A New Father’s Lullaby

In the lead-up to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey to the U.S., we are launching #FrancisontheFamily, a Diocesan-wide campaign that focuses on the catechesis of #PopeFrancis pertaining to family life. We have chosen to highlight some of Francis’ most repeated challenges to us – encounter, accompany, witness, and welcome – as a way of sharing the joy of family life.

By: An Adoptive Father in the Diocese of Arlington

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“The Holy Spirit is always stirring up new answers to new needs! …  [T]here are the different forms of acceptance: foster care, adoption, family homes of various kinds.  The imagination – if I may use that word – the imagination of the Holy Spirit is infinite but very practical!”
-Pope Francis, Meeting with the Young People of Umbria, October 4, 2013

–   –   –

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee,
All through the night …

I had looked around for a lullaby I liked.  Peaceful – no “boughs breaking” or “cradles falling.”  I had practiced it in the shower; I wanted to be ready.  After all, I was going to be a papa!  A son and two daughters!

Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night …

Or was I?  A Russian court had approved our adoption on the morning of December 28, 2012.  That afternoon, Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning adoptions from Russia to the United States.  Three weeks of panic and uncertainty followed, and novenas to Saint Joseph.

 And suddenly there I was, in a motel in Russia – not a guardian angel, certainly, just an awkward newbie papa.  The Russian Supreme Court had ruled that a small number of families who had court approval before the end of 2012 could bring their children home.  We were among the lucky few.

There I was.  On the floor between the cribs of our two new 2.5-year-old daughters, who were trying to come to grips with the reality that the two kind-of-nice people who had been visiting them had now taken them from their drab, but familiar orphanage to… someplace else.

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Their older brother knew what was going on, sort of, but the girls knew only a handful of words, even in Russian.  No one could explain to them.  But they’re bright girls, and had already lived through traumas we may never know.  With a sudden change of address and caregivers, they knew enough to be terrified.  (They weren’t the only ones.)

Soft the drowsy hours are creeping,
Hill and dale in slumber steeping …

Of course, I was “prepared” – we had completed many hours of training covering parenting and adoption issues.  But that night, on the floor between two crying girls, I had two things going for me:  I had prayers, and I had a song.  In my mind I prayed and prayed, and with my voice I sang, and I sang, and I sang.

I, my loving vigil keeping,
All through the night.

Prayers are answered.  It’s nearly three years later now.  Our kids have settled in, and picked up English amazingly well.  We have some things to work on; all families do.  But the blessings each day are beyond measure.

Every night our daughters still hear the lullaby from my wife or me.  It quickly became something we shared – one of my favorite videos is of the girls at a store, not long after they came home, singing “Seep-a-cha. Seep-a-cha.”  At first, it took me a moment to realize what it was.  Then I remembered:

Sleep, my child.  Sleep, my child.  All through the night.

–   –   –

“And so I wish to tell you to not be afraid to take definitive steps: … Do not be afraid to take steps which are permanent …:  deepen your love by respecting its seasons and expressions, pray, prepare yourselves well; and then trust that the Lord will not leave you alone!  Let Him come into your home like one of the family; He will always sustain you!”
-Pope Francis, Meeting with the Young People of Umbria, October 4, 2013

Please pray for the orphans of Russia, and for the families affected by the adoption ban.

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