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Why Today’s Catholics Should Take a Cue from Pope St. Pius X

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This saint’s approach to problems in the Church and world remain just as valid 100 years after his death.

The 20th of August 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Saint Pius X.  As with every saint, there is much we can learn from his life; indeed, what makes the saints so endearing and enduring  is that their message—the message of holiness—transcends time, cultures and borders.

During his years as priest, bishop, cardinal and Supreme Pontiff, St. Pius X certainly made an impact on the world and the Church. His life was a chain of powerful and touching moments … many forgotten by now. But a number of significant reforms and actions took place during his pontificate.

All the good he’d done and wanted to do, all the sufferings and sacrifices, the acts of charity—all have accompanied him into eternity. But his memory and achievements remain. What are they? How is he remembered today? What can we learn from his legacy?

He was a gentle, poor, country pastor. He didn’t vie for higher positions. He remained simple and humble. He loved his priesthood, loved the Church and was always mindful of the poor and those in need. Yet, for all his gentleness and compassion, Pius X exhibited extraordinary strength when it came to defending the truths of the Church, correcting injustices and preaching and teaching the message of Christ.  

Through his reform of the reception of Holy Communion, he touched the lives of individual Catholics. He had an enduring influence on the Church through his reform of Church music. Through his the codification of canon law and his teachings on Modernism, he made significant contributions to the Church. By his work for peace among nations, as well as his efforts to promote and secure basic God-given freedoms for all, he had an impact the world.  

The individual, the Church, and the world.

St. Pius died at the onset of the First World War. Some biographers have asserted that the Holy Father had prior knowledge of this devastating global war. He fervently prayed and entreated nations to do everything possible to avoid military conflict, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. It is fitting that we should pray for the intercession of this Pope of Peace in our current era of global unrest. Surely, he knew the suffering and the widespread disrespect for life that inevitably accompanies war, violence and hatred.

We also remember Saint Pius X as the one who opened the way for the frequent reception of Holy Communion, and for early First Holy Communion. How much in need we are today of frequent holy reception of the Bread of Life!  How greatly we need the strength of this Holy Sacrament in our daily lives, living in a world that constantly presents dangers to body and soul—dangers that St. Pius could never imagine.  Pius X was well aware that one needs strength from on high to battle the temptations of life and to pass the tests of faith. He enabled the Church militant to be fortified with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, much in the way that young David was equipped for his encounter with Goliath. David had his sling-shot and stones, but he knew, of course, that it was the Almighty who would make him victorious over the giant threatening his people. So we, too, nourished by Holy Communion can face life with Him whose grace does not fail us.

We are also in debt to St. Pius X for how he steadfastly confronted Modernism that threatened to undermine the Church. Modernism espoused a series of errors that masked the truth. Proponents sought to sow disbelief and doubt among the faithful. If allowed to spread in the media and universities, this heresy would breed doctrinal confusion and cause the faithful to question the teachings of the Church and her authority. Pius X stood squarely in the way of Modernist errors.

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