CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 18, 2004 ( John Paul II says that listening to the Word of God is "the most important thing in our lives," and that vacation is a favorable time to rediscover the primacy of the interior life.

The Pope made those points today when addressing the numerous pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the apostolic palace of Castel Gandolfo.

The Holy Father arrived in this town, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Rome, on Saturday afternoon, following a 12-day holiday in the Italian Alps.

The Pope, who was warmly received by the faithful before praying the Angelus with them, meditated on the Gospel passage of the day's liturgy, which recounted Jesus' visit to the home of Martha and Mary.

"While Martha is taken up with domestic affairs," the Holy Father said, "Mary is seated at the feet of the Master and listens to his word. Christ affirms that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

"To listen to the Word of God is the most important thing in our lives," the Pope added.

"Christ is always in our midst and wants to speak to our hearts," the Holy Father continued. "We can listen to him by meditating with faith on sacred Scripture, recollecting ourselves in private and communal prayer, pausing in silence before the tabernacle, from which he speaks to us of his love."

In this context, John Paul II explained that Sunday is the day that Christians are called especially "to encounter and listen to the Lord."

They are given the opportunity in the holy Mass "in which Christ prepares for the faithful the table of the Word and Bread of life," he said.

"But other moments of prayer and reflection, of rest and fraternity, can usefully contribute to sanctify the day of the Lord," the Pope continued.

Moreover, when "by the action of the Holy Spirit, God takes up his dwelling in the heart of the believer, it becomes easier to serve brothers," as "happened in a singular and perfect way in Mary Most Holy," he added.

"To her we entrust this vacation period, so that it will be appreciated as a propitious time to rediscover the primacy of the interior life," the Pontiff concluded.

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed himself to the citizens of Castel Gandolfo, thanking them for their welcome, and the pilgrims present. On Wednesday, the Pope will resume the general audiences.