As a part of our countdown to the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, the Blessed John Paul II Shrine is spending the month reflecting on the young adult life and priesthood of the late Holy Father. This is the fruitful time in which Karol Wojtyła discerned a vocation to the priesthood and accepted the path that God was calling him to.
According to the Holy Father himself, a vocation is “an interior call of grace, which falls into the soul like a seed, to mature within it” (Angelus, December 14, 1980). It takes the form of a dialogue in the human heart, a “dialogue between Christ and an individual, in which a personal invitation is given” (Homily, February 10, 1986).
This dialogue was very much a part of Wojtyła’s young adult life, and he would say it was partially the fruit of his experiences. Everything from his passion for the theatre, to the hardships he experienced during Nazi occupation, to the conversations he had with co-workers, to the loss of his own father had an affect on his path to the priesthood. This dialogue was not only external, but it was also internal. Silence and prayer allowed Wojtyła to hear Christ’s call: “Come follow me.”
All are called to live out a vocation, and all are called in complete freedom to accept or reject God’s given task. According to Blessed John Paul II, freedom “is essential to vocation—a freedom which, when it gives a positive response, appears as a deep personal adherence, as a loving gift—or rather as a gift given back to the giver who is God who calls, an oblation…” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 16).
Like many young men, Wojtyła initially denied his vocation to the priesthood. But in the spring and summer of 1942, when he began to reflect on how God had been acting in his life, he became more and more convicted of his call to become a fisher of men. In complete freedom he became attuned to the dialogue within his own heart, and he accepted the gift of his vocation by giving it back to God.
Embracing a vocation to the priesthood is ultimately an act of love:
It is a characteristic feature of the human heart to accept even difficult demands in the name of love, for an ideal, and above all in the name of love for a person (love is, in fact, oriented by its very nature toward the person). And so, in this call to continence “for the kingdom of heaven,” first the disciples and then the whole living tradition of the Church quickly discovered the love for Christ himself as the Bridegroom of the Church, Bridegroom of souls, to whom he has given himself to the end (cf. Jn 13:1; 19:30) in the mystery of his Passover and of the Eucharist (General Audience, April 21, 1982).
Let us take time today to thank God, not only for the gift of His Son, but also for the gift of grace that has, throughout history, led great men and women of the Church to take on the difficult demands of the priesthood and the religious life in the name of love.
Keep following us here and on our Facebook page for more stories about the life of Blessed John Paul II, as we prepare for his canonization and as we build an exhibit on his life and legacy, slated to open this coming summer.