The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.
Blessed Pius IX
from the Vatican website
Blessed Pope Pius IX was born in Senigallia, Italy, on 13 May 1792, the son of Gerolamo of the Counts Mastai Ferretti, and Caterina Solazzi, of the local nobility. He was baptized on the day of his birth with the name Giovanni Maria. Of delicate physical constitution but of very lively intelligence, his childhood was marked by little voluntary mortifications and an intense religious life.
In 1809 he moved to Rome for higher studies. A disease not well diagnosed, which some called epilepsy, forced him to interrupt his studies in 1812. He was accepted into the Pontifical Noble Guard in 1815, but because of his illness he was immediately discharged. It was at this time that St Vincent Pallotti predicted that he would become Pope and that the Virgin of Loreto would free him eventually from the disease.
After serving briefly in the Tata Giovanni Educational Institute, he participated as a catechist in 1816 in a memorable mission in Senigallia and, immediately thereafter, decided to enter the ecclesiastical state. He was ordained a priest in 1819. Conscious of his noble rank, he committed himself to avoiding a prelatial career in order to remain only at the service of the Church.
He celebrated his first Mass in the Church of St Anne of the Carpenters at the Tata Giovanni Institute, of which he was named rector, remaining there until 1823. He was immediately recognized as assiduous in prayer, in the ministry of the Word, in the celebration of the liturgy, in the confessional and above all in his daily ministry at the service of the humblest and neediest. He admirably united the active and the contemplative life: ready for pastoral needs, but always interiorly recollected, with strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion and fidelity to daily meditation and the examination of conscience.
In 1823 he left the institute to serve the Apostolic Nuncio in Chile, Mons. Giovanni Muzi. There he remained until 1825, when he was elected President of St Michael's Hospice, a grand but complex institution in need of effective reform. To it Mastai applied himself with more than gratifying results, but without ever neglecting his priestly duties. Two years later, at the age of 35, he was consecrated Archbishop of Spoleto. In 1831 the revolution which had begun in Parma and Modena spread to Spoleto. The Archbishop did not want the shedding of blood and repaired, as much as possible, the deleterious effects of the violence. When calm was restored, he obtained a pardon for all, even for those who did not merit it.
Another turbulent see awaited Mastai in Imola, where he was transferred in 1832. He remained an eloquent preacher, prompt in charity toward everyone, zealous for the supernatural as well as the material well-being of his Diocese, devoted to his clergy and seminarians, a promoter of education for the young, sensitive to the needs of the contemplative life, devoted to the Sacred Heart and to Our Lady, benevolent towards all but firm in his principles. In 1840 he received the Cardinal's hat at the age of 48.
Despite having shunned honours, on the evening of 16 June 1846 Mastai found himself burdened with the greatest of them: he was elected Pope and took the name Pius IX.
He had a difficult pontificate, but precisely because of that he was a great Pope, certainly one of the greatest. Thoroughly aware of being the "Vicar of Christ" and responsible for the rights of God and of the Church, he was clear, simple consistent. He combined firmness and understanding, fidelity and openness.
He began with an act of generosity and Christian sensitivity: amnesty for political crimes. His first Encyclical was a programmatic vision, but anticipated the "Syllabus": in it he condemned secret societies, freemasonry and communism. In 1847 he promulgated a decree granting extensive freedom of the press and instituted a civil guard, the municipal and communal council, the Council of State and the Council of Ministers. From then on his interventions as Father of all nations and temporal Prince continued unabated.
The question of Italian independence, which he sympathized with, did not set the Prince against the Pope, a fact that alienated the most intransigent liberals. The situation came to a head on 15 November when Pellegrino Rossi, the head of government, was killed and Pius IX had to take refuge in Gaeta.
After the proclamation of the Roman Republic (9 February 1849), he moved to Portici and later returned to Rome (12 April 1850). He reorganized the Council of State, established the Council for Finances, granted a new amnesty, re-established the Catholic hierarchy in England and in Holland.
