Lay Witness Magazine

A Sword Piercing the Heart

Michelangelo was only twenty-four years old when he crafted the Pieta. Housed immediately to the right when one enters Saint Peter’s Basilica, it is easily one of the most popular and beloved pieces of sacred art in the world. In this exquisite work, Mary is shown gazing upon and holding the limp body of her son, who had suffered and died before her very eyes. With one hand, Mary holds his body to her own, the other hand remains free, open, and facing upward, seeming to ask a myriad of questions and expressing grief, perhaps also signifying her submission to … Continue reading

Add More Hours to Your Day: Praying the Divine Office with the Universal Church

Those of us who remained glued to EWTN coverage before, during, and after the 2013 conclave electing Pope Francis were able to witness, up close, the pageantry, the beauty, and the prayerfulness of the entire process. One example was the solemn Vespers service held on March 6. As they listened to the hymns, chanted psalms, readings, and intercessory prayer, some might have wondered, “What exactly does Vespers mean? Why are these particular prayers said? On what occasions is Vespers done, where and by whom?” Let’s answer the last question first. Vespers is prayed every day of the year, by clergy, … Continue reading

Ask CUF: What does the phrase “Church Militant” mean?

Those who benefited from the expanded version of the Baltimore Catechism can readily answer: Q. 71. What do we mean by the “Church Militant”? A. By the “Church Militant” or “fighting Church” we mean all the faithful who are still upon earth struggling for their salvation by warring against their spiritual enemies. But younger, no less faithful Catholics do not have Church Militant, Church Suffering, and Church Triumphant in their received language of faith. What they do have is internet access, and this question provides an occasion for presenting a few useful resources and search strategies for finding answers on … Continue reading

Balanced Commandments: The Relationship between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Balance. It’s something that we hope and strive for, at home, at work, in our lives, in our faith. Sometimes it can be hard to achieve, and if something is out of balance, suffering results. Balance is important in any area of life but, because of its eternal implications, in the spiritual life most of all. Doctrines or teachings held in balance are part and parcel of the Christian faith. Think, for example, of the Trinity: one God, yet three Persons. Or that of Transubstantiation, where what appears to be bread and wine is really the Body and Blood of … Continue reading

Call Your Mother! The Why, What, and How of Marian Piety

During his famed Ratzinger Report interview with Italian journalist Vittorio Messori, the future Pope Benedict discussed the surprising decline in devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the perils for the Church that forgets Mary. But thanks in large part to the Marian pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI—in addition to a lively and energized Marian interest arising within the Church through the New Evangelization—believers everywhere are turning to her as a fountain of grace for their spiritual lives. The newly elected Pope Francis has already shown himself to be continuing in this vein, stopping to pray in Rome’s … Continue reading

Call Your Mother!: Exploring the Many Possibilities of Marian Piety

When it comes to Marian piety, there is no shortage of devotions that give honor to Our Lady. The big question is, how can I grow most in my relationship with Our Lady right now? It is best to consider the simple ways first. The home parish can be a starting point for Marian piety. After Sunday Mass, what is the routine? A race to the car to guarantee a quick exit from the lot? Conversation with friends? The line for coffee and a donut? Rather than burning the soles off one’s shoes, consider burning the votive candles. Take just … Continue reading

Looking at a Masterpiece: Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter

Pietro Perugino painted this fresco on a side wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican between 1481 and 1483. It illustrates the moment when Christ says: And I say to thee: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt. 16: 18-19, Douay Rheims) Scripture tells … Continue reading

Master Catechist: Mary the Mother of God

The month of May is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Her highest title, “Mary, The Mother of God”, Theotokos, highlights the fact that Christ is God and truly was born of Mary as a man: in this way his unity as true God and true man is preserved. This title has met with much turmoil over the centuries: the Nestorian heresy of the fourth century, the establishment of Islam in the seventh century, and the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Fr. Hardon explains the Pope’s decision to institute a new feast in 1970 dedicated to Mary, the Mother of … Continue reading


(Ignatius, 2012) James Monti was a member of the CUF staff in New Rochelle, NY, and has since distinguished himself as an author specializing in liturgical studies. His most recent volume, A Sense of the Sacred: Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages, exhaustively explores the liturgical riches found in the writings of medieval liturgists and theologians. Monti’s documented study of liturgical manuscripts and rare ordinals and missals discloses the aura of sacrality in which the celebration of the Mass, sacraments, major feasts, and other liturgical rites were understood and conducted. His volume reveals a treasure-trove of sublime prayer and … Continue reading

Talking with Bishop Jeffrey Monforton

We Catholics know that our devotion to Mary and the other saints is rooted in our understanding of the Communion of Saints. We don’t worship saints; they are our friends and loved ones in heaven. We ask them for favors because they are closer to God and can get results. Of all the members of the Communion of Saints, I could say that St. Joseph is one of my best friends. I’ve always looked to him as an example and guide; but more importantly, as a powerful intercessor. This great patron saint of workers and fathers has been an inspiration … Continue reading