Pope John Paul II: To the Youth of the World

Here you will find text from Pope John Paul II's Letter to the Youth of the World, on the topic of vocation. This is a much larger extract than that cited in the book Paths of Love: The Discernment of vocation.

  • Pope John Paul II - to the Youth of the World

    March 31, 1985


    Solemnly Promulgated by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II

    [Sections 8-10 are complete; the others are abbreviated.]

    Dear Friends,

    1. “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)

    In you young people there is hope, for you belong to the future, as the future belongs to you. To you belongs responsibility for what will one day become reality together with yourselves. In this regard, the first and principal wish of the Church is that you should “always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.”

    2. ... To the question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus replies first with the question: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone”. Then he goes on: “You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother'”. With these words Jesus reminds his questioner of some of the main commandments of the Decalogue.

    But the conversation does not end here. For the young man declares: “Teacher, all these things I have observed from my youth”. Then, writes the Evangelist, “Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me'”....

    Among Jesus’ meetings with young persons, we can say without hesitation that the conversation mentioned above is the meeting which is the most complete and richest in content. It can also be said that this meeting has a more universal and timeless character, in other words that in a certain sense it holds good constantly and continually, throughout the centuries and generations. Christ speaks in this way to a young person, a boy or a girl... All the elements of the description and all the words uttered in that conversation by both sides have a significance which is absolutely essential, and have a specific weight. One can say that these words contain a particularly profound truth about man in general, and, above all, the truth about youth. They are really important for young people.

    3. The young man goes away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions”. The young man went away because of his attachment to external riches. But it was riches of another kind that had led him to Jesus, the riches of youth. Youth itself is a treasure; it is the time of discovering the potentialities of being human, and also of organizing, choosing, foreseeing, and making the first personal decisions. This treasure of youth led the young man to Jesus and made him ask those questions that concern the plan of the whole of life. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. What must I do so that my life may have full value and full meaning? The treasure of youth is manifested in these questions; for these questions are particular urgent in youth. These questions are asked in a special way by those young persons who have long been weighed down by suffering, or by difficult family or social situations. For these persons, the question is from the beginning marked by the pain of existence. Is their youth, too, an interior treasure? It is Christ we must ask for the answer.

    4. We can render the young man’s question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” into the language of our times as, “How must I act so that my life will have meaning and value?” Christ’s reply “No one is good but God alone,” means: only God is the ultimate basis of all values; only he gives the definitive meaning to our human existence. When God is removed from evaluations of good and evil, then evil is put forward as good, and good itself is rejected.

    Why is God alone good? Because he is love. When youth is tested by personal suffering, by the awareness of suffering and of sin, Christ’s reply is this: “Only God is good”; only God is love. This reply may seem difficult, but at the same time it is firm and it is true; it carries within it the definitive solution

    5. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Though we live in a time in which the horizon of existence seems to be completely filled by the world and temporal progress—if we go beyond the limits of our planet, we do so in order to launch interplanetary flights, transmit signals to the other planets and send cosmic probes in their direction—if we come to Christ with our questioning about life, we must put the question this way. Any other question about the meaning and value of our life would be, in the presence of Christ, insufficient and unessential.

    For Christ is not only the “good teacher” who shows the paths of life on earth. He is the witness to that definitive destiny which the human person has in God himself. He is the witness to man's immortality. ... And so, dear brothers and dear sisters, if you wish to talk to Christ and to accept all the truth of his testimony, you must on the one hand “love the world”-for God “so loved the world that he gave his only Son”-and at the same time you must acquire interior detachment with regard to all this rich and fascinating reality that makes up “the world”.... For the form of this world is passing away “, and each of us is subject to this passing.... Christianity teaches us to understand temporal existence from the perspective of the Kingdom of God, from the perspective of eternal life. Without eternal life, temporal existence, however rich, however highly developed in all aspects, in the end brings man nothing other than the ineluctable necessity of death.

    Youth does not seem the time to think about death. But since youth means the plan for the whole of life-the plan drawn up in accordance with the criterion of meaning and value during youth too it is essential to ask the question about the end.

    6. To this question Jesus replies: “You know the commandments”... The young man who speaks to Christ naturally knows by heart the commandments of the Decalogue; indeed, he can declare with joy: “All these things I have observed from my youth”.

