Pope St. Pius X
By Pamela Martin
Pope St. Pius X lived such a life of humility, obedience, sacrifice, and charity that he became known as an “ardent fire” of the Church. St. Pius X, Giuseppe Sarto, was born on June 2, 1835. He was the second of ten children born to a poor postman and his devout wife. At a young age, he displayed a strong love for God. Pius was happiest as a child when he was assisting at Mass as an altar server. He never could have imagined he would one day sit in the Chair of St. Peter!
Pius led a life of hard work and prayer in order to receive the education necessary to enter the seminary. As a seminarian, he was an example of sincerity and piety. Pius was ordained at the age of twenty-three and worked many years as a country priest. He was known for his generosity and hard work. His parishioners would say: “When it comes to doing God’s work and saving souls, our pastor knows no rest!” St. Pius was willing to do any kind of work. “Work,” he used to say, “is the chief duty of man on this earth. It brings us closer to Christ, who Himself, from His youth on, lived a life of poverty and toil.”
St. Pius encouraged his parishioners to live a life of holiness. He displayed a “Christ-like” charity towards his people. He was able to see the practical, everyday problems of his parishioners. As a true shepherd, his rectory door was always open with a comfortable chair awaiting every visitor who came to share their joys, sorrows, and hopes with their beloved pastor.
St. Pius encouraged seminarians to “be all God intended them to be and to detach themselves from the things of the world in order to grow closer to Christ”. He was a shining example of detachment and lived a life of true poverty. St. Pius spent his life giving everything he had to the poor. He gave away his coat and pawned his ordination gifts to get money for the poor in his parish. St. Pius even had to borrow money to pay his own household expenses because he left nothing for himself. He always felt there were people in his parish with needs greater than his. In his will he wrote, “I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I wish to die poor”.
His life of humility and obedience increased his impressive characteristic holiness. St. Pius’ desire was to be an obedient servant of his Church. As a Monsignor and as a Cardinal, he could have worn a purple cassock as a mark of distinction, but he always wore the plain black cassock symbolic of the priesthood. On one occasion, when he was a bishop, he participated as an altar server for a Monsignor who had no one to assist at Holy Mass. St. Pius told the Monsignor, “the honor is for our common Master whom you were representing at the altar and of whom we are both humble servants”. He always felt unworthy of every pastoral promotion and only accepted because he believed his first duty was obedience to God’s Will. When he turned fifty years old, he reflected: “I am coming closer and closer to the Day of Reckoning and I have accomplished so little with which to satisfy God. This sad thought occupies me day and night.”
St. Pius X felt his election as Pope was a cross and he directed his fellow priests to “help me carry it”. When he wore the white robes for the first time as “Pope Pius X”, he looked up at the cross and with tears flowing down his cheeks and stated: “My God, what hast thou made of thy unworthy servant?” As Pope, he remained as humble and approachable as ever. He used his old glasses, watch, and (empty as usual) wallet. St. Pius remained a man full of charity and forgiveness. He always prayed long and fervently before the crucifix. The crucified Lord continued to be his strength and inspiration to carry out the mission God entrusted to him.
Pope St. Pius accomplished many things during his life, especially during his Papacy. His mission was to “renew all things in Christ”. He wanted “to bring all men to the feet of Christ, to instill in them such a strong love that their lives would be centered in Christ”. He always enjoyed teaching children the Faith and made it an important task to see that children received proper religious instruction. St. Pius taught the children to know and love the truths of their Faith. He realized that children were aware of the meaning of Holy Communion long before the age required to receive the sacrament. As Pope, he lowered the age requirement of children to receive First Holy Communion. He also knew that religious education was not only for the young. Adults also needed to be educated and he created instruction for them as well. He reformed the Liturgy and Canon Law.
Pope St. Pius X, the “poor country pastor doing the Will of God”, entered the “Master’s house” on August 20, 1914. On his tomb in the crypt of St. Peter’s a metal plate reads: “Pope Pius X, poor and yet rich, gentle and humble of heart, unconquerable champion of the Catholic Faith”.
Pope St. Pius X, the founder of our Fall River Diocese, has much to teach us. He would encourage us to learn our Faith and be sure we educate our children as well. St. Pius believed that we can only love what we know and if we had ignorance of God we would not learn His love for us and therefore we could not love Him in return. He would strongly urge us to make daily reading of the Bible part of our education and to include frequent reception of Holy Communion for ourselves and our children. Through Holy Communion, “faithful souls can be nourished and strengthened”. St. Pius would encourage us to a greater participation at Holy Mass through attentively following and praying with the priest and to join in the singing of the Mass parts. St. Pius would remind us that we too are “humble servants” of the Lord and to remember to share what we have for the good of others and to do our part to “restore all things in Christ, that Christ might be all in all. “ He would encourage us to be obedient to the Church and to turn to Our Crucified Lord for strength. May St. Pius X, the “poor servant of the Master” help us to also become “rich” in the important virtues of the Faith necessary for salvation!