Today's saint: Pius V was a real tiger among the hierarchy of the Church. He was born Antonio Ghislieri in Bosco, Italy (at the beginning of the 16th century), to a poor family. He worked as a shepherd until age fourteen and then joined the Dominican, being ordained a priest in 1528. Called Brother Michele, he studied at Bologna and Genoa, and then taught theology and philosophy for sixteen years before holding the posts of master of novices and prior for several Dominican houses. Named inquisitor for Como and Bergamo, he was so capable in the fulfillment of his office that by 1551 he was named by Pope Julius II commissary general of the Grand Inquisition. He was later named Pope, taking the name Pius on January 7, 1566. As pope, Pius saw his main objective the continuation of the massive program of reform for the Church, in particular the full implementation of the decrees of the recently concluded Council of Trent. He published the Roman Catechism, the revised Roman Breviary, and the Roman Missal; he also declared Thomas Aquinas (a fellow Dominican) Doctor of the Church, commanded a new edition of the works of Thomas Aquinas, and created a commission to revise the Vulgate. He insisted on wearing his white Dominican habit as Pope, and this custom stuck from that point on. In dealing with the threat of the Ottoman Turks he organized the naval battle of Lepanto – in which the Turks were turned back – at the intercession of the Blessed Mother, using the prayer of the Rosary: thus establishing the feast of Our Lady of Victories. The only blemishes to his pontificate were the continuing oppression of the inquisition and the often severe treatment of the Jewish people; and the ill advised excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
As I said, Pius V was a real tiger of a pontiff; not without his faults, but a zealous warrior for the Church in the time when it needed reform, renewal and an energetic role model.
The Church in our day, as always, stands in need of constant reform, renewal and role-modeling: as we heard from St. Catherine of Siena – a fellow Dominican of St. Pius V – yesterday: none of us can afford to stand still: we are either moving towards God or away from him: constant effort – if only slight – is needed to keep choosing God and his words and his ways!
And if our Church – which includes us – keeps itself updated spiritually – then as we go out into the world – we can effect a real purification of the environment in which we live; a real moral, ethical and spiritual reformation and renewal.
So very much of the world's ills are the result of plain, simple, unmitigated, vincible ignorance: the kind of ignorance that does not need to exist: if the ignorant ones would simply take the time to engage reason, engage conscience, engage the spiritual dimension that is very much a part of their existence. Denying and disengaging from these things does not make them less real – and it leads to irrational and potentially dangerous situations for a great many people – including themselves.
We are stewards of the mysteries of God – who, like Pope Pius V, are called upon to live them first ourselves, then to encourage others to follow our lead because the results are peace, joy and happiness: the things that everyone wants and seeks after! As Pius fed the flock spiritual realities, so can we – if we allow God to nurture them within us first. May we be fed by Jesus at this Mass with Word and Sacrament: and then may we move out at its conclusion to befriend and feed all others, spiritually and any other way that they might need – in order for them to know that God loves them!
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord: I know my sheep, and mine know me!