August 21st is the Feast of St. Pius X.
Eamon Duffy in his fine study of the popes, “Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes”, describes St. Pius X as a pope who looked forward and looked backward. His pastoral reforms of the liturgy, his encouragement of frequent Communion and reform of church prayers, for example, anticipated many of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. His fear for the integrity of church doctrine, on the other hand, slowed the church in adapting itself to a changing world. Like us all, popes have their strengths and weaknesses.
The pope’s reflection on the psalms, found in our liturgy today, reveals his love for prayer:
The psalms teach us how to pray. They provide a way to praise God and the words to bless God.
“The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song… The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions.
Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.
Who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise?
Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed?
Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.”