“I ask you to remember the words of the Apostle: ‘Walk carefully, that our ministry be not blamed;’ let our actions be such that our enemies shall find nothing in us worthy of reproach.” (Pope St Pius X)
Pope Saint Pius X – a saint for our times
His Holiness Pope Pius X issued his first encyclical letter on October 4, 1903, recalling “with what tears and urgent prayers” he had tried “to fend off the formidable burden of the Papacy.” “We were terrified beyond all else,” He explained, “by the disastrous state of human society today. For who can fail to see that society at the present time, more than in any age past, is suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady, which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction?” One senses in these remarks a foreknowledge of World War I, which immediately was to follow the saint’s death, and the coming of still greater horrors, which were revealed at Fatima fourteen years later. “You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is: apostasy from God…”
His language becomes more prophetic: “All who consider these matters have a right to fear that such perversion of mind may be the beginning of the evils predicted for the end of Time — their first contact, as it were, with the world — and that in very truth the son of perdition, of whom the Apostle speaks, may have already appeared in our midst. . .
“Without any doubt there is a desire in all hearts for peace….But how foolish is he who seeks this peace apart from God; for if God be driven out, justice is banished, and once justice fails, all hope of peace is lost. . .
“We know well that there are many who…unite together on the side of order, as they call it. Alas, their hopes are vain, their labours wasted! Only those can be on the side of order and have the power to restore calm in the midst of this upheaval, who are on the side of God…
“This return of nations to reverence for the Divine Majesty and Sovereignty, whatever other efforts may be made to bring it about, can only come through Jesus Christ….Now what is the way that will lead us to Jesus Christ? We have it before us: the Church. Behold, therefore, Venerable Brethren, the great work that is entrusted to Us, to Us and to you also. We have to bring back mankind, now straying far from the Wisdom of Christ, to obedience to the Church….”
By “the Church,” His Holiness did not mean some vague, unspecified entity, generally defined today by modern theologians as the boundless “spirit” of Christianity. when Bishop Delany of Manchester, New Hampshire, met in audience with Pius X, the Pope asked him how many Catholics there were in his diocese. “Their number is about one-third of the population,” the bishop replied. ‘You must strive to make the remaining two-thirds Catholics also,” said Pius, and “good Catholics” at that.
Thus the Shepherd of mankind set down in his first encyclical the goal he would pursue to his last breath: “The sole aim of Our Pontificate will be to restore all things in Christ (instaurare omnia in Christo).”
In this purpose the holy Pontiff’s efforts were directed before all else at restoring piety among the faithful — the same remedy he had used so often and so effectively in the past. And toward that end his most outstanding achievements followed from the two great devotions he sought to renew in increased measure.
One was to the Blessed Mother. The Golden Jubilee of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception provided Pius with the opportunity to urge this intensified devotion in his second encyclical, issued in 1904. The encyclical was as beautiful and inspiring as Saint Louis Marie de Montfort’s True Devotion to The Blessed Virgin. (In fact the language of both writings is strikingly similar, which is not surprising, since Saint Pius highly esteemed True Devotion and granted an Apostolic Blessing to all who read it.) His Holiness said, “There is no surer or easier way than Mary in uniting all men with Christ….It is necessary to recognize that upon Her, as upon the noblest after Christ, is built the faith of all ages….It is chiefly through Her that a way has been opened to obtain the knowledge of Christ; as no one ever knew so profoundly as She did, so no one can be more competent as a guide and teacher in knowing Christ.”
The other great devotion, by which to restore holiness in the faithful and thus “restore all things in Christ,” was to Christ Himself, in the Blessed Sacrament. Over the centuries the concern for safeguarding the sacredness of this precious Gift from irreverent reception or even sacrilegious abuse had led to certain prescribed limitations as to how often the Sacrament should be received. Unfortunately, by the turn of the present century, such caution, with the perverse influence of the still-surviving heresy of Jansenism had been so exaggerated as to give rise to the notion that frequent Communion was only for holy people. Many received the Holy Eucharist no more than once a year. Communion more frequent than once a week was allowed only by special permission, and at that only in select instances.
