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A formal proceeding at the Vatican in which a priest is “returned to the lay state.” This means he is free to marry and is no longer required – or permitted – to say Mass, although in an emergency he can give final sacraments to a dying person. Technically, he remains a priest, but only in the eyes of God, because the Catholic Church believes that ordination leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Most laicizations are done at the request of the priest, though some are carried out involuntarily as punishment for serious offenses. Even voluntarily laicized priests are restricted from certain activities open to other lay Catholics, such as serving as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, also known as a lay Eucharistic minister. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. Although this is colloquially known as “defrocking,” the Catholic Church does not use that word, and it fails to distinguish between laicization and a variety of lesser measures in which a priest can be forbidden to wear clerical garb.

Filed in Catholicism


Pronounced “LUK-shmee.” In Hinduism, the female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, or God’s role as preserver. She represents light, beauty and prosperity. See Vishnu.

Filed in Hinduism


A Tibetan Buddhist teacher or master. Capitalize when used as a title before a name, as in Lama Surya Das, or when referring to the man who holds the title Dalai Lama.

Filed in Buddhism


Pronounced “LUN-ger.” A Sikh congregational meal served in a free and open kitchen at every gurdwara (Sikh house of worship). The institution of langar represents the central teaching of service (seva) in the Sikh tradition. It also represents equality – regardless of gender, religion, class or race, people sit on the ground and eat together as equals.

Filed in Sikhism

Las Posadas

A traditional Mexican festival in which Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn is re-enacted on the evenings from Dec. 16 to 24. It generally moves from home to home in neighborhoods, but as the Hispanic population in the U.S. grows, it is increasingly staged as a community celebration that is both social and religious.

Filed in Catholicism, Christianity, Protestantism

Last Supper

In Christianity, the Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his death. The meal is discussed in all four Gospels of the New Testament. Christians believe it took place on a Thursday night, Holy Thursday, before Jesus was crucified on Friday, observed as Good Friday. See Communion.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Baptist/Southern Baptist, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Latter-day Saints, Latter Day Saints

See Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ.

Filed in Christianity, Mormonism

lay person

A member of the laity, rather than the clergy. The terms lay person and lay people are each two words. Layman and laywoman, however, are each one word.

Filed in Religious titles

LDS church

Acceptable on second reference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lowercase church when using the shortened term.

Filed in Mormonism


The period of penance and fasting preceding Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection. Lenten observances are most common in the liturgical traditions, such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Anglicanism.

The observance of Lent developed through the centuries and sometimes varied in its focus and length. Especially for Western Christians, the currently accepted Lenten period recalls Christ’s 40-day fast in the desert and the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the desert between leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land. Lent was originally to prepare those being initiated into the church at Easter and was then broadened to include various days of fasting and penance by all believers.

In most of the Catholic Church, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. Sundays are not counted as days of Lent. Some, still using the old liturgical calendar, count from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Since 1969, when the document known as the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar was released, the Roman Catholic Church has said that Lent ends at the beginning of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. During Lent, able-bodied Catholics over 14 and under 65 are called on to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (that is, to go without a main meal during the day) and to abstain from meat on Fridays. Fish is often substituted.

The observance of Lent within Protestantism varies from denomination to denomination, church to church, believer to believer. In recent years, even some nonliturgical Protestants, on their own or through their churches, have taken to observing the Lenten season through fasting and penance.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


A woman who is sexually attracted to other women. Preferred to gay when referring to women.

Filed in Gender and sexuality


An acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Should not be used without defining it.

Filed in Gender and sexuality


In Confucianism, li is a virtue focused on ritual and etiquette; it applies to everything from titles of respect to proper dress and behavior.

Filed in Confucianism

liturgical vestments

Special garments that a priest, minister, deacon or other clergy wears in worship. Liturgical vestments are especially characteristic of the liturgical churches, such as the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican. In some traditions, the colors of vestments change with the seasons of the church year.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy


Has two sets of meanings, one for Western Christians and the other for Eastern Christians. Among Roman Catholics and Protestants, lowercase liturgy means a standard set of prayers and practices for public worship. It can also be used as a synonym for the service of worship in churches that use such forms – most commonly the Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran. With reference to Orthodox Christians and Eastern Catholics, uppercase Liturgy; avoid the lowercase use of the word with their churches. Churches that tend to vary their services each week, such as most Baptist, Pentecostal and independent churches, are often called nonliturgical.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


Always capitalize when referring to God in a monotheistic faith, as in Lord Jesus or in Lord Krishna.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Religion and culture

Lord’s Prayer

The New Testament describes Jesus teaching his followers this prayer, the most commonly recited in Christianity. It is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Lord’s Supper

See Communion.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism

Lubavitch, Lubavitcher

One of the largest branches of Hasidic Judaism, it originated in Russia in the 18th century. It was founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. In 1940, the Rebbe, or head of the movement, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, emigrated from Poland to America, where he was determined to make the Lubavitch into an American religious movement. Under his successor and son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitch used various forms of American media and institutions, such as schools and camps, to reach out to American Jews the group felt had not been exposed to “authentic” Judaism. Schneerson died in 1994, and a new leader has not been appointed. Lubavitchers still refer to him as “The Rebbe,” while they refer to his father-in-law as “The Previous Rebbe.” Some groups regard Schneerson as the Messiah and await his return, while others believe he could have been the Messiah if God had willed it. Still others believe he never died and is living in a way that ordinary people cannot perceive. The branch is also called Chabad-Lubavitch. Chabad comes from an acronym for the Hebrew words for wisdom, comprehension and knowledge. Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia where the movement was based for more than a century. See Chabad.

Filed in Judaism


In Christianity, the proper name St. Jerome gave to Satan. Lowercase devil but uppercase Lucifer.

Filed in Anglican/Episcopalian, Catholicism, Christianity, Orthodoxy, Protestantism


A member of a Protestant denomination that traces its roots to Martin Luther, the 16th-century Roman Catholic priest whose objections to certain practices in the Catholic Church began the Reformation. The two major Lutheran bodies in the U.S. are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA on second reference) and the smaller Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (Missouri Synod on second reference). Missouri Synod churches are far more theologically conservative than ELCA churches. There are smaller Lutheran bodies as well. In Lutheran practice, the congregation is the basic unit of government and is usually administered by a council made up of clergy and elected lay people. The council is headed either by the senior pastor or a lay person elected from the council. Some Lutheran branches, including the ELCA, have bishops. Members of the clergy are known as ministers. Pastor applies if a minister leads a congregation. On first reference, use the Rev. and the cleric’s full name. On second reference use only the cleric’s last name.

Filed in Protestantism

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

One of the two main Lutheran denominations in the U.S. Do not confuse it with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is larger and more liberal.

Filed in Protestantism

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