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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.
 


"At that time I was completely absorbed by a passion for literature, especially dramatic literature, and for the theater."

Pope John Paul II, Gift and Mystery, Part 2

A vocation is a mystery of divine election: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). "And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was" (Heb 5:4). "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jer 1:5). These inspired words cannot fail to move deeply the heart of every priest.

So when on certain occasions - for example at Priestly Jubilees - we speak about the priesthood and give our witness, we must do so with great humility, knowing that God "has called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us" (2 Tim 1:9). At the same time we realize that human words are insufficient to do justice to the mystery which the priesthood involves.

To me it seems essential to state this at the outset, so that what I say about my own path to the priesthood can be properly understood.

The First Signs of My Vocation

The Metropolitan Archbishop of Cracow, Prince Adam Stefan Sapieha, visited the parish of Wadowice when I was a secondary school student. My religion teacher; Father Edward Zacher, chose me to give the address of welcome. It was the first time I had the opportunity of being in the presence of that man who was so highly regarded by everyone. I know that after my speech the Archbishop asked the religion teacher what university course I would be taking upon completion of secondary school. Father Zacher replied: "He will study Polish language and letters." The Archbishop apparently replied: "A pity it is not theology."

In that period of my life my vocation to the priesthood bad not yet matured, even though many people around me thought that I should enter the seminary. Perhaps some of them thought that if a young person with such evident religious inclinations did not enter the seminary, it had to be a sign that there were other loves or interests involved. Certainly, I knew many girls from school and, involved as I was in the school drama club, I had many opportunities to get together with other young people. But this was not the issue. At that time I was completely absorbed by a passion for literature, especially dramatic literature, and for the theater. I had been introduced to the theater by Mieczyslaw Kodarczyk, a Polish language teacher a few years older than myself. He was a true pioneer of amateur theater and had great ambitions of building a serious repertoire.

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