St. Pius  X

Feast • Aug. 21

Church • Essex Center

Pope St. Pius X is perhaps best known as the “pope of the Eucharist,” because he changed the way ordinary Catholics regarded reception of Holy Communion. Most notably, he lowered the age at which children received their First Communion from 12 or 14 years to seven, which was and still is considered by the Church to be the “age of reason.”

Born Giuseppe Sarto in 1835 in the village of Riese near the city of Venice, Italy, he was the second of 10 children of a poor postman and his wife. Despite eventually becoming pope, Pius X never forgot his humble beginnings “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor,” he was once quoted as saying.

Recognizing early in his priesthood that many of the poor in his country did not fully understand the faith, as both priest and later pope he devoted large amounts of his time to the religious education of the faithful, both adults and children. He was responsible for codifying Canon Law and promoting the movement known as Catholic Action, which brought the faith into the modern world through the work of the laity.

Sadly, Pope St. Pius X lived to see the outbreak of the First World War. A few weeks after the outbreak of hostilities, however, the pope died, taken by the same influenza epidemic which would eventually claim 20 million or more lives worldwide.

Pope Pius X was canonized in 1954. His feast day is Aug. 21.

At St. Pius X Church, his statue is on the wall, but in one of the wings of the church in a cabinet on display are a number of second-class relics including pieces of his apparel. St. Pius X is honored with a parish picnic, close to his feast day on Aug. 21. “St. Pius X had a love for the poor and for children. He was the pope who lowered the age for communion to the age of reason,” said Edmundite Father Charles Ranges, pastor of the Essex Catholic Community.

—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.