August 21: Feast of St Pius X
There are two patron saints to whom I have a tremendous devotion: a sheet of paper and a lead pencil. Mark down at least once a day everything you do and every time you do it. It will not make you proud to see all you do; but it will humble you by showing you all you don’t do.
COMMENT: Fr Doyle was extremely methodological in his spiritual life. He kept very specific diaries and accounts of what he did and of what he failed to do, and it is largely these books that allow us to get a glimpse at his inner life.
For some people this process of meticulously recording victories over self, and also of weaknesses and sins, could seem too pedestrian and too banal (and perhaps for some it could lead to scruples…). However, it is this fighting spirit that really makes Fr Doyle very endearing for in this we see how an ordinary man fought, with God’s grace, to overcome himself and to become an inspiring hero who saved so many in the trenches. The lead pencil and the sheet of paper were essential in this process of Fr Doyle’s spiritual blossoming. We should not imagine ourselves to be above this process of self-examination.
Today’s saint, Pius X, had something to say on this matter himself:
It would indeed be shameful if in this matter Christ’s saying should be verified, that ‘the children of this world are wiser than the children of light’ (Luke 16:8). We can observe with what diligence they look after their affairs; how often they balance their credit and debit; how accurately they make up their accounts; how they deplore their losses and so eagerly excite themselves to repair them.
St Pius X was a great pope and saint who was greatly loved in his own day. Unfortunately he has often been depicted in a rather negative way by those with their own axe to grind. Suffice it to say he was a deeply humble man with a special place in his heart for children. It was of course St Pius who lowered the age at which children can receive Holy Communion, from about 12-14 down to 7. In fact, it was a little Irish girl, Ellen Organ, affectionately known as Little Nellie of Holy God, who was instrumental in this. Little Nellie ended up living with some nuns after her mother died. She was diagnosed with TB, but had a great longing to receive Holy Communion, so her local bishop in County Cork gave extraordinary permission for her to receive the Eucharist at just four and a half years of age. She died a short time later, in February 1908.
St Pius was deeply edified by this story, so much so that he even asked for a relic of Little Nellie after her death. Imagine – the great Pontiff asking for a relic of a four and a half year old girl from County Cork! Thus he illustrates for us his own child like heart and his concern for the little ones.
When Little Nellie’s coffin was opened 18 months after her death, her body was apparently found to be incorrupt.
Of course, Fr Doyle being who he was, himself had an interest in the life of Little Nellie, and he visited her grace after giving a retreat in County Cork just three years after her death. He records his experience as follows:
Kneeling there I asked her what God wanted from me, when I heard an interior voice clearly repeating, “Love Him, love Him”. The following day she seemed to rebuke me, when leaving the cemetery, for the careless way I performed most of my spiritual duties, and to say that God was displeased with this and wanted great fervour and perfection in them.
Let us pray to St Pius, who had such care for the little ones, that the Church will finally rid itself of that awful sin which has damaged so many children and families, which has besmirched the priesthood and which has wounded the credibility of the Church in the eyes of the world.
Here is a video from Fr James Kubicki SJ on St Pius X and his care for children.