by Elizabeth Kirk
Special to The Leaven
Adoption is something most people think is noble and good. But beneath the surface, there are many doubts about it. Women in crisis pregnancies worry: “How can I give up my child to a stranger?” and “How can anyone love my child like I would?”
Or worse, yet : “Will an adoptive parent hurt my child?”
In turn, people considering whether to adopt a child wonder: “Will I be able to bond with a child that is not my own?” or “What kind of issues or problems will this child inherit, and do I want do deal with those issues?”
These are natural fears, and as an adoptive mother and advocate for adoption, I have spent countless hours thinking and praying through them myself and helping others to work through them.
In this short space, what I can tell you is that adoption, even though it typically arises in some sort of brokenness, has the potential for great beauty and for healing. It involves the most selfless of sacrifices on the part of those placing their children for adoption, and it involves a leap of trust and faith for those welcoming children into their home.
And we know from our Christian faith that such great suffering, offered in love, always bears abundant fruit.
Recently, I had two occasions to reflect on the tremendous beauty of adoption.
First, throughout Lent, I found myself reflecting on an image of the crucified Christ, with Mary and John at the foot of the cross.
In this particular image, Jesus leans forward from his cross toward Mary, who stands with her arms and hands open. John stands next to her, with his head bowed reverently.
Jesus said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” And then to John, “Behold your mother.” This is the symbolic moment that Jesus gave Mary to all of humanity to be our mother.
But this deeply moving moment was also what Pope Benedict XVI called “an entirely human gesture on the part of the dying Savior.” One of Jesus’ final acts was “an adoption arrangement” in which he placed his mother “in the custody of the disciple who was especially close to him. And so a new home is also given to the disciple — a mother to care for him, a mother for him to look after.”
St. John Paul II once called adoption an “exchange of gifts,” and this gift of motherhood and sonship at the foot of the cross demonstrates beautifully how all those involved in adoption are knitted together by a sacrificial act of love.
Second, we attended the Easter, Vigil Mass at our parish. I noticed that, during the baptismal liturgy for the catechumens, our pastor prayed, “Almighty, ever- living God, be present by the mysteries of your great love and send forth the spirit of adoption to create the new peoples brought to birth for you in the font of baptism.”
This prayer reminded me that we are not saved because of our birth but, rather, because of our rebirth in baptism when we are made adopted sons and daughters of God. What a beautiful image to share with our children as we explain to them the way in which they came to be part of our family, and how it is not terribly different from the way in which all of us are part of God’s family.
Just as through our spiritual adoption, we can call God, “Abba, Father,” human adoption gives a child in need the love of a mother and a father — “Mommy” and “Daddy.”
Sadly, however, the reality is that not many people choose adoption — either to place a child for adoption or to adopt a child. Each year in this country, less than 18,000 newborn infants are placed for adoption while over 1 million children are aborted.
In the foster care system in 2015, there were 111,820 children across the nation waiting to be adopted — 2,340 of them in Kansas and 2,513 in Missouri.
Throughout Scripture, God instructs his people to care for orphans. It seems appropriate to say that children at risk of abortion and children in foster care are the modern “orphans” of our time.
In “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis said, “The choice of adoption and foster care . . . make people aware that children, whether natural, adoptive or taken in foster care, are persons in their own right who need to be accepted, loved and cared for, and not just brought into this world” (180).
It is my hope that, by reflecting on the beauty of adoption, more people will consider whether they are called to choose adoption — either as an option in a crisis pregnancy or as a way to build a family by welcoming a child in need.
Elizabeth Kirk is a mother of four children who resides in Kansas with her husband. She has a passionate interest in law and culture, especially as it relates to protecting the family.