WYD blog #3 - Conversations with Catholics

Today was a quieter day for this blogger, with no major WYD events scheduled.

The day began at St Andrews’ [Anglican] Cathedral which has become an open house for the youth of the world, and a lot of other people too. There seemed to be even more people through today, including an Italian Roman Catholic group who conducted their own Morning Prayer in Italian " a first I believe for the Cathedral!

There are more people visiting the Cathedral than there are people to talk to them… so if you've got some time it is well worth a visit to meet people from around the world and talk to them about Jesus. If that isn't enough incentive, the coffee and biscuits are served all day too. [By the way - thanks to all who helped!]

The 1pm talks at the Cathedral are well attended and people are walking in and listening all the time. After the talk, I talked to a young Christian man from Canada who is in Sydney for WYD. He was excited to share his joy in having his sins forgiven completely by Jesus and keen to learn more from the Bible.

I also met Dominic (pictured) a Catholic priest from Canada who was leading a group of 16 young people. He was keen to organize his accreditation as a priest for WYD so he could minister the sacraments. I asked him what he was most looking forward to this week. He looked tired and said, "Renewing my vocation as a Priest", which I think means being encouraged to keep ministering as a priest.

He also said he was "looking forward to helping youth to follow Jesus".

“If I meet the Pope and have a coffee with him, but don't help one young person to follow Jesus the week I will be disappointed," he said.

Finally he said he was also, "looking forward to making the pilgrimage more spiritual for the pilgrims".

This statement struck me, so I asked him what he meant by this.

He explained: "Helping pilgrims; deepen their prayer life, discover more about other religions, open their minds to serve humanity, to accept their responsibilities as baptized Christians, especially to Christians who have suffered for their faith like the East Timorese."

Next I asked him whether he was certain he was going to heaven, and he said, "I am convinced, but I never take this for granted because it is only by God's mercy".

He explained that he based this confidence on "my trust in God's mercy."

I asked him what confidence did he have that this would last, he said: "my trust will endure only by God's grace".

I said that I had certainty because Jesus did everything to deal with my sin, was this the same as what he was saying or different? He answered: "Yes. God has acted to save us, all we can do is say yes to what he has done".

We talked some more, and I said to him that "a lot of the Catholics I have spoken to this week don't seem sure they are going to heaven".

He said, "Many Catholics feel uncertain because they are frightened by the way many people in the world treat them."

I was encouraged by what he said and how clearly he said it. I still had lots of questions though, like why did offering the sacraments mean so much to him? We prayed together, and I prayed that he would indeed help some young people to follow Jesus this week.

Finally on the way home in the bus, I needed to slide past a lady on her way home from work.

She commented on the WYD stuff I was carrying. I said, possibly a bit too quickly, that I wasn't Catholic, I was writing for an Anglican newspaper.

She smiled a wry smile and I realized my faux pas and said, "Are you Catholic?" she said, "yes".

We talked for a while about Anglican politics and the structure of the Anglican Church. She said the thing she liked about the Catholic Church was its consistency. I said, when I was a Catholic I found a far wider spectrum of beliefs in the Catholic Church that I was in, than the Anglican churches I have been a part of since.

She agreed and said, "most Catholics she knew didn't believe everything the Pope said".

I said I thought being a Catholic was more about your family and belonging to the group, what you believed was less important whereas in the Anglican churches I had belonged to, what you believed was more important. She then asked what I "thought the differences were?", I asked her, "was she certain she was going to heaven?" She said "yes". I said, on what basis? She said, "If I live a good life. I don't do everything the Catholic Church teaches, but as a spiritual person I stay true to what I believe is right for me" I said, so you think good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell? She said "yes"

So I said: “that is the difference! In the churches I go to, they teach: bad people go to heaven and good people go to hell"

She looked at me as if I were nuts but kept listening. We talked for another 10 minutes or so about what Jesus had done" this WYD has certainly got people thinking!

Don't let the opportunity pass.

The Rev Mark Gilbert is an assistant minister at Freshwater and editor of the book Stepping Out in Faith: former Catholics tell their stories. He also works for Certainty4Eternity which partners with Churches and other ministries thinking through how to reach Roman Catholics.


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