Lay Witness Magazine
May/June 2014

Looking at a Masterpiece: The Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488–1576), known in English as Titian, was probably the greatest Venetian painter, recognized in his time as “‘The Sun Amidst Small Stars’ (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso).”1 He painted the huge (22 ½’ x 11 ½’) masterpiece (1515–1518) of Mary’s Assumption for the Basilica of the Franciscan friars, appropriately called the “Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari,” in Venice. This monumental painting is above the high altar in the apse of the gray Gothic stone basilica. One can imagine how in this setting it lights up the whole church with its vivid colors, … Continue reading

The Wisdom of Being a Patient Pilgrim

The phrase “patient pilgrim” is attributed to Blaise Pascal, the great scientist, theologian, and philosopher of seventeenth century France. It was a favorite theme for Simone Weil and implied in the title of her book, Waiting On God. There are enough difficulties, setbacks, problems, and frustrations in life to make any of us angry. The “patient pilgrim,” on the other hand, says, “Don’t be angry, be patient.” Patience, contrary to popular sentiment, is by no means a passive virtue. Much inner strength is required not to become angry in the face of injustice, or when things are not going our … Continue reading


(Chartwell Press, 2013) Am I fulfilling my duties as a member of the laity? It’s a question many of us fail to consider routinely, and perhaps we are ill equipped to give an informed response. What does Christ— through the Church—ask of us? Russell Shaw’s newly expanded Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church: Living Your Personal Vocation provides a thorough discussion of this essential topic. Shaw’s treatment of his subject is anything but superficial. His opening chapters cover the development of the laity’s identity in the Church from apostolic times through the Second Vatican Council. Shaw then unpacks … Continue reading

Things Now Hidden

The man in line behind me at the downtown thrift shop a few days ago looked pretty rough. Gritty hair, rumpled clothes. Without meaning to, out of the corner of my eye I took him for the local downtown stereotype, subconsciously assigning him a probable past of addiction, conviction, or mental delusion. “Those are great dishes,” the man said as I laid a set of plates on the register counter. One glance at his genuine face and the life in his eyes showed me I’d underestimated him. He smiled and recited a Bible verse as if the words were as … Continue reading

Master Catechist: The Mystery of Man

One of Fr. Hardon’s greatest contributions to those of us searching for the Truth was to compile a book list called The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan. His favorite author, St. Augustine, is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Augustine framed the concepts of original sin and just war; and as the Roman Empire was starting to implode he taught that the Church is the spiritual City of God, distinct from the material City of Man. His writings profoundly influenced the Christian worldview and continue to do so today! —Michael Mohr St. Augustine (354–430 AD) … Continue reading

The Moral Picture: Strengthening Family Through Film

When I was a child, Sunday nights were special. This was the routine: finish dinner, prepare for school on Monday, get ready for bed, and then watch two classic television programs—Ponderosa and The Wonderful World of Disney. I still remember eagerly embracing this weekly routine, for it marked for me the end of one week and the beginning of another. Most of all, it was a time of leisurely fun and adventure with my family as we enjoyed stories both exciting and morally uplifting. Film—including the public social experience of the cinema, as well as television (and even video games) … Continue reading

Ask CUF: What Does the Church Teach About Alternative Healing Methods?

I have a friend who has been using alternative medicines, such as homeopathy, hypnosis, and acupunture. What does the Church teach about these healing methods? Homeopathy, founded by Samuel Friedrich Christian Hahnemann (1755-1843), is a branch of medicine that takes a different approach to healing the body than that propounded by practitioners of conventional medicine. Though some in the medical field may disagree with aspects of this method, it does not appear to propose hypotheses or techniques that are at odds with Church teaching. Homeopathy is based on the idea of “fight­ing like with like” that was used as far … Continue reading

Be Perfect As Your Father is Perfect

By His creative and renewing power, the Spirit always sustains the hope of God’s people as we make our pilgrim way through history, and, as the Paraclete, He always supports the witness of Christians. In this moment . . . all of us want to listen to the voice of the Spirit as He speaks to us through the Scriptures we have just heard. In the first reading, the Lord’s call to His people resounds: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). In the Gospel Jesus echoes this call: “You, therefore, must be … Continue reading

