No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). We know this scripture speaks of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. We know this real act in history--the Son of God coming down from heaven to become man and dying on a cross--is the foundation of our redemption. We know that through Christ’s sacrifice, we were adopted into God’s family. We are his children! We are children of a loving father who sustains and nurtures us every second of every day. In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved (Ephesians 5:1).
So God has adopted you. But have you adopted your children?
Odd question, right? But you need to spiritually adopt your children for the same reason God adopted us: Because you love them. You live out this love, this adoption, through actions. Jesus acted--he came down from heaven and died for us. When you adopt your own children, you are agreeing to model the love of Jesus—through real actions that go beyond just concepts.
You actually already agreed to adopt your children in faith at their baptism. On the day of their baptism the celebrant asked:
“You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training this child in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring your child up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
And you said, “We do!”
But did you? Do you?
Pope Francis gave some guidelines for spiritually adopting our children in October 2013 when he spoke on “What Makes a Family Holy?” In this homily, he said:
“Dear families, do you pray together from time to time as a family? We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness. And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary--it’s easy. And praying the rosary together as a family is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also, praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents…praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.”1
Here are 20 other easy practices that can help you spiritually adopt your children, and help the entire family grow in holiness:
1. Let your family know you pray for them.
2. Demonstrate your love for your spouse through acts of kindness and mercy.
3. Show charity to others in the presence of your family.
4. Always attend Sunday Mass, even when traveling.
5. Teach and demonstrate respect for Christ’s Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist.
6. Go to confession regularly and promote frequent reception of this sacrament in your home.
7. Prayerfully consider home schooling, which allows you even more opportunities to pray with and catechize your children.
8. Let your children know about your own spiritual ups and downs, sharing your joys and disappointments.
9. Let your children know they can share their own joys and struggles with you.
10. Spend individual time with each child each week.
11. Know who your kids’ friends are and steer them towards those friends and acquaintances of good influence.
12. Have family meals together.
13. Let conversation—not the television--be the point of interest during meals.
14. Share scripture with each other.
15. Encourage family members to share about their day, and bring up moral issues related to what they’ve experienced.
16. Discuss the varied and beautiful lives of the saints.
17. Teach and demonstrate that joy comes from a relationship with God, family, and others, not from material things.
18. Get involved in your local church and respect for life causes in your community.
19. Teach patience by demonstrating your own patience.
20. Demonstrate forgiveness--Forgive your spouse, forgive your children, forgive your extended family and others. Let your children know that if they have trouble forgiving someone, they can at least take a step back and pray for the will to forgive.2
May your love of God, your love of Jesus, and your love for the Church be that spirit that animates your actions within your home and family. This love will bear beautiful fruit—it will help your children blossom and reach their potential in our Lord and glorify God. If you haven’t already, sign the (spiritual) adoption papers today. Be a witness and model not only within the family, but in the church and the local community. This will ensure that you and your family will be a beacon of light that draws other families to Jesus and his Church.
1. Taken from the homily given by Pope Francis during the Holy Mass for the Family Day on the Occasion of the Year of Faith in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, October 27, 2013. Full text: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131027_omelia-pellegrinaggio-famiglia.html
2. Paraphrased from the U.S. Conference of Bishops website: “Tools for Building a Domestic Church,” http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/parents/tools-for-building-a-domestic-church.cfm