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Spiritual adoption: What it is, why we do it, and the joy it brings



Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB - published on 10/24/17

Our Lord and I enter into a holy alliance each November 1, secretly taking up the needs and intentions of one chosen soul.

There is a renewal of spirit that comes from giving gifts, and the joy is made all the more special – especially for the gift-giver – when there are no strings attached, no sense of obligation on anyone’s part.

That’s what attracts me to the idea of making a “spiritual adoption” of another, and committing myself to it.

Making a “spiritual adoption” first began for me as a month-long practice — a way to foster forgiveness between myself and another and bringing release to both of our souls. It was a deliberate act of faith, and an affirmation, that though a situation may be unforgettable, one can move beyond it.

Soon a deepening peace developed within this discipline that felt more like love than work. The joy of accompanying a soul, the whole person, in a spiritual journey was a gift I could give to that person and to Our Lord. It became a way to bless God for blessing me with the opportunity to pray for another.

Being a supplicant—defined as one who begs—means petitioning for a person, a future saint, in an intense fellowship of prayer in whatever is faced in our daily life.

As we move into November, with its shorter days and lengthening shadows, we can sometimes feel a dullness that can creep into our prayer lives. Praying for the living and the dead is a spiritual act of mercy, and one that we are particularly called to in November, beginning with the very first day: All Saints Day, honoring those who have attained Heaven, followed immediately by All Souls Day, in remembrance of the souls in Purgatory.

Prayer, as a spiritual act of mercy, combined with a spiritual adoption, is a fruit easy to grow in the garden of the soul. As November approaches, now is a good time to discern whether you would like to adopt someone spiritually for the upcoming year, and who it is you might be feeling called to pray for.


Read more:
John Paul II’s prayer he prayed to help him with math

First, open yourself to the needs of a specific person for prayer—you will adopt only one (living) person for a year. It could be a mother with multiple challenges, a friend with a chronic illness, your mechanic who is unsure about religion, a recent immigrant trying to find his way, or maybe an older student entering studies in a new field.

Once the Holy Spirit has moved you to discern that person, choose a meaningful day—to be the same every year—to begin the adoption. The day could be Christmas, the start of the calendar or liturgical year, the date of your patron saint, or my choice, November 1, All Saints Day—I like to think that all those who attained heaven will assist as intercessors.

Over the next year your spiritually adopted soul will be a part of your daily life, which partners the idea of “praying without ceasing.” Here are a few suggestions to practice prayers of adoption. You will surely think of more:

  • Add your adoptee to your morning and evening prayers.
  • Offer daily a decade or full Rosary for her/him.
  • Whenever visiting a church that has votive candles, always light one on your adoptee’s behalf.
  • When doing chores, offer up a quick prayer.
  • Randomly, when they come to mind, say the Memorare by including them at the end; “… Oh Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petition [for _____], but in your mercy hear and answer me …”
  • The offering up thing? Yep, give that to Our Lord in your adoptee’s name.
  • Imagine that soul accompanying you during Adoration.

I rarely tell the person that they’ve been spiritually adopted, although there have been occasions where I felt my adoptee needed to hear it, and know that someone (prayerfully) had their back. I have in those cases shared with them my intentions, and asked them to keep me posted of their needs during that time.

With every spiritual adoption, a special friendship develops, one that spans space and carries into eternity. It is a way to help a person increase their desire to search, to welcome, and to cooperate with the will of God.

I know that when I do this, there is an anticipation of joy for when the adopted soul enters into eternity and the hidden gift is revealed, and a hope that my adopted friend delights in the secret prayers that drew them closer to God.

Read more:
How to pray without ceasing? Pray in baby-talk

Spiritual Life
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