    In his dialogue with each of you, Christ repeats the same question, “Do you know the commandments?” This question will be infallibly repeated, because the commandments form part of the Covenant between God and humanity; they form the foundation of behavior, determine the moral value of human acts, and are connected with man’s vocation to eternal life, and the establishment of God’s Kingdom here among us.

    At the same time this moral code is inscribed in man’s conscience, so that those who do not know the commandments, “show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness”.

    This is a matter of fundamental importance for youth and the plan of life that youth forms. Jesus asks each of you about your moral awareness and the state of your conscience. The value of your plan of life depends essentially upon the authenticity, rectitude, and sensitivity of your conscience. The conscience is the most important dimension of time and history. In the interior treasure of conscience man continually goes beyond himself in the direction of eternity. “It is established that people would die only once”, yet man carries with him the treasure of conscience, the deposit of good and evil, across the frontier of death, in order that, in the sight of him who is holiness itself, he may find the ultimate and definitive truth about his whole life: “after that comes judgment”. In the interior truth of our acts, in a certain sense, there is constantly present the dimension of eternal life.

    7. The young man has received the essential and fundamental response to the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, and this response coincides with the whole journey of his life up to this point: “All these I have observed from my youth”. How ardently I hope that the journey of the life of each one of you up to this point has similarly coincided with Christ's response! It is my hope that your youth will provide you with a sturdy basis of sound principles, that your conscience will attain in these years of your youth that mature clearsightedness that during your whole lives will enable each one of you to remain always a “person of conscience”, a “person of principles”, a “person who inspires trust”, in other words, a person who is credible. The moral personality formed in this way constitutes the most important contribution that you can make to life in the community, to the family, to society, to professional activity and also to cultural and political activity, and finally to the community of the Church-to all those spheres with which you are already or will one day be connected.

    It is also my hope that, after you have made the discernment of the essential and important questions for your youth, for the plan of the whole life that lies before you, you will experience what the Gospel means when it says: “Jesus, looking upon him, loved him”. May you experience a look like that! May you experience the truth that he, Christ, looks upon you with love!

    He looks with love upon every human being. My wish for each of you is that you may discover this look of Christ, and experience it in all its depth. I do not know at what moment in your life. I think that it will happen when you need it most: perhaps in suffering, perhaps together with the witness of a pure conscience, as in the case of that young man in the Gospel, or perhaps precisely in an opposite situation: together with the sense of guilt, with remorse of conscience. For Christ looked at Peter too in the hour of his fall: when he had three times denied his Master.

    Man needs this loving look. He needs to know that he is loved, loved eternally and chosen from eternity. Perhaps most powerfully in trying and difficult moments, the awareness that Christ always loves each of us, becomes a solid support for our whole human existence. When everything would make us doubt ourselves and the meaning of our life, then this look of Christ, the awareness of the love that in him has shown itself more powerful than any evil and destruction, this awareness enables us to survive.


    8. This “look of love” was the introduction to the concluding phase of the conversation. In Matthew's account, it was the young man himself who opened this phase, since not only did he declare the personal fidelity to the commandments of the Decalogue which had marked all his previous conduct, but at the same time he asked a new question. In fact he asked: “What do I still lack?”.

    This question is a very important one. It shows that in the moral conscience of a person and more precisely of a young person who is forming the plan for his or her whole life, there is hidden an aspiration to “something more”. This aspiration makes itself felt in various ways, and we can also observe it among those who seem to be far from our religion.

    Among the followers of non-Christian religions, especially Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, we find that for thousands of years there have been hosts of “spiritual men”, individuals who often from early youth leave everything in order to live in poverty and purity in the quest for the Absolute that exists beyond the appearances of material things. They strive to attain a state of perfect liberation, they take refuge in God with love and confidence, and with all their souls try to submit to his hidden decrees. They seem impelled by a mysterious inner voice which makes itself heard in their spirit, as it were echoing Saint Paul's words: “The form of this world is passing away”, and which guides them to seek things which are greater and more enduring: “Seek the things that are above”. They seek the goal with all their strength, working hard to purify their spirit and sometimes reaching the point of making their lives a gift of love to the godhead. They thus become living examples to the people around them, by their very conduct showing the primacy of eternal values over the elusive and sometimes ambiguous values of the society in which they live.

