St. Pius X -3rd September
Life of Pius X (Excerpts)
F. A. Forbes
R. & T. WASHBOURNE, LTD., London 1919
“Pius X. has left his mark on the world”, wrote Monsignor Benson in the Tablet of August 29th, “perhaps more than any Pontiff of the last four centuries. That humble cry of sorrow, which, we are told, broke from him only a few days ago when he deplored his impotence to check the madness of Europe, indeed witnessed to the great historical lesson that those who reject the arbitration of Christ’s Vicar and the elementary principles of Christian justice will surely reap -indeed are already reaping- the bitter fruits of disobedience; but along other lines he has done more than any predecessor of his since the days of that great schism, to reconcile by love those who throw over authority; and the secret of it all lies in exactly that which he would be the last to recognise -namely, the personal holiness and devotion of his own character”.
“It is a wonderful consolation to realise how, for the first time perhaps for centuries, the Shepherd of the Flock has succeeded in making his voice heard, and a part, at least, of his message intelligible among the sheep that are not of his fold. Pontiff after Pontiff has spoken that same message, and Pontiff after Pontiff has been, without the confines of his own flock, little more than a voice crying in the wilderness. Now, for the first time, partly no doubt through the breaking down of obstinate prejudice, but chiefly through the particular accents of the voice that spoke and the marvellous personality of the speaker, that message has become audible, and Pius X has succeeded where diplomacy and even sanctity of another complexion have failed. Men
have recognised the transparent love of the Pastor where they have been deaf to the definitions of the Pontiff; they have at any rate paused to listen to the appeals of their Father, when they have turned away from the authority of the Rector Mundi”.
Nor was it the Catholic Press alone that paid tribute to the holy life and noble aims of the dead Pontiff, but that of the whole country, and, for the most part, of other countries as well. Even the enemies of the Catholic Church, all, that is, but the most prejudiced and mean-souled amongst them, could admire the saintly personality of Pius X, if they did not agree with his policy.
“All men who hold sincere and personal holiness in honour”, said the Times, “will join with the Roman Catholic Church in her mourning for the Pontiff she has lost. The policy of Pius X has had many critics, not all of them outside the Church he ruled, but none has ever questioned the transparent honesty of his convictions or refused admiration for his priestly virtues. Sprung from the people, he loved and understood them as only a good parish priest can do. That was the secret of the love which he won amongst them from the first, and which at Venice made him a great popular power. Not that he ever courted popularity; he taught them as one having authority and could insist upon obedience. But the Roman Church mourns in him something more than a saintly priest and a great Bishop; in him she also deplores a great Pope. In the spheres of Church politics his reign has witnessed grievous disasters. It has seen the separation of Church and State in France and in Portugal, and the whole process of “dechristianising” national and social life, of which that measure was the symbol. Unprejudiced judges cannot blame a Pope for rejecting all compromise with a policy which, on the admission of its authors, was deliberately aimed at the destruction of the faith which it was his mission to uphold. Compromise, it has been said, ought to have been possible, but there are principles which Rome cannot waive or abate. Pius X conceived that such principles were jeopardised in all the accommodations with the new system which were suggested to him. It was no light thing for him to impose upon the faithful clergy of France and of Portugal, a course which brought to them the loss of their revenues, their homes, and even of all legal right in their churches. But his decision was to him not a question of expediency, but of right and wrong. He gave it in accordance with the dictates of his conscience, and the wonderful obedience which the priests whom it impoverished have shown to his commands has filled with a just pride his children throughout the world… His reform of Church music was in the main a return to the pure and noble manner of the best masters of the sixteenth century… his zeal for establishing the true text of the Vulgate the “authorised version” of Latin Christianity illustrates in yet another field the plain practical nature of his mind… The sweeping condemnation of “Modernism” was the most conspicuous act of his Pontificate within the domain of dogma. It was a consequence of his position and of his character as inevitable as his repudiation of compromise with the secularism of M. Combe or M. Briand. Few persons familiar with the elementary doctrines of the Roman Church could suppose that the tendencies of the new school were compatible with them. To the downright plain sense of the Pope the desperate efforts of men who had explained away the content of historical Christianity to present themselves as orthodox Roman Catholics were simply disingenuous… The elevation of Giuseppe Sarto to the most ancient and most venerable Throne in Europe is a striking illustration of the democratic side of the Roman Church to which she has largely owed her power. Hildebrand himself, who brought the Emperor as a suppliant to Canossa, is said to have been the son of a carpenter; Sixtus IV, Julius II and Sixtus V -whose father was a market gardener- were poor Franciscan monks. The only English Pope began life as a servitor and perhaps as a beggar. Has not his own friend and bookseller recorded how the poor priest, to whom mankind owes the library of the Vatican, used to get into debt for the beautiful books which they both loved?
The story is not without its lessons for statesmen and for educationists. The Church did not attempt universal education, but by her monastic schools, her bursaries and her seminaries she set up a ladder leading to the most exalted of all her dignities for the most fit. It was long since a peasant’s son had won the Triple Crown. In this, as in so much besides, the reign of Pope Pius X was a return to the past”.
In the crypt of St. Peter s the last Pope, who was a peasant, lies close beside the first, who was a fisherman, and this is the inscription on his tomb:
PIVS PAPA X
PAVPER ET DIVES
MITIS ET HVMILIS CORDE
REIQVE CATHOLICAE VINDEX FORTIS
INSTAVRARE OMNIA IN CHRISTO
SATAGENS PIE OBIIT
DIE XX. AVG. A.D. MCMXIV.
POPE PIUS X
POOR AND HUMBLE OF HEART
UNDAUNTED CHAMPION OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH
ZEALOUS TO RESTORE ALL THINGS IN CHRIST
CROWNED A HOLY LIFE WITH A HOLY DEATH
XX AUGUST, A.D. 1914.
Thither the rich and powerful, as well as the poor and friendless, come to ask, through the intercession of “Il Santo” for graces great and small, and rumour has it that they do not ask in vain.