St. Pius X
We have been fortunate, especially in recent centuries to have had extraordinary men who were popes. In my own lifetime, there have been 7 popes: two have been canonized saints, three are in process leading to become saints; and two of course are still living. (In order to be canonized a saint, one has to die. It’s one of those “good news, bad news things.” )
Today the church celebrates the feast of St. Pope Pius X. One of ten children, born in Northern Italy. He became a priest at the age of 23. Later, he was made a canon and then the Archbishop of Venice. He was relatively not well educated. Never graduated from University. But he was very pastoral and in his lifetime was considered a saint.
He disliked Vatican pomp and privileges, much as our current pope Francis.
He had been known as a happy priest, but once he became pope, he became less and less so. The years before World War I were very difficult for the church and for Europe, especially for what was then not a unified country of Italy.
He became more and more disliked by the Vatican officials and many bishops and cardinals. But he was beloved by the people who saw him as he was and always wanted to be, a simple parish priest.
Those of us who are Catholic were baptized mostly as infants and received our first holy communion in the first grade, around the age of 7. It was Saint Pius X who made it possible for children to receive communion. Before then, it wasn’t until age of 16 or above. And few people even went to communion at all. He changed that and encouraged Catholics to receive communion frequently, even daily.
Before he died, he had given everything he owned away and died a poor man, insofar as a Pope is able to be poor.
He was controversial within the church and did not allow much freedom of thought. He felt the Church was under attack – which it was- and the only way he knew was to defend the church he knew as a young priest.
But no pope is without controversy. Within a year after his death, he was formally on the way to being declared a saint.
Both the two living popes. Retired Benedict XVI and Francis are not without their critics, but they are obviously holy men.
As I began, we are fortunate to be led by such holy men. It certainly makes my life a lot easier.