St Pius X

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Pope. Born in 1835, he was the son of a shoemaker and postman who lived near Treviso in Italy.

He went to the local village school before joining the seminary near Padua. He spent the next 17 years in parish work before being appointed chancellor of the diocese in Treviso. Nine years later, he became bishop of Mantua, then patriarch of Venice and cardinal.

He was elected Pope in 1903 and took as his motto: 'to restore all things in Christ'.

Many of his achievements realised this ideal. He encouraged frequent Communion, allowed children as young as seven to receive the Eucharist, reformed church music encouraging Gregorian chant, reformed Canon Law and reorganised the Roman Congregations.

In the wider field, he redirected Catholic Action, giving it a deeper base than a merely socio-political one. In the field of doctrine he condemned the error of Modernism in his encyclical Pascendi and the decree Lamentabeli. Unfortunately, this led some conservative factions to criticise a number of eminent Catholic scholars and it took years to recover from the crisis.

In the field of church-state relations in France, Pius sacrificed church property for the sake of independence from state control. In France he condemned the extremes of the liberal and conservative political thought.

He found some aspects of the Vatican's wealth and ceremony profoundly distasteful.

Pius X saw his tireless efforts to avert war frustrated, and died on 20 August 1914, with a reputation for miracles, simplicity and poverty, having written: "I was born poor, I have lived poor, and I want to die poor".

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