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effective August 6th, AD 2006
Were today not Sunday we would be celebrating the feast of Pope Saint Pius X, who was Pope just about a hundred years ago, at the beginning of the twentieth century. Pope Pius is something of a hero to all of us who keep the Catholic Faith in Its authentic form. I’ll have a little bit more to say about that in a few minutes, but it is even more important to consider why he is venerated as a saint—a saint canonized within the relatively brief period of only forty years after his death.
“Why is anyone considered a saint?” we might ask ourselves. Actually, we heard the answer only seven days ago in the Gospel we read last Sunday. A saint is one who, we are sure, is in heaven in the company of Almighty God. And last week, in that Gospel about the Good Samaritan, we learned the way to gain God’s eternal company: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thine whole heart, and thine whole soul, and with thine whole strength, and with thine whole mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Those who have done these things are the saints in heaven—those who have done them to such a great degree that they cannot be kept secret are the ones which the Church canonizes.
“Why does the Church canonize these notably holy people as saints?” is the next question we might ask. The answer is two fold. The first part being that we may pray to the canonized saints for their assistance with the difficulties and tribulations of our life here on earth—so to speak, “they have God’s ear,” and can place our prayers before Him as their own. They are human beings themselves, thoroughly familiar with the human condition, and therefore sympathetic to our situation. The second part of the question is answered by the fact that the Church canonizes Its saints in order to give us models of holiness—good examples that we might follow in our own attempt to live a holy life.
Pope Saint Pius was not merely a good example of holiness, but a great example. Virtually everything we know about him suggests a man who lived according to “the great Commandments of the Law”; a man who was motivated by the love of God, and by the love of neighbor for the love of God.
In contrast to many of the Popes who have come from the influential families of Europe, Giuseppe Melchior Sarto was born—one of ten children—into modest circumstances, the son of a postman, and of a mother who took in sewing to help with the household expenses. His life spanned the tumultuous period in history that included the masonic revolutions that deprived the Church of Her extensive lands in central Italy, and ended just as the great powers began the First World War. His higher education was modest for a man of such great intellectual achievements—he studied Latin with the parish priest, attended the secondary school in his home town of Veneto, and won a scholarship to the seminary at Padua, completing his course work with distinction.
Ordained at the age of twenty-three, he fulfilled most of the functions of the parish priest, who was quite ill, and devoted his spare time to the study of scholastic theology and canon law. Over the years he became well know for his efforts, restoring a church here, expanding a hospital there, tending the sick during epidemics, teaching the faith to the students who were forced to attend public schools, reorganizing the seminaries, and instituting social programs to enable the working people to look after their own economic needs. He was the author of a catechism intended to serve the needs of lay people, children and adults. He certainly could be called a man of the people, while equally being a man of God.
Pope Pius has been called “the Pope of the Eucharist,” calling on the Catholic faithful to receive Holy Communion more frequently, making the Eucharistic Fast more reasonable, allowing children to receive at a younger age, and sponsoring Eucharistic Congresses. He revised the Divine Office, Church calendar, and the ceremonial directions (rubrics) for offering Mass. Pope Pius is well known for his efforts in restoring the traditional Gregorian chant to the Mass—“restoring the use of the Gregorian Chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part in the ecclesiastical offices, as was the case in ancient times”—requiring the liturgical texts to be sung “without alteration or ... undue repetition ... always in a manner intelligible to the faithful who listen.”
Nearly every thing we know about the reign of Saint Pius was true to the motto which he adopted at the beginning of his papacy: “Instaurare omnia in Christo —to restore all things in Christ.” As he explained in his first encyclical: “to restore all things in Christ, and to lead men back to submission to God, is one and the same aim.... God's supreme dominion over man and all things is imposed upon us not only as a natural duty, but by our common interest.” Man is made for God, knowing and doing God’s will is at the root of human peace, prosperity, and well-being. Again, Pope Saint Pius was a man of the people, while equally being a man of God.
Finally, as I mentioned at the beginning, Pope Pius will always be remembered among the saints who have labored mightily to preserve the authentic Catholic Faith. Pius X was Pope long enough after the mistaken philosophical ideas of the “Enlightenment” and Freemasonry poisoned the thinking of Western Civilization, that people were no longer shocked by these ideas. These false philosophies began even to sneak their way into the intelligentsia of the Church. It may be Pope Saint Pius’ most memorable deed, that he condemned this collection of contemporary errors under the collective title of “Modernism,” which he called “the synthesis of all heresies.” This “Modernism” was no less than the idea that there is no such thing as truth—not just that it is difficult to know the truth, but that there is no such thing, even in the mind of God. To the modernist, all things are changing, and the closest thing to truth that we can achieve is the consensus of acting people—truth is whatever we agree upon at the present moment, perhaps different today from yesterday, perhaps again different tomorrow. Following the atheistic theories of Hegel and Marx, the Modernists held that reality is in a constant state of change called the “dialectic”: one idea brought into “dialogue” with another forms a third, which in turn is only fleetingly “true” until brought into contact with yet another idea.
Rightly, this is “the synthesis of all heresies” in that Modernism denies us the ability to ever know God who is unchanging, or to properly relate to our neighbor through God’s never changing moral law. Pope Saint Pius’ ideas are even more important today, in our world, for Modernism has spread like wildfire through our society and even through the Catholic Church. The 1907 encyclical known as Pascendi Dominici gregis is as worth reading today as it was almost a hundred years ago. It is in print in that wonderful book from TAN, The Popes Against Modern Errors, which you can get from our bookrack or direct from TAN. The encyclical, by itself is also on the Internet on a number of websites. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to talk about Modernism in greater detail sometime in the future.
But for today, let us be content to honor this sainted Pope, to emulate him in the things necessary to our salvation—the love of God and the love of man for the love of God. Together with Saint Pius, let us not forget that the knowledge and the love of truth is an essential part of knowing and loving God. Together with him, let us strive “to renew all things in Christ.”
 Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Gospel: Luke x: 23-37.
 Pope Saint Pius X, motu propio Tra le Sollecitudini, 22 November 1903 para 3 and 9.
 Pope Saint Pius X, encyclical E supremi apostolatus. 4 October 1903, para 8 and 7.
 Pope Saint Pius X, encyclical Pascendi Dominici gregis, 8 September 1907, para 39.