“All believers in Christ can…be led to acquire a better knowledge and appreciation of one another, and so pave the way to Christian unity” (Vatican II, “Decree on Ecumenism”).
In a recent post I highlighted the ways that Protestants have led me to deepen my faith in Christ despite the numerous theological differences that have existed since the Reformation (https://daveinchow.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/protestants-have-made-me-a-better-catholic/). Now, I would like to make a similar reflection about my interactions with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
Just last week we novices of the Society of Jesus in America and Canada received an interesting prompt from our superiors for reflection: “Pray about one of your experiences from the past year and share it with others in a small group setting.” As far as apostolic activity, the experience that has had the most impact on me was the “pilgrimage,” when our directors sent us out into the world with a one-way bus ticket and $35 for thirty days. My bus ticket got me to Rexburg, Idaho, the home of the Mormon University BYU-Idaho. My goal for the 30 days was to engage in spiritual conversation and inter-religious dialogue with Mormons, and that goal certainly came to fruition. I would estimate that I, on average, had one spiritual conversation every other hour during those thirty days.
Mormon families were extremely generous to me, opening up their homes and providing for my physical necessities along the way. However, aside from their outward kindness, I was very impressed by their life of prayer in the context of the family. Elderly couples would spend thirty minutes together each morning going over their scriptures and praying. Families, with as many as ten children, would meet at 6 AM to do the same. Despite the fact that many of these families were extremely busy–who wouldn’t be with so many children!–they found time for the most important things. Pope Saint John Paul II has said, “How to pray? This is a simple matter. I would say: Pray any way you like, so long as you do pray.” In general, based on several conversations, I would say that Mormons do not make use of the great arsenal of prayer types that have existed throughout Christian history, but that fact is besides the point because Mormons, again, in general, pray more consistently than do most Christians today!
Another aspect of their prayer that struck me was the position in which they prayed. Families would get on their knees to speak to God about the scriptures they had just finished reading. Husband and wife would kneel to offer grace before meals. Before bed children would drop to the floor in prayers of thanksgiving for the graces of the day. Compared to my typical prayer (lying in bed or sitting in a comfortable chair), Mormon prayer felt authentic and cognizant of the greatness of God.
By the end of the pilgrimage, I felt inspired to communicate with God in a more real, aware, and heartfelt way. Mormons had reminded me how to do so. I encourage everyone to reflect on the beauty of prayer that unites the heart and the body repetitively in divine praise.
David J.W. Inczauskis, n.S.J.