The Feast of Pope St. Pius X (#1) - Pope Pius X's Desires for the Church

Source: District of the USA

For the week leading up to the feast of our patron on September 3, we will revisit seven articles that each tell something different about Pope St. Pius X.  The following was originally published by The Angelus in its July, 2004 issue.

The year 2003 saw the centenary of the election of St. Pius X to the Holy See. But the year 2004 also deserves to be a St. Pius X holy year because it marks the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the anti-modernist Pope (as well as the centenary of his encyclical on the Blessed Virgin, Ad Diem Illum of Feb. 2, 1904). For this reason we publish the sermon given by Bishop Tissier de Mallerais on Nov. 16, 2003, for the faithful at St. Joseph's Oratory, Colmar, France.


Dear Faithful, it is a great pleasure for me to be among you to preside, by the celebration of a pontifical Mass, over this celebration honoring the patron saint of our fraternity, St. Pius X. Why celebrate in 2003? Because this year we are honoring the 100th anniversary of the election of St. Pius X to the sovereign pontificate. It was in 1903 that St. Pius X succeeded Leo XIII. He reigned from 1903-14, just eleven years. It was a very short reign, and yet it can be said that in eleven years he accomplished a body of work that no other Pope, at least recently, can match. He renewed-perhaps that's too strong a word; rather, he brought the Church back to what is essential: our Lord Jesus Christ.

You remember that he took as the motto of his pontificate "Omnia instaurare in Christo–to restore all things in Christ," or more exactly, to gather everything under a single head, Jesus Christ. Archbishop Lefebvre, our venerated founder, admired this device of St. Pius X very much, and I believe that he, too, made this motto the focus of his spiritual life, his interior life, and the watchword of his episcopacy. How often would he recall this phrase of St. Paul (Eph. 1:10) to the seminarians as well as to the faithful: Gather all things under one head, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Savior and unique Mediator between God and men. But while extolling the Mediator, St. Pius X would not forget the Mediatrix, the most blessed Virgin Mary, as I shall explain.

Our venerated patron St. Pius X wanted to restore all things in Christ, and to do that he would say that the Church is the great means for bringing all to Christ. In order to gather the stray sheep, even the unbelievers, the non-Christians, whom we call infidels, the Church must be worthy and beautiful. And I believe that we can summarize this program of St. Pius X in four words: He wanted the Church to be more beautiful, more apt, stronger, and holier.


To make the Church more beautiful, St. Pius X had one of the Roman Congregations draft a motu proprio on sacred music, and especially on Gregorian chant, insisting that Gregorian chant become the parishioners' chant, and that all the faithful sing Gregorian chant. At the time, this was not a very current idea despite the efforts of Dom Gueranger and the beautiful liturgical reform begun by Solesmes Abbey and carried out as well by Fr. Emmanuel at Mesnil-Saint-Loup.  Fr. Emmanuel had succeeded in making his parish, a little country parish like all the rest, a Gregorian parish where the parishioners followed monastic and Gregorian time, where the faithful went to church every evening to chant Compline with their parish priest. All the faithful, obviously, knew all of the Kyriale–the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei–in all the modes, but they could also sing the propers of certain Masses and of the Sundays of the year. It was a wonderful work, though not truly widespread in the Church. At the time, we had in other countries, England, for example, thanks to a Catholic revival in these countries, a Gregorian revival with trained Gregorian chorales. But Gregorian chant sung by the people was not common. In Germany, in some parishes–and it was even very common–the Mass was sung in the vernacular by the people. Gregorian chant was not practiced.

That is why St. Pius X insisted that, in every country, not only in Italy, but also in France and in the whole world, the people could sing Gregorian chant. It is the Church's own musical style, and he insisted that, while certainly not neglecting polyphony, Gregorian chant be given pride of place and that it be popularized among the Catholic faithful.

And it happened. Before the Council, all the French parishes would sing the Mass. It was only towards the end of the fifties that, before the Council, the Introit and the Gradual were replaced by pitiful hymns in French. The elders among you can remember all that. The anti-Gregorian revolution begin around 1955-60. Thanks be to God, we have resumed the good traditions of St. Pius X with our scholars and with all of our faithful able to sing the Kyrie, the Sanctus, and the Credo. We owe all that to St. Pius X. He wanted to render the Church more beautiful as an aid to our prayer.