In 1853 he condemned Gallican doctrines and founded the well-known "Seminario Pio". He established the Commission on Christian Archaeology, defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December 1854 and blessed the rebuilt St Paul's Basilica which had been destroyed by fire in 1823.
In 1856 he approved the plan for railways in the Papal States and on 24 April 1859 inaugurated the first section between Rome and Civitavecchia. In 1857 he visited the Papal States and was welcomed everywhere with rejoicing. He sent missionaries to the North Pole, India, Burma, China and Japan.
Meanwhile dark clouds gathered over him with the Italian "Risorgimento", the Piedmontese annexations that were dismantling the Papal States and the expropriation of the Legations. Suffering but undaunted, he continued to show his charity and concern for all. In 1862 he established a dicastery to deal with the concerns of Eastern-rite Catholics; in 1864 he published his Syllabus condemning modern errors; in 1867 he celebrated the 18th centenary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul; in 1869 he received the homage of the entire world for the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination. Later that year he opened the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, the pearl of his pontificate, and closed it on 18 July 1870.
With the fall of Rome (20 September 1870) and of the temporal power, the saddened Pontiff considered himself a prisoner of the Vatican, resisting the "Laws of Guarantees", but approving the "Work of Congresses". He consecrated the Church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, disciplined the participation of Catholics in political life with the Non expedit and restored the Catholic hierarchy of Scotland. Suffering from poor health, he gave his last address to the parish priests of Rome on 2 February 1878. On 7 February the longest pontificate in history ended with his holy death.
BEATIFICATION OF PIUS IX, JOHN XXIII, TOMMASO REGGIO, WILLIAM CHAMINADE AND COLUMBA MARMION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 3 September 2000
1. In the context of the Jubilee Year, it is with deep joy that I have declared blessed two Popes, Pius IX and John XXIII, and three other servants of the Gospel in the ministry and the consecrated life: Archbishop Tommaso Reggio of Genoa, the diocesan priest William Joseph Chaminade and the Benedictine monk Columba Marmion.
Five different personalities, each with his own features and his own mission, all linked by a longing for holiness. It is precisely their holiness that we recognize today: holiness that is a profound and transforming relationship with God, built up and lived in the daily effort to fulfil his will. Holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in him.
I extend my respectful greetings to the official delegations of Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Turkey and Bulgaria which have come here for this solemn occasion. I also greet the relatives of the new blesseds, together with the Cardinals, Bishops, civil and religious dignitaries who have wished to take part in our celebration. Lastly, I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters who have come in large numbers to pay homage to the servants of God whom the Church today is enrolling among the blessed.
2. Listening to the words of the Gospel acclamation: "Lord, lead me on a straight road", our thoughts naturally turn to the human and religious life of Pope Pius IX, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti. Amid the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. Faithful to the duties of his ministry in every circumstance, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and to spiritual values. His lengthy pontificate was not at all easy and he had much to suffer in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was much loved, but also hated and slandered.
However, it was precisely in these conflicts that the light of his virtues shone most brightly: these prolonged sufferings tempered his trust in divine Providence, whose sovereign lordship over human events he never doubted. This was the source of Pius IX's deep serenity, even amid the misunderstandings and attacks of so many hostile people. He liked to say to those close to him: "In human affairs we must be content to do the best we can and then abandon ourselves to Providence, which will heal our human faults and shortcomings".
Sustained by this deep conviction, he called the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, which clarified with magisterial authority certain questions disputed at the time, and confirmed the harmony of faith and reason. During his moments of trial Pius IX found support in Mary, to whom he was very devoted. In proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he reminded everyone that in the storms of human life the light of Christ shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin and is more powerful than sin and death.
