Sent by Carrie Kafka - Office of Young Adult & Campus Ministry
I arrived in Sydney early Saturday morning, just two days before World Youth Day was scheduled to begin. The day was spent settling in and re-familiarizing myself with a country I called home back in 2003.
Sunday morning before Mass, I walked down to a local coffee shop for breakfast. After I ordered my food, I sipped a cup of coffee and chatted with a man named Francis. He wanted to know what I was doing in Australia. (He could tell by my accent that I was from somewhere else). I told him I'd traveled to Australia for World Youth Day. Francis' reaction to this was something I had not expected.
He proceeded to tell me that "a good mate of his" worked in Customs at the Sydney International Airport. I nodded, not knowing where he was going with the story. Apparently, his friend had had numerous conversations with female pilgrims attending World Youth Day who had checked "yes" to bringing prescription medication in to Australia. When asked to describe what kind of medication they were carrying, many of these women cited the names of various forms of birth control.
Hearing this story was initially shocking and disappointing to me. I could tell it had further solidified Francis' perception of the Catholic Church. He mentioned the word hypocrisy. As we continued to talk about it, I explained to him that though there might be a fair number of Catholics who are either uninformed or choose to ignore the Church's teachings on the use of contraception, there are many Catholics who are sold out for the Church and who get incredibly excited about using Natural Family Planning. Francis seemed surprised by this. I assured him it was true, as I was one of them. Unfortunately, our conversation was cut short, as it was time for me to go to Mass. But, it helped me to better understand one of the many things God is doing through World Youth Day. I had had the privilege of experiencing first-hand one of the most beautiful by-products -- the opportunity to evangelize in the subtlest of ways.
I pray for Francis, that God will provide the opportunity for someone to visit with him again in that coffee shop, and pick up right where we left off.