Yet it happens so infrequently.
I'm talking about a newspaper feature that neither ignores faith nor exaggerates it in painting the portrait of its main characters.
Instead, the religious underpinnings of a couple who adopted a bunch of special-needs children unfolds naturally — and in their own words — in the piece I want to highlight.
The writer's name will be familiar to regular GetReligion readers: Bruce Almighty — er, Bruce Nolan, the veteran Godbeat pro at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Here's the top of Nolan's excellent story from this past Sunday:
For days before Thanksgiving, the aroma of Royanne Avegno’s freshly baked bread filled her home in River Ridge as the loaves cooled atop the hand-built kitchen cabinets fashioned years ago by Ashton, her engineer-husband. The bread and other homemade dishes were for the 30 relatives who gathered there on Thursday, a smaller group than normal.
This year it was Royanne’s mother, sisters and brother, as well as the families of four of the Avegnos’ five surviving children — all but one delivered into the hands of a couple who, in the course of a 40-year marriage, adopted seven children.
In time, Ashton and Royanne Avegno would bury three of their kids, each severely damaged by physical infirmities or psychological injuries inflicted before finding some period of peace in the Avegno household.
Yet they consider themselves blessed.
Keep reading, and you learn that Royanne Avegno taught Catholic social doctrine for years and still serves on the board of directors of the Catholic high school where she worked. In the next paragraph, the writer provides more hints of the family's faith:
Their home, like others, is decorated with a certain amount of religious imagery — the Blessed Mother holds a place of prominence — and with pictures of their children, who present an international exhibit of family life.
As the story progresses, it would be easy to simplify the couple's motivation and make it all about religion. But life is seldom so black and white. To his credit, Nolan steps out of the way and gives the couple space to explain their thinking:
At first, Royanne remembered, their approach to adoption was typical. “Our motivation was purely selfish. There was nothing altruistic about it in the least. We wanted another baby.”
But later, a decision to adopt a disabled newborn named Matthew yielded formal, deliberative discussion:
The “reasons against” column was the longer; the “reasons for” were shorter. But it was topped, Royanne said, by the scriptural injunction in Matthew 25: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
“It’s how, without really thinking about it, we want to live our lives,” said Ashton. “I think we’re living the Gospel call, or trying to, but that’s not why we’re doing it. It was just natural for us. It was the natural extension of our love.”
The keys here: The story drills down the sources' motivation. It allows the couple to describe — again, in their own words — what drives them. It goes to an outside source — a family friend — to add texture to the journalistic painting.
The result: a heartwarming feature mainly devoid of ghosts.
It seems to simple.
Yet it happens so infrequently.
Adoption image via Shutterstock