Saint Pius X
“I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” These words were part of the will that Pope Pius X left at his death on August 20, 1914.
He was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, the second of 10 children. His father was a poor parish clerk in Riese, Italy, and his mother worked as a seamstress. At 11, Giuseppe was accepted as a student in high school. Every day, he walked five miles to school and back. At 15, he began attending the local seminary. When his father died, Giuseppe wanted to come home and help with the family. His mother, however, would not let him.
In 1858, he was ordained and then worked as a parish priest for 17 years. He believed his call was to encourage those who were poor to lead Christian lives and to help them overcome financial problems. He was, however, named spiritual director of the major seminary and chancellor of the diocese. Later, he became a bishop and then a cardinal.
In 1903, this little-known cardinal was elected to become Pope Pius X. He took as his motto “Restore all things in Christ.” He emphasized the importance of the Eucharist. He directed that children as young as seven should be allowed to receive the Eucharist. He initiated changes in Church music and worship. He began a biblical institute. He gave the first official impetus to the modern liturgical renewal.
Pope Pius X believed that real peace could be achieved only through social justice and charity. He sponsored and sheltered refugees with his own resources. He wrote an encyclical encouraging Latin American bishops to improve the treatment of native people working on plantations. He worked to stop the world from going to war. When Europe entered World War I, Pius was heartbroken and said, “I would gladly give up my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” Just a few weeks after the war started, Pope Pius X died.