Since, however, it has been pleasing to the Divine Will to raise Our lowliness to such sublimity of power, We take courage in Him who strengthens Us; and setting Ourselves to work, relying on the power of God, We proclaim that We have no other programme in the Supreme Pontificate but that "of restoring all things in Christ" (Eph 1:10), so that "Christ may be all and in all" (Col 3:2). E Supremi Apostolatus
Restore all things in Christ
This, my dear brethren, was the motto chosen by Pope Pius X so that "Christ may be all and in all".
By living a life in conformity with this goal, Pope Pius X was elevated to the altars (was canonized) by Pope Pius XII on 31st May 1954.
In this sermon, I should like simply to tell you the story of his life for throughout it is permeated by the striving towards ordering all things to Christ: interioraly by the order of the intellect and the spiritual life, and exteriorly by the order in the Church (liturgy and canon law) and by order in society for the social reign of Christ the King.
Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was born 2nd June 1835, at the village of Riese, Province of Treviso, in Venice.
He was the oldest of eight children; his parents were Giovanni Battista Sarto and Margarita (née Sanson); the former, a postman, died in 1852 when he was 17, but Margarita lived to see her son a cardinal. They were a poor family. Their house at the centre of Riese had just eight rooms (four up and four down). The floors were earthen on the ground floor and rickety staircase led from the kitchen to the upstairs hall. The house is now and preserved in its original state with the original furniture and even plates, cutlery and cooking utensils.
Guiseppe Sarto as a youth was a bright student and pious too. One of his pleasures when he had the time was to walk 2km to assist at Mass in his favourite church Santa Maria in Cendrolli in a neighbouring village. In order to save his shoes, for they were the only ones he possessed, he walked bare foot whenever he could. He tied his shoe laces together and hung his shoes around his neck.
After finishing his primary education, Giuseppe at first received private lessons in Latin from the arch-priest of his town, Don Tito Fusaroni, after which he studied for four years at the gymnasium of Castelfranco Veneto, walking to and fro every day.
Having being recognised as having a possible vocation, in 1850 at 15 years old he received the tonsure from the Bishop of Treviso, and was given a scholarship of the Diocese of Treviso in the seminary of Padua, where he finished his classical, philosophical, and theological studies with distinction. It is a credit to Don Tito Fusaroni that he was singled out and found a scholarship for Guiseppi Sarto, for his family were too poor to support him themselves and would not have dreamt of an honour so high for their son.
Guiseppi Sarto was ordained in 1858 at 23 years old, and was sent to a village called Tombolo as a curate. This was a difficult posting for the village was a poor one and the faith was dying among its inhabitants and what-is-more the parish priest was an invalid and required much care and attention. Father Sarto worked and prayed tirelessly. He was gifted in that he could survive on just four of sleep a night. The housekeeper for the parish priest reproached him on one occasion for leaving the oil lamp burning at night. She had seen it a 4 o’clock in the morning from the street. But Father Sarto was not sleeping at his time - he was already at his desk.
He not only performed the functions of the parish priest in Tombolo, he found time to study, seeking to perfect his knowledge of theology by assiduously studying Saint Thomas and canon law; and, at the same time he established a night school for adult students, and devoted himself to the ministry of preaching in other towns to which he was called.
In 1867, after his parish priest had signalled to the local bishop that Father Sarto had extraordinary talents and was wasted in a place like Tombolo, he was named arch-priest of Salzano, a large borough of the Diocese of Treviso. Here he restored the church, and provided for the enlargement and maintenance of the hospital by his own means, consistently with his habitual generosity to the poor; he especially distinguished himself by his abnegation during the cholera epidemic.
He also cared and provided much for the religious instruction of adults.
Today, there is a museum of Saint Pius X in Salzano and in it can be seen the parish registers. These reveal something of the compassion and tenderness of Father Sarto for, in the register of deaths, not content with recording the facts alone, there is always a kind word to say of the deceased and a plea for mercy on their souls – even at the height of the cholera epidemic there are entries that show the deaths of several members of the same family within days of each other. For each one he had a kind word to say.
In 1875 his steady rise continued by being made a canon of the cathedral of Treviso (that is an advisor of the bishop), and filled several offices, among them those of spiritual director and rector of the seminary, examiner of the clergy, and vicar-general (assistant to the bishop).
