Feast day: August 21
Saint Pius X is one of the twentieth century’s greatest popes. He had grown up in a poor family, and he was often embarrassed by the showiness and excess of the papal court. He saw this insistence on grandeur as a penance because he wanted to live simply.
Pius was involved in politics and encouraged Catholics to be involved as well. One of his greatest political acts was to end the government’s right to influence papal elections by exercising veto power. He was concerned about the poor treatment of native plantation workers in Peru. Pope Pius X is also known for revision of the age requirements for First Communion, lowering the required age from thirteen to seven. He promoted active participation in the liturgy and advocated daily Communion for all Catholics.
He was especially concerned with the instruction of children in their faith and required every parish to set up a program of instruction for children not in religious schools. This was the beginning of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) which evolved into the parish instruction programs we know today. Pope Pius frequently took walks in the city of Rome, and he carried candy in his pockets to give to the children who followed him.
When World War I broke out, as Pope Pius had foreseen, he said: “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit me with. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died shortly afterward and was canonized in 1954.
(Image by Jesuits, Wikimedia Commons)