Meeting with youth on Sunday afternoon while on a pastoral visit to Sulmona, Italy for the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Pope Celestine V, the Pope answered important questions regarding vocations. It is in your personal relationship with the Lord brought about through prayer that you can know your path on earth, he told the young people.
The Holy Father hosted an afternoon encounter with the young people of the area in the city's cathedral, the crypt of which contains the remains of St. "Panfilo" and St. Peter Celestine. Two youth delegates asked him how young people should live out their vocations and how they can be "in the world but not of the world."
The "secret of the vocation" Benedict XVI told them, "is in the capacity and in the joy of distinguishing, listening and following His voice."
In order for this to happen, he explained, we must "habituate our heart to recognizing the Lord, sensing him as a person that is 'close to me' and 'loves me'."
Referring back to his words on the importance of interior silence from the morning homily in the city square, he said to the young people, "Be certain that if one learns to listen to this voice and follows it with generosity, he is afraid of nothing, knows and feels that God is within him or her, that He is a Friend, Father and Brother.
"Said in a single word," he summarized, "the secret of the vocation is in the relationship with God, in prayer."
This is true at all points in the process of seeking, choosing, pursuing and persevering in our vocation, he explained. Recalling the life of the hermit who became Pope, Benedict XVI said "St. Peter Celestine was first of all this: a man of prayer and a man of God."
"Dear young people," Pope Benedict implored, "always find a space in your days for God, to listen to him and speak to him."
He added a second related lesson for the youth, observing that "true prayer" does not separate a person from reality. "If praying alienates you, it takes you away from your real life, be on guard: it's not true prayer! On the contrary, dialogue with God is a guarantee of truth and liberty.
"You've asked me how you can be 'in' the world but not 'of' the world? I respond to you: thanks to prayer."
Prayer helps us to be ourselves in every environment, he continued, saying that although faith and prayer "do not resolve our problems," they do "enable us to confront them with a new light and a new strength, in a way worthy of man, and also more serenely and effectively."
Citing the example of saints, who "illuminated by faith," have come up with creative solutions to address the "concrete needs" of man, Benedict XVI invited the young people, "Let yourselves be totally conquered by Christ!
"Start decisively down the path of sanctity, the path ... of contact with and conformity to God."