3. "You are good and forgiving" (Entrance Antiphon). Today we contemplate in the glory of the Lord another Pontiff, John XXIII, the Pope who impressed the world with the friendliness of his manner which radiated the remarkable goodness of his soul. By divine design their beatification links these two Popes who lived in very different historical contexts but, beyond appearances, share many human and spiritual similarities. Pope John's deep veneration for Pius IX, to whose beatification he looked forward, is well known. During a spiritual retreat in 1959, he wrote in his diary: "I always think of Pius IX of holy and glorious memory, and by imitating him in his sacrifices, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization" (Journal of a Soul, Ed. San Paolo, 2000, p. 560).
Everyone remembers the image of Pope John's smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church's history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the "signs" of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.
In the last moments of his earthly life, he entrusted his testament to the Church: "What counts the most in life is blessed Jesus Christ, his holy Church, his Gospel, truth and goodness". We too wish to receive this testament, as we glorify God for having given him to us as a Pastor.
4. "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jas 1: 22). These words of the Apostle James make us think of the life and apostolate of Tommaso Reggio, a priest and journalist who later became Bishop of Ventimiglia and finally Archbishop of Genoa. He was a man of faith and culture, and as a Pastor he knew how to be an attentive guide to the faithful in every circumstance. Sensitive to the many sufferings and the poverty of his people, he took responsibility for providing prompt help in all situations of need. Precisely with this in mind, he founded the religious family of the Sisters of St Martha, entrusting to them the task of assisting the Pastors of the Church especially in the areas of charity and education.
His message can be summed up in two words: truth and charity. Truth, first of all, which means attentive listening to God's word and courageous zeal in defending and spreading the teachings of the Gospel. Then charity, which spurs people to love God and, for love of him, to embrace everyone since they are brothers and sisters in Christ. If there was a preference in Tommaso Reggio's choices, it was for those who found themselves in hardship and suffering. This is why he is presented today as a model for Bishops, priest and lay people, as well as for those who belong to his spiritual family.
5. The beatification during the Jubilee Year of William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianists, reminds the faithful that it is their task to find ever new ways of bearing witness to the faith, especially in order to reach those who are far from the Church and who do not have the usual means of knowing Christ. William Joseph Chaminade invites each Christian to be rooted in his Baptism, which conforms him to the Lord Jesus and communicates the Holy Spirit to him.
Fr Chaminade's love for Christ, in keeping with the French school of spirituality, spurred him to pursue his tireless work by founding spiritual families in a troubled period of France's religious history. His filial attachment to Mary maintained his inner peace on all occasions, helping him to do Christ's will. His concern for human, moral and religious education calls the entire Church to renew her attention to young people, who need both teachers and witnesses in order to turn to the Lord and take their part in the Church's mission.
6. Today the Benedictine Order rejoices at the beatification of one of its most distinguished sons, Dom Columba Marmion, a monk and Abbot of Maredsous. Dom Marmion left us an authentic treasure of spiritual teaching for the Church of our time. In his writings he teaches a simple yet demanding way of holiness for all the faithful, whom God has destined in love to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1: 5). Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and the source of all grace, is the centre of our spiritual life, our model of holiness.
Before entering the Benedictine Order, Columba Marmion spent some years in the pastoral care of souls as a priest of his native Archdiocese of Dublin. Throughout his life Bl. Columba was an outstanding spiritual director, having particular care for the interior life of priests and religious. To a young man preparing for ordination he once wrote: "The best of all preparations for the priesthood is to live each day with love, wherever obedience and Providence place us" (Letter, 27 December 1915). May a widespread rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Bl. Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to him through ardent love of God and generous service of their brothers and sisters.
7. Let us confidently ask the new blesseds, Pius IX, John XXIII, Tommaso Reggio, William Joseph Chaminade and Columba Marmion, to help us live in ever greater conformity to the Spirit of Christ. May their love of God and neighbour illumine our steps at this dawn of the third millennium!
Ineffabilis Deus: The Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1854
Life and Turbulent Times of Pius IX
By Elizabeth Lev
ROME, FEB. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- It seems hard to believe that eight years have already passed since the 2000 Jubilee. For those in Rome the Holy Year remains memorable for many things, from the 25 million pilgrims to the ubiquitous presence of John Paul II exhorting people to sainthood in St. Peter's Square or manning the confessionals in the basilica.