Simple Post-Christianity

The post-Christian world, Blessed John Henry Newman would have quickly pointed out, is still the world, and the ways worldliness challenges us remain as they were when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden. The fundamental things don’t change. All that changes is the context in which they operate upon us. In one way we live in a new type of society, one that once assumed, and to some extent lived out, much of the Christian vision of reality and now doesn’t do so nearly as much. Christianity lost a great deal of its social status and some of its … Continue reading

Going to a City Without God? John Paul II’s Opening “New Evangelization” Move

St. John Paul II first used the term “new evangelization” during a dramatic visit to Poland in 1979.1 Picture the scene. It’s his first time as pope to return to his native country of Poland, still under the atheistic regime of the communists. He goes to the modern suburb of Krakow called Nowa Huta, which represents the ideal communist city—a city without God. In Polish, Nowa Huta means “new steelworks.” The city is designed to be the perfect industrial metropolis, featuring massive apartment blocks for 40,000 people and steel factories five times larger than those in the historic center of … Continue reading

The Everyday Path to Joyful Holiness

On March 20, 2014, Fr. Ray Ryland passed from this life into eternity at the age of 93. Having served in the Navy during World War II, Fr. Ray later studied at Harvard Divinity School and was ordained an Anglican clergyman in 1950. He and his beloved wife Ruth had five children. After ministering in the Anglican Church for many years and searching for many years for the fullness of Christ’s truth, Fr. Ray entered the Catholic Church on Pentecost, 1963. Granted a special dispensation from the Vatican (one of the first given after a 1980 special Pastoral Provision was … Continue reading

The Impractical Gospel: Infinite Love and the Love of Money

St. Paul has said, on rather good authority, that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). This seems wrongheaded at first glance. Money appears to be able to solve many of our problems, to obtain for us almost every material thing we desire, and to make us feel secure and comfortable. Whether it is our paycheck and retirement plan, insurance payments, credit limits, rent and countless bills, or our daily bread on the table, how can we live for a single second without some form of money? Why not love something so beneficial? Possessing … Continue reading

A Note of Farewell

Since they have an active role to play in the whole life of the Church,” Gaudium et Spes concluded, “laymen are not only bound to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit, but are also called to be witnesses to Christ in all things in the midst of human society” (no. 43). For decades, Catholics United for the Faith has sought to rouse the laity to this duty of witnessing to Christ. We are a unique apostolate in that our aim is quite simple: to encourage the lay faithful to live out their particular vocations and to pursue holiness. Practically, … Continue reading

The Pope Speaks: What Is in My Heart?

One time, the disciples of Jesus were eating grain because they were hungry; but it was Saturday and on Saturday grain was not allowed to be eaten. Still, they picked it and ate the grain. And the Pharisees said: “But look at what they are doing! Whoever does this breaks the Law and soils his soul, for he does not obey the Law!” Jesus responded: “nothing that comes from without soils the soul. Only what comes from within, from your heart, can soil your soul.” I believe that it would do us good today to think not about whether my … Continue reading

For Love of Truth

Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake, Christ promised us, will inherit the kingdom of God. Given the cultural climate, we’d do well to meditate on this promise and prepare ourselves for battle. Take for example the recent incident that erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina. Nashville Dominican Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel gave a presentation at a Catholic high school on the Church’s teaching about marriage, family life, and sexuality. The youthful and engaging Sister, who earned a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, presented on the theme, “Masculinity and Femininity: Difference and Gift.” Because … Continue reading

Looking at a Masterpiece: Jesus Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery

This painting (c. 1528) by the Northern Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto (c. 1480-1557) hangs in the Louvre in Paris. It shows the scribes and Pharisees bringing Jesus a woman caught in adultery saying, “Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” (see Jn 8:3-11). Their clever question was intended to set a trap for Jesus: either condemn the woman or condemn yourself as an opponent of the law of Moses. Jesus of course answers: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” We see the Pharisees here zealous for the … Continue reading

The Art of Living: Pope Francis and the Culture of Encuentro

Pope Francis is sometimes interpreted as giving specific policy advice to world leaders. But at the heart of his message on diverse matters such as globalization, immigration, poverty, and abortion is a personal call to conversion not just for politicians, but for everyone, to live less for self and more in solidarity with the human family. The Holy Father is not as interested in economic and political theory as he is in offering a practical message that challenges all of us to examine how we live. How well do we fulfill our responsibilities toward others, whether it be the people … Continue reading

