The primary aim of his pontificate Pius X announced in his first encyclical letter, viz., “to renew all things in Christ.” Here we need but allude to his decree on early and frequent reception of holy Communion; his Motu Proprio on church music; his encouragement of daily Bible reading and the establishment of various Biblical institutes; his reorganization of the Roman ecclesiastical offices; his work on the codification of Canon Law; his incisive stand against Modernism, that “synthesis of all heresies.” All these were means toward the realization of his main objective of renewing all things in Christ.
The outbreak of the first World War, practically on the date of the eleventh anniversary of his election to the See of Peter, was the blow that occasioned his death. Bronchitis developed within a few days, and on August 20, 1914, Pius X succumbed to “the last affliction that the Lord will visit on me.” He had said in his will, “I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor”—and no one questioned the truth of his words. His sanctity and his power to work miracles had already been recognized. Pius X was the first Pope canonized since St. Pius V in 1672.
The Roman Breviary has the most concise and beautiful account of this holy Pope’s life:
Pope Pius X, whose name previously was Joseph Sarto, was born in the village of Riese in the Venetian province, to humble parents remarkable for their godliness and piety. He enrolled among the students in the seminary of Padua, where he exhibited such piety and learning that he was both an example to his fellow students and the admiration of his teachers. Upon his ordination to the priesthood, he laboured for several years first as curate in the town of Tombolo, then as pastor at Salzano. He applied himself to his duties with such a constant flow of charity and such priestly zeal, and was so distinguished by the holiness of his life, that the Bishop of Treviso appointed him as a canon of the cathedral church and and made him the chancellor of the bishop’s curia, as well as spiritual director of the diocesan seminary. His performance in these duties was so outstanding and so highly impressed Leo XIII, that he made him bishop of the Church of Mantua.
Lacking in nothing that maketh a good pastor, he laboured particularly to teach young men called to the priesthood, as well as fostering the growth of devout associations and the beauty and dignity of divine worship. He would ever affirm and promote the laws upon which Christian civilisation depend, and while leading himself a life of poverty, never missed the opportunity to alleviate the burden of poverty in others. Because of his great merits, he was made a cardinal and created Patriarch of Venice. After the death of Pope Leo XIII, when the votes of the College of Cardinals began to increase in his favour, he tried in vain with supplications and tears to be relieved of so heavy a burden. Finally he ceded to their persuasions, saying I accept the cross. Thus he accepted the crown of the supreme pontificate as a cross, offering himself to God, with a resigned but steadfast spirit.
Placed upon the chair of Peter, he gave up nothing of his former way of life. He shone especially in humility, simplicity and poverty, so that he was able to write in his last testament: I was born in poverty, I lived in poverty, and I wish to die in poverty. His humility, however, nourished his soul with strength, when it concerned the glory of God, the liberty of Holy Church, and the salvation of souls. A man of passionate temperament and of firm purpose, he ruled the Church firmly as it entered into the twentieth century, and adorned it with brilliant teachings. He restored the sacred music to its pristine glory and dignity; he established Rome as the principal centre for the study of the Holy Bible; he ordered the reform of the Roman Curia with great wisdom; he restored the laws concerning the faithful for the instruction of the catechism; he introduced the custom of more frequent and even daily reception of the Holy Eucharist, as well as permitting its reception by children as soon as they reach the age of reason; he zealously promoted the growth of Catholic action; he provided for the sound education of clerics and increased the number of seminaries in their divers regions; he encouraged every priest in the practice of the interior life; he brought the laws of the Church together into one body; he condemned and suppressed those most pernicious errors known collectively as Modernism; he suppressed the custom of civil veto at the election of a Supreme Pontiff. Finally worn out with his labours and overcome with grief at the European war which had just begun, he went to his heavenly reward on the twentieth day of August in the year 1914. Renowned throughout all the world for the fame of his holiness and miracles, Pope Pius XII, with the approbation of the whole world, numbered him among the Saints.