Pius X Haerent animo 22
22 It is of great importance that the priest should combine his daily divine meditation with the constant reading of pious books, especially the inspired books. That was the command that Paul gave to Timothy: <Attend unto reading> (1Tm 4,13) . The same lesson was taught by St. Jerome when instructing Nepotianus on the priestly life: "Never let the sacred book leave your hands"; and he gave the following reason for his advice: "Learn that which you are to teach; holding to that faithful word which conforms to doctrine, that you may be able to exhort with sound doctrine, and refute the opponents." What great advantages are gained by priests who are faithful to this practice! With what unction they preach Christ! Far from flattering and soothing the hearts and minds of their audience, they stimulate them to better things, and arouse in them the desire of heavenly things.
23 The command of St. Jerome: "Let the sacred books be always in your hands," (60) is important for another reason also, a reason which concerns your own personal welfare.
Everyone knows the great influence that is exerted by the voice of a friend who gives candid advice, assists by his counsel, corrects, encourages and leads one away from error. <Blessed is the man who has found a true friend; (Si 25,12) he that has found him has found a treasure> (Si 6,14). We should, then, count pious books among our true friends. They solemnly remind us of our duties and of the prescriptions of legitimate discipline; they arouse the heavenly voices that were stifled in our souls; they rid our resolutions of listlessness; they disturb our deceitful complacency; they show the true nature of less worthy affections to which we have sought to close our eyes; they bring to light the many dangers which beset the path of the imprudent. They render all these services with such kindly discretion that they prove themselves to be not only our friends, but the very best of friends. They are always at hand, constantly beside us to assist us in the needs of our souls; their voice is never harsh, their advice is never self-seeking, their words are never timid or deceitful.
There are many striking examples of the salutary effects of the reading of pious books. Outstanding is the case of Augustine whose great services to the Church had their origin in such reading: "Take, read; take, read; I took (the epistles of Paul the Apostle), I opened, I read in silence; it was as though the darkness of all my doubting was driven away by the light of peace which had entered my soul" (63) .
60. <Ep.> LVIII <ad Paulinum>, n. 6.
63. <Confessions>, L. VIII, C. 12.
24 In our own day, alas! it is the contrary that happens all too frequently. Members of the clergy allow their minds to be overcome gradually by the darkness of doubt and turn aside to worldly pursuits; the chief reason for this is that they prefer to read a variety of other works and newspapers, which are full of cunningly propounded errors and corruption, rather than the divine books and other pious literature.
Be on your guard, beloved sons; do not trust in your experience and mature years, do not be deluded by the vain hope that you can thus better serve the general good. Do not transgress the limits which are determined by the laws of the Church, nor go beyond what is suggested by prudence and charity towards oneself. Anyone who admits this poison into his soul will rarely escape the disastrous consequences of the evil thus introduced.
25 The benefits to be derived from spiritual reading and meditation will certainly be more abundant if the priest supplements them by an examination which will enable him to discern whether he is striving conscientiously to put into practice what he has learned in his reading and meditation.
Particularly relevant in this context is the excellent advice of Chrysostom which was intended especially for priests. Every night before going to sleep, "make your conscience appear in judgment; demand of it an account, and having thoroughly probed and dissected whatever evil purposes you formed during the day, repent for them" (64) .
The excellence of this practice and its fruitfulness for christian virtue are clearly established by the teaching of the great masters of the spiritual life. We are pleased to quote that remarkable passage from the rule of St. Bernard: "As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit your life to a daily examination. Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost ... Strive to know yourself ... Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself, as though you were another person, and then weep for your faults" (65).
64. <Exposit. in Ps > 4, n. 8.
65. <Meditationes piissimae>, c. V, <de Quotid. sui ipsius exam>.
26 It would be shameful, indeed, were we to see verified in this matter the words of Christ: <The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light> (Lc 16,8). You know with what assiduity the children of this world manage their affairs, how often they compare income with expenses, how carefully and strictly they balance their accounts, how they grieve over their losses, and drive themselves on to make them good (67) . We, on the other hand, though perhaps our hearts are eager for gaining honors, for increasing our wealth, or for the mere winning of renown and glory by our learning, are listless and without inclination for the supremely important and difficult task of achieving our own sanctification. Rarely do we take time for recollection and submit our souls to scrutiny; our soul has become overgrown like the vineyard of the slothful man, of which it is written: <I passed by the field of the slothful man and by the vineyard of the foolish man; and behold with nettles it was all filled, and thorns had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall was broken down> (Pr 24,30-31) .
67. Cf. <supra>, n. 63.
27 The situation is aggravated by the fact that all round us we see the multiplication of evil example which is a menace to priestly virtue itself every day calls for even greater vigilance and fresh endeavor.
Experience shows that the man who frequently subjects his thoughts, words and actions to a strict examination, gains new strength of soul both to detest and fly from evil and to desire and strive for the good.
It is also shown by experience that one who refuses to appear before the tribunal where justice sits in judgment, and conscience appears at once as the accused and the accuser, usually suffers grave loss and disadvantage thereby. Vainly too will one seek in the conduct of such a person for that circumspection, so highly prized in the christian, that tries to avoid even venial faults, or that sense of reverence, so becoming in a priest, which shudders at even the slightest offense to God.
28 This carelessness and indifference to one's own welfare sometimes go so far as to lead to neglect even of the sacrament of Penance, which Christ, in his great mercy, has given us as a most timely aid to human weakness.
