What is Marriage?

Given the historic Supreme Court case upon us, I thought it was a good time to post one of my Facebook debates on marriage.  People love to frame the debate as an "equality" issue, but "marriage equality" is nothing but a sentimental-sounding euphemism.  All adults "regardless of gender or race" already do have the right to marry, in so far as they are capable of it and are seeking a MARITAL relationship. I am not eligible to get married, because I am already married to someone else. Should I claim unjust discrimination if my "religion" held it was ok to marry multiple people? The traditional conjugal view of marriage has nothing to do with unjust discrimination. We already have marriage equality. The real question is, "WHAT IS MARRIAGE?"

Luke shared Barack Obama's photo.
October 8, 2014 · Edited ·
All should have this opportunity for growth and reflection. Marriage is a cultural norm. Marriage is bliss. I say let everyone marry. Mary can Marry Mary. Vic can marry Stan. Her and her. He and she. Church and state. American land of the free home of the brave. Our soldiers don't die for freedom for some. Long live the us of a.
  • Luke and 15 others like this.
  • Ryan What is the definition of marriage, Luke? (and no platitudes, please.)
    October 8, 2014 at 2:34pm · Like · 1
  • Luke Great question. I am not the dude to ask. My definition may be different then yours. Ryan. I say pray about it and ask what Jesus would say about love and pope Fransisco. And the franscicano prayer.
    October 8, 2014 at 3:58pm · Like
  • Ryan Yes, your definition obviously appears to be different than mine. That's why I asked you what exactly your definition is. I wasn't asking about Jesus, Pope Francis, or St. Francis, but why would we need to "ask them"? They've already given their definition (see Matt. 19 for example) clearly and emphatically (especially Pope Francis), and I agree with them. So the question remains, how do YOU define marriage?
    October 8, 2014 at 6:26pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Alan marriage takes place in many non-christian cultures - why the assumption that it's something inherently Christian? bizarre
    October 8, 2014 at 7:49pm · Like · 1
  • Alan why would i care what Matthew 19 states unless i took the bible literally? and if i took the bible literally then i would have to accept and condone all the *#$% that's mentioned in the old testament? ever read that? genocide? slavery? stoning of women? pretty barbaric *#$% - no thanks
    October 8, 2014 at 7:50pm · Like · 1
  • Gloria I believe that marriage is the commitment two people promise to each other based in pure love. I truly believe in marriage . My problem is where is that person lol
    October 8, 2014 at 8:02pm · Like · 1
  • Ryan Alan, I didn't bring up Jesus and had no intention of doing so, Luke did. I never said marriage is "something inherently Christian". The Catholic definition (again, brought up by Luke, not me) is indisputable. I'm just asking for Luke's definition of marriage for secular society. Luke, are you agreeing with Gloria's stated definition?
    October 8, 2014 at 8:26pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Ryan Gloria, I admire your willingness to offer something more than nonsensical platitudes (see "loveislove" or peruse our friend Luke's wall for many more examples). Two questions about your definition: 1) Does that mean the state should recognize my relationship with my grandmother as a "marriage"? (After all, the commitment we've promised to each other is based on pure love.) 2) On what grounds do you limit your definition to 2 people?
    October 8, 2014 at 9:14pm · Like · 1
  • Alan actually, i meant to apologize for my comments - not productive I'm sorry -
    October 8, 2014 at 9:22pm · Unlike · 2
  • Alan is just wish all people could get along - naively  - and feel that marriage between two people who love each other should be ok - regardless of religion, sexual orientation, whatever
    October 8, 2014 at 9:22pm · Like · 1
  • Ryan Alan, I'm just trying to bring the conversation back to an essential question: What is marriage? I think "two people who love each other" is lacking and I suspect you do too. Otherwise, I'm eligible to "marry" my son, my sister, my pastor, my grandmother, my best friend, or my 14-year-old goddaughter? All of these relationships fit your definition.
    October 8, 2014 at 9:34pm · Edited · Like · 1
  • Alan good points - i guess id say: two consenting adults - not biologically related (as in, relatives - not as in, australopithicus)
    October 8, 2014 at 9:42pm · Like · 1
  • Ryan On what grounds do you exclude relatives? In other words, how is this discrimination justified? Also, on what ground do you limit it to 2? Why not polygamy or polyamory?  ...Read more


On the Capacity to Marry

And we're back.  It's been a busy spring.

