A CHARTER FOR PRIESTLY HOLINESS
by Fr Thomas McGovern
The happenings at Mantua did not go unnoticed in Rome. Tombolo, Salzano and Treviso had admired the prodigious pastoral energy of Don Sarto, but it was Mantua that witnessed full flowering of his virtues and talents. This was true not only in the pastoral area, but also in his abilities to restore concord at the civic level and gain the trust of government authorities. There was no doubt that the difficulties of Mantua were the biggest challenge Giuseppe Sarto had so far faced. But the very demands of the situation evinced a depth of virtue, both human and supernatural, which was universally acclaimed.
On 12 June 1893, while still bishop of Mantua, he was named a cardinal by Leo XIII. Although he would be appointed patriarch of Venice a few days later, the Pope wanted to make it clear that the cardinalate had been conferred on Bishop Sarto for his personal merits rather than because of the importance of his new diocese. The former parish priest of Salzano pleaded with Leo XIII to be dispensed from accepting such an eminent position; however, the Pope would hear none of it. Given the difficult relationship between the civil authorities of Venice and the Holy See, Leo XIII was sure of his man. There was stiff opposition to the appointment from the government of the city, which would not allow Cardinal Sarto enter Venice for a period of several months.
In his new appointment he continued to apply all his human and supernatural talents in the service of God and the Church. He did not allow his additional responsibilities to withdraw him from contact with people. On the contrary, he soon let it be known that anybody could have an appointment with him between 10.00am and 2.00pm any day except feast days. He was even more prodigal in his generosity with the poor and the needy. He climbed the stairs of the most squalid apartments to administer confirmation to sick children. He frequently visited hospitals and prisons, and in 1900 he spent long hours hearing confessions during a mission in the Giudecca penitentiary to prepare the prisoners to acquire the Jubilee indulgence.
As in Mantua, he took a special interest in the seminary of Venice, reforming it and implementing a new rule of discipline. He visited it frequently, getting to know all the seminarians personally. Among other things he cultivated in the students a deep devotion for the Holy Father and encouraged celebrations on papal feast days. He made a point of always being present for the big days in the seminary, whether liturgical or academic.
He gave a new orientation to the philosophy and theology studies. This concern for orthodoxy and relevance in ecclesiastical studies, together with his intimate experience of seminary life in Treviso and Mantua, would later crystallise into specific guidance for the seminaries of the whole Church from the Chair of St Peter. In his very first encyclical he would encourage bishops, 'It should be a matter of paramount concern to make provision for the proper organization and direction of the seminary, so that sound doctrine together with holiness of life may flourish within it'. 
Why this ongoing deep interest in the seminary? Because for Giuseppe Sarto, whether as bishop or Pope, his primary concern was always the sanctity of his priests; and for him the success of this enterprise depended largely on the foundations laid in the seminary.
Some years later, after the experience of the modernist crisis, in his Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum,  he ordered that the basic principles of thomistic metaphysics be taught in seminaries. Only on this solid foundation, he affirmed, could a sound theology be built up, drawing on Sacred Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. He would return again to this topic. In June of 1914, just a few weeks before his death, he published the document Doctoris Angelici, on the study of thomistic philosophy, to clarify the import and the reach of the instructions already laid down in Sacrorum Antistitum.
In Venice he quickly realized that the teaching of the faith was in a lamentable state. At the same time he found that some of his priests were more concerned with style and eloquence in preaching than with the instruction of the people. And so in January of 1895, barely two months after his arrival at the See of St. Mark, he sent a circular letter to the clergy of the archdiocese expressed in his usual direct style. 'We have far too much preaching and far too little real instruction', he commented. 'Have done with these flowers of eloquence; preach to the people with simplicity and piety, give them the truths of the faith and the precepts of the Church; tell them the meaning of virtue and the danger of vice . . . The people thirst to know the Truth; give it to them; give them what they need for the salvation of their souls'. 
Repeating the experience of Mantua, he carried out a canonical visitation of every parish in the archdiocese in 1895. There was no church or chapel in the city or surrounding countryside that he did not visit. There was no religious or Catholic institution which did not hold interest for him. After completing his programme of parish visitation, and based on this intimate knowledge of the church in Venice, he held a synod for the archdiocese in 1897. Many of the points discussed were very similar to those dealt with in the synod of Mantua ten years previously. Statutes were drafted to cover all the pastoral and disciplinary needs of the archdiocese, which the archbishop took particular care to see were observed. The synod and its consequences were perhaps Cardinal Sarto's greatest legacy to the church in the city of the lagoons.
In Venice as in Mantua, his first concern was the holiness of his priests. This was the solid foundation on which he built his whole pastoral enterprise in Venice. To promote the sanctity of his priests he insisted that they did a yearly retreat, and that they attended a day of recollection on the last Thursday of each month. He looked forward to joining his priests on these occasions, and spoke to them during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament about fidelity, holiness of life, and zeal for souls.
In dealing with his priests he knew how to combine straight talking with a paternal concern for each one of them. As in Mantua, they came to love and revere their Patriarch who, though ruthless with regard to abuses, was prodigal in his kindness and generosity when they came to consult him about personal problems or difficulties. He was absolutely fair and impartial in his appointments to offices and benefices, never showing the slightest favouritism. He would not tolerate any of his priests intriguing by means of a third party to obtain favours.  Not even in relation to his own family did he allow any concessions in this respect. 
