Thursday, May 28, 2009

Invocation - AAC 2001

23rd Annual American Adoption Congress Conference
2001 An Adoption Odyssey - Mission Possible

Anaheim, California
18 April 2001
Father Tom Brosnan

O God come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me.

With these ancient words monks and nuns and priests daily invoke the divine assistance on their earthly pilgrimage. On this opening of the 23rd Annual Conference of the American Adoption Congress we, pilgrims too, on this adoption odyssey, seek the divine providence to guide and protect.

It is, I am afraid, a Catholic invocation but if you will permit me another Catholic reference I hope to lead us into more universal waters. Pope John Paul II began his encyclical Faith and Reason with an extraordinary claim that every human being knows and loves God by first knowing the fullness of truth about himself.

The journey toward truth, the Pope insists, has unfolded, as it must, within the horizon of self-consciousness. It is found in both East and West, recorded in the sacred writings of Israel as well as in the Veda and the Avesta, in the writings of Confucius and Lao-Tze, heard in the preaching of Tirthankara and the Buddha. It is a journey that leads us to heed the admonition carved on the temple portal at Delphi -- the admonition to know thyself and to answer the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I and Where have I come from? Those who seek to answer these questions, the pope proclaims, set themselves apart from the rest of creation as ‘human beings,’ that is, as those who ‘know themselves.’

Adoption Odysseys mirror the adventures of the one for whom that journey was first named. Odysseus’ Odyssey brought him through many trials and tests. It was a physical journey symbolizing an inner trek across harsh wilderness and perilous plane, where he encountered fearful monsters and temptuous beauty. His Odyssey physically ends when he washes ashore in his native Ithaca, but his spiritual adventure must continue until he slays his wife’s chief suitor, Antinous. Odysseus is the first in literature to know literal nostalgia – the pain for home. Homer plays with words here: in Greek nostalgia is from nostos, meaning home. Nostos is cognate with noos meaning conscious awareness. The great enemy of Odysseus is Antinous, that is anti-noos the one who prevents awareness. It is only when Odysseus slays Antinous that he truly comes home, that he comes to his senses, that he is conscious and aware. Then his odyssey is ended, his destiny accomplished. Odysseus has become a human being.

No different for that charismatic nun of 16th century Spain, Teresa of Avila, who claimed intimate encounters with the divine. When her nuns asked her to teach them how they might have similar ecstasies, Teresa could only respond by telling the truth: “For never, never,” she told them. “No matter how exalted the soul may be is anything more fitting than self-knowledge.” Teresa knew what was most important – not divine visions, but to become a human being, that is -- the creature who seeks to know herself.

We adopted are on an odyssey of like import, we seek a destiny, a home. We seek to become human beings. The American Adoption Congress has long examined and wisely suggested that the adopted belong in more than one place, they can have more than two parents. Despite the injustices of the past century that have kept us in dubious status, we have continued to seek what was taken from us, to claim what has been kept secret from our eyes. The adopted have too long been kidnapped in a Disney Land, treated as fantastical characters neither conceived nor born through physical intercourse, with histories devoid of sex, but seen as but dropped by stalk or surrogate court into the shrouded world of closed adoption and sealed records.

On this day which begins the 23rd Annual Conference of the American Adoption Congress we once again affirm boldly and without qualification our inalienable right to the truth of our origins, the right to see our original birth certificates. We want no more amended certificates, just euphemisms for lies, resulting in amended lives.

The American Adoption Congress embracing birth and adoptive parents, social workers, lawyers, psychologists, adoption professionals and the adopted themselves, seeks ethical standards in adoption practice. The principles on which the AAC is founded now brings us to confront the ethical dilemmas inherent in that brave new world of reproductive technologies from egg donation to embryo storage, always insistent that truth should take precedence over lies and openness preferable to secrecy. Whether conceived through rape or donor insemination, by marital union or even virginally through the message of an angel – every human being, by virtue of that human dignity, has the inalienable right to know the truth of his origins. Methods may change, but the fundamental moral questions do not.

From the temple portal at Delphi to the myriad portals of the world wide web let those who would oppose us know that we will never cease to proclaim that we adopted, too, are human beings – that is – we are they who seek to know themselves.

Allow me, then, at this opening session of the 23rd Annual Conference of the American Adoption Congress to invoke the One who will steer our course and guide our odyssey to that promised land where no human being is ever thought misconceived; and the truth of one’s origins is, forever, nobly enshrined. Permit me to invoke the Divine Providence in that ancient and monastic manner to which this adoptee has become accustomed:

O God come to our assistance. O Lord make haste to help us.

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