Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized need for good spiritual counsel for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

“I would like to emphasize the critical role of spiritual guidance in the journey of faith and, in particular, in response to the vocation of special consecration for the service of God and his people,” the Pope said during his Jan. 15 Sunday Angelus address.

“God’s call to follow Jesus more closely, giving up forming their own family to dedicate themselves to the great family of the Church, is normally done through the testimony and proposal from a ‘big brother,’ usually a priest.”

Also instrumental in the process, he said, are parents “who by their genuine faith and joyful married love, show children that it is beautiful and possible to build all your life on the love of God.”

Pope Benedict made his remarks from the window of his apartment to several thousand pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter’s Square on a sunny winter day. He illustrated his point by making references to today’s Scripture readings at Mass.

The Gospel tells of how John the Baptist identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” on the banks of the River Jordan. Thus he acted in the “role of mediator,” leading two of his disciples to discern that they must follow Christ.

Similarly, in the First Reading, it is the high priest Eli who advises Samuel that it is God and not he who is calling out his name in the night. Samuel takes Eli's advice and, when his name is called a fourth time, he replies, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

The Pope concluded his comments by entrusting all educators, “especially priests and parents” who help young people discern their vocation in life, to the Virgin Mary.

After the Angelus, the Pope noted that Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. He reminded pilgrims that the millions of refugees worldwide are “not numbers” but “men and women, children, young and old looking for a place to live in peace.”

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He also highlighted the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity that will run Jan. 18-25. Pope Benedict invited everyone “to join spiritually and, where possible, practically, to ask God for the gift of full unity among the disciples of Christ.”