Chair of Peter
In his very first encyclical,  published within a few weeks of his election as Pope, Pius X is very frank in his admission that he had tried to evade the burden of the papacy. He felt he was totally unworthy to occupy such a position when he compared himself with the lofty qualities of mind and soul of his predecessor. Certainly the twenty five year pontificate of Leo XIII was a hard act to follow, and nobody appreciated that more than Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, who had developed such a profound veneration for the towering intellectual genius and pastoral zeal of the author of such ground breaking encyclicals as Aeterni Patris (on the renewal of Christian philosophy), Rerum Novarum (the first major statement of the Church's social teaching), and Providentissimus Deus (on the study of Scripture). In addition he felt totally inadequate to deal with the difficult condition of human society as he found it at the beginning of the twentieth century, brought about by a progressive apostasy from God.
Yet those who worked closely with Pius X give testimony to qualities of character and virtues of soul which were to make him one of the outstanding popes in the Church's history. Not only did he leave an indelible imprint as a result of his great encyclicals on Modernism,  the teaching of Christian Doctrine, and his cogent statement of the rights of the Church against the predatory aims of the French government on her liberties.  His instructions on Frequent Communion,  the early reception of First Communion,  Biblical Studies,  Church Music  and the study of the doctrine of St Thomas Aquinas  established markers for piety and doctrine which are still very relevant today. In addition the initiative, energy, and inspiration he put into the immense task of codifying, for the first time, the vast accumulation of centuries of ecclesiastical law marks him out as one of the greatest legislators in the history of the Church. 
Was there a change in Giuseppe Sarto's personality after he was elected successor of Peter? Did the burden of the papacy withdraw him from people? While undoubtedly the demands of Vatican protocol considerably restricted his freedom, his attitude and personality remained totally consistent with the man people knew as parish priest of Salzano or bishop of Mantua. Those who met him for the first time as Pope were deeply impressed by his goodness, gentleness and charity. His charm, his good humour and his prodigal generosity were also a frequent cause of comment. However, to suggest that these attractive qualities summed up the whole of his character as Pope would, Cardinal Merry del Val tells us, be a complete misrepresentation of the truth.  Coupled with this kindness and refinement was 'an indomitable strength of character and an energy of will to which all must testify who really knew him, but which not infrequently surprised or even startled those who had only experienced the constant proofs of his habitual gentleness and restraint'.  He was quick to give way in matters which were not essential and to accept the opinion of others where no principle was at stake. However, when the rights and liberties of the Church required to be stated and upheld, when the purity and integrity of Catholic doctrine needed to be asserted and defended, or ecclesiastical discipline had to be maintained in the face of laxity or worldly influence, 'then Pius X would reveal the full strength and energy of his character and the fearless vigour of a great ruler conscious of the responsibility of his sacred office and of the duties he felt called upon to fulfil at any cost'. Their is ample evidence of this spirit in the weighty encyclicals and the other official enactments of his pontificate.
A man of deep humility, he could also affirm, 'when we recall the spot on which we stand and on which this Pontifical See has been established, we feel perfectly secure on the rock of Holy Church'.  Why? Because down through the centuries the supernatural power of God was never lacking in the Church, nor did the promises of Christ ever fail. Looking back over the sweep of history he sees how so may philosophical systems had fought against her claiming victory, boasting that they had destroyed her teaching or demolished her dogmas by proving their absurdity. One after another all these philosophical systems had passed into oblivion, but all the while the light of truth shone out undimmed from the rock of Peter. 
Trusting in the grace of God who called him to such high office, he set himself the ambitious programme 'of re-establishing all things in Christ' (Eph 1:10). Although faced with the challenge of those who were perverting religion and rejecting the truths of faith, he had no doubt about the outcome, that ultimately the victory would be God's. Pius X saw priests as the principal agents in bringing about this rebirth in Christ. But if they were to be truly effective in this regard, priests themselves must first be clothed with Christ and have clearly stamped on them the image of Master.
Exhortation on Priestly Holiness
When he came to write Haerent animo in 1908, barely a year had passed since the publication of his encyclical Pascendi against Modernism. While few priests espoused the principles of Modernism, Pius X saw that many were influenced by its spirit of criticism of the Church. He well knew that the programme he had set himself, Instaurare omnia in Christo (Eph 1:10), could only become a reality by inculcating in priests a great love for the Church and a deep awareness of the dignity of their own vocation.
Haerent animo, written after fifty years of an immensely fruitful ministry, is in many ways just a description of his own priesthood and of the virtues which he strove to develop all during his priestly life. However, Pius X would have been the last person to claim this. He speaks from the heart rather than expound a blueprint for the ministry and life of the priest. Indeed one has the clear impression that he is recounting the history of his own spiritual life.
That he was writing ex abundantia cordis is confirmed by his Secretary of State, the man on whom Pius X relied most during his pontificate. He penned Haerent animo whilst audiences and work of all kinds crowded in on him, writing it page by page, during intervals of spare time, in little over a fortnight. 'It was', Cardinal Merry del Val tells us, 'exclusively his own personal effort, and it was truly a labour of love'. 