Moreover, he made it possible for the students of the public schools to receive religious instruction. This care for the teaching of the faith is a recurring theme of Saint Pius X, he saw that weakness in faith and coldness in charity have ignorance as one of its principal causes.
In 1878, on the death of Bishop Zanelli, he was elected vicar-capitular – which made him successor to the bishop.
And then on 10th November, 1884, he was named Bishop of Mantua, then a very troublesome see, and was consecrated on 20th November.
His chief care in his new position was for the formation of the clergy at the seminary. “Love your seminary” was his motto among the faithful. In one year the number of seminarians rose from about 9 to 149. Bishop Sarto himself taught dogmatic theology for several years at the seminary. At the seminary he insisted that the doctrine and method of St. Thomas be followed, and to many of the poorer students he gave copies of the "Summa theologica". He also cultivated the Gregorian Chant among the seminarians.
The temporal administration of his see imposed great sacrifices upon Bishop Sarto. He visited every parish of his diocese and, despite his gentle disposition towards others, he insisted on strict discipline among his clergy ensuring that their spiritual lives were in order and that their duties to study be fulfilled.
It was not unknown for Bishop Sarto, when visiting the presbyteries of his diocese, to select moral theology textbooks from the libraries of his priests, blow the dust off them and then fix the trembling priest with an inquisitive glare.
On one occasion he invited two priests to the Episcopal residence and when they arrived Bishop Sarto said: “Come with me in the carriage, I have to go somewhere.” The two priests followed, a little bemused but nevertheless entertained by the agreeable diversion. They arrived at a monastery and when they met the Prior; Bishop Sarto introduced them: “These are the two priests I was telling you about. They need a retreat and will be staying with you for two weeks…”
By his attendance at the confessional, he gave the example of pastoral zeal. He never ceased to promote the catechism as the principal tool for Catholic education and encouraged the Catholic political movement "Opera dei Congressi".
Cardinal Patriarch of Venice
At the secret consistory of June, 1893, Leo XIII created him a cardinal under the title of San Bernardo alle Terme; and in the public consistory, three days later, he was preconized Patriarch of Venice.
At Venice conditions were much better than they had been at Mantua. There, also, he paid great attention to the seminary, where he obtained for the establishment of the faculty of canon law. He promoted the use of the Gregorian Chant; he favoured social works, especially the rural parochial banks; he discerned and energetically opposed the dangers of certain doctrines and the conduct of certain Christian-Democrats.
Pope Pius X
On the death of Pope Leo XIII, the princes of the Church, the cardinals, entered into conclave. Mgr Merry de Val, the young sophisticated and brilliant diplomat was unexpectedly made Secretary of the Conclave and after the dramatic attempt to veto the liberal Cardinal Rampolla by the Emperor Franz-Joseph, and after several ballots Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto was elected on 4th August by a vote of 55 out of a possible 60 votes. He was under no illusions about the task that faced him so that when the Cardinal Dean asked Cardinal Sarto what name he would assume the answer was: “Since the Popes who have suffered most for the Church in this age have borne the name of Pius, I will to take this name.” His coronation took place on the following Sunday, 9 August, 1903.
The election of St. Pius X was a surprise to the world. He was not from the Roman Curia, he had no diplomatic experience, he was of humble origin, the son of a postman, and virtually unknown outside of Italy. He didn’t even speak French (imagine!). He was the first to ascend the throne of Peter having passed through every clerical rank from curate to pope. It was only after the official reception of the Diplomatic Corps, where the ambassadors of the nations of the world, were officially presented to the new pope that the wisdom of the conclave became apparent.
Pope St. Pius X ascended the Papal throne at a critical stage in Church history. The Church had lost the last of its Papal States in 1870 to the Italian Revolutionaries; the major secular powers of the world were controlled by the enemies of the Church; the morals of the age were in deplorable decline; and the Church herself was being corrupted from within by pernicious errors.
While Leo XIII had done much the to increase the prestige of the Church in the eyes of the world, and while he had made some reforms and encouraged a rekindling of the intellectual and spiritual life among Catholics, the situation was still near desperate.
