Saint of the Day – 21 August – St Pope Pius X (1835-1914) “Pope of the Blessed Sacrament” – born on 2 June 1835 at Riese, diocese of Treviso, Venice, Austria (now Italy) as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (familiarly known as Joseph Sarto) and died on 21 August 1914 at Vatican City from natural causes aggravated by worries over the beginning of World War I. Patronages – First Communicants, Catechists, Pilgrims, 7 diocese, Patriarchy of Venice. His body is incorrupt.
St Pius was head of the Catholic Church from August 1903 to his death in 1914. Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. He directed the production of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first comprehensive and systemic work of its kind.
He was devoted to the Marian title of Our Lady of Confidence, while his papal encyclical Ad diem illum laetissimum is an encyclical of Pope Pius X, on the Immaculate Conception dated 2 February 1904, in the first year of his Pontificate. It was issued in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The first reason for Pius to write the encyclical was his desire to restore of all things in Christ, which he had defined as his motto in his first encyclical letter. It explains the Mariology of Pius X.
He was the only Pontiff to favour the use of the vernacular language in teaching catechesis and encouraged frequent reception of holy communion which became a lasting innovation of his papacy. In addition, he strongly defended the Catholic religion against indifferentism and relativism. Like his predecessors, he promoted Thomism as the principal philosophical method to be taught in Catholic institutions. As Pontiff, he vehemently opposed modernism and various nineteenth-century philosophies, which he viewed as an import of secular errors incompatible with Catholic dogma.
Pius X was known for his overall rigid demeanour and sense of personal poverty. He frequently gave homily sermons in the pulpit every week, a rare practice at the time.[b] After the 1908 Messina earthquake he filled the Apostolic Palace with refugees, long before the Italian government acted. He rejected any kind of favours for his family, to which his close relatives chose to remain in poverty living near Rome. During his Pontificate, many famed Marian images were granted a canonical coronation, namely the Our Lady of Aparecida, Our Lady of the Pillar, Our Lady of the Cape, Our Lady of Chiquinquira of Colombia, Our Lady of the Lake of Mexico, Our Lady of La Naval de Manila, Virgin of Help of Venezuela, Our Lady of Carmel of New York and the Immaculate Conception within the Chapel of the Choir inside Saint Peter’s Basilica were granted its prestigious honours.
After his death, a strong cult of devotion followed his reputation of piety and holiness. He was beatified in 1951 and Canonised on 29 May 1954. A grand statue bearing his name stands within Saint Peter’s Basilica and his birthtown was renamed Riese Pio X after his death.
The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pius X at age 68. He was one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.
Ever mindful of his humble origin, Pope Pius stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practice. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”
Interested in politics, Pope Pius encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the 1903 conclave which had elected him.
In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.
While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.
St Pius will always be known as the Pope of the Blessed Sacrament. For he was determined that the faithful should imitate the example of the earliest Christians. In consequence, he urged the reception of frequent and even daily Holy Communion for all in the state of sanctifying grace and of right intention. He insisted that children be allowed to the Spiritual Banquet prepared by Jesus at an earliest age and declared that they were bound to fulfil the precept of the Easter Communion as soon as they reach the age of discretion.
On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began.