    But it is in the Gospel that the aspiration to perfection, to “something more”, finds its explicit point of reference. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ confirms the whole moral law, at the center of which are the Mosaic tablets of the Ten Commandments. But at the same time he confers upon these commandments a new, evangelical meaning. And, as we have already said, it is all concentrated around love, not only as a commandment but also as a gift: “The love of Christ has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us”.

    In this new context one also comes to understand the programme of the eight Beatitudes which begins the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel.

    In this same context the series of commandments which constitute the fundamental code of Christian morality is completed by the series of evangelical counsels, which in a special way express and make concrete Christ's call to perfection, which is a call to holiness.

    When the young man asks about the “more”: “What do I still lack?”, Jesus looks upon him with love, and this love finds here a new meaning. Man is carried interiorly, by the hand of the Holy Spirit, from a life according to the commandments to a life in the awareness of the gift, and Christ's loving look expresses this interior “transition”. And Jesus says: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

    Yes, my dear young friends! The Christian is capable of living in the dimension of gift. Indeed, this dimension is not only “higher” than the dimension of mere moral obligations known from the commandments but it is also “deeper” and more fundamental. It bears witness to a fuller expression of that plan of life which we begin to construct in our youth. The dimension of gift also creates the mature outline of every human and Christian vocation, as will be said later on.

    At this moment, however, I wish to speak to you about the particular meaning of the words which Christ said to the young man. And I do this in the conviction that Christ addresses them in the Church to some of his young questioners in every generation. In ours too. His words therefore signify a particular vocation in the community of the People of God. The Church finds Christ's “Follow me” at the beginning of every call to service in the ministerial priesthood, which simultaneously in the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite is linked to the conscious and free choice of celibacy. The Church finds the same “follow me” of Christ at the beginning of the religious vocation, whereby, through the profession of the evangelical counsels (chastity, poverty and obedience), a man or woman recognizes as his or her own the programme of life which Christ himself lived on earth, for the sake of the Kingdom of God. By professing religious vows, such individuals commit themselves to bearing a particular witness to the love of God above all things, and likewise to that call to union with God in eternity which is directed to everyone. But there is a need for some to bear an exceptional witness to this before other people.

    I limit myself merely to mentioning this matter in the present Letter, since it has already been more fully presented elsewhere and on a number of occasions. I mention it here because in the context of Christ's conversation with the young man it acquires a particular clarity, especially the question of evangelical poverty. I also mention it because Christ's call “Follow me”, precisely in this exceptional and charismatic sense, usually makes itself heard in youth; sometimes it is even heard in childhood.

    It is for this reason that I wish to say this to all of you young people, in this important phase of the development of your personality as a man or a woman: if such a call comes into your heart, do not silence it! Let it develop into the maturity of a vocation! Respond to it through prayer and fidelity to the commandments! For “the harvest is plentiful” and there is an enormous need for many to be reached by Christ's call “Follow me”. There is an enormous need for priests according to the heart of God-and the Church and the world of today have an enormous need of the witness of a life given without reserve to God: the witness of that nuptial love of Christ himself which in a particular way will make the Kingdom of God present among people and bring it nearer to the world.

    Permit me then to complete still further the words of Christ the Lord about the harvest being plentiful. Yes, this harvest of the Gospel is plentiful, this harvest of salvation! “But the laborers are few!”. Perhaps this is felt more keenly today than in the past, especially in certain countries, as also in certain Institutes of consecrated life and similar Institutes.

    ”Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”, continues Christ. And these words, especially in our times, become a programme of prayer and action for more priestly and religious vocations. With this programme the Church addresses herself to you, to youth. And you too: pray! And if the fruit of this prayer of the Church comes to life in the depths of your heart, listen to the Master as he says: “Follow me”.


    9. These words in the Gospel certainly concern the priestly or religious vocation; but at the same time they help us to understand more deeply the question of vocation in a still wider and more fundamental sense.

    One could speak here of the “life” vocation, which in a way is identical with that plan of life which each of you draws up in the period of your youth. But “vocation” means something more than “plan”. In this second case I myself am the subject who draws it up, and this corresponds better to the reality of the person which each of you is. This “plan” is a “vocation” inasmuch as in it there make themselves felt the various factors which call. These factors usually make up a particular order of values (also called a “hierarchy of values”), from which emerges an ideal to be realized, an ideal which is attractive to a young heart. In this process the “vocation” becomes a “plan”, and the plan begins to be also a vocation.

