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100th Anniversary of 'Pascendi Domini Gregis' - Pope St. Pius X

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September 08, 2007 - 12:00 PDT

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CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 8, 2007 - We usually do not celebrate the birthday of the saints, but rather their "birthday to heaven," that is, the anniversary of their death, considered as the beginning of their blessed life with God. Nevertheless, there are two exceptions, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, since we commemorate not only their birthday to heaven, but also their nativity, their coming to this earth.

The nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we celebrate today was well prepared by God from the very beginning of sacred history. Already in the Garden of Eden, God promised our first parents, Adam and Eve, to send them a Savior through the providential Woman, whose "seed will crush the head (power) of the serpent" (Gen. 3:5). In the protoevangelium, "the first Gospel" of Genesis 3:15, we see the promise of the new Adam, Christ, who will be the "seed" of the new Eve, Mary.

But Genesis chapter 28 also provides another prophecy about this new Eve. Remember the vision Jacob had of a ladder uniting heaven and earth? On Jacob's ladder, the Angels were descending and ascending to God, and the place was called "the house of God" and the "gate of heaven."

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The fathers of the Church applied Jacob's vision to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for in her this was fully realized both physically and spiritually. Through Mary, as though by a ladder, the Son of God came down from heaven to earth. Mary, by carrying the Son of God in her womb for nine months, became indeed "the house of God." And giving birth to the Son of God, Mary opened for us "the gates of heaven."

One hundred years ago today, Pope Pius X, whose feast we celebrated on this past Monday, issued an encyclical entitled: PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS. This encyclical condemned the heresy of Modernism. Why did Pope St. Pius X choose the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary to issue a condemnation of Modernism?

Well if we review the 15 promises of the Rosary we will recall that the 3rd promise is: the Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresy. We will, furthermore, recall the prayer: "Thou alone, Mary, hast destroyed all heresies in the whole world"?

If you read Pius X's encyclical Pascendi, you will learn that Modernism is the sum of all heresies. It would by idyllic to imagine a time in which there would be no heresies, no individual persons who place their personal opinions over the Church's authority and Magisterium. However, the fact that heresies exist does not at all mean that this antiphon with which the Church honors the Blessed Virgin Mary is not perfectly and literally true.

For there cannot be a time, this side of the Last Judgment, in which heresies will not exist. St. Paul stated this very explicitly in his first letter to the Corinthians: "For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you" (11:19). At all times the Blessed Virgin Mary destroys all heresies in the whole world in those who are truly and profoundly devoted to her.

St. Pius X very well explains the meaning of this expression in his encyclical of 1904 for the 50th anniversary of the definition of the Immaculate Conception. He there explains that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception contains in germ all Catholic doctrine and in particular the supernatural order of grace, which man in his proud rebellion refuses to accept.

Devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God is consequently the only means to preserve the submission to God and to the Church's authority that are the protection against all heresy and every error in the Faith.



If people believe and profess that in the first moment of her conception the Virgin Mary was free from all stain, they must also admit the existence of original sin, the redemption of mankind by Christ, the Gospel, the Church, and even the law of suffering. These truths will root up and destroy any kind of rationalism and materialism that exists....

This doctrine compels us to recognize that power of the Church which demands intellectual as well as voluntary submission. Because of this intellectual submission the Christian people sing to the Mother of God: "Thou art all fair, O Mary, and there is no original stain in thee." For this reason the Church rightly attributes the destruction of all heresies in the whole world to the venerable Virgin alone. (Ad Diem Illum, §14)

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