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Excerpted from Gift and Mystery by His Holiness John Paul II. Copyright © 1996 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"The story of my priestly vocation? It is known above all to God."

Pope John Paul II, 
Gift and Mystery
, Part 1

I have vivid memories of the joyful meeting held in the Vatican last autumn (27 October 1995), under the auspices of the Congregation for the Clergy, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis. In the festive atmosphere of that gathering a number of priests spoke about their vocation, and I gave my own testimony. It seemed good and worthwhile that, among priests, in the presence of the people of God, this kind of mutual encouragement should be given.

My words on that occasion received wide publicity. As a result, many people have urged me to speak more fully about my vocation during this year of my Priestly Jubilee.

I confess that at first I approached the idea with understandable hesitation. But later I felt it my duty to accept the invitation as part of the service involved in the Petrine ministry. Prompted by a series of questions asked by Mr. Gian Franco Svidercoschi, which served as an outline, I let myself be freely carried along by a wave of memories, without any intention of providing a strictly documentary account.

What I relate here, above and beyond the external events, belongs to my deepest being, to my innermost experience. I recall these things above all in order to thank the Lord. "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo!" I offer this to priests and to the people of God as a testimony of love.

At the Beginning…the Mystery!

The story of my priestly vocation? It is known above all to God. At its deepest level, every vocation to the priesthood is a great mystery; it is a gift which infinitely transcends the individual. Every priest experiences this dearly throughout the course of his life. Faced with the greatness of the gift, we sense our own inadequacy.

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