Pursuing sanctity is a duty
The first part of Haerent Animo deals with the obligation of the priest to strive for holiness. If all are called to sanctity, this is a duty which is demanded in a special way of the priest by reason of the dignity of his vocation. This dignity derives from the fact that in his hands Christ has placed all his treasures, his sacraments, his very Self; he has entrusted him with the destiny of souls and the power to open the gates of heaven to them. How conscious the curate of Tombolo always was of the great dignity of his priesthood, and, consequently, of the responsibility he had to conform his life to the example of his divine Master.
At no stage in his priestly career is there the slightest hint of that identity crisis which seems to have afflicted so many priests of our present generation. He had a deep conviction of his calling by God, of his divine vocation, and Christ, the Eternal High Priest, was for him a model who stood out with luminous clarity all during his life. For St. Pius X, the priest was, in a special way, the friend of Christ. He saw those words of Our Lord at the Last Supper, 'I have called you friends . . .. I chose you and appointed you that you should go out and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide' (John 15:15-16), as applying in a special way to God's ordained ministers. The priest is a friend, representative and minister of Christ. 'Priests', he tells us, 'must have the same affections, the same sentiments, the same mind as Jesus Christ'.
The mission of the priest is to form Christ in others after the manner of St Paul, experiencing, as it were, the same spiritual birth pangs (cf Gal 4:19). However, if zeal in forming others is to yield the hoped-for fruits, it must be seasoned by charity expressed as patience, kindness, and gentleness. How well he knew the effectiveness of this approach!
There was nothing eccentric or offbeat about the sanctity of Giuseppe Sarto. He was a man of rich human qualities with an immensely attractive personality. As Bishop of Mantua, his seminarians looked forward to the extra time he would spend with them during the summer holidays. They loved him because they saw the image of Christ so clearly etched there, not only in what he said but more particularly in what he did. He had a quick sense of humour coupled with a brilliant intellect.
In speaking about the nature of priestly holiness, Pius X gives a warning which is as valid today as it was ninety years ago. 'There are some who think', he said, 'and even declare openly that the true measure of the merits of a priest is his dedication to the service of others; consequently, with an almost complete disregard for the cultivation of the virtues which lead to the personal sanctification of the priest, they assert that all his energies and fervour should be directed to the development and practice of what they call the "active" virtues. One can only be astonished by this gravely erroneous and pernicious teaching'.  This point is cogently reaffirmed in the recently published Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests. 
The holiness of the priest must be based on a life of self-denial, and on that humility which Christ invited us to learn from himself (cf. Matt. 11:29). It is not just for his own sake that the priest has to strive for sanctity, but so that he may be an effective instrument of holiness for the souls entrusted to his care. Priestly holiness is of its nature essentially apostolic. Pius X goes as far as to say that, 'if this holiness . . . is wanting in the priest, then everything is wanting. Without this, even the resources of profound learning, or exceptional competence in practical affairs, though they might bring some benefit to the Church or to individuals, are not infrequently the cause of lamentable damage to those who possess them'. 
'On the other hand', he affirms, 'there is abundant evidence from every age that even the humblest priest, provided his life is adorned with overflowing sanctity, can undertake and accomplish marvellous works for the spiritual welfare of the People of God'.  Sanctity alone makes up for all the other limitations of the priest, as is clear from the outstanding example of the Cure of Ars. 
What, he asks, must the priest do to become an alter Christus among men? The means he suggests are those which served himself so well during the half century of his own priesthood, means which continue to have a perennial validity for the spiritual growth of every priest.  In the first place he points out the very close connection between holiness and prayer. A commitment to daily prayer is essential if the priest is to maintain the dignity of his vocation and fulfil his duty; prayer which is persevering, which is the overflow of a deep faith, which is sincere and humble in recognizing one's limitations, daily faults and failures. He goes on to specify that a fixed time for daily meditation is essential. 'No priest', he says, 'can neglect this practice without incurring a grave charge of negligence and without detriment to his soul'. 
These are strong words. He will not accept the excuse of a busy schedule of activities for omitting daily meditation. Rather he says, 'Let those words of Christ, "Be watchful, be vigilant and pray" (Mark 13:33), be deeply engraved in your hearts'.  Prayer, as we all know, protects us from a spirit of routine or carelessness in our priestly duties, and ensures that we have a realistic sense of dependence on God's grace and providence. 
The saintly Pontiff also recommends to priests the daily practice of spiritual reading as a complement to daily meditation: in the first place, the daily reading of Sacred Scripture supplemented by books of sound theological and spiritual content. Reading books of this sort provides a regular input of solid and rich ideas for our interior life. The Pope who gave us the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis was very conscious of the immense damage done to so many priests by imprudent reading of books of modernist inspiration. 'Be on your guard, beloved sons', he writes in Haerent Animo, 'do not trust in your experience and mature years, do not be deluded by the vain hope that you can thus better serve the general good'.  This advice is equally relevant today, when one considers the veritable explosion which has occurred in the publication of theological literature of all kinds over the past twenty years. Without a certain amount of prudent guidance, a priest today is in real danger of wasting a lot of time on reading which, at best, is very lightweight, theologically speaking, but which could often be a real danger to his faith. 
Examination of Conscience
It was not that Pius X ever felt that piety on its own was sufficient. The man who previously had devoted so much effort to the intellectual formation of seminarians was not withdrawing in any way from that commitment, as is clear from the very specific indications of his encyclical Pascendi on the philosophical and theological formation of students for the priesthood.  To be salt and light it was necessary to join learning to piety. Seminarians needed a profound grasp of Christian philosophy and theology to be able to answer people's difficulties. 
