Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Feast of Pope St. Pius V

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Today is traditionally the feast of the great 16th century Pontiff and Dominican, Pope St. Pius V (his feast on the reformed calendar is 30 April).  Though his pontificate was of a short duration, only lasting from 1566-1572, it is hard to overestimate his impact and influence on the Church.

St. Pius V was a Dominican and an Inquisitor -- his white cassock has been the choice of the Bishops of Rome since his day.  St. Pius was imbued with the Holy Faith in all its splendor, and made the enforcement of the decrees of the Council of Trent one of the priorities of his pontificate.

St. Pius V is justly famous for his promulgation of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, a revised breviary, and of the Bull Quo Primum, which codified that form of the Holy Mass called "Tridentine."  You can find the full text of that Catechism here: Full text of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and you can read that Papal Bull here: Full text of QUO PRIMUM

In addition, St. Pius V was a ardent defender of the Faith in the face of both heresy and infidelity.  He would excommunicate Queen Elizabeth I of England (cf., Full text of REGNANS IN EXCELSIS) after her long career of persecution of the Church.  Unfortunately, this rebuke did not win over "Good Queen Bess," but only drove her to a more ardent persecution of the Church.

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Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland (+1572AD)

The excommunication came just after the crushing of, and some think was intended to assist, a Catholic rebellion in England: The Rising of the North in 1569, led by, among others, Blessed Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland.  With the failure of the rising, Blessed Thomas fled to Scotland, was arrested, sold back to England and, refusing to renounce his Catholic Faith, was executed in 1572.

For more on this blessed Earl, you should note: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessed Thomas Percy

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The Battle of Lepanto (Pintura de la batalla de Lepanto 1571. Óleo sobre lienzo)

In 1570, the Ottoman Turks were on the advance under Sultan Selim II (reigned 1566-1574) – declaring war on the Republic of Venice and attacking the Most Serene Republic's possession of Cyprus.  In September 1570, the Turks took Nicosia in Cyprus, massacring the inhabitants.  They followed this up with the capture of the last Venetian stronghold in Cyprus at Famagusta in Aug 1571 after an 11 month siege.

Pope St. Pius V, to combat the Turkish threat, put together the Holy League, consisting of Spain, Venice, and the Papal States.  It was too late to save Cyprus, but on 7 October 1571, the fleet of the Holy League, under the command of the illegitimate son of Emperor Charles V (+1558), and half-brother of Philip II of Spain, Don Juan of Austria (+1578), met the Turkish fleet.

Don Juan of Austria.

They would meet the Ottomans off the coast of Greece in a grand naval battle: the Battle of Lepanto!  The battle line was five miles long (270 Ottoman vs. 220 Holy League vessels), and this was the last great battle of oared ships in history.  The Ottomans lost 15-20,000 killed to 7,500 Holy League men, with 15,000 Christian slaves freed.  The image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe was actually present at the battle, as was Miguel Cervantes, author of Don Quixote!

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The Battle of Lepanto, as portrayed in the Vatican Museums.

St. Pius V famously had a vision in Rome of the victory having been won, and informing his advisers of the fact long before word came to the Eternal City.

You should certainly note and read the poem by G. K. Chesterton if you have not already! Full text of Chesterton's Lepanto (1915)

The tomb of Pope St. Pius V in the Sistine Chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore. ("Roma-Santa Maria Maggiore01". Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roma-Santa_Maria_Maggiore01.jpg#/media/File:Roma-Santa_Maria_Maggiore01.jpg)

In sum, the pontificate of Pope St. Pius V was simply packed with action.  He is now buried in the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, to the right of the high altar.  You can read about the chapel of his burial, the Sistine Chapel (not the famous one!) here: Official Site of the Sistine Chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore

For more on the life of Pope St. Pius V, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Pius V

Catholic Saints Info: St. Pius V

Live well!

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