Priests lie prostrate during their ordination ceremony in St Peter’s Basilica. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations falls on April 21 this year. CNS file photo

VATICAN CITY – God’s love is unconditional yet demanding, asking all to choose how they will live their gift of life, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in a message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The message was released before he resigned as pope.

“The love of God sometimes follows paths one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found,” the pope emeritus said in his message for the special day, which falls on April 21 this year.

The theme for the 2013 World Day of Prayer for Vocations is Vocations as a Sign of Hope founded in Faith.

Vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life “are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with Him”, Pope Benedict said.

He noted that deep, constant prayer brings spiritual growth and the renewed certainty that God sustains His people by creating vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life “so that they can be signs of hope for the world”.

“Indeed, priests and Religious are called to give themselves unconditionally to the People of God, in a service of love for the Gospel and the Church,” he said.

He added that whenever a disciple of Jesus accepts the divine call to the priestly ministry or to the consecrated life, “we witness one of the most mature fruits of the Christian community”.

Pope Benedict called on priests “to accompany young people as ‘companions on the journey’”, to recognise Christ and to tell them “with Gospel courage, how beautiful it is to serve God, the Christian community and one’s brothers and sisters”.

The pope emeritus also called on young people to bypass “superficial and ephemeral” pursuits. He urged them to cultivate a real desire “for what is truly worthy”, and for “lofty objectives, radical choices [and] service to others in imitation of Jesus”.

“Dear young people, do not be afraid to follow Him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment!” said Pope Benedict.

“In that way you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of a joy that the world cannot give, you will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love.” CNS, CN