Monday, August 21, 2006

Don't let the schismatics steal our saint! : St. Pius X, warrior against spiritual starvation

Your new bishop, the poorest of all, has but one ambition --- to see all the children under his care united in one large, happy family, in the shelter of which their souls shall be safe. For the well-being of souls I shall consider no sacrifice too great, and have nothing more at heart than your salvation. I know that for the salvation of my little flock, I shall have to bear great difficulties, encounter dangers, bear insults, and struggle against the foe who seeks its ruin. But my people will find me ever at my post, always meek and full of charity.
(Giuseppe Sarto at his installation as Bishop of Mantua)

He was a man of prayer, a loving and diligent priest and bishop (of Mantua, then of Venice) and eventually pope, and one of that subspecies of fool-for-Christ saints known as "giveaway" saints --- who could not be trusted to not give away everything he touched, the exasperation of his bishop as a priest because he would pawn the candlesticks and thurible, the terror of his valet as bishop and pope because he would give away his last pair of socks. And it isn't easy living with a saint, especially a giveaway one!

And, in addition, there were lots of people who would take advantage of his sanctity to play church-politics, dividing the church up into parties to define all parties but one's own as heretical and propagating networks of snoops and gossip-mongers and tattletales and amateur heresy-hunters. ("Mommy,mommy!~Jimmy's picking his nose!" is as much of a pain in the Church as in the backyard.) One of the first chores of his successor, Benedict XV, was to make it perfectly clear that Catholic was Catholic and the shenanigans were unwelcome.

Pope Pius X faced down many challenges to the Church while he was pope. But his greatest contribution to us who come after him was the final overcoming of a rigorist heresy known as Jansenism, for which we should give thanks every time we receive the Eucharist.

Before Pius X, under Jansenist influence, lay people actually receiving communion was very rare. Although first confession was at age 6 or 7, first communion was delayed into the mid-to-late teenaged years, and it would be a full year before second communion. The Church had to have a law to command people to receive communion as often as once a year! (and some pastors resisted the law, not wanting their parishioners to receive that often; dissenters are not a new phenomena.)

But Pius X saw this dire situation and set out to do some things about it. He urged frequent communion for the faithful, communion every week or even every day. He set the requirements to be admitted to communion as the ability to tell the difference between the Eucharist and ordinary food, and the ability to show reverence appropriate to one's age; he regularly admitted children as young as 3 and 4 to first communion. And he issued a regulation that children who were regularly confessing were absolutely not to be excluded from communion --- no more confession at 6 or 7 and first communion at 15 or 16 anymore!

So, whenever you go to daily Mass and Father comes to the altar rail or communion station presuming that at least some of you will want to receive communion, thank St. Pius X, the warrior against spiritual starvation.


1 comment:

Banshee said...

There seem to have been a lot of saints who benefitted from that new early reception rule, since they'd raced to learn their catechisms.