This week however, we remember another event of the year 2000: the beatification of Pius IX. The 256th successor of Saint Peter was beatified in September 2000, and his feast day declared as February 7.
Giovani Maria Mastai Ferretti came from the Marche region of Italy. His election to the papal throne in 1846 was soon followed by the first signs of a turbulent age. His prime minister, Count Rossi, was assassinated and the Pope himself forced to flee Rome and take refuge in Gaeta in southern Italy.
The short-lived Republic of Rome disintegrated shortly after Pius IX left, and the Pope was able to return to his home on the Quirinal Hill in 1850. But the "Risorgimento," or the unification of Italy, was under way.
For 20 years Pius IX struggled to defend the territories of the Church while Camillo Cavour and Giuseppe Garibaldi, the brains and brawn of the Italian Nationalist movement, picked away at his lands; closing monasteries and selling sacred art as they went.
On September 20, 1870, they invaded Rome and Pius IX was once again forced to flee from the Quirinal, this time taking refuge in the Apostolic Palace attached to Saint Peter's Basilica. Victor Emmanuele II, the first King of Italy, occupied the Quirinal Palace, and Pius IX died eight years later imprisoned within the Vatican walls.
Pius IX holds the record as the longest reigning Pope, having sat on the throne of Saint Peter for 32 years. (In fact, many superstitious Romans claimed the fall of the Papal States was due to Pius' outliving his tenure of 25 years -- the time Peter himself had been Bishop of Rome.)
Pius IX's great contributions to the universal Church are well known: He declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and published the "Syllabus Errorum," a list of 80 censured propositions; this document foresaw the future trials the Church would suffer.
He also called the important First Vatican Council in 1869-70, which formulated the doctrine of papal infallibility on questions of faith and morals in the Church. It also spoke of man's ability to know God through the use of reason, a very apt teaching for today's world.
But here in Rome, Pius IX's international persona and historical protaganism are almost eclipsed by the ubiquitous evidence of his indefatigable service as Bishop of Rome.
During his long reign, train tracks were laid to connect the Eternal City with the rest of Italy. For the first time Romans walked at night through gas-lit streets and the Jewish Ghetto was abolished. Laymen were invited to join the papal government and countless new jobs were created to restore the flagging Roman economy.
Very few churches in Rome do not bear a plaque commemorating a restoration financed by Pope Pius IX, who sought to revive the great historical sanctuaries of the Eternal City, which languished after years of neglect.
His generosity continued despite the growing hostility of the Roman followers of Cavour, who had already chased him out of the city once. They applauded Pius IX's retreat into the Vatican walls, and ultimately disrupted his funeral procession by attempting to throw his body into the Tiber.
Every February 7, a large number of devotees of "Pio Nono" gather in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls for Mass. Surprising, perhaps, is the presence of so many young people gathered in the crypt, side by side with aged Roman aristocrats, descendants of Pius IX's court.
Pius IX chose to be buried in the resting place of Rome's beloved martyr Saint Lawrence, joining his saintly predecessors, Popes Sixtus III and Zosimus. Pius IX had ordered extensive renovations to the church, removing the baroque adornments and returning the church to its Paleo-Christian splendor.
His tomb is a masterpiece of 19th-century mosaic art. Images of saints shimmer like sentinels against the gold background in the darkened chamber, and dozens of emblems of dioceses and orders who commissioned this homage to the Pope bear witness to the great love that Pius IX garnered throughout the world.
Together they pay homage to this great saint, so often maligned by modern historians, another example of the adage that "history is written by the victors." One wonders, however, who is the victor here? Victor Emmanuel II gained 76 years of monarchy, and hostile authors have earned a dime or two off biographical distortions.
But Pius IX, after navigating the Barque of Peter through some of its toughest storms, found a safe harbor for all eternity.
Reprint here with permission of Elizabeth Lev.
© Zenit.org 2008