The former parish priest of Salzano also recommends daily examination of conscience as another important means to acquire priestly holiness. This he says will enable the priest to see whether he is seriously striving to put into practice the insights he has received through his meditation and spiritual reading; it will be a very effective instrument to keep in clear focus the daily effort to achieve sanctity. Its fruitfulness, he tells us, has always been recommended by the great masters of the interior life. 
He highlights its importance by contrasting the commitment of those who in business keep a tight control of income and expenditure and do a careful balance of their accounts. How much more necessary is it not, in the business of eternal life, to identify strengths and weaknesses, to detect incipient deviations from the path of sanctity, and to set the soul on course again with a clearly defined resolution for the morrow?
Daily examination has the extra bonus that it provides a deeper appreciation of the need for frequent confession as an antidote to our own weaknesses, as well as being a powerful means to progress in the interior life. Pius X has harsh words for priests who neglect regular confession, because it demonstrates a carelessness and indifference to one's own spiritual welfare.
There has, with good reason, been a lot of comment in recent years about the massive decline in numbers attending regular confession. It is a counter-sign of spiritual vitality and, at the same time, there are, clearly, real difficulties about reversing this trend. However, a priest will not be able to speak with conviction about the advantages of frequent confession if he is not a regular penitent himself. As Pope John Paul II remarked in this context, good penitents make the best confessors.  It is also worth noting the particular importance which the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests gives to the frequent reception of this sacrament by the clergy. 
In the latter part of his Exhortation, Pius X again encourages priests to strive after those virtues which are particularly appropriate to their condition as intermediaries between God and man - chastity, obedience, charity, apostolic spirit, and a spirit of sacrifice - virtues which will win greater veneration for him among his Christian flock and which will yield an even greater harvest of holiness. These were the 'passive' virtues so stigmatised by the modernists, but which for Giuseppe Sarto were the foundation for authentic pastoral effectiveness.
He encourages priests to be truly apostolic, after the example of Christ: 'Strive eagerly not only by means of catechetical instruction - which once more with even greater earnestness we commend to you - but by unsparing use of all the resources of wisdom and skill at your command, to deserve well of all. Whether your immediate task be to assist, to protect, to heal, to make peace, let your one aim and most ardent desire be to win or to secure souls for Christ. How unwearied, how industrious, how fearless are Christ's enemies in their activities, to the immeasurable loss of souls!' 
Personal experience in Treviso, Mantua and Venice, whether guiding seminarians or priests, convinced him of the need for, and the great benefits to be derived from, the yearly retreat and attendance at monthly recollections. In his Exhortation he earnestly encourages priests to use these means of formation for growth in holiness. He had already recommended this practice in a letter to his Cardinal Vicar for Rome, and asked him to arrange for a number of such retreats to be organised for the secular clergy of the city. 
There is no doubt but that Haerent Animo is clearly influenced by the sad experience of the modernist crisis in matters of doctrine and discipline, yet it is no less marked by the unmistakable stamp of the Pontiff's personal holiness which gives to his words a striking warmth and refinement. He openly admitted in his first encyclical that he had a special predilection for priests who, while not neglecting theological or secular studies, were particularly devoted to the welfare of souls. 
With typical humility Pius X had begun his Exhortation thus:
We have nothing to say which you have not already heard, no doctrine to propound which is new to anyone, but we treat of matters which it is necessary for everyone to bear in mind, and God inspires us with the hope that our message will not fail to bear abundant fruit. 
The means of sanctification which are recommended by Pius X have a permanent validity. The counsels of Haerent Animo have been frequently repeated by his successors in the Chair of Peter, who have invited generations of priests to meditate on the simple yet forceful words of their saintly predecessor. 
Not surprisingly Pius XII, the pope who beatified and canonized Pius X within the short space of three years, was blessed with a particular insight into the mind and heart of Giuseppe Sarto.  In his prodigious output of magisterial documents and addresses, he several times recommends and refers to the teaching of Haerent Animo.  In his homily at the beatification ceremony on 3rd June 1951, Pius XII extolled the work of his predecessor for the priesthood. 'Who can read without emotion', he asked, 'his paternal exhortation Haerent Animo, that shining reflection of his own priestly soul on the occasion of his priestly jubilee? Being wholly imbued with the thought of St. Paul that the priest is appointed by men in all things that pertain to God (cf. Heb. 5:1), he overlooked nothing that contributed to the more efficacious exercise of this sublime office'. 
Giant but gentle
Many can remember how the announcement, three short years after his beatification, that Pius X would be canonized in May of the Marian year 1954 was greeted with immense joy by the universal Church. After the ceremony Pius XII recalled with deep emotion 'the giant but gentle figure of the saintly Pontiff'. In the forty years which had elapsed since the death of Pius X, deeper reflection on his life and writings, and the abundant evidence of his intervention in the life of the Church in ways miraculous and otherwise, left no doubt about the sanctity and the stature of this man of God. 'As a humble parish priest, as bishop, Supreme Pontiff, he was always thoroughly convinced that the sanctity to which God called him was priestly sanctity'.  At the end of his homily on that splendid day in the history of the Church, Pius XII offered a prayer to the newly proclaimed saint:
St. Pius X, glory of the priesthood, you, in whose person humility appeared in union with greatness, simple piety with profound doctrine, you, Pontiff of the Eucharist and the catechism, of sound faith and unshaken firmness, turn your gaze upon holy Church which you loved so much and to which you gave the best of the treasures which divine goodness, with prodigal hand, had deposited in your soul; obtain for her integrity and constancy in the midst of the trials and persecutions of our time; come to the assistance of poor humanity, whose sorrows afflicted you so profoundly that finally they stopped the beating of your great heart. 