“Holy Communion is the shortest and surest way to Heaven,” said Saint Pius. “The custom of keeping the faithful away out of pretended respect for the august Sacrament had been the cause of numerous evils.” And so in 1905 he issued a decree: “Let Holy Communion, frequent and even daily, a thing so desired by Jesus Christ and His Church, be available to all the faithful of whatever condition of life they may be, so that it may never be denied to anybody who is in the state of grace and has a right intention.” A few weeks later he set forth further instruction: “It is necessary that children be nourished by Christ before they are dominated by their passions, so they can with greater courage resist the assaults of the devil, of the flesh, and their other enemies, whether internal or external.” For it regrettably was also a custom that children not be allowed to make their First Communion before the age of ten, twelve, or sometimes even fourteen, and then they usually would have to wait another year to receive Our Lord again. A second decree was issued, determining seven years as the average age for a child’s first reception of the Eucharist, although it could even be earlier in many cases. “Children from their tenderest years should cling to Jesus Christ, live His life, and find protection from the dangers of corruption.”
A woman once brought her little boy to receive the great Pope’s blessing. Pius asked, “How old is he?” And the mother answered, “He is four, and in two or three years I hope he will make his First Communion.” His Holiness then spoke to the child who had crept onto his lap: “Whom do you receive in Holy Communion?” Without hesitation the boy replied, “Jesus Christ.” “And who is Jesus Christ?” “Jesus Christ is God.” Needing no more assurance than that of the child’s sufficient use of reason, Pope Pius instructed his mother: “Bring him to me tomorrow and I will give him Holy Communion myself.”
Hundreds of First Communicants made pilgrimages to Rome to thank their beloved Holy Father for allowing them by his decree to receive Jesus as an early age. Saint Pius always welcomed them with tears in his eyes, embracing each one individually. Such was the Pontiff’s tender, Christlike love for children. And the little innocents, known for their sometimes amazing powers of discernment, loved him as much as if he himself were the Savior. When he would bend to them and offer a word of paternal guidance, some looking up into his gently and holy face would answer in touching simplicity, “Yes Jesus!” Indeed, was his majestic countenance unlike what might be imagined of the Beatific Vision?
Catholic Action was still another offensive strategy set in motion by the saintly apostle, to counter directly the snares of modern error and falsehood. The social and economic spheres were the areas where the Socialists, directed by the higher powers of Masonry, were making the greatest headway towards the destruction of civilization, with their treacherous lies about “liberty, equality, brotherhood, and peace.” So it was in those spheres that the Church would have to present herself, drive out Satan’s accomplices, and begin to guide society in all its endeavors back to Christ. “The field of Catholic Action is exceedingly vast: from it nothing whatsoever is excluded that in any way directly or indirectly pertains to the divine mission of the Church,” wrote Pope Pius. “There is no need to remind you. Venerable Brethren, what prosperity and well-being, what peace and concord, what respectful obedience to authority, what excellence in government might be obtained and maintained in the world, could we but realize the ideal of Christian civilization.”
But he did not fail to mention the insidious forces already arrayed to do battle against the Church in the same field: “The Church knows that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. She knows, too, that she will ever encounter opposition, that her apostles go forth as lambs among wolves, that her faithful will always encounter hatred and disdain, just as her Divine Founder encountered them in full measure. But the Church moves forward unafraid, and while she spreads the Kingdom of God to regions which have hitherto not known the Gospel she also strives to repair the losses in the Kingdom already established. To make all things new in Christ has ever been the watchword of the Church, as in a particular way it is Ours in the fateful moments through which We are now to give history its fulfillment by resuming everything in Him, all that is Heaven, all that is on earth, summed up in Him: to restore in Christ not only what properly pertains to the divine mission of the Church, in bringing souls to God, but also, as We have said, those things which spontaneously flow from this divine mission — Christian civilization in all and the single elements that make it up.
“In this second task the faithful laity must use all their forces to restore the social order, conscious of the necessity of rolling back the tide of ‘anti-Christian civilization,’ and of bringing Jesus Christ back to the family, the school, the whole of society….”
[Source – Catholicism.org]
Comment: The valiant witness of Pope St. Pius X throughout his Papacy to “restore all things in Christ” will be the first of a series of outstanding popes and saints of the Catholic Church that we shall be looking at this Advent to help prepare us for the great feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pius X’s Pontificate was wrought with difficulties and challenges – in many ways uncannily comparative to our own – yet he never wavered either in his duty as Supreme Pontiff (and thus Defender of the Church’s Deposit of Faith handed down from Christ through the Apostles) nor in his faithfulness to trust always in God’s love and guidance. Pope Pius X, pray for us.