    But given the fact that we are in the presence of Christ and are basing our reflections about youth on Christ's conversation with the young man, that relationship of the “plan of life” to the “life vocation” needs to be stated even more precisely. A human being is a creature and at the same time an adopted child of God in Christ: he is a child of God. Hence during youth a person puts the question, “What must I do?” not only to himself and to other people from whom he can expect an answer, especially his parents and teachers, but he puts it also to God, as his Creator and Father. He puts it in the context of this particular interior sphere in which he has learned to be in a close relationship with God, above all in prayer. He therefore asks God: “What must I do?”, what is your plan for my life? Your creative, fatherly plan? What is your will? I wish to do it.

    In this context the “plan” takes on the meaning of a “life vocation”, as something which is entrusted by God to an individual as a task. Young people, entering into themselves and at the same time entering into conversation with Christ in prayer, desire as it were to read the eternal thought which God the Creator and Father has in their regard. They then become convinced that the task assigned to them by God is left completely to their own freedom, and at the same time is determined by various circumstances of an interior and exterior nature. Examining these circumstances, the young person, boy or girl, constructs his or her plan of life and at the same time recognizes this plan as the vocation to which God is calling him or her.

    I desire therefore to entrust to all of you, the young people to whom this Letter is addressed, this marvelous task which is linked with the discovery before God of each one's life vocation. This is an exciting task. It is a fascinating interior undertaking. In this undertaking your humanity develops and grows, while your young personality acquires ever greater inner maturity. You become rooted in that which each of you is, in order to become that which you must become: for yourself-for other people-for God.

    Parallel with the process of discovering one's own “life vocation” there should also be a progressively clearer realization of how this life vocation is at the same time a “Christian vocation”.

    Here it should be noted that in the period before the Second Vatican Council the concept of “vocation” was applied first of all to the priesthood and religious life, as if Christ had addressed to the young person his evangelical “Follow me” only for these cases. The Council has broadened this way of looking at things. Priestly and religious vocations have kept their particular character and their sacramental and charismatic importance in the life of the People of God. But at the same time the awareness renewed by the Second Vatican Council of the universal sharing of all the baptized in Christ's three-fold prophetic, priestly and kingly mission, (tria munera), as also the awareness of the universal vocation to holiness, have led to a realization of the fact that every human life vocation, as a Christian vocation, corresponds to the evangelical call. Christ's “Follow me” makes itself heard on the different paths taken by the disciples and confessors of the divine Redeemer. There are different ways of becoming imitators of Christ-not only by bearing witness to the eschatological Kingdom of truth and love, but also by striving to bring about the transformation of the whole of temporal reality according to the spirit of the Gospel. It is at this point that there also begins the apostolate of the laity, which is inseparable from the very essence of the Christian vocation.

    These are the extremely important premises for the plan of life which corresponds to the essential dynamism of your youth. You must examine this plan-independently of the concrete content “of life” with which it will be filled-in the light of the words addressed by Christ to the young man in the Gospel.

    You must also rethink-and very profoundly-the meaning of Baptism and Confirmation. For in these two sacraments is contained the fundamental deposit of the Christian life and vocation. From these there begins the path towards the Eucharist, which contains the fullness of the sacramental gifts granted to the Christian: all the Church's spiritual wealth is concentrated in this Sacrament of love. It is also necessary-and always in relationship with the Eucharist-to reflect on the Sacrament of Penance, which is of irreplaceable importance for the formation of the Christian personality, especially if it is linked with spiritual direction, which is a systematic school of the interior life.

    I speak briefly of all this, even though each of the Church's Sacraments has its own definite and specific reference to youth and to young people. I trust that this theme will receive detailed treatment from others, particularly pastoral ministers specially appointed to work with young people.

