Editor’s Note: Now that we’re nice and familiar with Seminarian Bill, of the Madison Diocese, it’s time to see what happens when he encounters a couple Morman missionaries on the streets of Winona, MN.
The other night, I was out for a little stroll on the edge of campus. On this beautiful evening, as I was walking, I saw two fine young men approaching on bicycles, dressed in a shirt and tie with a black name-tag hanging from their pocket. MORMON! My internal Mormon radar was firing like no tomorrow.
As they passed slowly they gave me a nice nod, to which I responded, “How’s it going tonight?” To be honest, I was a bit surprised they did not stop right away and ask me if I have ever heard of Jesus Christ and that whole spiel. I simply was not going to allow this opportunity to ride away on a bike, so I said, “Are you guys missionaries or something?” Before I finished the word missionary, the two young men immediately turned around in perfect unison, dismounted their bikes, and then gave the typical “we’re representatives of the Church of blah blah, would you like to know more about Jesus Christ?”
Boom. “I always want to know more about Jesus Christ,” was my obvious response. This got them excited. They began explaining their message and the beliefs of the Mormon Church. Now, of course I did not lie and tell them I was very ignorant about religion, but I definitely did not initially tell them that I knew quite a bit about the Bible, the Church, and the general history of Christianity.
For those that do not know, the basic premise of the Mormon Church is as follows: A group of ancient Israelites left Israel to avoid persecution and traveled across the ocean to the Americas where they established a settlement in upstate New York and practiced the exact same faith as that of the ancient Hebrews, including writing pieces of Scripture supposedly similar and of equal value as the Old Testament. Then, after Christ came to the earth, suffered, died, rose, and ascended, He purportedly visited this other tribe of Israel in the Americas, bringing them the Gospel. All of this was apparently written down on golden plates. Then, in roughly 400 A.D., the Nephites as they were called, lost a war and were exterminated. But, these mysterious scriptural plates were buried, only to be discovered by Joseph Smith, a common man of the 1800’s. Turns out Joseph Smith is also a prophet and writes a couple books of scriptures, gains some followers, and voila, less than 200 years later, Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions on Earth.
To be sure, as a Catholic, we consider most of this to be nonsense. Historical records show no evidence of this mysterious tribe of Israel that miraculously made its way to the Americas. Plus, they sort of believe in many gods, so that whole thing’s not going to fly. As some of you can probably imagine, I was sure to insert objections into their explanation of the Mormon faith. After nearly 2 hours, it was clear we had established a nice friendship in which discussion will continue. They really were stand-up gentlemen.
I would love to write an entire explanation of why Mormonism is simply false and misled right here, right now, but that would take pages and pages and pages. But, after meeting these missionaries and chatting with them, I reflected on the many reasons why I am Catholic. What is it about Catholicism that makes me so sure of this faith?
The answer was obvious; The Holy Eucharist. This gift of the Eucharist is the final word that makes Catholicism so different than any other faith. What a ridiculous belief, really! The popular atheist, Richard Dawkins, at a recent “Rally for Reason”, asked in mockery, “Do you really believe that a wafer, when blessed by the priest, becomes the body of Jesus Christ?” My answer: Absolutely, 100%, with all my heart, with the entirety of my being, because life would not make sense without it.
Jesus, the God and King of the universe, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, comes to us in this tiny, tasteless, and pitiful combination of water and wheat, and in a simple chalice of wine. It’s nuts! 5 minutes before Mass, the hosts are sitting in a box in plastic wrap. 5 minutes after, their are reposed in a beautiful Tabernacle to be adored and loved by the faithful as the true Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus meant it when he said in John’s Gospel that the Bread of Life He will give is His flesh! He comes to us so small, so weak, so humble, for only that we might be drawn into physical union with him. In the exact same way that He gave up His body for us on the Cross, at each and every Mass, Jesus gives up his body once again for us, that we may be healed of sin and drawn into an intimate and loving relationship with Him and the Trinity.
Would I like to ride around on a bike looking dapper teaching people about Jesus? Sure, they would pretty fun — I guess I could probably do it. But, I would much rather have all my desires satisfied, my thirsts satiated, and my hungers abated in union with our Lord in the Eucharist.