Homage to St. Pius X on the 65th Anniversary of His Canonization

Source: FSSPX News

Sixty-five years ago, on May 29, 1954, Pope Pius XII canonized Pope Pius X before an enormous crowd. This canonization appeared to all to be extraordinary, since it was necessary to go back to 1712—the year when Clement XI inscribed in the catalogue of saints the name of Pius V, the pope of the Rosary, of Lepanto and of the Mass—to see the figure of a sovereign pontiff thus exalted.

Through St. Pius X, pope from 1903-1914, Pius XII wanted to give an example to the entire Church of the holiness of the head, “real papal holiness” [1] capable of guiding the sheep through difficult times. In the beatification brief (June 3, 1951), Pius XII enumerated the principal traits deserving the attention and the admiration of the crowd:

1. Concern for the sanctity of the clergy, the key to renewing all things in Christ, according to his sublime motto.[2] Pius X wanted a clergy distinguished by its piety, obedience, and learning.

2. The renewal of ecclesiastical studies. Pius X exhorted Christian philosophers to defend the truth under the banner of St. Thomas Aquinas. He founded in Rome the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and encouraged the theological sciences, an inspired exegesis, and carefully prepared preaching on the part of the clergy.

3. Preoccupation with the eternal salvation of souls. If Pius X desired a holy clergy, it was with a view to the instruction of the faithful, to whom he gave a catechism designed for both adults and children. To the latter he would forever remain the Pope of the Eucharist, promoting Communion at an early age, but also—and for everyone—frequent and even daily Communion.

4. The defense of the Faith in its fullness and purity. The false teachings that recycled a compendium of errors were unmasked, labeled as Modernism, and wisely repressed (Encyclical Pascendi, September 8, 1907). In these circumstances, as well as in his battle against anticlerical laws and the secularist separation of Church and State, St. Pius X was, in the words of the Angelic Pastor, an “infallible teacher of the Faith,” the “fearless avenger of religion,” and the “guardian of the Church’s liberty.”

5. Love for the liturgy. The initiator of an authentic liturgical movement, Pius X renovated sacred music, but also the breviary and the calendar of feast days, so as to orient the Church decisively “toward a liturgical life that is thoroughly imbued with traditional piety, sacramental grace, and inspired beauty”[3].

These are principal traits of the sanctity of Pius X, the sanctity of a government thoroughly imbued with the grandeurs and supernatural riches that are the treasure of Church. Pius XII likewise recalls the work of reform that he accomplished in the Roman Curia, in the schools and the parishes, the formidable work of compiling the hitherto scattered laws of the Church into one corpus adapted to the conditions of society (the Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1917). Not to forget the attention that he paid to evangelistic missions and even appeals for unity towards the “separated Easterners.”

Pius XII canonized this example of pontifical sanctity for a very precise purpose: in order to “dispose minds to confront our own struggles and to assure our victories and those of the generations to come”[4]. Proclaimed “saint and guide for today’s men,” and “apostle of the interior life,” St. Pius X is held up as  “a providential example for the world of today, where earthly society is becoming more and more a mystery to itself, and is feverishly trying to rediscover its soul! Let it look, then, for its model at the Church, gathered around its altars”[5]. Because this pope “everywhere provoked an immense movement of return to the splendors of the liturgy and sacred music, and banished ugliness from God’s holy temple”[6].

Today more than ever, just as 65 years ago, the Church finds in St. Pius X, a true saint of the papacy, a model, and a guide. For the clergy, so that they might rediscover the meaning of their eminent dignity and of their vocation to be first and foremost men of God, devoted to His worship and praise. The sacrosanct rites of the liturgy first form a public worship offered to the divine Majesty, the same act of sacrifice offered by the unique Savior of mankind. This is not about organizing a more or less Protestantized Last Supper, without grandeur or a clearly defined priesthood. It is about restoring to each priest his own identity—that of being another Christ, mediator between God and men, charged with pardoning sins, distributing divine blessings to souls, and leading them to Heaven. It is for the faithful and the Christian people as a whole, so that they might understand the burning necessity of saving their souls, of sanctifying their home, their work, and their city; so that being wisely instructed by their holy religion, they may know how to keep themselves from the corruption of the world, especially from moral and intellectual corruption. St. Pius X wanted the people to pray on beauty and to “recognize that it was the Blessed Eucharist which had the power to nourish its intimate life substantially” [7]. 

He organized Catholic Action on a sound basis and promoted the social and professional activities of Catholics within a confessional framework. For the peoples of the world and for all men of good will, so that they might find access to Jesus Christ in the Church. Pius XII explained again that this was his [Pius X’s] primary concern, because God “is the source and basis of all order, all justice, all law on earth. Where God is, there is order, justice and law.” Hence the great work of St. Pius X’s papacy was to organize the law of the Church. Hence also the primacy of faith and sound doctrine which was “the ultimate service of charity rendered by a saint, as Head of the Church, to all humanity” [8].

Finally, for the enemies of the Church, so that they might know the fearlessness and strength that God alone can give to His Vicar on earth and, though him, to His children spread throughout the world. Emblematic of this was the courage with which Pius X rejected the laws of separation of Church and State; he “gave to France new bishops, cruelly persecuted, and resisted the attacks of the wicked”[9]. Sixty-five years ago, that was all that Pius XII showed as a example to the world. The real papal holiness of a worthy and true successor of Peter. He accepted the honor of the supreme papacy “like a cross”—accepto in crucem. He acquitted himself in it as a saint.

To get to know St. Pius X better:

- Pontifical Documents of the Holy See, Saint Pius X, Publication of Courrier de Rome, 2 vol. 1993.

- Saint Pius X, Vu de Haut [Seen from on High], review of l’Institut Universitaire Saint-Pie X, n°11 (2003) and n°18 (2011).

- Yves Chiron, Saint Pie X réformateur de l’Eglise,[St. Pius X, Reformer of the Church], Publication of Courrier de Rome, 1999.


[1] An expression of Fr. Victor-Alain Berto, from an article in La Pensée Catholique, 1951, n° 19, p. 27 and reprinted in the collection Pour la sainte Eglise romaine [For the Holy Roman Church], éditions du Cèdre, 1976, p. 95.

[2] « Omnia instaurare in Christo » ; phrase of St. Paul (Eph 1:10) taken as the pontifical motto in the first encyclical of St. Pius X, E supremi apostolatus, October 4, 1903.

[3] O. Rousseau, Histoire du mouvement liturgique, [History of the Liturgical Movement], Paris, Cerf, 1945, p. 201.

[4] Speech of June 3, 1951 (beatification) in Documentation catholique n°1097, col. 713-720.

[5] Speech of May 29, 1954 (canonization) in Documentation catholique n°1175, col. 711-716.

[6] Fr. Victor-Alain Berto, « Sainteté de Pie X », [The Holiness of Pius X], in Pour la Sainte Eglise romaine, [For the Holy Roman Church], op. cit., p. 98.

[7] Speech of May 29, 1954.

[8] Ibidem.

[9] Ibidem.