While we've been doing online marriage prep instruction for over three years now, this month we're teaching our first live class.  Last week we went through the real meaning of the marital vows and the topic of physical impediments to marriage was covered.  As usual, the fact that impotence (Note:  not the same thing as sterility.) renders one incapable of marriage comes as a surprise to many people, especially when hearing it for the first time.  When some in the class struggled to wrap their minds around whether it was just for the Church to "deny marriage to a couple" on these grounds, I didn't do a very good job of explaining it.  So I wrote up a clarification email to our students and thought I'd post it here.

After thinking about the questions raised last week regarding physical impediments to marriage (i.e., impotence), we wanted to offer a more accurate answer.

When asked to confirm that "the Church really won't allow the paralyzed, for example, to marry," our response was essentially, "yes, that is correct."  However, a more accurate answer is "actually, the Church denies marriage to nobody."...


Death with Dignity?

Now that the Culture of Death has found its poster child (Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon where it is legal to hire an assassin disguised as a "doctor" to help her kill herself), the big push for more states to adopt Oregon's so-called "Death with Dignity" law has begun in earnest.

The following video from Chris Stefanick is the best response I've seen.  It needs to be spread far and wide.  The Culture of Life has its own poster child.

Who is truly dying with dignity?  Brittany or Lizz?  You decide.


All Hallows!

Last year we wrote about "Keeping the Hallows in Hallowe'en".  Here are some photos and a video of our festivities this year.  We had a 3-stop "progressive dinner" party with friends - 4 families with 13 kids under 7.  Each stop had a game related to Hallowe'en (the real honoring the saints and mocking evil, not the nihilistic secularized fright-fest version) and candy for the kids.

IHS and St. George on his horse "saint-o-lanterns."  The boys learned about the mess that our souls are because of Original Sin.  Our journey towards sainthood starts with Baptism, when God cleans out the mess and replaces it with the light of Christ.
The winning teacher costume at school - St. Maximilian Kolbe

Pope St. John Paul the Great and St. Juan Diego

St. Lawrence

The Church Militant honoring the Church Triumphant


It's a Christian!

Born on Mother Teresa's birthday, our little Fulton was reborn on her Feast Day, September 5! (How cool is that?!)

As instituted by Jesus Christ, the Sacrament of Baptism has saved him (see 1Pet. 3:21)!  He has been adopted by God and now shares as an heir in the eternal glory of Jesus Christ (see Gal. 4:5-7).   Fulton's covenant relationship with God was ratified at 8:17 A.M. before an all-school Mass with all students and staff on hand.  As circumcision initiated children into the Old Covenant at 8 days old based on the faith of their parents, Fulton was initiated into the New Covenant via Baptism, which replaces circumcision, as taught by St. Paul (see Col. 2:11-12).  These promises have been made to us and our household (see Acts 16:15, 31, 33; 1Cor. 1:16).

Since we celebrate a baptism within our circle of friends quite often, it's easy to forget about these truths, which were taught by our Lord, passed on to his apostles and their successors, and confirmed in Scripture.  The familiarity makes it easy to forget about the magnitude of what actually took place here!

Fulton was the 31st Hoffman, including his mother and grandmother, to wear this 68-year-old baptismal gown made my his great-great-grandmother, with some help from the Carmelite nuns in Louisville, Kentucky.
Some might wonder, why so early?  While we had our first two sons baptized barely within the 40-day window recommended by the Church, those weeks were filled with some anxiety.  But after losing a child before the chance to baptize, the sense of urgency was greatly magnified for us.  This time, waiting 10 days seemed a long time, and we experienced a huge sense of relief on Friday.

The proper sense of urgency has been largely lost by modern Christianity for several reasons.  Part of this loss stems from missing the effects of Original Sin (see Rom. 5:12-19; 1Cor. 15:21-23), which leads to a lack of understanding regarding the necessity of Baptism, even for "innocent" infants (see John 3:5).  Part of this shift in practice also comes from a misreading of paragraph 1261 of the Catechism, which mentions a "hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism."  Notice hope, not certainty.  For more on this misunderstanding, I highly recommend this article from Crisis Magazine:  The Urgency of Infant Baptism by Dr. Jared Staudt.