To Love So As to Die: The Witness of the Early Church

There was something very strange about the new religion that had cropped up in Rome. Religion was about power. Everyone knew that. The gods had it; people wanted it. Caesar, as pontifex maximus, performed the office on behalf of the State, assuring the gods’ support of the Empire. An individual could make an offering to Jupiter or Juno or another member of the pantheon to gain that deity’s assistance in worldly affairs. Religion was also about personal piety. If devotion to the official pantheon wasn’t enough—if, say, personal salvation sounded appealing—then one could turn to a mystery cult: the Eleusinian … Continue reading

A Life Hidden in Christ: The Story of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

On a chill evening, March 5, 1897, an ex–monk entered Nazareth. He had walked about one hundred twenty-five miles in little more than a week since climbing off a steamer in Jaffa, sleeping in fields and begging bread along the way. Charles de Foucauld had come to Nazareth to live the same obscure life of poverty, manual labor, and prayer that Jesus had nineteen centuries before. As he wrote to a friend, he wanted “to be one with Jesus, to reproduce his life . . . to imitate as perfectly as possible our Lord’s hidden life.” Charles’ life, for many … Continue reading


(Ignatius, 2010) For Christians the question, “What does God look like?” ultimately becomes, “What does Jesus look like?” In The Face of God: The Rediscovery of the True Face of Jesus, journalist Paul Badde believes he has found the answer. Badde’s book centers on his discovery of the Veil of Manoppello, a strange, delicate cloth that, if Badde is right, is one of the most important relics in all of Christendom. The haunting veil displays an eerie, compelling image that Badde claims is the actual Face of God. And he has plenty of evidence to back this up—historical, scientific, and … Continue reading

Father at Night

Every father knows that there are seasons in the life of a family when troubles seem to mount up and spirits burn low. It had been one of those months around our house. In early December, we had record snowfalls in the narrow valley of the Rocky Mountains where we then lived. It fell and fell for weeks on end, without a glimmer of sun. The record accumulation of snow threatened to crack the roof beams, and ice backed up under the eaves, sending little waterfalls cascading throughout the house. Three times already that winter I had stood waist-deep in … Continue reading

Love’s Incarnation: A Letter from a Young Bride

Dear Ruth, I can hardly believe it has been a year since your wedding. What a lovely day that was. And now I hear that you are expecting a baby! Life can change so quickly. I was thinking about you yesterday and wondering how all of these changes have impacted your spiritual life (I remember that at one point you wanted to be a nun so as to have more time for prayer). How differently and yet how beautifully the Lord has ordered your life. Write me when you have a moment— I’d enjoy your thoughts. Love, Elizabeth   Dear … Continue reading

Master Catechist: Devotion to the Sacred Heart Today

Devotion to the Sacred Heart has a unique and very Catholic character and is nothing less than our loving response to the unspeakable love of God for us, His sons and daughters. In this article Fr. Hardon reminds us that true devotion to the Sacred Heart is the grateful return of our love for His Love, in imitation of Jesus Himself, through the total surrendering of our wills to the mysterious and demanding will of God by loving those who He places into our lives—even, and especially, those who do not love us. As such it is truly the synthesis … Continue reading

Greater Love Has No Man Than This: On Friendship with God

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus speak the words “I love you.” It is not until the Last Supper, the night before He dies, that He says something along those lines: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (Jn 15:9). Yet throughout the Lord’s public ministry, people are convinced that Jesus loves them. Why? Msgr. Luigi Giussani defines friendship as every relationship in which the other’s need is shared in its ultimate meaning. Is it possible for us to live, even for five minutes, without someone like this in our life? As people in the Gospels … Continue reading

Ask CUF: Can I Purchase from a Company That Financially Supports Abortion?

After purchasing a new vehicle, I learned that the company I bought from supports Planned Parenthood financially. Am I responsible for promoting the abortion industry? Christians are instructed to “turn away from evil and do good” (Ps 34:14). As we strive to pursue the good, we must consider the link between our actions that support a certain organization and the actions of that particular organization that either commits an evil act or supports another organization that commits an evil act. In this context, the question concerns “cooperation with evil.” The Church teaches that a morally good act is dependent upon … Continue reading