Evidently, we cannot help but compare what we try to do in our churches and missions with what is happening in the official parishes; we can say that these parishes do not stand up to comparison. They have lost Gregorian chant. Their Masses are reduced to being directed by leaders who with waving hands and arms try to elicit a few notes from the sparse, unhappy assembly. Such is the fruit of a false reform. So be proud, dear Faithful, of having returned to fidelity to St. Pius X and to Gregorian chant.


St. Pius X also wanted to render the Church more apt to fulfill her mission by reforming–and you may not guess because it is little known-Canon Law. St. Pius X effected a quasi revolutionary work by codifying the Church's manifold laws that had existed since the beginning of its history. Not only the Papal decretals, these famous compendiums from the High Middle Ages which already collected the laws of the Church, but also all the laws which, down the centuries, had accumulated and, evidently, often led to confusion. How to streamline such an abundance of sometimes conflicting laws was the challenge. So St. Pius X, the man of order and method, as he had already shown himself to be at Mantua and then Venice, shortly after his elevation to the pontifical throne at Rome, called for and organized the reform of Canon Law.

You'll say that it was because he was a man of order who wanted things to function properly. Yes, but it was not only because of that. First and foremost, St. Pius X undertook the reform of Canon Law because he was a saint. He knew that order is the fruit of virtue and justice, and even more so the fruit of the virtue of charity, which orders all things to God; and that if the Church is in order, it is to serve God and to lead souls to Him. Order is not a static thing, a discipline just for the sake of discipline, or order for order's sake. Order has a finality. There is no order without a goal, an end. All order is founded on a goal or an end. And in the Church, right order is founded on this end, the salvation of souls, and God Himself. That's why St. Pius X, because he was a saint, understood that it was necessary to impose order, because the Church thrives on the good formulation of its laws.

Now, you know what happened after the Council: just the opposite was done. They reformed Canon Law–which is indeed necessary when manners and customs change–but it was done in the wrong spirit, inspired as it was by liberalism and ecumenism. And it could well be said that the new Code of Canon Law is not a work of order, but of disorder; not a work of life, but of death! A work of death!

Let us thank St. Pius X for having accomplished a work of life by reforming Canon Law, by streamlining all the laws into one code organized by a comprehensive view that enables souls to live, establishes them in truth, and sets them on track to eternity. This accomplishment of St. Pius X is unknown, but the reformed Canon Law promulgated by his successor, Benedict XV, in 1917 was indeed the work of St. Pius X.


The Postcommunion of the Mass of St. Pius X reads: Ut fortes efficiamur in fide–Make us stronger in faith. And the Collect of the same Mass implores: Deus, qui ad tuendam catholicam fidem, et universa in Christo instauranda sanctum Plum pontificem...–O God, who for the defense of the Catholic Faith and to restore all things in Christ, filled St. Pius X, thy Supreme Pontiff, with heavenly wisdom and apostolic strength....

God had raised up our pontiff St. Pius X firstly for the defense of the Catholic Faith, in order to protect the Catholic Faith, so that the Church would be strong in her Faith. The Church's strength is a faith whole and entire. It is the Church's first good. The Church's treasure, above all, is her faith; it lies in the integral faith of Catholics. Pope St. Pius X understood this well. This is why he took concrete measures in order to maintain the Church's internal unity founded upon the Catholic Faith. You know that he wrote the famous encyclical Pascendi, describing and dissecting the modernist heresy, then he wrote the decree Lamentabili, condemning a series of errors, and had a motu proprio sent to all the bishops instructing them to punish–yes, punish–the modernists and to remove them from teaching posts and pastorates, and to sidetrack them. He was obeyed; these laws were observed. Numerous modernist theologians were sidelined.

He was reproached for it and was accused of being mean. No, dear Faithful, he was not mean; he was just! He upheld truth and justice, and, moreover, he did so with great tact and goodness. Every time he had to excommunicate a modernist theologian, and he excommunicated many, he would send to him a priest on behalf of the Roman Pontiff, personally, to express his fatherly affection for his son and to say how much he longed for the return and the conversion of the priest led astray by modernism. What nobility of attitude: severity and firmness towards heresy, but goodness and mildness towards the heretics. Such was the conduct of St. Pius X. And I would hope that all of you, dear Faithful, would read that famous encyclical on modernism, Pascendi. It is a little difficult, but with a little effort it can be understood. I'm going to summarize it for you briefly.