And to see further questions on infant baptism (an issue close to our hearts for multiple reasons) addressed on a previous post, see this tab.

Please join us in offering prayers of thanksgiving and welcoming Fulton into the family of God!

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Ven. Fulton Sheen, pray for us!

A special thanks to his Godparents, Elias and Claudia, and Fr. Brian.


It's a Boy!

"Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one's youth.  Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them.  He will never be shamed, for he will destroy his foes at the gate."  ~Psalm 127:3-5

Fulton Michael
Born 8/26, 7:12 P.M.
9 lbs. 7.5 oz.
22 1/4 in.

We stuck with our modern-day saint first name, family middle name "formula" in naming Fulton Michael.  He is named after Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Just as we did with John Paul, we anticipated an immanent declaration from the Church.  Fulton Sheen's Beatification, which we hope to attend with our Fulton, awaits only final approval from the College of Cardinals and then from Pope Francis.  Sheen will (hopefully) be the first American-born male saint to be Beatified.

Who was Fulton Sheen?  He was an American priest and bishop most known for his Life is Worth Living television program in the 1950s.  As a Catholic bishop, he actually won two Emmy's for Most Outstanding Television Personality!  His show was syndicated in the 60s and his TV career was preceded by 20 years on the radio hosting The Catholic Hour in the 30s and 40s.  The digital versions of his shows often keep me company during my commute to work and on long road trips.

Archbishop Sheen's book Three to Get Married has had a profound impact on both Sarah and me.  We often quote it during our marriage prep instruction, and it's our favorite gift to give to our newly engaged or married friends and family members.

My connection to this shoo-in saint is intensified by his Illinois roots.  He was born in El Paso, Illinois and raised and ordained in Peoria.  He went to undergrad at what was St. Viator College (now Olivet Nazarene University) in Bourbonnais, near my hometown.  Some of his family members even lived in Herscher and were parishioners at my home parish of St. Margaret Mary.

Monsignor Sheen became Auxiliary Bishop of New York City in 1951 before being named Bishop of Rochester in 1966.  He died in 1979.  His cause for sainthood was opened by the Diocese of Peoria in 2002 and cleared step two (of four) when Pope Benedict XVI declared him "Venerable" in 2012.  A miracle attributed to his intercession is required for the third step of Beatification (after which he will be called "Blessed").  That miracle has been recently approved by both the medical and theological boards!  It involved a 2010 miraculous recovery of a stillborn Peoria baby who showed no signs of life for 61 minutes!

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, pray for us!

Fulton Michael is also named after his triple-great grandfather.  Michael Sr. was the original O'Connor to emigrate from Ireland in 1852, and Michael Jr. followed with his siblings in 1853.  They first lived in Paris, KY (near Lexington) before moving to Utica, IL in 1854 and then finally settling outside of my hometown of Herscher in 1868.

See more pictures below.  We thank God for this most amazing blessing!


Denver Catholic Biblical School

In the spring of 2009 I heard Matthew Kelly speak when he came to Denver.  He convinced me to go to Biblical School.  Well, not explicitly, but he asked us to imagine a future conversation that might sound something like this:

God:  So how was your life?
You:  Oh it was really amazing, God.  Did a lot of great things.
God:  Read any good books?
You:  Oh yes, lots of good books.
God:  Did you read my book?
You:  Yeah, well, um, I read bits and pieces, you know, heard most of it while at Mass, but...
God:  But you didn't sit down and read the whole thing?
[Awkward silence.]
God:  In 76 years you didn't have a chance to read the whole thing?

...I enrolled in the Denver Catholic Biblical School the following Fall!  I didn't want to just read the whole thing, I wanted to study it, and this gave me the structure to do it in 4 years - all 73 books.

I graduated in May of 2013, and after 25 years of schooling, I can honestly say that this was the best four years of instruction I've ever received.  The DCBS provided an authentic education.  Educare, from the Latin, means to draw out; that is, to draw out of a student his natural desire for wisdom and virtue.

Check out the Biblical School's new promotional video, which I'm honored to be a part of.  (My 15 seconds of fame start at the 4:00 minute mark.)