This is a moving prayer which reflects many of the qualities of this great saint, the first pope to be canonized since Pius V, who occupied the Chair of Peter almost three hundred and fifty years before Giuseppe Sarto was to succeed him as Vicar of Christ. It is a prayer for the Church and humanity which is as relevant today as it was when spoken for the first time on that May morning, forty years ago.
One might be tempted to think that St. Pius X has somehow gone out of fashion in this post-conciliar age. Certainly in some theological circles the pope of Pascendi dominici gregis is not exactly a cult figure. However, it would be very wrong to assume that the teaching of St. Pius X is now passé. When the Fathers of Vatican 1I came together to write the two decrees of the Council which bear most directly on the formation, lifestyle and holiness of the Catholic priesthood, the teaching of Pius X was never very far from their minds. Optatam totius, the decree on the training of priests, gives particular prominence to Haerent Animo, referring to it on three separate occasions. 
Similarly in Presbyterorum Ordinis, the decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, we come across two references to the same Apostolic Exhortation in the context of the bishop's responsibility for the sanctification of his priests, and the duty of the priest to seek holiness in and through his ministry.  Apart from these specific references, there is also a significant parallelism between the contents of Chapter III of this decree, dealing with the call to holiness of the priest, and the doctrine we find in Haerent Animo. 
So we can affirm that the substance of St. Pius X's charter for priestly holiness will always be present in the living tradition of the Church. As part of the teaching of Vatican II, it will be available for the benefit of all future generations of priests.
30. cf encyclical E Supremi Apostolatus (1903), in CP, I, p.10
31. Published on 1 September 1910.
32. Published 29 June 1914, the last great document of his pontificate.
33. Dal-Gal, p.109
34. This attitude is amply demonstrated by the following incident. The pastor of a particular parish in Venice died. Because of his negligence, and that of his assistant, the condition of the parish had deteriorated considerably. To bring about its reform the Cardinal was planning to appoint as parish priest a man of exceptional ability and pastoral zeal. However, the delinquent curate aspired to succeed his pastor and had already approached Rome, through ecclesiastics of influence, to obtain through the Vatican what he knew the Cardinal would not give. A badly advised Leo XIII wrote to the patriarch on behalf of the priest. Cardinal Sarto replied, with due respect, telling the Holy Father that he was ready to do the will of His Holiness, but that he declined all responsibility in the case. The Pope commended the Cardinal's attitude and he was immediately allowed to go ahead with the appointment he had originally planned (cf. Pierami, p.92)
35. One of the negative hangovers from the clerical style of government associated with the Papal States was the expectation of preferential treatment because of influence in high places. By contrast, what we might call the 'lay mentality' of Giuseppe Sarto is well illustrated by the following incidents.
He had a nephew, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Parolin, who was a priest of the diocese of Treviso, and for whom, as Cardinal Merry del Val affirms, the Pope had a warm affection. It was expected that Pius X would use his services in the Vatican and thus have the pleasure of his attendance and his company, not least because at that time the Pope was effectively a prisoner of the Vatican. Indeed, many cardinals who knew that his nephew's presence would be a real joy for Pius X, tried to persuade him to do this. However, all efforts failed in this respect, being met with the inevitable response: 'Yes, Don Battista is a good priest, but he is young and he must work in the ministry. He has a parish and he is better there than in a palace' (Merry del Val, p.67). Benedict XV, the successor to Pius X, on the very day of his election, appointed Monsignor Parolin a canon of St Peter's in Rome.
Another example in this context is recalled by Cardinal Merry del Val which illustrates the family traditions of his own home in Riese and throws light on the environment which shaped his character. When the Venetian provinces were invaded during the first World War in 1917, three years after the death of Pius X, people fled by the thousand from these areas. The refugees included several nieces and nephews of the Pope with their families, who eventually arrived in Rome with little or no belongings, and made their way to the small apartment of the late Pope's sisters. Anna and Maria willingly provided them with the limited shelter and comfort they could offer for the unexpected group of twenty three visitors. Cardinal Merry del Val visited them the next day and was profoundly impressed by their dignity and simplicity, and the total absence of any lamentation or complaint about the hardships they had endured. When he asked what they most needed, the reply invariably was: 'We should like to find work, in order not to be a burden to others; if your Eminence can assist us in this way, we shall be deeply grateful'. The group included a sculptor, three were teachers, others were tradesmen. The former confidant of Pius X continues: 'But that which impressed me more than aught else was, that neither then, nor later on, nor at any time, did a single one of them ever mention or even indirectly refer to their close relationship with the late Pontiff, nor appear to consider that this exceptional circumstance gave them any title for special consideration in the eyes of others or afforded the least claim on the generosity of the Holy See. This point of view did not seem to have entered their minds' (Memories of Pope Pius X, p.79).