    The Church herself-as the Second Vatican Council teaches-is “a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind”. Every vocation in life, insofar as it is a “Christian” vocation, is rooted in the sacramentality of the Church: it is therefore formed through the Sacraments of our faith. The Sacraments enable us from our youth to open our human “I” to the saving action of God, that is, of the Most Blessed Trinity. They enable us to share in God's life, living the authentic human life to the full. In this way our human life acquires a new dimension and at the same time its Christian originality: awareness of the demands placed on man by the Gospel is matched by awareness of the gift which surpasses everything. “If you knew the gift of God”, said Christ, speaking to the Samaritan woman.


    10. Against this vast background that your youthful plan of life acquires in relation to the idea of the Christian vocation, I wish to examine, together with you young people to whom I am addressing this Letter, the question that in a certain sense is at the heart of the youth of all of you. This is one of the central questions of human life, and at the same time one of the central themes of reflection, creativity and culture. It is also one of the main biblical themes, and one to which I personally have devoted much reflection and analysis. God created human beings: male and female, thereby introducing into the history of the human race that special “duality” together with complete equality, in the matter of human dignity; and with marvelous complementarity, in the matter of the division of the attributes, properties and tasks linked with the masculinity and femininity of the human being.

    Thus, this is a theme that is necessarily inscribed in the personal “I” of each one of you. Youth is the period when this great theme affects in an experimental and creative way the soul and body of every young woman and young man, and manifests itself in the youthful conscience together with the fundamental discovery of the personal “I” in all its manifold potentiality. Then also on the horizon of a young heart a new experience occurs: the experience of love, which from the beginning has to be included in that plan of life which youth spontaneously creates and forms.

    In each separate case all of this has its own unrepeatable subjective expression, its affective richness, indeed its metaphysical beauty. At the same time, in all of this there is contained a powerful exhortation not to distort this expression, not to destroy this treasure and not to disfigure this beauty. Be convinced that this call comes from God himself, who created man “in his own image and likeness” precisely “as man and woman”. This call flows from the Gospel and makes itself heard in the voice of young consciences, if they have preserved their simplicity and purity: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Yes, through that love which is born in you-and wishes to become a part of your whole plan of life-you must see God who is love.

    And so I ask you not to break off your conversation with Christ in this extremely important phase of your youth; I ask you rather to commit yourselves even more. When Christ says “Follow me”, his call can mean: “I call you to still another love”; but very often it means: “Follow me”, follow me who am the Bridegroom of the Church who is my bride; come, you too become the bridegroom of your bride, you too become the bride of your spouse. Both of you become sharers in that mystery, that Sacrament, which the Letter to the Ephesians says is something great: great “in reference to Christ and the Church”.

    Much depends on the fact that you, on this path too, should follow Christ; that you should not flee from him, when you are occupied with this matter which you rightly consider the great event of your heart, a matter that exists only in you and between you. I want you to believe and to be convinced that this great matter has its definitive dimension in God, who is love-in God, who in the absolute unity of his divinity is also a communion of persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I want you to believe and to be convinced that your human “great mystery” has its beginning in God who is the Creator, is rooted in Christ the Redeemer, who as the spouse “gave himself”, and who teaches all husbands and wives how to “give themselves” in the full measure of each one's personal dignity. Christ teaches us married love.

    To set out on the path of the married vocation means to learn married love day by day, year by year: love according to soul and body, love that “is patient, is kind, that does not insist on its own way... and does not rejoice at wrong”: love that “rejoices in the right”, love that “endures all things”.

    It is precisely this love that you young people need if your married future is to “pass the test” of the whole of life. And precisely this test is part of the very essence of the vocation which, through marriage, you intend to include in the plan of your life.

    And so I do not cease to pray to Christ and to the Mother of Fair Love for the love that is born in young hearts. Many times in my life it has been my task to accompany in a sense more closely this love of young people. Thanks to this experience I have come to understand just how essential the matter that we are dealing with here is, how important and how great it is. I think that to a large extent the future of humanity is decided along the paths of this love, initially youthful love, which you and she, you and he discover along the paths of your youth. This can be called a great adventure, but it is also a great task.

    Today, the principles of Christian morality concerning marriage are in many circles being presented in a distorted way. Attempts are being made to impose on environments and even entire societies a model that calls itself “progressive” and “modern”. It then goes unnoticed that this model transforms a human being and perhaps especially a woman from a subject into an object (an object of specific manipulation), and the whole great content of love is reduced to “pleasure”, which, even though it involved both parties, would still be selfish in its essence. Finally the child, who is the fruit and the fresh incarnation of the love between the two, becomes ever more “an annoying addition”. The materialistic and consumeristic civilization is penetrating this whole wonderful complex of conjugal and paternal and maternal love, and stripping it of that profoundly human content which from the beginning was also permeated by a divine mark and reflection.

