Sunday, August 21, 2016

For All the Saints: St. Pius X

When we lived in Flagstaff, AZ, a local clergy-colleague was the priest at St. Pius X Catholic Church. I've forgotten his name now but I appreciated his friendship at the time. I thought of him on this feast day of Pope Pius (Guiseppe Melchiorre Sarto, 1835-1914), the day after the anniversary of Pius' death (so scheduled because St. Bernard of Clairvaux's day is August 20th).

The biography linked below discusses aspects of his life and papacy. Pius X is an interesting pope---frustrating. While he shared his predecessor Leo XIII's promotion of Thomist philosophy and method, Pius aggressively opposed modernism and sought to root out theologians influenced by modernism, which he saw only as a source of error. Compare this with Leo's promotion of synthesis between faith and science, faith and reason, and theology and culture. He was strict in matters of international relations, and refused to support trade unions that were not Catholic.

(Although founded many years after his death, the Society of St. Pius X is a famous organization that rejects the Second Vatican Council and resulting liturgical reforms. The group has no canonical status with the church.)

Pius was also notably pastoral and compassionate and brought his previous pastoral experience to his office. As pope, for instance, he continued to preach regularly, and had kindness for those in need. He was already in poor health when World War I commenced, and his depression at the outbreak of war hastened his death.

Among his other distinctions, Pius codified Canon Law, reformed the liturgy, and like our recent John Paul II he was very devoted to the Virgin Mary. He supported the American Catholic church, although he once refused an audience with former president Roosevelt.

Pius was canonized in 1954. Many churches and schools are named for him, including a high school here in St. Louis.

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