St.Pius X Pope Confessor
St.Pius XPope Confessor (1835-1914)
To restore all things to Christ, in order that Christ may be all in all” was the motto of this 258th successor of Peter. And succeed in his endeavour he certainly did! For there was no aspect of the Church in which he did not enter, to discern, direct, determine, relaunch — the Liturgy, the Sacraments, catechesis, homiletics, Biblical study, Canon Law, sacred art and music, the social apostolate, priestly formation, matters ecclesiastical, whatever.
Born Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto on 2 June 1835 to Giovanni Battista and Margherita Sanson Sarto at Riese in the diocese of Treviso, Italy, Pius X was the epitome of simplicity and humility, yet firm and decisive. His extraordinary intellectual endowments, high moral character, and solid piety evidenced from early youth, won him laurels during his seminary training at Padua—”in discipline second to none, of greatest ability, endowed with a very good memory and most promising”.
Ordained on 18 Sepetmber 1858 in the Cathedral at Castelfranco, he spent 9 years as Curate in Tombolo and then 8 as Pastor in Salzano, striving to be “all things to all”, ever available to every parishioner, administering the sacraments, preaching simply yet forcefully, attending to the sick both on the sick-bed and in the confessional, living his priesthood to the hilt. His favourite task was instructing little children in the Faith, ever conscious that “by the Catechism the soil is prepared for the seed of God.”
On 28 November 1875 Fr Sarto was named Canon of the Cathedral of Treviso and Chancellor of the diocese. Consecrated Bishop of Mantua on 16 November 1884, his manifold achievements as pastor of souls and reformer of the clergy earned him the Cardinalate on 12 June 1893 and the Patriarchate of Venice three days later. Noted for his charity, this peasant Cardinal took the keenest interest in the fate of the working classes, the peasant and the proletariat, and was thus instrumental in drawing away many workers from the atheistic Socialist Trade Union.
The long, fruitful pontificate of Pope Leo XIII having ended with his demise on 20 July 1903, Cardinal Sarto was elected Pope on 4 August. Accepting rather reluctantly, the coronation took place in St Peter’s five days later. His very first encyclical, E Suprerni Apostolatus Cathedra (4 October 1903), together with his allocution to the Sacred College of Cardinals (9 November 1903) set the tone for his pontificate.
Himself gaining his strength, his spirit of gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, viz., the Spirit of Jesus, he urged the reception of frequent and even daily Holy Communion for all in the state of sanctifying grace and directed that children be allowed the same privilege on reaching the age of reason. In a series of 14 pontifical pronouncements, Pius X exposed and, in the process, destroyed the cancerous growth of Modernism, which in its hard-core conviction was a denial of the sovereignty of God and the supernatural order.
His realization that self-sacrifice was the very basis of holiness is what saw him through his responsibilities all through life. But it was the hostilities of World War I that saddened him to death on 20 August 1914. He was beatified by Pope Pius XII on 3 June 1951 and canonized by him on 29 May 1954.
Reflection: “Experience teaches that the man who exercises a frequent and rigid censorship over his thoughts, words and actions, is better capable of hating and avoiding evil and of cultivating earnestly what is good” (St Pius X).