The Pontifical Battle Plan
On 4th September 1903 Pius X published his first encyclical: E Supremi Apostolatus which was the battle plan for his pontificate:
4. Since, however, it has been pleasing to the Divine Will to raise Our lowliness to such sublimity of power, We take courage in Him who strengthens Us; and setting Ourselves to work, relying on the power of God, We proclaim that We have no other program in the Supreme Pontificate but that "of restoring all things in Christ" (Ephes. i., 10), so that "Christ may be all and in all" (Coloss. iii., 2). Some will certainly be found who, measuring Divine things by human standards will seek to discover secret aims of Ours, distorting them to an earthly scope and to partisan designs. To eliminate all vain delusions for such, We say to them with emphasis that We do not wish to be, and with the Divine assistance never shall be aught before human society but the Minister of God, of whose authority We are the depositary. The interests of God shall be Our interest, and for these We are resolved to spend all Our strength and Our very life. Hence, should anyone ask Us for a symbol as the expression of Our will, We will give this and no other: "To renew all things in Christ." In undertaking this glorious task, We are greatly quickened by the certainty that We shall have all of you, Venerable Brethren, as generous co-operators. Did We doubt it We should have to regard you, unjustly, as either unconscious or heedless of that sacrilegious war which is now, almost everywhere, stirred up and fomented against God. For in truth, "The nations have raged and the peoples imagined vain things" (Ps. ii., 1.) against their Creator, so frequent is the cry of the enemies of God: "Depart from us" (Job. xxi., 14). And as might be expected we find extinguished among the majority of men all respect for the Eternal God, and no regard paid in the manifestations of public and private life to the Supreme Will -- nay, every effort and every artifice is used to destroy utterly the memory and the knowledge of God.
“To restore all things in Christ” was the battle cry.
The biggest battle of all was one of ideas. While the Church possesses the integral truth, there have been times during the Church’s history where her children have veered away from the perennial doctrine of the Church. The error of his time and of our time is the most pernicious of all errors. It was not like Arianism, Pelagianism, or any of the heresies that denied some aspect of the Church’s doctrine in the preceding centuries. This heresy was a synthesis of all heresies, it challenged not one doctrine but everything together. The heresy was called Modernism.
Modernism destroys the order of man to God. God made man with an intellect, with a will and with passions. When man is ordered to God his passions are submitted to his will, his will is submitted to his intellect and his intellect is submitted to God. Modernism destroys this order, it consists of two elements:
The first element is to separate the intellect of man from God. This error is called Agnosticism and claims that whatever is unknowable by the direct experience of man cannot be the object of science. Revelation is discredited as is natural theology. In effect, it holds that it is folly to search for God using our intellects because God cannot be seen, touched or heard.
The second element is to submit the intellect and the will to the passions by holding that the supernatural virtue of faith, instead of being an infused virtue that moves the intellect to adhere to divinely revealed truth, is really a religious sentiment, a feeling, a movement of the passions resulting from the subconscious innate need of man for God. It is called Vital Immanence and not only does it deny the origins of faith, it denies the distinction between natural and supernatural because it claims that faith is natural to man.
In 1907, he caused the publication of the Decree Lamentabili (called also the Syllabus of Pius X), in which sixty-five propositions are condemned. The greater number of these propositions concern the Holy Scriptures, their inspiration, and the doctrine of Jesus and of the Apostles, while others relate to dogma, the sacraments, and the primacy of the Bishop of Rome.
Soon after that, on 8th September 1907, there appeared the famous Encyclical Pascendi, which expounds and condemns the system of Modernism. It points out the danger of Modernism in relation to philosophy, apologetics, exegesis, history, liturgy, and discipline, and shows the contradiction between that innovation and the ancient faith; and, finally, it establishes rules by which to combat efficiently the pernicious doctrines in question.
Among other measures (the Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum on the regulation of teaching in ecclesiastical institutions, and the prescription of the anti-modernist oath [abandoned at the time of Vatican II - when it was most needed!]) Pope Pius X established a committee to censor books and to root out Modernism in the dioceses and especially in the seminaries.
It was a liberal age and the errors of modernism found ready adherents in the young seminarians. New and exciting ideas, the promise of freedom from the sound discipline of the past were causing many to adhere to Modernist ideas. Pius X was ruthless in weeding out these pernicious elements. The danger to the faith was so great that he encouraged those with responsibility to expel without scruple anyone who showed signs of sympathy towards Modernist ideas.
To combat the false ideas in relation to exegesis, the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, there was established at Rome the Biblical Institute, under the direction of the Jesuits.