Faith as Seen by the Modernists

What does Modernism tell us? Faith does not mean the Catholic Faith; for them, "faith" is the fruit of "the need of the divine"; it is a sentiment of the heart which causes us to say that we need something of the divine. That's what faith is for the modernists: the need of the divine in order to respond to the religious yearnings of the human heart.

Certainly, dear Faithful, the Faith answers our religious yearnings, but that is not its definition. What is faith? It is the adherence of the understanding to divine truth, according to the definition of St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church. This is a magnificent definition that destroys all modernist errors: faith is an act of the understanding and not a sentiment.

Now you find it everywhere in the Church; we only hear of faith as a sentimental attachment. "You are sentimentally attached to the Tridentine Mass"; it's a matter of sentiment. Emphatically not. We are attached to it for reasons of faith, faith being the adherence of the intelligence to divine truth. If one strays from this definition, faith becomes merely the fruit of a need of the divine or the efflorescence of our religious yearnings.

Revelation as Seen by the Modernists

What then becomes of divine Revelation? According to the Catholic Faith, divine Revelation is the word of God; it reveals to us divine mysteries through the prophets, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and through the Apostles until the death of the last one, St. John. After that, Revelation closed, and the deposit of divine Revelation was fixed.

But what does it become for the modernists? It becomes the fruit of consciousness, the consciousness that Jesus Christ is the Savior. For them, that's Revelation: a realization, a becoming aware. I become aware that Jesus Christ is my Savior. But no further mention is made of there being a revelation with dogmatic teaching. The Church's mission would be to help all men realize that they are "one in Christ." You don't get it? Rest assured, neither do I!

Christ as Seen by the Modernists

This way of conceiving things is applied to Jesus Christ. Who is our Lord Jesus Christ? For us Catholics, He is the Son of God made man. For them, we do not know. Was Jesus Christ truly the Son of God? It isn't obvious. Did Jesus Christ really work miracles and raise the dead to life? No, that would be contrary to human reason. Did Jesus Christ even exist historically? It is not certain. No, we only know it by faith. The "Christ of faith" is the Christ who was God and who worked miracles. But the "Christ of history" is not that at all. The Christ of the scientists did not work miracles; He was not the Son of God. Did He even really exist?

That's Modernism. They separate a so-called "Christ of faith" from the purported "Christ of history." But neither one is our Lord Jesus Christ. They divide our Lord Jesus Christ; they dissolve our Lord Jesus Christ.

You know that St. Pius X reacted energetically against these very serious errors, errors which again have become widespread in the Church. Many priests do not believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God. They have practically become Moslems. They no longer believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. And that's why they have a bad conscience faced with false, overweening science. They wind up having a bad conscience and they are afraid to profess the Catholic Faith, so they will adapt it to the climate created by this false, human science. By refusing to establish themselves upon God, they build on the sand of the human. The Faith is no longer God, His laws and His commandments; it is the Rights of Man. They replace God with Man. And so the house is no longer built on the rock which is God, which is Christ; it is built on the sand of the human. And the house collapses.

Dogma as Seen by the Modernists

What becomes of dogma in the modernist theory denounced by St. Pius X in Pascendi? Since all the religions are the efflorescence of religious sentiment, since the truths of faith merely issue from the consciousness, then the dogmas must change. Since the consciousness changes, dogmas must evolve. It's the famous idea of the evolution of dogma which several cardinals at Rome accept. According to them, the Church's doctrine evolves following a dialectical course: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Such is the thinking of Cardinal Ratzinger. Such is the thinking of Cardinal Kasper. It has nothing to do with the Catholic Faith.

Tradition as Seen by the Modernists

What becomes of Tradition for the modernists, according to St. Pius X? For them, Tradition is just the transmission of religious experience. You have your religious experience that you hand down. The Buddhists have their religious tradition, which is worthy of respect, it seems. The Moslems also have their own religious tradition that they transmit. They are all worthy of respect.

And that is how all the religions are relativized. All the religions involve a religious experience. You see to what level the Catholic Church is abased, to the same level as all the false religions. If this foundation, religious experience, constitutes the basis of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, then they are going to place it on the same level as the false gods and the false religions.