36. E Supremi Apostolatus, 4 October 1903
37. Out of the maelstrom of secularist philosophies, nineteenth century scientism and liberal Protestantism, Modernism began to take shape in the Church. Many had hoped that this new way of looking at the faith would reconcile Catholicism with the modern mind and bridge the perceived gap between faith and science. But, as Pius X had seen from as far back as his days in Mantua, the threat of Modernism was its capacity to empty Catholicism of its supernatural content. Modernism tried to rationalize the faith so as to bring it into line with what were thought to be advances in historical and philosophical studies and biblical exegesis. Immanentism was the philosophical principle at the core of Modernism which set up 'religious consciousness' as the supreme norm of religious life. The inherent ambiguity of the modernist creed , emphasising
spirit at the expense of dogma, was perfectly clear to Pius X. Because he had no doubts about its capacity to devastate the faith, he moved energetically against it and laid bare all its potential danger in the encyclical Pascendi (1907), and condemned its doctrine in the decree Lamentabili published in the same year.
38. Between 1882 and 1904 the French Parliament passed a series of hostile and repressive laws against the Church. The French government flaunted its aggressive secularism which led to a confrontation with Pius X. It broke off diplomatic relations with the Holy See and abrogated its concordat (1905). Religious were expelled and Church property confiscated, with the result that priests and bishops were reduced to a state of penury. While some curia cardinals were in favour of a compromise solution, Pius X replied to the actions of the French government in two encyclicals in 1906 demonstrating the injustice of the legislation in uncompromising language. Addressing the bishops and people of France, he tells them: 'You have seen the sanctity and indissolubility of Christian marriage violated by laws in direct opposition to them; the secularisation of schools and hospitals; clerics torn from their studies and ecclesiastical discipline, and forced into military service; religious congregations dispersed and despoiled, and most of their members reduced to utter destitution. These legal measures have been followed by others, as you well know: abolishing the law prescribing public prayers at the opening of Parliament and the law courts; suppressing the traditional signs of mourning on board vessels on Good Friday; deleting from the legal oath everything that gave it a stamp of religion; banishing from the courts, from schools, the army, navy, and all other public institutions, every act and emblem which served in any way as a reminder of religion' (Encyclical, Vehementer, dated 11 February 1906).
39. Decree, Sacra Tridentina Synodus (1905).
40. Decree, Quam Singulari (1910).
41. Apostolic Letter, Quoniam in re Biblica (1906), on the study of Scripture in Seminaries; Motu proprio, Praestantia Sacrae Scripturae (1907), on the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
42. Motu proprio (1903). In 1904 he commissioned the Benedictine monks of Solesmes to prepare an official edition of the liturgical chant of the Church.
43. Motu proprio, Doctoris Angelici (1914), on the Study of Thomistic Philosophy.
44. The Church had, of course, collections of canon law, official and non-official, but since an ever increasing number of these provisions were replaced over time by new laws, these collections were becoming obsolete and unmanageable. Several Fathers at Vatican I had expressed a desire that a codification of the laws of the Church be put in hand. Some limited work was done under Pius IX and Leo XIII, but it was Pius X who undertook the colossal task of revising the whole body of canon law. In the very first year of his pontificate he set up a commission under Cardinal Gasparri and gave it precise instructions for the project of codification. He imbued it with a sense of urgency and followed all the subsequent stages of its work with a direct personal interest. By 1912 the first draft of a universal code was available and by the time of his death the revisions were almost complete. Benedict XV, who promulgated the new code in 1917, declared that Pius X was primarily responsible for this unique legislative achievement, and that his name would be celebrated in Church history alongside such eminent legislators as Innocent III, Honorious III and Gregory IX.
45. cf Merry del Val, p.24 and passim
47. Ibid. Here we are listening to the judgement of the man who, as Secretary of State, was the closest collaborator of Pius X during his eleven year pontificate. His daily audiences with the Holy Father during all of that period gave him a privileged insight into the mind and heart of Giuseppe Sarto. He tells us that Pius X had a very affectionate temperament, but never lost control of his feelings. Gifted with a refined, artistic sensibility, 'he loved beautiful things and he had seen many in the course of his life in Mantua, Padua and Venice' (p.43); he frequently recalled how wonderfully the teachings of the Catholic faith were illustrated by the priceless treasures of ancient Christian art. However, underlying all of these qualities - gentleness, charity, sense of humour, fortitude indomitable will, etc. - was a virtue which gives the key to his whole personality, the sanctity of his life, and the effectiveness of his pontificate. Quoting St Augustine, ubi humilitas, ibi maiestas (Sermon 14), Cardinal Merry del Val affirms that this axiom was manifest to an extraordinary degree in the life of Pius X. An authentic, profound and unaffected humility was, he considered, so prominent a characteristic, so entirely the outstanding feature of his whole temperament as to have become second nature to him (cf. p.62). There was nothing here of the shallow, false attitude of mind which is only indicative of weakness or a craven form of self-consciousness, and which is in fact a caricature of true humility. Because of the low estimation he had of himself and his deep conviction that all our talents are gifts from God, it cost him no effort to be humble and to readily admire good qualities in others rather than discover them in himself. Adulation or praise was totally repugnant to him. In his presence people sensed this immediately and words of admiration died on their lips. Although simple of habits, and fatherly and homely in private, there was a quiet and unassuming dignity and nobility in his bearing which never failed to impress those who attended his official receptions, or were present at his public functions. Not many people, Cardinal Merry del Val tells us, had occasion to realize fully how gifted the Holy Father was, or to appreciate the wide reach of his cultural and intellectual attainments, for the very simple reason that he made a point of concealing them whenever possible. However, those who lived in close intimacy with him were constantly discovering the richness of his knowledge and experience (cf pp.62-68).
