Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tu es Petrus, et super ficabo Ecclesiam meam

Deus, qui ad conterendos Ecclesiae tuae hostes, et ad divinum cultum reparandum, beatum Pium Pontificem maximum eligere dignatus es: fac nos ipsius defendi praesidiis, et ita tuis inhaerere obsequiis: ut, omnium hostium superatis insidiis, perpetua pace laetemur. Per Dominum nostrum...

O God, who for the overthrow of the enemies of Thy Church and for the restoration of divine worship didst vouchsafe to choose blessed Pius as supreme Pontiff: grant that we may be defended by his patronage and so cleave to Thy service, that overcoming all the wiles of our enemies, we may rejoice in perpetual peace. Through our Lord...

Today is the feast of Pope St. Pius V. Born Antonio Ghislieri, the future pope was a poor shepherd boy who from the start had a powerful devotion to Our Lady. He felt a desire to be a priest but his poor family could not afford to pay for his studies. Two Dominican friars happened upon him one day and they were impressed by his obvious piety. They invited him to come with them and try his vocation with their order. Ghislieri took the religious name Michael after the Archangel to whom he was also strongly devoted. He was a real prodigy in his studies and was allowed to take the habit at 16. By 20 he was a professor of philosophy for his Dominican province, and he was ordained a priest at 24 in 1528.

He was elected Prior four times and would have preferred to turn down his election each time if it were not the manifest will of God. In 1542 he was appointed to the Roman Inquisition (to be distinguished from the Spanish Inquisition.) Ghislieri wasn't the least bit shy about excommunicating or imprisoning heretics during the height of the Protestant Reformation. "Nothing can be too severe," he said, "for those who attempt to hinder the ministers of religion in their rightful duties by means of the civil power." Despite his frequent use of his juridical powers to punish, no Inquisitor was more gentle and charitable with repentant heretics. He was soon elevated to bishop and then cardinal.

After the death of Pope Pius IV, the cardinals as one body marched to Cardinal Ghislieri's cell. Knowing their intention, he made clear his refusal. Forcing their way into his room and virtually carrying him on their shoulders, the cardinals hauled Ghislieri out to the Chapel. One by one each cardinal said, "I, Cardinal so-and-so, choose you Cardinale Alessandrino [as he was then known] to be our Holy Father." When they had finished, at first the cardinal remained silent. The Cardinal-Dean asked him if he accepted and he finally responded, "Mi contento su."

Pope St. Pius V was only pope for six years, from 1566 to 1572, but the stamp of his papacy remained on the Church for the next four hundred years. His reform of the Roman missal still exists today, now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, along with minor revisions made by subsequent pontiffs, the most recent being Bl. John XXIII. He set out to vigorously enact the other reforms mandated by the Council of Trent including a new breviary and a new catechism. As a temporal ruler, Pius organized the Christian forces which triumphed against the Muslim Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, one of the greatest and most lopsided naval battles in history. Pius attributed the victory to the intercession of Our Lady through the Rosary he had asked all of Christendom to recite together; October 7, until recently, was known as the Feast of Our Lady of Victories.

The Holy Spirit always ensures we get the pope we need (and occasionally the pope we deserve.) Our Lord raised up Pope St. Pius V to reform and strengthen the Church from within against heresy, and from without against the Turkish threat. Pope St. Pius V, pray for us.

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