Blessed Pope Pius IX – Feast day 7th February

Pope Pius IX

Pope Pius IX

Blessed Pope Pius IX was the Holy Father of the Catholic Church longer than any other Pope – 32 years, from 1846 to 1878. Born into a troubled world in Sinigaglia, Italy on 13th May, 1792, Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti grew up wanting to be a priest in spite of suffering epilepsy in his youth, and witnessing the growing secular aggression towards the Catholic Church. Before he had reached the age of 21, French authorities had imprisoned two Popes and, without the bravery of those Popes, the Church would have become an effective puppet of France. Pope Leo XII appointed Father Mastai-Ferretti Archbishop of Spoleto in 1827 at the age of 35. In 1840 he was made a Cardinal.

When Pope Gregory XVI died, Cardinal Mastai Ferretti was elected pope. He chose the name Pius IX.

Amid the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. It was an extremely difficult time to be the leader of the Church with continual riots, major political conflicts between nations and religious arguments about the Church’s place in the world. Whatever the problem, Pius IX did not flinch from his duty as Vicar of Christ. Faithful to the duties of his ministry in every circumstance, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and to spiritual values. His lengthy pontificate was not at all easy and he had much to suffer in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was much loved, but also hated and slandered.

He was completely and totally a man of the Church who saw God’s providence in all the events of his reign. Even in the loss of the Papal States he would see the mysterious action of God. Though certainly sympathetic early on to Italian patriotic movements, his concern was with the Church and, through the Church, for the salvation of souls.

In his Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX condemned the heresies of secular society, especially Modernism. (St. Pope Pius X also virulently condemned Modernism in the following century.)

Pope Pius IX inadvertently fueled a virulent hate campaign when he reestablished the British Catholic hierarchy in 1850. The Catholic population in England had been growing rapidly through Irish immigration, which had accelerated during the disastrous Irish potato famine of the 1840’s. Previously the Catholic Church in England had been ruled by vicars reporting directly to Rome. The reestablishment of the hierarchy allowed for direct and quicker action, which made sense. Besides, the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism – a vain attempt to recapture the apostolic and Catholic nature of the Anglican Church – had recently led to a number of prominent conversions to Catholicism, including that of the renown John Henry Newman. Combined with the reestablishment of the Catholic hierarchy, English Protestants saw all this and went through one of its periodic bouts of “no-popery”, but for the growing Catholic population of the British Isles there was rejoicing. This was seen for them as the beginning of the end to three centuries of suffering and exclusion.

Pope Pius IX will always be known for declaring two important Church teachings. First, he proclaimed the teaching of the Immaculate Conception in his Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus, on 8th December, 1854, articulating a long-held Catholic belief that Mary, the Mother of God, was free from all sin, including Original Sin, from the first moment of her conception in her mother’s womb and remained without sin her entire life. After spending many hours in prayerful reflection, Pope Pius IX, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and together with all the bishops of the Church made this teaching an official Dogma of Faith (i.e. to be believed by all Catholics.)

At the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius XVI and the bishops declared the teaching of papal infallibility. This means that when the Pope and bishops teach together on Faith and Morals – ex cathedra – they always teach the truth. Infallibility is a gift of the Holy Spirit, given to the Church to ensure that the teachings of the Church will always remain true and protected from errors.

Pius IX was a Marian Pope, who in his encyclical Ubi Primum described Mary as a Mediatrix of salvation. He also granted the Marian title of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the name of a famous Byzantine icon from Crete.

Pope Pius IX’s last words, as recorded by the Cardinals who were kneeling at his bedside, were: “Guard the Church I loved so well and sacredly.”

He had a difficult pontificate, but precisely because of that he was a great Pope, certainly one of the greatest. Thoroughly aware of being the “Vicar of Christ” and responsible for the rights of God and of the Church, he was clear, simple consistent. He combined firmness and understanding, fidelity and openness. He was beatified in 2000 by Bl. Pope John Paul II.

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15 Responses to Blessed Pope Pius IX – Feast day 7th February

  1. cg says:

    Reblogged this on Catholic Glasses and commented:
    Blessed Pope Pius IX pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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  2. Toadspittle says:

    Pius lX didn’t care for “Modernism” it seems. Not the only one, either. To object to Modernism is like objecting to the weather. It’s pointless and futile. We are all “modern,” whether we like it or not. We can’t help it. We live in the modern world, drive modern cars, use modern weapons to kill one another, have modern central heating. And so on.
    All we can do is die, then we are safely old-fashioned, I suppose.
    And where does the idea that “Tradition” is innately good come from?
    Recent traditions – now thankfully abandoned (or so we are told) – include jailing homosexuals, child labour, officially-sanctioned racialism, ritual bullying at schools and in the armed forces, illegal abortions, anti-Semitism, treating women as sex objects, tormenting animals for fun, etc.
    I also suppose, however, there must be “good” traditions. Aren’t there? Such as?

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  3. Toadspittle says:

    Oops.
    Forgot a venerable English Tradition, institutionalised, legalised, anti-Catholicism. (See above.)
    …There.

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  4. GC says:

    Toad needs to do a bit of homework on “modernism”, it seems. He appears to think it is nothing more than something akin to his wearing bell-bottomed trousers in the 60s.

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  5. GC says:

    Thanks, kathleen, for another one of your fine efforts.

    I remember hearing when I was younger that Pius IX was hailed as a “liberal” on becoming Pope (now that sounds recently familiar), but that he became a dreadful old pre-Vatican2-er further into his pontificate (so let’s keep a very watchful eye, then, on Bishop Francis of Rome).