Unfortunately, the Holy Father John Paul II said: "My faith, the faith that I have, was entirely the fruit of my own searching." Now that's an expression in the modernist style. For our faith is not the fruit of our search; our faith was received in the cradle from our parents. It was our mothers who taught us to pray. We received our faith from our parents. Faith is not the fruit of investigation. We received it from the Church in our catechism. We did not seek it out; it was given to us. So our faith is not the fruit of our own search. To say the like is already to have a modernist faith. Faith is not the fruit of investigation or of a personal experience; it has nothing to do with personal experience. Faith is the adhesion of our understanding to divine truth. It is yes or no. Thus you see, in the mouth of John Paul II, an equivocal declaration on the subject of the Catholic faith.

John Paul II and the False Religions

One of the writings John Paul II published at the end of the last century was Tertio Millennia Adveniente (Nov. 10, 1994) in preparation for the third millennium. It was an Apostolic letter in which he wrote the following, which I am going to quote to make you understand the gravity of the situation, for nothing has changed in the last ten years: "Christ is thus the fulfillment of the yearning of all the world's religions and, as such, he is their sole and definitive completion" (§6).

There are two affirmations: First, "Christ is the fulfillment of the yearning of all the world's religions." Objectively, this is completely erroneous, because we well know that all these world religions, which are false, do not have Jesus Christ as their completion; in fact, they deny and reject Him. How can one say that our Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the yearning of all the world's religions? All these religions refuse our Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot be yearning for Him if they refuse Him. How can one yearn for a thing if one does not want it?

One day I was on a train–something that happens quite often–with Moslems. When they saw my cassock, they were not happy. I tried to explain to them: "If the good Lord wants to save us, He has to do everything necessary for that to happen, even, if need be, to come on earth." What had I said? I had claimed that God could become man: it was a blasphemy! And we were just told that, for this Moslem, Christ is the fulfillment of his yearning? On the contrary!

And then, unfortunately, John Paul II said that Christ "is the sole and definitive completion" of the world's religions. Can it be said of Islam and Buddhism that their yearnings are fulfilled in Christ. No. Their yearnings are a wall that cuts off access to our Lord Jesus Christ. They refuse His divinity; they refuse the Blessed Trinity. The Buddhists do not even believe in God. How can one say that Christ is the fulfillment of the yearning of their religion? It's nonsense. It is even more serious. It is a statement that could be condemned. It is a condemnable proposition, yet it is found in a papal document a century after St. Pius X! The situation is indeed very grave, dear Faithful.

It is not just a matter of the Mass in Latin. It is not just a matter of granting priests the "faculty" to celebrate the Mass of St. Pius V. There are heresies being publicly professed at Rome and which are spreading throughout the whole world. If the Roman Pontiff affirms such things–that the yearnings of all the world's religions are fulfilled in Christ–then all the bishops and priests are going to repeat it, and all the faithful are going to accept it and lose the Faith.

Who will remind them that there is only one true religion that leads to God, of which Christ is the way, the head, in whom it is necessary to be incorporated as a member in order to be saved? We are torn; we are separated by an abyss.

So you see how much we need the remedy given by St. Pius X, who wanted the Church to be strong in Faith. So then, let us take our catechism in hand once again as St. Pius X wished. He wanted catechism to be taught in the churches on Sundays. We cannot do that everywhere, unfortunately, but at least we can have the true catechism taught to our children in our schools. And St. Pius X wanted to organize the study of future priests according to St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, a medieval Dominican and light of the Church. It is the surest way to teach the faith in a Catholic manner.

Such was the strength proceeding from St. Pius X: the condemnation of modernism, the teaching of the catechism, and seminary studies according to St. Thomas Aquinas so that the Church would be stronger.


The last point: he wanted the Church to be holier in three ways.

Holiness of the Priesthood

Firstly, he desired the priesthood to be holier. To this end St. Pius X wrote a magnificent exhortation to the Catholic clergy, Haerent Animo, which I encourage you, dear Faithful, to read, too.

The Holy Eucharist

He also enacted decrees concerning reception of the Holy Eucharist. He did not enact anything for the Mass; there was no need to change anything. You will not find anything about the Mass in the work of St. Pius X, but he did enact measures regarding the reception of Holy Communion. Because Jansenism persisted, people didn't dare receive Communion frequently, and children were not allowed to make their first Holy Communion before the age of ten. St. Pius X himself bitterly regretted not having been able to receive before this age. So, once he became Pope, one of his very first decrees was to invite all the faithful to frequent and even daily communion if they so desired, provided that they be in the state of grace. This decree constituted a real deliverance. Then he admitted children who had reached the age of reason to receive Holy Communion.

