As one who helped with the tours of our church on the first Tuesday of each month, I thought it would be good to share a few stories. One that stands out in my mind is when an LDS youth group came through a few years back. They were all young male teens who came with their boy Scouts leader. I can’t remember his name, but I can recall his story that he told to them as we stood at the foot of our Lady of Guadalupe. We’d just finished speaking about Juan Diego and the Communion of Saints when he asked us if he could tell a story to his kids gathered. We did not know what was coming but we said something like “yes of course you can.”
He began reminding them that he had served as an LDS Chaplain in Iraq. While there, a Catholic friend that he had made asked him if he would like to go to the Christmas Midnight Mass on base. He took his friend up on the offer and attended his first Catholic Mass. He told the children about how beautiful it was, that he felt the spirit of God.
Then he began to tell them this:
“After the Mass had ended, I decided to stay awhile longer and pray. You see, I was scared at that time. Not for myself but for my wife and children back home in Logan. I felt as if something was going to happen to me, that I might not make it back home. I was worried about what would become of them if I died here in Iraq. While I was praying the Priest came in from the back and asked me if everything was ok. I told him what I was thinking, that I was worried. We spoke for a few minutes and then he asked me to hold out my hand. I did. He took my hand, opened it, and placed something inside, then he closed it and said, ‘You hold on to that, everything will be ok.’ As I opened it to look, I gazed upon a small cross, it was the best gift I could have received at that time.”
Needless to say, not knowing what he was going to speak to them about, we made a sigh of relief and were in a bit of spiritual shock! But it was good to be there on that night. Knowing that the LDS do distance themselves from the symbol of the cross, from the suffering Christ, it was curious to say the least.
Another moment that stands out is when the tour was over. An LDS man that I knew came up to me and said this:
“Please don’t take offense to what I am about to ask you, as I am sincere.”
I told him, “No, I won’t; ask anything you want.”
He said, “It seems that Catholics focus more on the crucifixion, the death of our Savior rather than on the resurrection; is this true?”
12 years and 12 Easters as a fairly new Catholic, helping with the RCIA over that same span since my own Baptism does prepare one like me for a question like that. A certain sadness comes over you because you know you will not be able to answer such a question in a few short sentences. But none the less you have to make an attempt…
“I spent the first 39 years of my life attending Easter with my LDS family. We had some great dinners and some really good Easter egg hunts. Lots of very fond memories and pictures. But when I was Baptized Catholic, after the incense and the Easter Vigil candles were put out I realized for the first time in my life that I was actually at Easter for the very first time.
12 Easter seasons later, how do you express the joy that the risen Jesus has brought into your life? How do you answer that question in a few short sentences? Well, you just do the best that you can.
This is why we as Catholics hold the Crucifixion up while holding the Resurrection up as well. We know what our failures are, or at least we should as Catholics with the Confessionals and Jesus front and center, always ready to forgive in order to receive His Resurrection more fully.