St. Pius X
The man who became Pope Pius X was born on June 2, 1835 to Giovanni Sarto and his wife Margherita Sanson in a small Italian town near Venice. He was baptized Giuseppe Melchiorre. Young Giuseppe Sarto experienced poverty in his childhood; his father worked three jobs as a cobbler, town postmaster, and caretaker of city hall, while his mother was a seamstress. Noticing Giuseppe’s piety and intelligence, his parish priest arranged for him to go to high school at Castelfranco, a town some two miles from his home. He fell called to priesthood, but feared he would not have the means to enter the seminary. His parents tried to help him as best they could and his priest once more assisted him with a scholarship that allowed him to go to the seminary in Padua. He was ordained in 1858 and assigned as assistant pastor to a small parish in Tombolo. He ministered at Tombolo for eight years, organizing a night school to provide adults with general education and training the church choir in Gregorian chant. The priest over him was deeply impressed by his young assistant and felt that he learnt much from him. In 1867, Father Sarto was promoted to be pastor of a large parish and from then on he was advanced in the Church because of his zeal and talents, although he would have preferred to have remained a humble pastor. Through his life he remained concerned for the poor giving away even his clothing for alms and always arranging that young and old be taught proper Christian doctrine. He was appointed bishop of Mantua in 1884 and had to work hard to reform the diocese, dealing with government opposition to religion. Few students were attending the seminaries and the younger priests and laypeople had become lax in following their religion. Bishop Sarto reformed the seminaries and established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in all the parishes, so that all parishioners would learn the Faith. In 1893, Leo XIII elevated him to Cardinal and made him Patriarch of Venice. Cardinal Sarto was elected pope in 1903 upon the death of Leo XIII. He took the name Pius in honor of the many illustrious popes of this name. As pope, Pius X worked hard to “restore all things in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:10) He issued encyclicals on social action and the importance of teaching doctrine. He is often called the “Pope of the Eucharist” for he lowered the age at which children can make their first Communion and encouraged daily, devout reception of the Eucharist. He attacked the philosophy of Modernism; this was controversial for many people thought the pope was attacking modern progress. He was not attacking progress, democratic government, or the legitimate use of modern technology, but rather errors in thinking, sometimes subtle, which undermine legitimate authority and even the authority of God. He encouraged the study of scripture with modern methods provided they remained true to the Faith and he promoted the use of Gregorian chant. The coming of World War I saddened the pontiff and his labors had worn down his physical resistance. He was stricken by the influenza epidemic just beginning to sweep the world and died on August 20, 1914. He was greatly mourned and many people sought his intercession. Numerous miracles were reported and in 1954, he was canonized. His feast is August 21.