St. Pius X’s not only battled on the front of ideas, he worked tirelessly for the promotion of piety among the faithful. Understanding that in the age of godlessness in which the Church was battling, the members of the Church, the faithful were in need of spiritual nourishment more than ever and that the spiritual food that Our Lord gave us was himself, His Body and Blood truly present under the species of bread and wine, he advised all (Decr. S. Congr. Concil., 20 Dec., 1905) to receive Holy Communion frequently and, if possible, daily, dispensing the sick from the obligation of fasting to the extent of enabling them to receive Holy Communion twice each month, and even oftener (Decr. S. Congr. Rit., 7th Dec 1906).
Until then, Holy Communion was not received everyday, even in religious communities. It was considered that one was not worthy to receive the Body and Blood of Our Lord everyday (which is true) and that a less frequent Communion would incite the faithful to greater fervour. Pope Pius X, however, saw that while we were never worthy of receiving the Body and Blood of Our Lord, it was precisely by frequent nourishment at the Sacred Banquet that we were made most worthy the gift of Holy Communion. This measure was instrumental in putting an end to the last lingering traces of the Jansenist Heresy in France.
Finally, by the Decree Quam Singulari (15th August 1910), he recommended that the first Communion of children should not be deferred too long after they had reached the age of discretion. Before children made their first Communion typically at the age of eleven or twelve.
As a simple chaplain, a bishop, and a patriarch, Giuseppe Sarto was a promoter of sacred music; as pope, he published, 22 November, 1903, a Motu Proprio on sacred music in churches, and at the same time ordered the authentic Gregorian Chant to be used everywhere. He committed the restoration of the chant to the Benedictine Monks of Solesme in France who produced the Liber Usualis still used today.
In the Encyclical Acerbo nimis (15th April 1905) he treated of the necessity of catechismal instruction, not only for children, but also for adults, giving detailed rules, especially in relation to suitable schools for the religious instruction of students of the public schools, and even of the universities. He caused a new catechism to be published for the Diocese of Rome and subsequently the Catechism of Saint Pius X.
The catechism is the most efficient means of teaching the fundamental truths of the faith. While is might appear dry and uninteresting, if it is memorised it provides the Catholic with a starting point in meditation, discussion and defence of every aspect of the faith.
Another invaluable contribution Pope Pius X effected was the codification of Canon Law. Canon Law is the law of the Church. Just as every society needs laws to govern itself, the Church which is the perfect society, also needs laws. Until that time the system of Canon Law had evolved haphazardly on a regional basis. Every country, every diocese and every religious community had its own laws which overlapped; there was no unity within the Church. Pius X, therefore, on 19th March 1904, created a special congregation of cardinals, of which Mgr Gasparri, later a cardinal, became the secretary. The most eminent authorities on canon law, throughout the world, collaborated in the formation of the new code. He died before the completion of the project which terminated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law published under Pope Benedict XV.
He alone stood up against the Masonic power of France.
From all sides he was called-on to compromise with the French State. The freedom of the Church required cooperation with the state, they said; it required compromise.
When souls were at risk, to Pius X there was no possibility of compromise. Freedom in the worldly sense meant slavery to the world.
He was prepared to see every Cathedral, Church and Chapel confiscated, the wealth of the Church, its sacred vessels, buildings and land taken away, schools closed and religious orders disbanded or exiled for the greater good of souls. He made the decision to fight… and was proved to be right.
The Great War
On the world stage, Pius X knew in his heart that war was on the horizon. Pius X warned over and over, admonishing all to "come together for the love of Jesus, for Jesus and with Jesus Who is present in all men." However, as we all know, his words went unheeded and on June 28, 1914 the Archduke Franz Ferdinand - nephew of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, and the next in line to succeed the Austrian ruler - was assassinated by Bosnian terrorists in the city of Sarajevo …and so commenced the bloodiest war in history.
Many say that the outbreak of war broke his heart. On 18th August he contracted fever and died on 20th August 1914. Miracles were worked. In June, 1951, Pius XII beatified and on May 29, 1954, canonized this great Pope of the Eucharist.
The inscription on his tomb, in St. Peter's reads: "Born 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."
This epitaph admirably explains why our founder, Archbishop Lefebvre chose St. Pius X as patron of our Society. Let us pray to him that he may intercede for us through the BVM that we might (priests, brothers, oblate sisters, tertiaries and faithful) ever restore all things in Christ.
Rev. Fr. Robert Brucciani SSPX