May 2014 Print

Book Review: Saint Pius X: Restorer of the Church by Yves Chiron

Book Review: Saint Pius X: Restorer of the Church by Yves Chiron

By Fr. Dominique Bourmaud

Here is a valuable book, with precious inserts from Italian and the Vatican Secret Archives, arguably the most researched and complete biography of ‘our’ saint. This volume not only relates the historical events of the Pope’s life but offers many personal stories that are like windows into his soul and clearly flesh out his saintly personality. 

The mission of this pope of the early 20th century was a living sign of contradiction. His person was vilified because of his typical “rags-to-riches” life story and undiplomatic career, “the pietistic simpleton.” But his papal activity too was qualified as obscurantist and retrograde, “prisoner of his infallibility as much as of the Curia.” 

In a pontificate lasting just over a decade, the Venetian was to navigate the bark of Peter with consummate wisdom. Certainly he was labeled a conservative and integrist for turning a deaf ear to the modernist sirens preaching a “pure Gospel” and for defending tirelessly the Church’s rights against secularism. His condemnation of modernism—which would weaken the Church some fifty years later—made his leadership invaluable to the Church.

Yet, on this rather somber background, his positive achievements could only be termed monumental. “To restore all things in Christ” was the mission Giuseppe Sarto assumed as he donned the papal tiara. And few pontiffs more justly merit the title of reformer than Pope Pius X, for the enormous progress he accomplished in domains as varied as ecclesiastical studies, canon law, the Holy Bible, and the liturgy. 

Cardinal Mercier of Belgium reserved the highest praise for his pope: “If the Church had been led by pontiffs of Pius X’s caliber when Luther and Calvin raised their heads, would the Reformation have torn a third of Christian Europe away from Rome?” History could repeat itself. Could not the same maladies be cured by the very remedies used by a saintly pope and a pope ‘papally holy’ of the stature of St. Pius X?