The Saint We Have Reason To Thank

Pope Saint Pius X

Feast Day: 21st August

One of the greatest popes of the last century is perhaps best remembered as the Pope who encouraged the reception of frequent Holy Communion and allowing children to make their first Holy Communion and Confession at the age of reason.

Born in Riese in the province of Venice in 1835, the second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, he was given the name Joseph Sarto but affectionately called Beppi by his parents.

He was elected Pope at the age of 68 and made it the aim of his pontificate to restore all things in Christ, and did this by his simplicity, poverty and fortitude. He never forgot the humble surroundings of his childhood, "I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor." He never became used to some of the pomp of the papal court, saying to a friend, "It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers, like Jesus, when He was seized in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

Interested in politics, he encouraged Italian Catholics to become politically involved so that they could promote truth, justice and a better standard of living for themselves. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of the Italian Government to interfere by veto in papal elections - a practice that threatened the freedom of the conclave in which he was elected.

Pope Pius X denounced the ill-treatment of the Indians on the plantations of Peru; sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

There is a touching story told of him after he had been crowned pope: alone in his study, kneeling at his desk, a great fear gripped him at the thought of the responsibility he would have to face in the years ahead. He felt overwhelmed by the waves of fear. When he looked up he saw on his desk the picture of Jesus calming the sea. He then realised that his predecessor must have gone through the same fear and ordeal of being pope, and like his predecessor, he too heard Jesus whisper, "Be still, do not be afraid."

There is another lovely story told of him. What a wonderful day it was when he was ordained a bishop. He was especially happy for his mother's sake who was still alive. When the ceremony of his ordination was drawing to a close, naturally the first one to kiss his ring should be his mother. As she knelt at the altar rails all eyes in the cathedral were fixed on them. Her son said, “Mamma, I bet you never thought that one day your little Beppi would be a bishop in God’s church. (Little did he realise that one day he would be the pope.) Come, Mamma, you will be the first one to kiss my ring.” His mother took his right hand and looked up at him and said, “Do you know Beppi, you would never be wearing the ring that that finger if it wasn’t for the ring on my finger.” She was a wise mother! She appreciated that it was God who gives the grace of a vocation, but that she and her husband had played their part in his vocation.

On the eleventh anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War 1. He had foreseen it and it killed him. "This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge." He died, aged 79, a few weeks later.

We thank God for the life of this saintly pope. Particularly we thank this saint for giving us the wonderful opportunity to receive our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion every day and we ask him to help us make preparations and thanksgivings worthy of Our Lord. He came from a good Catholic family and we ask him to pray with us for more families like his in our world from which vocations to the priesthood and religious life will come. Finally we ask Pope Saint Pius X saint to keep in his care our present Holy Father.