    He certainly lived in interesting times as mainly northern Italians sought to take control of the whole of Italy and, as was becoming customary elsewhere, confiscated Church assets and kicked out the contemplative orders. (I’m not sure why Toad’s “philosophers” of the French revolution and other similar movements in other regions seem to go straight for the contemplatives, but it was done in Austria-Hungary too and later again in France.)

    kathleen, can I recommend this read on Pius IX too?

    Blessed Pius IX: That Was Then. This is Now. The Evils of Then Seem the Norms of Now.

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  6. They probably went for the contemplatives because they were motivated by Satan and he knows of the amazing power of prayer.

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  7. GC says:

    My reference to “Austria-Hungary” above should more accurately read “Austria”.

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  8. Toadspittle says:

    “Toad may be surprised to discover that antiCatholicism (and bellbottoms) are found outside England as the article shows clearly, and a glance at history confirms.”

    Toad is not.
    He is to be found outside England himself, and is becoming a bit of a student of antiCatholicism in Spain and France, for two.
    Where they are (or were) rather more “pro-actively” antiCatholic than the English, going in for murdering clerics and burning down churches.
    Foreigners going too far, you might say. Still what can we expect, really?

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  9. kathleen says:

    GC @ 7:03

    “I remember hearing when I was younger that Pius IX was hailed as a “liberal” on becoming Pope (now that sounds recently familiar), but that he became a dreadful old pre-Vatican2-er further into his pontificate (so let’s keep a very watchful eye, then, on Bishop Francis of Rome).”

    Yes, you are absolutely correct dear GC! Amazing, huh? In hindsight Bl. Pius IX is seen as one of the most conservative of Popes, and yet at the start of his pontificate he was indeed “hailed as a liberal”!! I was only vaguely aware of this myself until I delved further into the many accounts of his biography when writing the article.
    It is truly as if the Holy Spirit intervenes to guide and guard against any liberal agenda from ravaging the Deposit of Faith.

    Card. Ratzinger was also accused of being a liberal once upon a time too, though no one could say that about him when he became our Holy Father! You make a subtle point that Pope Francis might surprise us all yet. Let’s keep praying! 🙂

    P.S. Thanks for the link.

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  10. Eccles (who is so self-centred that he writes in the 3rd person singular, because it makes him sound a little grander and gives his trivial views a less egotistical flavour) thinks he may be able to enlighten his dear amphibian friend as to what “Modernism” means. In a religious context it is nothing to do with driving in cars; it is to do with secular liberalism, seen for example in the promotion of abortion as a “right”, the destruction of the family, and the treating of adultery and sexual perversion as socially acceptable. Possibly, if the Anuran one were to read more and to write less, he would learn more: but who is Eccles to judge?

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  11. kathleen says:

    Dear Friend, bruvvereccles, how good to see you over here! (So sorry your comment got held up by the WordPress Moderation system.)

    Unfortunately our Anuran resident appears to possess a large mouth but poor eyesight… or else he has a distinct dislike of reading anything that just might make him have to change his tune. 😉

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  12. kathleen says:

    GC, I have now read and absorbed that fascinating scholarly article you linked to, that I only had time to skim through before. It is a fantastic in-depth look at the spirituality, ‘battles’ and work of this amazingly holy, intelligent and fearless Pope. I really would encourage all our visitors to read it too.
    My own article is, I’m afraid, only very much a summary of his life. However, I feel I should have mentioned his affectionate Italian name – Pio Nono – that became famous everywhere, even outside Italy. Nor should I have forgotten to emphasise Pope Pius IX’s love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, for this was surely what spurred him on in his constant battles in those turbulent times of his papacy.

    Another side I found very interesting were the earlier “liberal” accusations. These passages stuck out:

    Pio Nono took up the battle began by Pope Clement XII against false ideas of the “enlightenment” not only in the unbelieving world but within the Church itself as Catholics gave up the practice of their faith for liberal ideologies….
    The Syllabus showed Pio Nono was not once a liberal and then not a liberal. His policies were the same though his methods changed. The problem was, and is, that “Liberalism” intertwines good with evil and it can be hard to tell them apart. As Bokenkotter states there is a “distinction between the philosophy of liberalism and the political and social techniques it made use of.””

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  13. GC says:

    kathleen, if I’m not entirely wrong, it appears that Pius IX was more a political moderate than a political liberal at the beginning of his reign, but at no time was he anything like a “theological” liberal. His political thought later became less accommodating as the Piedmontese and others got up to tricks.

    This sentence had a familar ring to it. Just can’t put my finger on where I’ve heard something similar, but I know it was quite recent:

    Liberal leaders welcomed the pope and his reputation grew, being hailed his first year as an enlightened leader in England and America.

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  14. Toadspittle says:

    “Eccles (who is so self-centred that he writes in the 3rd person singular, because it makes him sound a little grander and gives his trivial views a less egotistical flavour)”
    Hmmm. Sounds suspiciously like the unspeakable Toad, dunnit?

    “…but who is Eccles to judge?”
    What a question! Who does Eccles have to be? He is at least as qualified to judge as anyone else on CP&S, I’d say.
    …Probably more so.
    He just needs a little more self-confidence, is all.

    Anyway, as Kathleen says, Dear Friend, good to see him/you/it on here again.
    We were worried that you were dead.
    Why not stick around a bit – and as you would no doubt say, “Chew the fat”?
    Can’t hurt.

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