48. Encyclical Iucunda Sane, on the thirteenth centenary of the death of Pope St Gregory the Great, 12 March 1904, in My Words Will not Pass Away: Doctrinal Writings of St Pius X, Manila 1974, p.77
49. cf ibid., p.79
50. Merry del Val, p.38
51. CP, I, p.59
52. 'Due to numerous duties stemming in large part from pastoral activity, the priest's life is linked, now more than ever, to a series of requests which could lead to a growing exterior activism, submitting that life to a frenetic and disordered pace. In light of such a "temptation", one must not forget that the initial intention of Jesus in convoking the Apostles around him was above all that they "remain with him" (Mk 3:14). The Son of God himself has wished to leave us a testimony of his prayer' (Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Congregation for the Clergy, Vatican City, 31 January 1994, no.40). The Directory then goes on to give several examples of Christ praying at all the different stages of his ministry, and concludes, 'Following the example of Christ, the priest must know how to maintain the vivacity and abundance of the moments of silence and prayer in which he cultivates and deepens his own essential relationship with the living figure of Jesus Christ' (ibid).
53. CP, I, p.62.
55. Earlier in his pontificate he had already outlined the level of sanctity he expected of priests: 'You have a duty to be holy, not simply in a mediocre degree but completely; ordinary holiness is not enough, your holiness must be outstanding; you must avoid not only mortal sins but also the smallest sins' (address to French seminarians, 23 February 1905, in CP, I, p.31)
56. The Directory says the priest 'should give absolute pre-Coloreminence' to his spiritual life, 'avoiding any neglect due to other acti vities' (no.38). It then goes on to summarise the basic elements of what should constitute the priest's 'plan of life': it should embrace 'the daily Eucharistic celebration, with adequate preparation and thanksgiving; frequent confession and spiritual direction already practised in the seminary; the complete and fervent celebration of the liturgy of the hours, on a daily basis; examination of conscience; mental prayer; divine readings; the prolonged moments of silence and prayer, above all in periodical Spiritual Exercises and Retreats; the affectionate expression of Marian devotions, like the Rosary; the Via Crucis and other pious exercises; and the fruitful reading on lives of the saints' (no.39)
57. cf CP, I, p.64
58. Ibid., p.68
59. 'To remain faithful to the obligation of "being with Christ", it is necessary that the priest know how to imitate the Church in prayer' (Directory, no.41). After reminding the priest of what was said to him by the bishop on the day of his ordination about finding Christ in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, the Directory continues: 'Strengthened by the special bond with the Lord, the priest will know how to confront those moments in which he could feel alone among men; effectively renewing his being with Christ who in the Eucharist is his refuge and best repose. Like Christ, who was often alone with the Father (cf Lk 3:21; Mk 1:35), the priest must also be the man who finds communion with God in solitude, so he can say with St Ambrose: "I am never less alone than as when I am alone". Beside the Lord, the priest will find the strength and the means to bring men back to God, to enlighten their faith, to inspire commitment and sharing' (no.42)
60. cf CP, I, p.70
61. The Directory indicates the following priorities for the priest's spiritual reading: 'Among his reading material, the primary place must be given to Sacred Scripture; and then the writings of the Fathers, classical and modern spiritual Masters, and the documents of the Magisterium, which constitute the authoritative and updated source of permanent formation' (no.87).
62. To counteract the influence of modernism, Pius X laid down in Pascendi that scholastic philosophy, after the manner of St Thomas Aquinas, should be taught in all seminaries. In doing so he was only reaffirming the measures already proposed by Leo XIII. He clarified this point later in the Motu Proprio Doctoris Angelici, the last important document he wrote before his death: 'When we appointed St Thomas as the chief guide in scholastic philosophy, it is obvious that we had in mind above all his principles, which are the very foundation upon which scholastic philosophy rests. It is for this reason that we have already sought to convey to those who teach philosophy and sacred theology the warning that departure from St Thomas, especially in metaphysics, involves grave loss. And now we go further and declare that those who wrongly interpret or completely despise the principles and major theses of the philosophy of St Thomas, are not only not following St Thomas, but have strayed far from him. Whenever we ourselves or our predecessors have specially commended the doctrine of some author or saint, and when that approval was supplemented by invitation or even command to spread and defend this doctrine, it can easily be understood that the doctrine was recommended insofar as it was in full accordance with the principles of St Thomas, or was in no way opposed to them' (AAS 6 p.336, 29 June 1914; CP, I, pp.46-47 ). While Pius X was concerned to get the foundations right, as always he was innovative and forward looking. In Pascendi, in addition to scholastic theology, he recommended the study of positive theology. He also saw a definite role for the study of the natural sciences in priestly training.
63. Address to French Seminary in Rome, 23 February 1905, CP, I, p.30
64. At this point in the Exhortation he quotes from St Bernard as follows: 'As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit yourself to a daily examination. Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost. Strive to know yourself. Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself, as though you were another person, and then weep for your faults' (CP, I, p.71).
65. cf John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, no.31, part VI, pp.126-127 of CTS edition, London 1984.
