Pope St. Pius X part 2
“O God, Who to safeguard the Catholic Faith and to restore all things in
Christ, didst fill the Supreme Pontiff, Saint Pius, with heavenly wisdom and
apostolic fortitude: grant in Thy mercy: that by striving to fulfill his
ordinances and to follow his example, we may reap eternal rewards.”
[O]n this day in the history of Holy Church, the Roman Martyrology teaches us that St. Gregory the Great was raised to the Sovereign Pontificate, saying, “This incomparable man, being forced to take that burden upon himself, sent forth from the exalted throne brighter rays of sanctity upon the world.” How fitting that the Church makes this day the feast day of another great Pope …namely St. Pius X.The readings from Matins says of him: “After the death of Pope Leo XIII he took up the supreme pontificate like a cross, having refused it in vain.”
When asked what name he would take, he replied: “Because the Popes who suffered the most for the Church in the previous century bore the name Pius, I will take this name.”
The reading from Matins goes on to say of him: “Placed upon the chair of Peter, he gave up nothing of his former way of life. He shone especially in humility, simplicity and poverty. He ruled the Church firmly and adorned it with brilliant teachings. As a most vigilant guardian of the faith, he condemnedand suppressed Modernism, the sum of all heresies; as a most zealous defender of the freedom of the Church, he boldly resisted those who strove to bring about her downfall; he provided for the sound education of clerics, brought the laws of the Church together into one body; and greatly fostered the worship and more frequent reception of the Eucharist.”
Knowing his Spouse and Mother, the Holy Church, was deeply wounded by heresy on the inside and being attacked from the outside, he is said to have never smiled as Pope. He knew there was a cosmic battle being waged…and he, as the Vicar of Christ, assumed his role most fittingly with EVANGELICAL SERIOUSNESS. He knew this was no time to be laughing. Read the Gospels… you will find the same seriousness in His Majesty, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
For our meditation today, let us concentrate on his love for the priesthood. In this month of Our Lady of Sorrows, we can think of how Pope St. Pius used to test seminarians and priests about devotion to Our Lady. He would simply ask them why we should be devoted to her. The answer he was looking for, “so that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
Deeply dedicated to the priesthood, St. Pius often used to say, “Sicut sacerdos, sic populos” … as the priest, so the people. This motivated him to seek complete reform of the clergy whenever and however he could… by teaching and by example… knowing it would lead to the reform of the whole Church. He understood that this a priestly Universe. There will be no reform without holy priests. Here are some considerations.
Due to his outstanding work as a pastor and later as the director of spiritual formation in the local seminary, he was chosen to be bishop of Mantua. He tried to evade the promotion just as, later on, he tried to flee from the papacy. He wrote a long letter to Rome, setting out all the reasons why he should not be appointed. Back came the reply, one word, written by Pope Leo XIII himself. “Obey!” So Fr. Sarto obeyed, and was consecrated bishop. Soon afterwards, he went home and showed his mother the episcopal ring which he had been given. Signora Sarto held out her own work-worn hand, with the simple gold wedding-band on the third finger. “You have a beautiful ring,” she said, “but you would not be wearing it today if I had not first worn this one.” Pope Pius always kept a picture of his mother on his desk. In Rome, Leo XIII soon had cause to be proud that he had chosen Fr. Giuseppe Sarto for Mantua, saying: “He is the best bishop in Lombardy!”
[T]he biggest problem facing the diocese was a shortage of priests: during his first year only one was ordained, though forty were needed. So the new bishop launched a very energetic campaign for vocations. He took over personally the running of the seminary, engaged the best professors and taught some of the more important courses himself. He told his priests to keep a constant look-out for young men who might possibly be called to the priesthood and ordered that they be given every encouragement and brought to see him at the earliest opportunity.
Within a very few years, nearly 150 new priests had been ordained. They must have been very good men… because later he would write as the Pope: “Bear well in mind, Venerable Brethren, the Apostle’s warning to Timothy: ‘Do not lay hands hastily upon anyone.’ In fact, haste in admitting men to Sacred Orders naturally opens the way to a multiplication of people in the sanctuary who do not increase joy. … The eagerness of the aspirants is no excuse for haste. The priesthood that Jesus Christ instituted for the salvation of souls is by no means a human profession or office which anyone desiring it for any reason can say he has a right to receive” (PIENI L’ANIMO No. 4).
“…you have a very serious obligation before God of guarding and fostering most solicitously the proper conduct of the seminaries. Your priests will be as you have trained them” (No. 5). “Let philosophy, theology, and the related sciences, especially Sacred Scripture, be studied along the lines of pontifical directives: according to the teaching of Saint Thomas…” (No. 6). As the priest, so the people. Like St. Francis de Sales, he told his priests that he wanted no special preparations when he called: the ordinary fare of the presbytery was good enough for him. He kept in constant touch, knew all their problems and had his own way of dealing with those who were not up to their duties. For example, one parish priest had become especially careless in his duties: he was constantly late in getting to church so that people who wanted to go to confession before Mass had no opportunity to do so. When the laggard arrived one morning, late as usual, he was astonished to find that someone was already hearing confessions.
Pulling back the curtain, he found himself face to face with Bishop Sarto. Crestfallen, he waited for the rebuke. It did not come. “Any time you have trouble getting to church, Father, just let me know,” said the gentle Bishop. “I’ll always be happy to stand in for you.” That priest was never late again.
Story of St. Luigi Orioni
[W]hen the father of a boy he knew complained that Cardinal Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice, was spoiling his boy by inviting him to his room to talk alone, play cards and smoke cigarettes, Don Orione grew indignant and wrote a scathing letter to the Cardinal. He regretted his action shortly after posting the letter. Some years later, when the same Cardinal became Pope Pius X, he feared their first meeting. Yet, Pius X granted all his wishes and more. Before they parted company, however, Pius showed Luigi the letter he sent. The Pope had kept it in his breviary all that time for the sake of humility.
At the beginning of his pontificate, Pius X wrote, “To seek peace without God is an absurdity.”This is same as saying to seek peace without God’s Pontiff on earth is an absurdity.Having often foreseen and foretold a great war between European nations, he stepped up diplomatic measures to prevent this tragedy. Nonetheless, in the summer of 1914, the First World War broke out. The Holy Father’s heart was broken. In his distress, he repeated day and night: “I offer my miserable life as a sacrifice, to prevent the massacre of so many of my children… I suffer for all those who fall on the battlefields…” On August 15, he felt unwell, and on the 19th,he was on the verge of death. “I place myself in the hands of God,” he said with otherworldly tranquility. Around noon, he was given the last Sacraments, which he received, calm and serene, in complete lucidity and admirable devotion. On August 20, at one o’clock in the morning, making a slow sign of the Cross and joining his hands, as if he were celebrating Mass, having kissed a little Crucifix, the holy Pontiff entered into eternal life. His body remains incorrupt and able to be viewed in St. Peter’s Basilica under the Altar of the Presentation.
“Dear Saint Pius come back!We need you again! Holy Church needs you again! In the name of the Father . . ..
Homily given on September 3, 2013, Feast of Pope Saint Pius X