On March 14, 2013, the day after he was elected 266th successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis went to St. Mary Major in Rome to consecrate his pontificate to Blessed Mother. While he was there, he visited the tomb of Pope St. Pius V whose feastday we celebrate on April 30.
Pius V was only pope for 6 years but he accomplished a great deal in that short period of time. He is remembered for implementing the Council of Trent, declaring Thomas Aquinas a Doctor of the Church, coordinating the prayer campaign that led to victory over the Turks at Lepanto and instituting the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7 to commemorate that historic event. He also didn’t hesitate to excommunicate Queen Elizabeth I, while she was hunting down Catholics in jolly old England, and calling her a heretic.
But he’s also remembered for less visible characteristics such as the fact that he prayed before the Blessed Sacrament twice a day, celebrated the Mass with deep reverence and reverenced Christ in the poor. Here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:
“He began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor, instead of distributing his bounty at haphazard like his predecessors. As pontiff he practiced the virtues he had displayed as a monk and a bishop. His piety was not diminished, and, in spite of the heavy labours and anxieties of his office, he made at least two meditations a day on bended knees in presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In his charity he visited the hospitals, and sat by the bedside of the sick, consoling them and preparing them to die. He washed the feet of the poor, and embraced the lepers. It is related that an English nobleman was converted on seeing him kiss the feet of a beggar covered with ulcers. He was very austere and banished luxury from his court, raised the standard of morality, laboured with his intimate friend, St. Charles Borromeo, to reform the clergy, obliged his bishops to reside in their dioceses, and the cardinals to lead lives of simplicity and piety.”
Who does this remind you of? Sounds very much like the Bishop from Argentina who visited his body last month. About ten days after this visit, Pope Francis took it upon himself to honor Christ present in two young women prisoners by washing their feet on Holy Thursday and “Catholics” haven’t stopped talking about it since.
My prayer to St Pius on his feastday is that, through his intercession before God’s throne, our current Pope might be guided to implement his papacy in the devout and humble way in which it has begun and that the laity who are so eager to throw stones might prayerfully consider whether or not they live in glass houses.