    Dear young friends! Do not allow this treasure to be taken away from you! Do not inscribe in the plan of your life a deformed, impoverished and falsified content: love “rejoices in the truth”. Seek out this truth where it is really to be found! If necessary, be resolved to go against the current of popular opinion and propaganda slogans! Do not be afraid of the love that places clear demands on people. These demands-as you find them in the constant teaching of the Church-are precisely capable of making your love a true love.

    If anywhere, it is especially here that I wish to repeat the hope which I expressed at the beginning, namely, that you will be “always prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you!”. The Church and humanity entrust to you the great reality of that love which is the basis of marriage, the family and the future. The Church and humanity firmly believe that you will bring about its rebirth; they firmly believe that you will make it beautiful: beautiful in a human and Christian way. In a human and Christian way great, mature and responsible.


    11. Each person receives an inheritance from his family and from his culture. By receiving and inheriting faith and the values and elements that make up the culture of your society and the history of your nation, each one of you is spiritually endowed in your individual humanity. This inheritance constitutes a call. We must do everything we can to accept this spiritual inheritance, to confirm it, maintain it and increase it. As you gradually experience the social bond within your country, which is wider than that of the family, you also begin to share in responsibility for the common good of that larger family which is the earthly “homeland” of each one of you.


    12. Each of you has a certain “talent” or “talents”. By using them, by the work you do, you increase them. All work is linked to effort... At the same time, however, work in a specific way forms man, and in a certain sense creates him. So it is always a question of effort which is creative. This refers not only to study or mental and intellectual work in general but also to the ordinary kinds of physical work that seemingly have nothing “creative” about them.

    The work which characterizes the period of youth is, above all, a preparation for the work of adulthood, and so is linked to the school... Education is one of the fundamental benefits of human civilization. It is especially important for the young. Upon it also depends to a great extent the future of the whole of society.

    Christ says: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. These explain what the dignity and greatness proper to man are built upon from within, in the dimensions of the human spirit. The knowledge which frees man does not depend on education alone, even of university standard-an illiterate person can have it too. The work you will do after your education will also serve the truth. At school you have to acquire the intellectual, technical and practical skills that will enable you to take your place usefully in the great world of human work. But while it is true that the school has to prepare you for work, including manual work, it is equally true that work itself is a school in which great and important values are learned: it has an eloquence of its own which makes a valid contribution to human culture.

    In regard to education and work, there is today a very serious problem, namely unemployment. You ask yourselves: Does society need me? Will I too be able to find a type of work that will enable me to become independent? To bring up a family of my own in dignified living conditions, and, most important of all, in a home of my own?

    The seriousness of these questions impels me once more to remind governments and all those responsible for the economy and development of nations that work is a human right; and it is therefore to be guaranteed by careful attention and forming economic policy with this goal.

    [Sections 13-15 treat of self-education, growth, and the challenge of the future.]

    16. So, my young friends, I hand you this Letter which continues the Gospel conversation of Christ with the young man-and flows from the testimony of the Apostles and of the first generations of Christians... On you depends the future, on you depends also the end of this millennium and the beginning of the next. So do not be passive; take up your responsibilities-in all the fields open to you in our world!

    We have before our eyes the image of Mary, who accompanies Christ at the beginning of his mission among men. This is the Mary of Cana of Galilee, who intercedes for the young people, for the newly-married couple when at the marriage feast the wine for the guests runs out. Then Christ's Mother says these words to those serving at the feast: “Do whatever he tells you”. He, the Christ.

    I repeat these words of the Mother of God and I address them to you, to each one of you young people: “Do whatever Christ tells you”. And I bless you in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.

    Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 31 March, Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Lord's Passion, in the year 1985, the seventh of my Pontificate.

    Complete Letter to Youth at the Vatican website
    Texts of Pope John Paul II cited in Paths of Love
    Full list of authors cited in Paths of Love
    Books and articles on Catholic Vocations