August 21st is the Memorial of Saint Pope Pius X. He was born June 2, 1835, as Giuseppe (Joseph) Sarto. He was the second born of ten children and his family was not considered wealthy. With a special dispensation, he was ordained at twenty-three. He was elected pope on August 4, 1903, at the age of 68, and took the name Pius X. His goal as pope was “to renew all things in Christ.” Given his humble origins, he often struggled with some of the pomp of being pope at that time. Pius X continued to fight for the Church’s political independence from other nations/governments. He encouraged the daily reading of the Scriptures. In his help for those in need, in his virtues, and his pastoral zeal for souls, Pope Pius X was known for his holiness.
The Great War (WWI) broke out on Pius X’s eleventh anniversary of his election as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle. It broke his heart: “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks later in 1914. In his will, he said, "I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor.” Pope Pius X was canonized in 1954 and was the first pope canonized since Saint Pius V in 1672.
Pope Pius X understood the importance of the Eucharist for the Christian life. For this reason, he sought a change to the Eucharistic practices of his day by urging frequent reception of Holy Communion and at an earlier age. Prior, Holy Communion was delayed until later years, ranging 10-14 years of age. In the decree Quam Singulari (CLICK HERE TO READ IT), several principles were issued. What follows is a paraphrase of some of those principles:
1. The age of reason/discretion for First Confession and First Holy Communion is around the age of seven.
2. Children do not need full or perfect knowledge of doctrine to go to Confession or receive Holy Communion. The obligation to know more fully the faith of the Church is to be fulfilled gradually according to one’s ability.
3. Children desiring to receive Holy Communion need a basic understanding of the Mysteries of faith (God’s existence, the Trinity, Incarnation, etc.), and the ability to distinguish between ordinary bread and the Eucharist.
4. While growing in understanding and with devotion, children that have received their First Holy Communion should frequently return to the Holy Table of the Altar, “even daily if possible, as Jesus Christ and Mother Church desire…”
Saint Pius X was also the first pope to mention “active participation” in the Mass within a papal text, and would also emphasize the restoration of chant at Mass. Both of these principles would also be the focus of Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) from the Second Vatican Council. In his desire for a younger First Communion age, the encouragement of regular and even daily reception of Holy Communion, the naming of Blessed Imelda as a patron saint of First Communicants, and his desire for a return to liturgical chant, it is clear that the Mass was of great important for this saintly pope. May we ask Saint Pius X’s intercession as we seek a deeper faith, devotion, and love for the Most Holy Eucharist.