Pope Saint Pius X on Catholic Action

Pope Saint Pius X on Catholic Action

To find further points of congruity between the teachings of Vatican II and the great Popes of the early 20th century is not only edifying for the truth of the faith discovered and confirmed, but also instructive for the those who may still harbor some notion of the discontinuity and fragmentation of the Church by Vatican II. The liberals and conservatives who  wish to point a finger at each other, need to do some self-examination. Peter continues to encourage us in the faith and challenge us to take up the task of evangelization. A case in point is Pope Saint Pius X initiatives concerning Catholic Action. Now we speak of lay apostolate; in fact, the Decree on Lay Apostolic is a true hinge of the documents Vatican II. In a series of posts I would like to discuss the concept and challenge of Catholic Action and Lay Apostolate.

A story was told about Pope Pius X — he was speaking with a group of Cardinals and he asked them what they thought was the things most necessary at the present time to save society. [Obviously they need Christ, but how?] Some responded, “Build more Churches.” Another, “Build Catholic schools.” “But” countered a third, “we need more priests.” “No, no” Pope Pius reportedly said, “what is most necessary at the present time is to have in every parish a group of laymen who are at the same time virtuous, well-instructed, determined, and really apostolic.” [Katherine Burton, The Great Mantle, 1950, pp. 179-180]

The great motto of Pius X was “To restore all things in Christ.” It is from Ephesians, i., 10, in latin — “instaurare omnia in Christo.” It could be renew all things in Christ. It is appropriate that he was a great champion of the reception of the Eucharist — Fr G. Vann, OP. wrote:

The Eucharist is the greatest restoring power in the world, and for the world : in it all things are made new. It is then the greatest affirmation of the value of created things, of their goodness, for if anything were wholly evil it could not be restored; and so it is the great affirmation also of the unity of all things in that single act of worship and sacrifice which is the Cross.

Through Catholic Action the great restoration of all things to Christ would gain its ground. The Pope is till waiting for his laymen. It is a “vast work” or a “vast field” — we hear this from Pius X to Vatican II and John Paul II.

Here is Pope Saint Pius X in his encyclical on Catholic Action to the Bishops of Italy, written in 1905:

The field of Catholic Action is extremely vast. In itself it does not exclude anything, in any manner, direct or indirect, which pertains to the divine mission of the Church. Accordingly one can plainly see how necessary it is for everyone to cooperate in such an important work, not only for the sanctification of his own soul, but also for the extension and increase of the Kingdom of God in individuals, families, and society; each one working according to his energy for the good of his neighbor by the propagation of revealed truth, by the exercise of Christian virtues, by the exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

But the instrument must be prepared for the job:

Only when he has formed Jesus Christ in himself shall he more easily be able to restore Him to the family and society. Therefore, all who are called upon to direct or dedicate themselves to the Catholic cause, must be sound Catholics, firm in faith, solidly instructed in religious matters, truly submissive to the Church and especially to this supreme Apostolic See and the Vicar of Jesus Christ. They must be men of real piety, of manly virtue, and of a life so chaste and fearless that they will be a guiding example to all others.

It is interesting how Pius X acknowledges the formidable obstacles the lay apostle will face, especially by other men:

The calumnies of enemies, the coldness and frightfully little cooperation of even good men, sometimes even the jealousy of friends and fellow workers (excusable, undoubtedly, on account of the weakness of human nature, but also harmful and a cause of discord, offense and quarrels) — all these will weaken the apostle who lacks divine grace. Only virtue, patient and firm and at the same time mild and tender, can remove or diminish these difficulties in such a way that the works undertaken by Catholic forces will not be compromised.

The Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World is a vehicle for Catholic Action or Lay Apostolate. Whoever seeks to be “firm in faith, solidly instructed in religious matters, truly submissive to the Church” and thereby find a way to restore all things in Christ is welcome to be a part of this Forum. Pray that by grace we may be “patient and firm and at the same time mild and tender.”.

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