May 2015 Print

From the Heart

by St. Pius X, extracts of his Exhortation to the Clergy

Haerent Animo, written after fifty years of an immensely fruitful ministry, is in many ways just a description of St. Pius X’s own priesthood and of the virtues which he strove to develop all during his priestly life. Indeed, one has the clear impression that he is recounting the history of his own spiritual life. “It was,” Cardinal Merry del Val tells us, “exclusively his own personal effort, and it was truly a labour of love.”

Examination of Conscience

For our own part, beloved sons, when we reflect upon these matters,1 as is our bounden duty, we are overcome with grief and our voice breaks into lamentation.

Woe to the priest who fails to respect his high dignity, and defiles by his infidelities the name of the holy God for whom he is bound to be holy. Corruptio optimi pessima. “Sublime is the dignity of the priest, but great is his fall, if he is guilty of sin; let us rejoice for the high honor, but let us fear for them lest they fall; great is the joy that they have scaled the heights, but it is insignificant compared with the sorrow of their fall from on high.”2

Woe then to the priest who so far forgets himself that he abandons the practice of prayer, rejects the nourishment of spiritual reading and never turns his attention inwards upon himself to hear the accusing voice of conscience. Neither the festering wounds on his conscience, nor even the tearful pleas of his mother the Church, will move such an unfortunate priest until those fearsome threats come upon him: “Blind the heart of this people, make dull their ears, and close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and be converted and I should heal them.”3

May God in his bounteous mercy grant that these ominous words may never be true of any of you, beloved sons; he knows what is in our heart, he sees that it is free from rancor towards anyone, and that it is inflamed with pastoral zeal and paternal love for all: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Is it not you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ?”4

Priestly Virtues

You all know very well, wherever you may be, the difficult period through which, in the mysterious design of God, the Church is now passing. Consider likewise and ponder on the sacred duty which is yours to stand by and to assist in her struggles the Church which has bestowed upon you an office of such exalted dignity.

Now more than ever the clergy need to be men of more than ordinary virtue, virtue that is a shining example, eager, active, ever ready to do great things for Christ and to suffer much. There is nothing that we more ardently ask from God and desire for each and everyone of you.

May chastity, the choicest ornament of our priesthood, flourish undimmed amongst you; through the splendor of this virtue, by which the priest is made like the angels, the priest wins greater veneration among the Christian flock, and his ministry yields an even greater harvest of holiness.

May the reverence and obedience which you solemnly pledged to those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to rule the Church, increase and gain strength; and especially, may your minds and hearts be linked by ever closer ties of loyalty to this Apostolic See which justly claims your respectful homage.

May all of you excel in charity—a charity that never seeks what is its own; when you have mastered the human incentives of jealous rivalry and self-seeking ambition, let all together in fraternal emulation strive for the glory of God.

A great multitude of sick, blind, lame and paralytics,5 in abject misery, awaits the benefits of your charity; the youth above all, those countless young people who are the dearest hope of society and religion, it is they, menaced as they are by error and corrupting influences, who especially stand in need of your charitable activity.

Strive eagerly not only by means of catechetical instruction—which once more with even greater earnestness we commend to you—but by unsparing use of all the resources of wisdom and skill at your command, to deserve well of all. Whether your immediate task be to assist, to protect, to heal, to make peace, let your one aim and most ardent desire be to win or to secure souls for Christ. How unwearied, how industrious, how fearless are Christ’s enemies in their activities, to the immeasurable loss of souls!

The Catholic Church rejoices in and is proud of the charity beyond praise which inspires the clergy to proclaim the Gospel of Christian peace and to bring the blessings of salvation and civilization even to barbarous races; through their unsparing labor, sometimes consecrated by their blood, the kingdom of Christ is expanding constantly and the Christian faith gains added splendor from these new triumphs.

If, beloved sons, the unsparing charity of your efforts is met by jealousy, reproaches and calumnies, as frequently happens, do not allow yourselves to be overcome with sadness: Do not tire in doing good.6

Let your mind dwell on those countless great figures who, following the example of the Apostles, even in the midst of cruel insults borne for the name of Christ, went rejoicing, blessing those who cursed them.7 For we are the children and the brethren of the saints, whose names shine in the book of life, and whose praises the Church proclaims: Let us not stain our glory.8

Your sanctification has, indeed, first place in our thoughts and in our cares; therefore, with our eyes raised to heaven, we frequently pray for the whole clergy, repeating the words of Christ, our Lord: Holy Father...sanctify them.9


1 The Pope had painted the portrait of the lukewarm priest: “This carelessness and indifference to one’s own welfare sometimes go so far as to lead to neglect even of the sacrament of Penance…”

2 St. Jerome, in Ezech., L. xiii, 44, v. 30.

3 Is. 6:10.

4 Thess. 2:19.

5 Jn. 5:3.

6 II Thess. 3:13

7 Cf. I Cor. 4:12.

8 I Macc. 9:10.

9 Jn. 17:11 and 17.