Few men have had the nigh unimaginable privilege and definitely unconscionable weight of duty as those who have occupied the Throne of St. Peter as the Supreme Pontiff and Pastor of the Universal Church; even fewer have exercised that office in so tremendous and saintly a manner as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, the son of poor peasants who became one of the most formidable occupants of the papal office of all time. Born in 1835 to a village postman and his wife, Giuseppe worked hard to gain an education in Latin and basic liberal arts. In 1850, he was given tonsure by the Bishop of Treviso; he was ordained priest in 1858. After becoming a parochial vicar and arch priest and later various other offices in the diocese, he was named Bishop of Mantua. In 1893, Leo XIII made him Cardinal-Patriarch of Venice. In 1903, at last he arose to the vocation God had had in mind for him from the beginning: he was elected Pope of Rome.
His pontificate was as immense as his personal holiness impelled it to be; he chose as his motto to "Restore all things in Christ." To this end, he promoted various liturgical reforms, such as lowering the typical age for First Communion to seven, the age of reason, and reforming the Liturgical calendar to allow more Sundays to take precedence over Saint days. In addition, he commissioned a revision of the Breviary and promoted the restored use of Gregorian Chant. Of greatest importance, however, was his doctrinal crusade against Modernism, which he aptly labeled the "synthesis of all heresies." He opposed it on all fronts, making it his personal mission to root out the error of errors that has since led to perdition. If only Catholics had heeded his calls for reform earlier!
Nothing, however, can take away from the life of this saintly Successor of Peter. It is undoubted that he is one of the greatest; Pope Saint Pius X will show you why. His odor of sanctity has never waned in the intervening years since his passing into eternal beatitude. Even in death, the Pious Pope remains a Rock of the Faith, a Servant of the Servants of God, a Holy Father to us all.
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