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Saint Pius X

Saint Pius X
  • Century: 19th & 20th Century
  • Patronage: First Communicants, Pilgrims
  • Feast Day: August 21st

St. Pius X was born Guiseppe Melchiorre Sarto, in Venetia, Italy.  He was the second of ten children, and his childhood was one of poverty.  Even though poor, his parents valued education and Guiseppe walked six kilometers to school, each and every day.  At a young age, Guiseppe studied Latin with his village Priest, and went on to study at the “Gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto”.  In 1850, he received the approval from the Bishop of Treviso, and was given a scholarship to attend the Seminary of Padua.  He finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction.    

In 1858, Guiseppe Sarto was ordained a Priest, and became the chaplain of Tombolo.  He expanded his knowledge of theology, studying both St. Thomas Aquinas and Canon Law.  He also carried out most of the functions of the parish pastor, who was very ill.   While being named Archpriest of Salzano, he restored the Church and expanded the hospital there, by funds that came from his own begging and labors.  He became very popular with the people when he assisted the sick during the cholera plague that swept northern Italy in the early 1870’s.  He was named a cannon of the Cathedral and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Treviso, as well as holding offices such as spiritual director and rector of the Treviso seminary, and examiner of the clergy.   One of the successes he had was making it possible for public school students to receive religious instructions.  One of his major accomplishments was solving the problem of bringing religious instruction to the rural and urban youth who did not have the opportunity to attend catholic schools. 

In 1878 when the Bishop of Treviso died, he was elected to the Interim Bishop’s position.  In 1884 Pope Leo XII appointed him as the Bishop of Mantua.  He was also appointed to the honorary position of Assistant at he Pontifical Throne. He taught dogmatic theology and moral theology at the seminary in Treviso. 

In 1903, he was elected as the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church.  He took the name Pope Pius X, and served from 1903 to 1914.  His papacy lasted 11 years before he died.  He was a man of true character that was one of protecting and defending the Catholic Faith.  He rejected the modernist of his time with their liberal interpretations of Catholic doctrine, and promoted traditional devotional practices and Orthodox theology.  His most important reform was to publish the first “Code of Canon Law”, which collected the laws of the Church into one volume for the first time.  He was known as a pastoral pope, encouraging personal piety and a lifestyle reflecting Christian values.   

Pope Pius was particularly devoted to Mary.  His famous encyclical “Ad Diem Illum” expresses his desire through Mary to “renew all things in Christ” which he had defined as his motto.  He believed that there is no surer or more direct road than by the Virgin Mary to achieve this goal.  Pope Pius X was the only Pope in the 20th century with extensive pastoral experience at the parish level, and pastoral concerns permeated his papacy.  He favored the use of the vernacular in catechesis, and receiving daily or frequent communion was a lasting message of his papacy.  He was considered by some to be too outspoken.  His direct style and condemnation did not gain him much support in the aristocratic societies of pre-World War I.  He defended the Catholic faith against popular 19th century views such as indifferentism and relativism.  

He strongly urged and led the Church against modernism, viewing it as full of errors, affecting three areas of Roman Catholic belief – theology, philosophy, and dogma.  This defending of our faith gained him the reputation of stubbornness and personal stiffness, but at heart and on a personal level, he was full of compassion and love for all – just adamant in defending the Church against modernism.  He was the only Pope in the 20th Century that gave Sunday sermons weekly, and he would go on to be the first Pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized.  He once stated, “I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor”.      

Pope Pius X died in 1914, and public veneration began soon after, resulting in an early process of beatification.  He had a reputation of being very friendly with children and carried candy in his pockets.  He would gather children around him and talk to them about things that interested them, and teach them the catechism.  He also would tell his crowds that “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven”, encouraging reception of daily Communion.  This earned him the title of, “Pope of the Blessed Sacrament”.     

Practical Take Away 

Pope Pius X was a strong defender of the Faith.  His persistency in not wavering against modernism or relativism ensured our Faith would be carried on for generations to come.  He as a humble man, that spent his time as a Parish Priest, Instructor at Seminaries, and was eventually elected Pope.  Close to his heart was the Catechism of the Catholic Church, often carrying candy in his pockets to pass out to the children, as he would talk to them and teach them the faith.  His desire as Pope was to know the faith, teach it and make it available to all – regardless of where they were at, and what resources they had.  He didn’t waiver in this regard of defending the Faith to the modernistic society around him, prevalent in his time.  We too, would find our path to Heaven much more easily if we would learn our Faith, promote our Faith, and defend our Faith in the face of relativism and modernism in our society today.  On a personal note, I have had the honor of befriending his niece, as one of his brothers relocated to the United States.  She took to heart his message of Piety, defending the faith, and promoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church – something we would all benefit from by doing the same.  I’m honored to call her “friend” and that was made possible because of the teachings and life of her uncle, Pope Pius X.