Friday 08 April 2022
(Editor’s note: This is part of a series on the theology of marriage and the family in preparation for the 10th World Meeting of Families, which will take place June 24-26. The world meeting will take place in Rome; Msgr. Oscar A. Solis asked the parishes of the Diocese of Salt Lake City to organize activities to raise awareness of the importance of the vocation of marriage and family life.)
SALT LAKE CITY — The adoption and fostering of children is deeply rooted in Christian tradition. The Old Testament relates the stories of the adoption of Moses by an Egyptian princess, as well as that of Esther by her cousin Mordecai.
The Church also teaches that through baptism Christians are adopted sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father. “God has decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to him through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure”, Saint Paul reminds us in the Letter to the Ephesians.
Jesus himself was an adopted child; his adoptive father, Joseph, is now the patron of the universal Church. In his apostolic letter Patris Corde (With a father’s heart), Pope Francis described Joseph as a tender father, loving, obedient to God, accepting life as it is, creative and courageous, a worker and a “father in the shadows…He did not think about himself, but focused instead on the life of Mary and Jesus.
In the letter, Pope Francis said that “fathers are not born, but created. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking on the responsibility of caring for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for another’s life, he becomes a kind of father to that person.
Adoption and child care were also mentioned in the final report of the 2015 Synod of Bishops, which met on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.
“The choice of adoption and foster family expresses a particular form of fruitfulness in the marital experience. … This decision is an eloquent sign of welcoming life, a testimony of faith and fulfillment of love, …” write the bishops.
They added: “…adoption and fostering, properly understood, demonstrates an important aspect of parenting and child-rearing, as it raises the awareness that children, whether natural , adopted or placed in a foster family, are people in their own right who must be accepted, loved and cared for and not just brought into the world.
The bishops, in their report, issued a note similar to that of Pope John Paul II in his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The community of the family), when he wrote: “Christian families, recognizing in faith all human beings as children of the same heavenly Father, will respond generously to the children of other families, giving them support and love not as strangers but as members of the one family of the children of God. Christian parents will thus be able to spread their love beyond the ties of flesh and blood, nourishing the ties that are rooted in the spirit and which develop through concrete service to the children of other families, often deprived of the bare necessities.
Adopted or fostered children “will be able to experience the loving and provident fatherhood of God witnessed by Christian parents, and they will thus be able to grow with serenity and confidence in life,” Pope John Paul II continued. “At the same time, the whole family will be enriched by the spiritual values of a larger brotherhood.”
Likewise, in the decree on the apostolate of the laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), Pope Paul VI noted that the family has received from God the mission “to be the first and vital cell of society”.
Among the various ways in which the family can fulfill this mission are the adoption of abandoned children, the reception of strangers and the provision of useful advice and material assistance to adolescents, wrote Pope Paul VI .
Saint Joseph shows that the bond created by fostering or adoption “is one of the highest forms of love, fatherhood and motherhood,” Pope Francis said during his weekly audience on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. He ended this audience with the following prayer:
you who loved Jesus with a paternal love,
to be close to the many children who have no family
and who yearn for a mom and dad.
Support couples who cannot have children,
help them to discover, through this suffering, a greater project.
Make sure no one is missing a home, a link,
a person to take care of him;
and heal the selfishness of those who close themselves to life,
that they can open their hearts to love.
1. How can my family respond generously to children from other families?
2. Pope Paul VI declared that God had entrusted the family with the mission “to be the first vital cell of society”. How can my family fulfill this mission?
3. What prevents my family from adopting or placing a child? What are the ways to overcome these obstacles?