It is hard for us to form an idea of what things were like then. Now we've gone to the opposite extreme: in the Modernist Church, everyone advances in closed ranks to receive the bread of life in the hand, without reverence and without even going to confession. Let us keep the right measure, dear Faithful; let us receive Holy Communion frequently, even daily, but let us also go frequently to confession.

Marian Devotion

Finally, the third means he took to render the Church holier (and more beautiful) was to encourage devotion to Mary. On February 2, 1904, for the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX (1854-1904), St. Pius X wrote a great encyclical on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ad Diem Ilium Laetissimum, what one might rightly call the last great encyclical on the Blessed Virgin. Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption, but it was St. Pius X who published the last great document on devotion to the Blessed Virgin. There were none afterwards, or if there were any, they could not measure up to this encyclical of St. Pius X, who, without actually making a solemn definition, emphasized the fact of our Lady's spiritual maternity and co-redemption.

The foundation of the Blessed Virgin's spiritual maternity of our souls is her divine maternity, since she is the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the mother of God and the mother of men, attentive to our needs and ready to help us by her prayer and her intercession. Our Lady's role as co-redemptrix is founded upon the merits she gained at the foot of the cross in union with her divine Son. Everything that Jesus merited on the cross, the Blessed Virgin merited in her own way. Jesus Christ merited in strict justice, while being man, He is also God; the Blessed Virgin merited condignly, as she is just a human being.

It's a fact: everything that Jesus Christ merited for us on the cross, the Blessed Virgin won with Him at the foot of the cross. This is what St. Pius X affirmed. Numerous saints in the Church's tradition had already said as much, in particular St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, but St. Pius X as Pope taught it. It is magnificent.

From this twin foundation–Mary the mother of God and mother of men and Mary Co-redemptrix (St. Pius X did not use the word co-redemptrix; he said reparatrix, associated with the Redeemer)–flows the universal mediation of the Blessed Virgin, who is mediatrix, distributing the graces of our Lord Jesus Christ. This beautiful doctrine is developed in the encyclical Ad Diem Ilium of 1904, the centenary of which was celebrated last Candlemas Day.

The encyclical is centered on the Blessed Virgin. It counters the defect of the "scrupulous devotees" who do not dare have a greater devotion to the Blessed Virgin for fear of diminishing devotion to Jesus Christ. As if by honoring the Mother you could dishonor the Son! It is just the opposite, dear Faithful. Honoring the Blessed Virgin very much is the best way to honor her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

One can never be too audacious in giving oneself entirely to the Blessed Virgin in order to belong even more to our Lord Jesus Christ. Don't be afraid! The Blessed Virgin is not a screen, she is an echo. You shout, "Mary," as St. Louis-Marie de Montfort says, and she replies, "God." You shout, "Mary," and the echo comes back, "Jesus," and never Mary. If you go through her, says St. Pius X, it is "the surest and easiest way" to reach our Lord.

In contrast to this admirable doctrine, consider the doctrine regrettably contained in the last Marian letter of Pope John Paul II (Rosarium Virginis Mariae - ed) which, while quoting St. Louis de Montfort, ultimately betrays a certain fear that Catholics, by exclusively honoring the Blessed Virgin, harm our Lord Jesus Christ. So the Pope wanted to make the Rosary more "Christological." He expressed it in these terms: bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary, it would be suitable to add...a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light) (§19).

What does that mean? To focus the Rosary, the documents says, more on Jesus Christ than on the Blessed Virgin, as if the Blessed Virgin were an obstacle to Jesus Christ. It is really a bad word at the expense of the most Blessed Virgin.

That is why we do not accept this idea of making the Rosary more "Christological." We have not adopted this new way of reciting the Rosary; we are keeping the traditional mysteries. They are the mysteries of the Blessed Virgin, and that's that. And we are quite convinced that the Blessed Virgin Mary, by herself, without "Christological" artifice, leads us to Jesus Christ.

So, dear Faithful, such was the work of St. Pius X. We owe him this beautiful encyclical and this beautiful Marian doctrine, the doctrine of the most Blessed Virgin, Mother of God and mother of men, Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix.

We must thank God for having given us such a Pope, and for having given our Society such a patron. Let us ask today for the grace to be faithful to these principles. One of the effects of gratitude is fidelity to the principles one has received: We must not lose our care for the beauty of the Church, for good order in the Church directed towards God, for the strength of the faith whole and entire, for the holiness of the Church, and especially the holiness of our own souls through the mediation of the most Blessed Virgin Mary. Amen.