Founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre on November 1, 1970, the Society of Saint Pius X will be 50 years old in 2020. According to the decision made by its Superior General, Fr. Davide Pagliarani, it will celebrate its golden jubilee in Lourdes, during the international pilgrimage for Christ the King, on October 24, 25, & 26, 2020. Already in 2008, the 20th anniversary of the episcopal consecrations was celebrated in this Marian city.
The announcement of this golden jubilee is the occasion of remembering the close ties that united St. Pius X to Lourdes.
Saint Pius X and Lourdes
The subterranean basilica of the Marian city bears the name of St. Pius X, patron of the Society, because the holy pope maintained person ties with the Marian sanctuary. His sister, Maria Sarto, testified that, “He was very devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes, of whom he had a little statue that he would often kiss; because we found it to be well worn…I know that it was under his orders that a chapel dedicated to the Madonna of Lourdes was opened in the Vatican gardens, and that he himself assisted in it inauguration where I was present.”
Another testimony about the particular piety of St. Pius X towards Our Lady of Lourdes was that of Francis Xavier Shoepfer, Bishop of Tarbes from 1899 to 1927. He received a letter from the newly elected pope asking him to entrust his papacy to the Virgin Mary.
This prelate informed his diocese that the pope wanted to build a replica of the Grotto of Massabielle in the Vatican gardens. He wrote to them, “This project is the personal initiative of our Holy Father the Pope. Everyone knows about the worship that Pius X devoted to the Madonna of the Pyrenees. The tender piety of the future pope, two years before, had formed the plan of going to Lourdes at the head of an Italian pilgrimage, a plan which the state of his health then forced Cardinal Sarto to abandon. And since his accession to the sovereign pontificate did he not write “to the modest Bishop of Tarbes” [it is Bishop Shoepfer refers to himself so] one of the first letters bearing his signature, pouring out in a language of a moving simplicity, his feelings of tender devotion for the one we invoke before the miraculous Grotto.”
On March 29, 1905, when the faithful reproduction of the Grotto was inaugurated in the Vatican Gardens, the Bishop of Tarbes, gave the profound sense of the finally realized project, “O Our Lady of Lourdes, whose Sanctuary is today united and sealed by Pius X to the unshakable rock of St. Peter, with your all-powerful and merciful hands, deign to seal the union of France with the Church, the union of the Eldest Daughter with her Mother.” This idea of a pact henceforth established between the miraculous rock of Massabielle and the mystical rock of the Vatican, will never leave Pius X, and, many times, in his speeches, he will evoke it in moving terms.
His secretary of state, Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val, also echoed the many testimonies of the special devotion of the Holy Pope: “In his walks in the Vatican Gardens, he was accustomed to make a visit to the chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes.”
St. Pius X granted many spiritual favors and marks of esteem to the sanctuary of Lourdes on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apparitions. He extended to the universal Church the feast of the apparition of February 11. He introduced the cause for the beatification of Bernadette. He thanked Our Lady for having established in Lourdes “the seat of her immense kindness.” He emphasized the link that exists in Lourdes between piety towards the Mother of God and piety towards Our Lord, and he rendered this moving homage: “The unique glory of the Sanctuary of Lourdes lies in the fact that people are all attracted there by Mary for the adoration of Jesus Christ in the august Sacrament, so that this sanctuary, at once the center of the Marian cult and the throne of the Eucharistic mystery, surpasses, it seems, in glory all the others in the Catholic world” (Letter of July 12, 1914, A.A.S.VI, 1914, pp. 376).
Throughout his life, St. Pius X provided much evidence of his attachment to Lourdes. So it was with emotion on the day after his canonization, on the evening of Sunday, May 30, 1954, that the faithful who were present could hear the bells of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, met by the melody of the Ave Maria of Lourdes, at the end of a triumphal procession, the reliquary containing the remains of the holy pope.
Giuseppe Sarto was ordained a priest on September 18, 1858, during the year of the apparitions of Lourdes. Pius X was canonized by Pius XII on May 29, 1954, in the year of the centenary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pius IX.