Today, 30 April 2012, is the memorial of St Pius V, Pope of blessed memory, Dominican religious and implementer of the reforms of the Council of Trent. Tomorrow is the 440th anniversary of his death in Rome. During the six years of his pontificate he showed a shepherd’s heart in leading the Church.
It is a special joy to honour this holy pastor of the Church today. Each time his name is mentioned I am reminded that God answers prayers. When the Turks were expanding their sway in the Mediterranean of the 16th century, it was St Pius V who turned to prayer first against this threat to Christianity. Calling upon the baptized he asked them to pray the Rosary to win the victory with. And win the battle of Lepanto they did – despite being badly outnumbered.
Each time his name is mentioned I am reminded that God knows how to reward His Saints. In our year 2000 pilgrimage to Rome for the great Jubilee we were able to go and visit the Basilica of St Mary Major. Contained within one of the ornate chapel within the Basilica is the incorrupt body of St Pius X. Now it is one thing to see one’s first relic (St Peter Chanel) and quite another to see one’s first incorrupt body. His was my first, an unforgettable moment even though the body is placed at a distance up the chapel walls. Yes, St Pius V was indeed real. In this body he served God wholeheartedly and in this body he continues to silently proclaim God’s power and generous rewards.
Anyone whom God selects to serve as the successor of St Peter in our times needs our prayers if he is to fulfill the whole mission that God has for them in this important role. So whenever I pray for the Holy Father I invite saintly Popes of the past to pray with me – and St Pius V is always in my roll call of chosen co-intercessors.
St Pius V entered the world in 1504 as Antonio Ghislieri, the son of poor Italian parents. Considering the poverty of the family, Antonio’s dream of becoming a priest seemed impossibly out of reach. But Antonio prayed, and one day God sent two Dominicans to meet with him. God arranged that they would be the instruments by which Antonio started on the road to the priesthood. As a Dominican monk he took the name of Michael and in due timw received the grace of Ordination.
Wondrously God arranged St Pius V’s life so that it would lead gradually to the papacy. First Michael prayed and studied hard, and then lectured in theology and philosophy. Following this he was chosen as an Inquisitor. For doing such a conscientious job as Inquisitor Michael was appointed Cardinal. In time he was consecrated a bishop and began to reveal what a pastoral heart he had for God’s people. Here he began to take the recommendations of the Council of Trent serious and it put them into practice. At the next conclave Michael was elected Pope at the age of 62, choosing to be called Pius V.
Pius V and his team worked hard to bring the Church into unity, compiling a catechism, and revising the Breviary and the Roman Missal. Recalling his Cardinals to the duty their high calling required of them was not easy, but he did his best. Seeing the truth clearly he walked in its ways and showed others how to return to God.
There is so much more about St Pius V to learn. Every little bit more I learn about St Pius V’s life makes me even more appreciative of him, so I invite you to learn more about him yourself.
St Pius V, pray for us.