66. 'Like any good faithful, the priest also needs to confess his own sins and weaknesses. He is the first to realize that the practice of this sacrament reinforces his faith and charity towards God and his brothers. In order to effectively reveal the beauty of Penance, it is essential that the minister of the sacrament offer a personal testimony preceding the other faithful in living the experience of pardon. This constitutes the first condition for restoring the pastoral value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sense it is good for the faithful to see and know that their priests go to confession regularly: "the entire priestly existence falls into decay if there is lacking, through neglect or for any other motive, the periodic recourse, inspired by true faith and devotion, to the Sacrament of Penance. In a priest who no longer went to confession or did so poorly, his essence and action as priest would feel the effects very quickly, as would the community of which he is pastor" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, no.31)' (Directory, no. 53).
67. CP, I, p.75
68. 'Sad experience has taught us only too clearly that man's nature is so inconstant that even those who are most devoted to their duties, unless they receive a timely and repeated stimulus, tend to become half-hearted in the pursuit of virtue and finally to grow weary of it and to fall away into sin. Priests are not exempt from this common failing; and so, to avoid the danger of falling short of their obligations through slackness, they must from time to time have recourse to appropriate means for the restoration of their strength and the renewal of their first fervour. It would appear to be clearly the will of God that the means to achieve this should be sought chiefly in the pious solitude of a retreat of some days devoted to the consideration of one's past life: "I have thought upon my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies" (Ps. 118:59)'. After describing how Christ, when the apostles returned from preaching, often invited them to retire with him into a place of solitude to rest and be refreshed spiritually, he continues: 'This invitation of Christ was assuredly addressed not only to the Apostles to whom he was speaking, but to all those who were to have a share in the apostolic ministry; it was his will that those who, by the holiness of their ministry and the sanctity of their own lives, were to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth and almost divine beings on earth, should have recourse to the most effective means of preserving and increasing the sanctity of their lives' (Letter to Cardinal Vicar of Rome on Retreats for Priests, 27 December 1904, CP, I, p.27).
69. cf CP, I, p.12
70. Ibid., p.54
71. Benedict XV, writing in his first encyclical Ad Beatissimi [AAS 6 (1914) 565-581] about the importance of priestly sanctity for the good of the Church, requested that 'the instructions given in... the Exhortation to the Clergy of Pius X may never be forgotten, but may be scrupulously observed'; cf CP, I, p.92. Pius XI, in his great encyclical on the Catholic Priesthood, Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, [AAS 28 (1936) 6-53] recommended to priests the frequent reading of Haerent Animo; cf CP, I, p.243.
72. Pius X was beatified on 3 June 1951, and canonized on 29 May 1954, just three years later.
73. Pius XII quotes Haerent Animo in his instruction to Lenten confessors about the demands of prudence in hearing women's confessions (cf CP, II, pp.74-75). He also refers to it in his Apostolic Exhortation Menti Nostrae, to the Clergy of the Catholic world, on the Sanctification of Priestly Life: AAS 42 (1950) 657-702; cf CP, II, p.157. In his address to students of the North American College on 14 October 1953, Pius XII quotes from Haerent Animo: 'to be a priest and to be a man dedicated to work is one and the same thing' (CP, II, p.256). In the encyclical Sacra Virginitas [AAS 56 (1954) 161-191], in the context of developing the virtue of chastity in young clerics, Pius XII refers to that part of Haerent Animo which outlines the means to acquire priestly holiness; cf CP,II, p.303, footnote no.100
74. In a letter to priests, in 1956, about the need for interior life, he again recommended Haerent Animo: 'They shall constantly meditate on, and regard as salutary nourishment what was taught on this subject by our predecessor of holy memory, Pius X, in the Apostolic Exhortation Haerent Animo' [AAS 48 (1956) 662-665; cf CP, II, p.127]. In his last discourse, prepared for delivery on 19 October 1958, Pius XII speaks about priestly formation and priestly holiness. He recalls all the work done by his saintly predecessor, Pius X, for the formation of priests, and refers to Haerent Animo as a document 'in which the saintly Pontiff expounded, as though depicting his own self, the ideal of the priest' [AAS 50 (1958) 961-971; cf CP, II, p.253]. cf CP, II, p.21, footnote no.2
75. AAS 46(1954) 307-313; cf CP, II, p.6
76. CP, II, p.9
77. Decree on Training of Priests, Optatam totius; cf Flannery, A., (ed), Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Dublin 1981, pp. 707-724. The first reference to Haerent Animo is at the very beginning of the conciliar document [cf. footnote no.1 of this document (p.707)] where it states: 'The Council is fully aware that the desired renewal of the whole Church depends in great part upon a priestly ministry animated by the spirit of Christ'. The second reference to Pius X's exhortation is in para. no.8, where the text affirms: 'Those who are to take on the likeness of Christ the priest by sacred ordination should form the habit of drawing close to him as friends in every detail of their life'. The third reference to Haerent Animo is in footnote no.41
78. Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Flannery, ibid., pp.863-902. Cf footnote no.39 of Chapter II and no.7 of Chapter III
79. The text of Presbyterorum Ordinis reaffirms many of the same points made in this Apostolic Exhortation; cf in particular nos. 15 to 19 of this conciliar decree.
Section Contents Copyright ©; Mark Alder and Fr Thomas McGovern 1997-2000
This version: 17th January 2003