ST. PIUS X
Pope Extraordinaire, Pope of the Eucharist
1835 – 1914
Unlikely Candidate for Pope
Giuseppe (Joseph) Melchiorre Sarto was a most unlikely candidate for pope. Second son of ten children of a peasant postman and cobbler in a small town of Riesi, Province of Treviso in Veneto, Italy (near Venice) he had neither the intellectual attainments nor the diplomatic experience of a would-be pope. He had just the overwhelming desire to be a priest.
Since his parents were too poor to fund his education it was thanks to two priests of the parish and a scholarship that helped him to enter a seminary for priests at Padua in the year 1850. By special dispensation he was only 23 years of age when he was ordained a priest in 1858.
Becomes a Priest
Then our saint spent the next seventeen years in patient faithful parish work first as assistant and then as simple parish priest in a small obscure Italian town in the mountains. But because the people sensed his great love for God and because he was kind, holy and prayerful they all loved him.
In 1875 he was appointed chancellor of the diocese of Treviso. His tireless apostolate and generous charities distinguished him.
Becomes a Bishop
Nine years later he was named bishop but of a dilapidated run down diocese caused by an indifferent clergy and widespread schism. Upon becoming Bishop of Mantua he said, “I shall spare myself neither care nor labor nor earnest prayers for the salvation of souls. My hope is in Christ.” It was not surprising that he was successful in reviving Mantua’s spiritual and pastoral life.
In recognition of his accomplishment as pastor of souls and reformer of the clergy Pope Leo XIII appointed him a cardinal and patriarch of Venice.
When Pope Leo XIII died in 1903 to everyone’s surprise including our saint, Cardinal Sarto was elected Pope. He was simply a man of God faithful to the motto he took up when elected as pope – to renew all things in Christ, so that Christ may be all in all.
Renews all Things in ChristPope of the Eucharist
When Pope Pius XIII canonized Pope Pius X on May 29, 1954 he said “A priest, above all in the Eucharistic ministry: this is the most famous portrayal of Saint Pius X. He knew no other path than this. . . in order to bring about a wholehearted return to that Redeemer of the world, who by means of the Blessed Eucharist poured out the wealth of His divine love on man.
Since he himself gained his strength from the source of all gifts, viz., the Spirit of Jesus he urged the reception of frequent and even daily Holy Communion. He often said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.”
He was known as, “The Pope of Frequent Communion” because of his zeal for the Blessed Sacrament. He ordered the Sacred congregation of the Council to draw a decree on the daily reception of the Holy Eucharist. “At every mass the faithful should receive communion not only spiritually . . . but sacramentally. Frequent daily communion should be open to all the faithful of whatever rank or condition of life.”
He passed into history as the Pope of the Eucharist for allowing the First communion at the age of seven rather than 14 as 7 was already the age of reason. He hoped that through the sacrament of His Love Jesus would take possession of their souls while still possessing their childlike innocence.
These Eucharistic decrees are among the most important acts ever issued by the Papacy.
Because he hoped that the Eucharist would be the way of restoration of all society he encouraged not only daily or frequent communion but also Eucharistic Congresses and always took part in them. He recommended associations and confraternities of the Most Holy Sacrament.
Another characteristic of Pius X was his desire to honor Mary, the Mother of God. During the eleven years of his pontificate he issued 95 papal documents on devotion to our faith concerning the Blessed Mother. He aspired to restore all things in Christ, but through the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Love for Scripture and the Liturgy
Faithful to his motto he inaugurated and implemented liturgical renewal as he loved the liturgy particularly the Gregorian Chant. He gave great impetus to biblical studies. He was very much criticized for putting a stop to tendencies, which cast doubt on traditional interpretations of the Bible. This was one of the most outstanding accomplishments of this saintly pope. Since his overriding concern was to renew all things in Christ he ordered a revision of the psalter and the breviary.
He began a codification of canon law and set up a commission to revise the Vulgate. He reorganized and simplified the papal court. He promoted the missions of the Church.
In a series of 14 pontifical pronouncements he exposed and in the process destroyed the cancerous growth of Modernism which was a denial of the sovereignty of God and the supernatural order. He was totally opposed to the heresies of “Modernism in theology.”
Love for the Poor: His Social Philosophy
In his last will and testament he wrote: “I was born poor, I have lived poor and I want to die poor.”
His love for the poor was measureless. It even seemed exaggerated to some. He gave to the poor whatever benefice coming to him to the point of depriving himself of the necessities of life. He was the spirit of poverty which he found in St. Francis when he joined the Third Order of St. Francis when he was a mere priest. That consecration to the spirit of holy poverty marked and sealed his entire life; it also revealed his social philosophy.
Catholic Social Action
Even before his election to the papacy he had taken a strong stand in giving leadership in the Church in Italy on social questions. On Dec. 8, 1903 he wrote a code of norms – treating of principles of Catholic social action. To solve social problems one had to: 1. reinstate Jesus Christ in the family, the school and society; to 2. care seriously for the interests of the people especially those of the laboring and farming classes in whom he had the keenest interest.
He established a Catholic newspaper, he founded societies of young men and girls, schools for orphans and neglected children, hospitals for the poor.
His Death and Canonization
He died in Rome on August 20, 1914. When he was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1954, Pope Pius X was the first Pope to be so honored since Pope Pius V was canonized in 1712.
When Pope Pius XII said, “It is proved that the Venerable Servant of God Pope Pius X exercised in heroic degree the theological virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude and the related virtues” all Christendom agreed with him. It is hard to forget his genuine and profound humility, his zeal for souls, his love of poverty, his piety and simplicity and his unaffected humanness. In all he said, planned, and did he gave first place to Jesus Christ.
SOURCES of REFERENCE
ST. POPE PIUS X
August 21 (Sept. 3)
Butler’s Lives of the Saint – Vol. III, pp 474 – 478
The Illustrated World Encyclopedia p 197
Pocket Dictionary of Saints – pp 412
The Watkins Dictionary of Saints – pp 203
A Calendar of Saints – p 161
A Year With the Saints – August 21
Butler’s Saint for the Day – pp 394 – 396
Illustrated Lives of the Saints – Vol. I, pp 374 – 375
My First Book of Saints – pp 188 – 189
Saint Companions – pp 311 – 312
Saints for Our Time – pp 179 – 181
Saint of the Day – pp 93 -94
Voices of the Saints – pp 696 – 697
Ordinary People, Extraordinary People – Group 5 Card 10
Servants of God – pp 76 – 77
Best – Loved Saints – pp 174 – 177
Book of Saints – Part 1 – pp 18 – 19