Saint Spotlight Saint Pius X

1835 - 1914
Feast Day 21 August

A Humble Pastor

Pius X advocated for frequent and, even daily reception of the Eucharist. He promoted the reading of the Bible among laypeople, reformed the liturgy, promoted clear and simple homilies, and brought back Gregorian chant. He revised the Breviary, reorganized the curia, and initiated the codification of canon law. He died in 1914 of natural causes reportedly aggravated by worries over the beginning of World War I.

"Yes, Lord, you know I love you." John 21:15

The Rome correspondent of the Manchester Guardian sent a telegram to his newspaper on 5 August 1903, describing the election of Giuseppe Sarto, Patriarch of Venice, as Pope Pius X. Apparently he did not want the job but finally accepted, quoting the words of Jesus in Gethsemane, “If this cup cannot pass from me.” The reporter concluded his telegram, “So the Catholic Church has a head who will be profoundly religious if not political.”

Giuseppe Sarto, born in poverty in the north of Italy in 1835, was an exemplary priest all his life and moved through positions of responsibility with great faithfulness. Ordained in 1858, he became in the course of the next forty years, archpriest, canon, chancellor, spiritual director, Bishop of Mantua and Cardinal Patriarch of Venice. He was to be Pope for eleven years, his death coming just at the outbreak of the First World War. When he became Pope, he took as his motto, “To restore all things in Christ”, and in many ways that is exactly what he did. He inaugurated great renewal in the internal life of the Church. First of all, he encouraged the practice of frequent communion, a spiritual strategy that would challenge the prevailing notions of the worthiness and unwortHiness of the soul. He also encouraged communion for children as young as seven years. He called for the renewal of Gregorian chant in the liturgy, and began a renewal of the Church’s law and administration.

Inevitably there was some controversy surrounding his papacy, particularly in the way so-called modernist theologians were treated, but Pius himself was a good and holy man. His personal life was truly exemplary. “I was born poor. I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor,” he said, as he struggled to cope with “Vatican style”. Like his predecessor, Saint Peter, Pius X was a big and handsome man, and like Peter before him, he did not get everything right. But when he died, the voice of the people called for his canonisation. In 1954 the Church proclaimed Giuseppe Sarto a “saint”, recognising in this humble man the simplicity and holiness of Christ.

Adapted from he Living Word Saints and Feasts