Monday, April 21, 2014

John XXIII in His Own Words (3): Devotion to Saint Pius X and Blessed Pius IX

Pope John on the sedia gestatoria
It seems ironic, to say the least, given the polarization that postconciliar developments have produced in the Church, with the Society of Saint Pius X as a kind of flashpoint, that one of the deepest and tenderest of Blessed John XXIII’s personal devotions was to none other than Giuseppe Sarto, whom he constantly recalls in his private notes and public discourses. Today it would be harder to imagine a saint further removed from “the spirit of Vatican II” than Pius X—and (although to a lesser degree) John XXIII himself, who sought to live, think, and pray in that saint’s footsteps. Some passages in John XXIII's Journal of a Soul bring out his tender and profound devotion to both Pius IX and Pius X, papal saints and heroes of traditionalism.

Of special note is the fact that Angelo Roncalli, on the day of his first Mass, was blessed personally by Pope Pius X, as we will see mentioned in two of the following diary entries.
[Prayer to St. Pius X]
         On the day of my first Mass your hands were laid on my head, the head of a newly ordained priest kneeling as you passed by in the Vatican.
           I have always treasured in my heart the memory of that gesture and of the gentle words of good wishes and blessings which accompanied it.
         Now fifty years have passed.  You are a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, you rejoice in the glory of the saints, and all Christians pray to you.
         The humble young priest of long ago has been placed in the Chair of St. Mark, where you, too, presided with such splendour of doctrine, virtue, and example.        O Holy Father Pius X, I put my trust in you.  I do not fear to die.  I do not refuse to work.  May your powerful arm assist me, so that all that is still left for me to do in my life may be to the edification, the blessing and the joy of these beloved children of Venice, your children and mine, with whom it is sweet to live but still more precious and joyful to sacrifice myself in an outpouring of lovingkindness and pastoral care.  [Prayer for the 50th anniversary of Roncalli's ordination as priest, August 1954, while Patriarch of Venice.]
It is interesting, in this passage, that John XXIII spontaneously thinks of Pius IX after outlining the virtues necessary for a saintly soul (and shepherd):
The maxim “Know thyself” suffices for my spiritual serenity and keeps me on the alert.  The secret of my success must lie there: in not “searching into things which are above my ability” and in being content to be “meek and humble of heart.”  Meekness and humbleness of heart give graciousness in receiving, speaking and dealing with people, and the patience to bear, to pity, to keep silent and to encourage.  Above all, one must always be ready for the Lord’s surprise moves, for although he treats his loved ones well, he generally likes to test them with all sorts of trials such as bodily infirmities, bitterness of soul and sometimes opposition so powerful as to transform and wear out the life of the servant of God, the life of the servant of the servants of God, making it a real martyrdom.  I always think of Pius IX of sacred and glorious memory and, by imitating him in his sufferings, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization.  (Journal, p. 299, between 29 Nov. and 5 Dec. 1959)
Pope St. Pius X
And an outpouring of gratitude for his priestly ministry:
My heart is touched when I think of this anniversary of my ordination as a priest—10 August, 1904—in the church of Santa Maria in Monte Santo, Piazza del Popolo. … I remember it all, at a distance of fifty-seven years.  Ever since then I have felt ashamed of my worthlessness.  “My God, my mercy.” … After my first Mass over the tomb of St. Peter I felt the hands of the Holy Father Pius X laid on my head in a blessing full of good augury for me and for the priestly life I was just entering upon; and after more than half a century (fifty-seven years precisely) here are my own hands extended in a blessing for the Catholics, and not only the Catholics, of the whole world, in a gesture of universal fatherhood.  I am successor to this same Pius X who has been proclaimed a saint, and I am still living in the same priestly service as he, his predecessors and his successors, all placed like St. Peter at the head of the whole Church of Christ, one, holy, catholic and apostolic.  (Journal, p. 302; on 10 August 1961)

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