Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Saint Pius I, Pope and Martyr

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A holy Pope of the second century, the first of the nine hitherto graced with the name of Pius, rejoices us today with his mild and gentle light. Although Christian society was in a precarious condition under the edicts of persecution, which even the best of the pagan emperors never abrogated, our Saint profited by the comparative peace enjoyed by the Church under Antoninus Pius, to strengthen the foundations of the mysterious tower raised by the divine Shepherd to the honor of the Lord God. He ordained by his supreme authority that, notwithstanding the contrary custom observed in certain places, the feast of Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday throughout the entire Church. The importance of this measure and its effects upon the whole Church will be brought before us on the feast of St. Victor, who succeeded Pius at the close of the century.

The ancient legend of St. Pius I, which has lately been altered, made mention of the decree, attributed in the Corpus juris to our Pontiff, concerning those who should carelessly let fall any portion of the Precious Blood of our Lord. The prescriptions are such as evince the profound reverence the Pope would have to be shown towards the Mystery of the Altar. The penance enjoined is to be of forty days if the Precious Blood have fallen to the ground; and wheresoever It fell, It must if possible be taken up with the lips, the dust must be burned, and the ashes thereof thrown into a consecrated place.

Pius, hujus nominis primus, Aquileiensis, Ruffini filius, ex presbytero sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Summus Pontifex creatus est, Antonino Pio et Marco Aurelio imperatoribus augustis. Quinque ordinationibus, mense decembri, episcopos duodecim octodecim prebyteros creavit. Exstant nonnulla ab eo præclare instituta, præsertim ut Resurrectio Domini nonnisi die Dominico celebraretur. Pudentis domum in ecclesiam mutavit, eamque ob præstantiam supra cæteros titulos, utpote Romani Pontificis mansionem, titulo Pastoris dicavit, et in qua sæpe rem sacram fecit, et multos ad fidem conversos baptizavit, ac in fidelium numerum adscripsit. Dum vero boni Pastoris munus obiret, fuso pro suis ovibus et Summo Pastore Christo sanguine, martyrio coronatus est quinto Idus Julii, ac sepultus in Vaticano.

Pius, the first of this name, a citizen of Aquileia, and son of Rufinus, was priest of the holy Roman Church. During the reign of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius he was chosen Sovereign Pontiff. In five ordinations which he held in the month of December, he ordained twelve bishops of eighteen priests. Several admirable decrees of his are still extant; in particular that which ordains that the Resurrection of our Lord is always to be celebrated on a Sunday. He changed the house of Pudens into a Church, and because it surpassed the other titles in dignity, inasmuch as the Roman Pontiffs had made it their dwelling-place, he dedicated it under the title of Pastor. Here he often celebrated the holy Mysteries, baptized many who had been converted to the faith, and enrolled them in the ranks of the faithful. While he was thus fulfilling the duties of a good shepherd, he shed his blood for his sheep and for Christ the Supreme Pastor, being crowned with martyrdom on the 5th of the Ides of July. He was buried in the Vatican.

We call to mind, O glorious Pontiff, those words written under thine eye, which seem to be a commentary on thy decree concerning the Sacred Mysteries: “We receive not,” cried Justin the Philosopher to the world of that second century: “We receive not as common bread, nor as common drink, the food which we call the Eucharist; but just as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so have we been taught that the food made Eucharist by the prayer formed of His own word, is both the Flesh and the Blood of this Jesus who is made flesh.” This doctrine, and the measures it so fully justifies, found, towards the close of the same century, other authentic witnesses who, in their turn, would almost seem to be quoting from the prescriptions attributed to thee. “We are in the greatest distress,” said Tertullian, “if the least drop from our chalice, or the least crumb of our Bread fall to the ground.” And Origen appealed to the initiated to bear witness to “the care and veneration with which the sacred gifts were surrounded, for fear the smallest particle should fall; which, if it happened through negligence, would be considered a crime.” And yet in our days heresy, as destitute of knowledge as of faith, pretends that the Church has departed from her ancient traditions by paying exaggerated homage to the divine Sacrament. Obtain for us, O Pius, the grace to return to the spirit of our fathers; not indeed with regard to their faith, for that we have kept inviolate; but as to the veneration and love with which that faith inspired them for the Chalice of Inebriation, that richest treasure of earth. May the Pasch of the Lamb unite, as thou didst desire, in one uniform celebration, all who have the honor to bear the name of Christian!

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