The richness of your young years


Excerpt from an address by Pope John Paul II on 8 June 1996.
Your age is the time of great choices, the most beautiful age

3. Dear young people, your age is the time of great choices, the time when each one plans his own future, deciding what he wants to be. It is the most beautiful age, not because it is "carefree", as they say, but because it is the age richest in thoughts and the most creative; it is of course the most decisive of all life's seasons. For those who have the gift of faith it is the moment of the great encounter with Christ.

Jesus also came to his life choices first during his long seclusion in Nazareth and then during the 40 days in the desert, learning fully to conform to the Father's will, to the point of total selfgiving. You are called to look to him, in order to "plan" or yourselves and your future. Do not be afraid of meeting Christ. He, the Word of God, is no less human for that; indeed he is the fullness of humanity, the man par excellence! Unawares, Pilate was a prophet when he presented him to the crowds proclaiming: "Here is the man!" (cf. Jn 19:5).

Your search requires faith, prayer and silence

4. Every young person's problems are both simple and demanding. What do I want to be? What will I live for? How can I become a true man or a true woman? May God give you the grace to respond like Jesus: "Lo, I have come to do your will, O God!" (Heb 10:7).

Assuming this basic orientation, the problem remains of how to put it into concrete practice. It is the question of personal vocation, to which, in these years, you feel committed to giving an answer. To do this you must know how to listen, to examine yourselves and your surroundings, to discover the signs through which the Lord speaks to you.

This search requires faith, prayer meditation, silence, advice and freedom of spirit, so as to be ready to say yes, whichever way God may wish to lead you, whether to the priestly ministry, the consecrated life or marriage and the family.

5. Naturally, in your present state as students at the top of your mind are plans about the work that awaits you at the end of your studies. May you also consider your future profession in the light of God. Let yourselves be guided in this by Christ's "example" as seen in the Gospel episode of the washing of the feet, in the passage from John which we have just heard. Jesus points out to us how, whatever it be, we should carry out the mission we have received from the Father: not to be served but to serve.

Here, my friends, is Christian wisdom. Whatever your place in society, whatever profession you practise, you are called to carry it out as a service and not out of selfish interest, or worse, by acting dishonestly towards others. This inevitably means "swimming against the tide", given that "worldly wisdom" is oriented in a very different direction.

The Christian, labourer or magistrate, doctor or farmer, businessman or teacher, is recognized by how he practises the commandment to love God and his brothers and sisters, making himself attentive to their requirements and needs.

Your studies are material for a sacrifice to offer God

6. In your profession - as today in your studies - you fulfil your baptismal priesthood. "Present your bodies .... to God", St Paul exhorts us (Rom 12:1). It is as if to say: offer to God the concrete events of daily life, the things you continuously do, the efforts of your hands and mind, all that you produce in your work. All this can and must be material for a sacrifice to offer God, bringing to your work all the dedication it requires and devoting all the resources of your intelligence and industry to serving your brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, at the present time you are engaged in study, in various fields of science and humanistic research, and you know well what the perfection of work means in the correctness of procedures and the exactitude of the results. When the commitment of the will and the fruit of intelligence achieve their goal, then we are presented with the full beauty of a work which, placed at the service of our brothers and sisters, is worthy of being offered to God. Thus research and human knowledge arc combined with the wisdom of which St Paul spoke in his Letter to the Corinthians.


Original text in L'Osservatore Romano (English Edition), 19 June 1996, p.4

Scanned and formatted by the Catholic Perspectives project of the Newman Center at Caltech