God. “Our ultimate hope is that all the people we talk with, whether through an NFP course, as a sponsor couple or at a marriage preparation course, is that they will understand the beauty and the gift of life and that it will lead them to holiness and ultimately, to salvation,” Linda said.
The couple was nominated by their pastor, Father Todd Schneider of St. Paul Parish in Sauk Centre, who recognized their commitment to the church’s teaching on human sexuality.
“What is appealing about Don and Linda is that they are both people of the land,” said Father Schneider in his nomination letter. “They are not medical professionals or clergy but down-to-earth people who have embraced the church’s teaching and are courageous enough to share it with everyone.”
Don and Linda Christen are members of St. Paul Parish in Sauk Centre. The couple farmed until retiring in 2006, although Don still helps his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren on the home farm daily. The couple will be honored at a celebration of the Eucharist and award reception July 20, at 7 p.m. in the crypt at St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud. All are welcome to attend.
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