Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Feast of Pope St. Pius V

Some random, disjointed thoughts on Pope St. Pius V (Michael Ghilieri):

Today (April 30th) is the feast of Pope St. Pius V in the Novus Ordo calendar. Prior to 1969, it was commemorated on May 5th. Like many other things that happened in 1969, I'm not certain why this feast had to be moved. The day of the pope's actual death was May 1st, so I guess May 5th was not accurate - but neither is the new date, April 30th, though it is a bit closer. I thought perhaps it was moved to make room for some new saint in the calendar, but May 5th now remains the feast of nobody else but the obscure St. Hilary of Arles (d. 449).

We all remember Pius V as the great pope who codified the "Tridentine" Mass and who had the famous vision of the Christian victory at Lepanto. He also gave us the important document De Defectibus, which besides defining rules on incorrect matter for the Eucharist (that are flagrantly disobeyed today), also gives some very fascinating and historically insightful guidelines for such sticky pastoral situations as what to do if livestock wander into Church during the consecration, how to proceed removing a fly from the Precious Blood, and what to do if the Precious Blood freezes during the Mass.

Another lesser known thing we can thank Pius V for is that he was the first Pope to publish a centralized and universal legislation regarding clerical costume in 1589, in which he imposed the wearing of the cassock on all clerics, even those in minor orders. Boy, did that one ever get tossed out! We speak often of nuns taking off their habits, but it is very commonplace in some regions for priests to also discard their clerical garments except when celebrating Mass (and sometimes, even then). Check out this decree from the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore that I ran across today:

"We wish therefore and enjoin that all keep the law of the Church, and that when at home or when engaged in the sanctuary they should always wear the cassock ['vestis talaris'] which is proper to the clergy. When they go abroad for duty or relaxation, or when upon a journey, they may use a shorter dress, but still one that is black in colour, and which reaches to the knees, so as to distinguish it from lay costume. We enjoin upon our priests as a matter of strict precept, that both at home and abroad, and whether they are residing in their own diocese or outside of it, they should wear the Roman collar."

Pope St. Pius V managed the papacy with stringent efficiency and saw to it that the reforms of Trent were enacted and that discipline was tightened down. Contrast this with post-Conciliar popes who saw to itdirectly or indirectly that Vatican II was not enacted and that discipline was lightened. I think the current Magisterium could learn a thing or two by looking to the post-Tridentine Magisterium and seeing how it was that they chose to "implement" Trent, which was a vastly different program than the one we now have for implementing Vatican II. After Trent, the Church's Catholic identity was strengthened, which is anything but true for the post-Vatican II Church.

I think the greatest lesson from the life of Pope St. Pius V is that a pope really can get stuff done if he wants. Think about the political and technological obstacles that existed then with regards to communicating with bishops, getting kings to cooperate with papal directives, etc. Yet Pope St. Pius still managed to run the Church and plant it solidly in the ground of the Tridentine reform where it flourished for the next several centuries. Imagine what a man like Pius V could do if he were dropped into the Chair of St. Peter today with the ease of communication and the relative apathy of the nation-states of the world towards Church affairs (the apathy of bishops and Catholics being another matter altogether).

St. Pius V, ora pro nobis!

1 comment:

P. William said...

St Pius V, pray for us!

Quick question -- maybe I only found an abridged version of De Defectibus, but I can't find anything on the livestock issue.

Particularly I have been trying to find out if the Church ever had a procedure in response to an animal eating the Blessed Sacrament, as she did regarding a fly dropping into the Chalice. Know anything about that?

Thanks & God bless you.