Some married couples are called to the challenges of raising big families or special-needs kids, or even adopting, fostering or stepparenting. These special family circumstances can open the door to a flood of graces from heaven to sustain parents in their holy and often incredibly arduous work. We touch briefly on all of these circumstances in Chapter 9 of The Four Keys to Everlasting Love: How Your Catholic Marriage Can Bring You Joy for a Lifetime. Please get your copy, read along, and join in the discussion with the 4 Keys Online Book Club on Facebook. FOR A PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION OF THE WORKSHEET, CLICK HERE.
Turning Challenges into Channels of Grace:
Big Families, Special-Needs Kids, Adopting, Fostering & Stepparenting
One of God’s favorite ways to expand our capacity to love is through our families. No matter how big our hearts are at the start, they can always grow bigger. Many special family circumstances challenge parents to do more than they think they ever possibly could. Challenges like big families, special-needs children, adopting, fostering, and stepparenting can all be transformed into channels of God’s all-powerful grace.
As Manny and Karee say in Chapter Nine of The Four Keys, they feel surrounded by everyday heroes called to be extraordinary parents. “Whereas we have six kids, many of our friends have more — into the double digits. Several of our friends have children with a range of special needs, including autism, Down syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. We have watched other friends struggle with the cross of infertility and then turn that cross into a blessing by adopting or fostering children in need …. Still other people we know have turned stepparenting into an act of selfless love,” they say.
Chapter Nine talks about all these special family circumstances, explaining how:
- large families are a sign of God’s blessing and the parents’ generosity
- every human life, even if weak and suffering, is a splendid gift
- adopting or fostering a child is an expression of spiritual fruitfulness
- stepparenting shows great openness of heart
You can use the following conversation starters to get a discussion going between yourselves or in a small group. If it helps, think it over on your own time, take it to prayer, and jot down your answers before talking about them.
1. What particular challenges do you think large families or blended families face? What families do you know who have managed such challenges successfully?
2. Do you have friends whose children have special needs? What strikes you about the role the child plays in the family?
3. Do you have friends who have chosen to adopt or foster a child? What have you learned from them about what it means to be a family?
4. Have you considered adopting or fostering children? What about special-needs children? Do you feel called to have a large family, or a larger one than you have now?