Saint Pius X, pope
Born: June 2nd, 1835 Died: August 20th, 1914
Feast Day: August 21st
What he said
His Last Will and Testament read: "I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor."
What the world was like
When Giuseppe Sarto was born, Italy was occupied by Austria. At the time of his death, the world was headed toward World War I. During his lifetime, daily life for most people was gradually changing from agricultural and small-town life to a life centered around factory work in cities. Factories produced and used machinery that would change the lives of people forever. During this pope's lifetime there were many inventions: the sewing machine, rayon, the pasteurization of milk, the washing machine, the elevator, the bicycle, crayons, the Yale cylinder lock, the machine gun, plastic, the typewriter, teabags, traffic lights, Life Savers candy, the mail-order catalog, barbed wire, the telephone, the phonograph, moving pictures, windshield wipers, the light bulb, the cash register, the escalator, the vacuum cleaner -- and the zipper!
Who he was
Giuseppe Sarto was the eldest of eight children. He was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-three. As a parish priest, he worked to meet the needs of his parish by restoring the parish buildings and a nearby hospital using only his own resources, labor, and skill at begging. When cholera struck, he tended to the sick. Many people became Catholics because they were amazed by his love and mercy toward those who were affected by this deadly illness. When he was appointed Bishop of Mantua, he could have chosen to live in luxury. Instead, he chose to live simply. In 1903, Giuseppe was elected pope -- but at first he declined the nomination. After prayer, he felt it was God's will that he become pope, and so he accepted and took the name Pius X.
As pope, Pius X encouraged the use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy. He encouraged all the faithful to receive Holy Communion frequently. He extended the age of First Communion to children seven years of age. Up to that time, reception of Communion had been limited to those twelve or fourteen years of age and older.
Before he died in 1914, Pope Pius X realized with sadness that a terrible world war, later called World War I, would soon begin. The pope was buried in a simple and unadorned crypt below St. Peter's Basilica. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1954.
What this saint means to us today
Pope Saint Pius X lived simply in the midst of an increasingly materialistic society that was looking for ways to make life faster and easier. He is a great example for us today in a society that is still rapidly changing and always developing new technologies. His concern for the liturgy, his emphasis on the importance of simple and clear homilies, his encouragement of Gregorian chant -- all can support our efforts to make our liturgical prayer beautiful and meaningful. Pope Saint Pius X's devotion to the Eucharist and his extending the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ to children remind us to share our faith with every younger generation in respectful and loving ways.