It cannot be denied, and it is bitterly to be deplored, that not infrequently one finds priests who use the thunders of their eloquence to frighten others from sin, but seem to have no such fear for themselves and become hardened in their faults; a priest who exhorts and arouses others to wash away without delay the stains from their souls by due religious acts, is himself so sluggish in doing this that he delays even for months; he who knows how to pour the health-giving oil and wine into the wounds of others is himself content to lie wounded by the wayside, and lacks the prudence to call for the saving hand of a brother which is almost within his grasp. In the past and even to-day, in different places, what great evils have resulted from this, bringing dishonor to God and the Church, injuring the christian flock and disgracing the priesthood!
29 For our own part, beloved sons, when we reflect upon these matters, as is our bounden duty, we are overcome with grief and our voice breaks into lamentation.
Woe to the priest who fails to respect his high dignity, and defiles by his infidelities the name of the holy God for whom he is bound to be holy. <Corruptio optimi pessima>. "Sublime is the dignity of the priest, but great is his fall, if he is guilty of sin; let us rejoice for the high honor, but let us fear for them lest they fall; great is the joy that they have scaled the heights, but it is insignificant compared with the sorrow of their fall from on high" (69) .
Woe then to the priest who so far forgets himself that he abandons the practice of prayer, rejects the nourishment of spiritual reading and never turns his attention inwards upon himself to hear the accusing voice of conscience. Neither the festering wounds on his conscience, nor even the tearful pleas of his mother the Church, will move such an unfortunate priest until those fearsome threats come upon him: <Blind the heart of this people, make dull their ears, and close their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and be converted and I should heal them> (Is 6,10).
May God in his bounteous mercy grant that these ominous words may never be true of any of you, beloved sons; he knows what is in our heart, he sees that it is free from rancor towards anyone, and that it is inflamed with pastoral zeal and paternal love for all: <For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Is it not you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ> (1Th 2,19) ?
69. St. Jerome, <in Ezech.>, L. xiii, 44, 5,30.
30 You all know very well, wherever you may be, the difficult period through which, in the mysterious design of God, the Church is now passing. Consider likewise and ponder on the sacred duty which is yours to stand by and to assist in her struggles the Church which has bestowed upon you an office of such exalted dignity.
Now more than ever the clergy need to be men of more than ordinary virtue, virtue that is a shining example, eager, active, ever ready to do great things for Christ and to suffer much. There is nothing that we more ardently ask from God and desire for each and everyone of you.
May chastity, the choicest ornament of our priesthood, flourish undimmed amongst you; through the splendor of this virtue, by which the priest is made like the angels, the priest wins greater veneration among the christian flock, and his ministry yields an even greater harvest of holiness.
31 May the reverence and obedience which you solemnly pledged to those whom the Holy Spirit has appointed to rule the Church, increase and gain strength; and especially, may your minds and hearts be linked by ever closer ties of loyalty to this Apostolic See which justly claims your respectful homage.
32 May all of you excel in charity-a charity that never seeks what is its own; when you have mastered the human incentives of jealous rivalry and self-seeking ambition, let all together in fraternal emulation strive for the glory of God.
<A great multitude of sick, blind, lame and paralytics,> (Jn 5,3) in abject misery, awaits the benefits of your charity; the youth above all, those countless young people who are the dearest hope of society and religion, it is they, menaced as they are by error and corrupting influences, who especially stand in need of your charitable activity.
Strive eagerly not only by means of catechetical instruction-which once more with even greater earnestness we commend to you-but by unsparing use of all the resources of wisdom and skill at your command, to deserve well of all. Whether your immediate task be to assist, to protect, to heal, to make peace, let your one aim and most ardent desire be to win or to secure souls for Christ. How unwearied, how industrious, how fearless are Christ's enemies in their activities, to the immeasurable loss of souls!
33 The Catholic Church rejoices in and is proud of the charity beyond praise which inspires the clergy to proclaim the Gospel of christian peace and to bring the blessings of salvation and civilization even to barbarous races; through their unsparing labor, sometimes consecrated by their blood, the kingdom of Christ is expanding constantly and the christian faith gains added splendor from these new triumphs.
If, beloved sons, the unsparing charity of your efforts is met by jealousy, reproaches and calumnies as frequently happens, do not allow yourselves to be overcome with sadness: <Do not tire in doing good> (2Th 3,13) .
Let your mind dwell on those countless great figures who, following the example of the Apostles, even in the midst of cruel insults borne for the name of Christ, <went rejoicing, blessing those who cursed them> (74 - Cf. 1Co 4,12.).
For we are the children and the brethren of the saints, whose names shine in the book of life, and whose praises the Church proclaims: <Let us not stain our glory> (1M 9,10) .
74. The Pope had written in similar terms to the French episcopate immediately after the Law of Separation: "The clergy of France will understand that in this difficult situation they must make their own the sentiments of the Apostles who rejoiced that they were thought worthy to suffer insults for the name of Jesus (Ac 5,41). They will, therefore, courageously assert the rights and liberty of the Church, but without giving offense to anyone. Nay more, in their concern for the law of charity, to which they are particularly bound as ministers of Jesus Christ, they will meet injustice with justice, counter insults by gentleness, and answer ill-usage by kindness" (Encyclical Vehementer Nos 11 February 1906. ASS XXXIX, p. 14).
34 When the spirit of the grace of the priesthood has been restored and strengthened in the ranks of the clergy, our other proposals for reform, of whatever kind they may be, will with God's help prove much more successful.
For this reason we have thought it well to supplement what we have already said by some points of practical advice which will give you timely aid to preserve and nourish the grace of your priesthood.
First, there is the pious retreat during which the soul devotes itself to spiritual exercises, as they are called. These exercises are known and approved by all, though not everyone puts them into practice; there should, if possible, be a yearly retreat, performed either alone or, preferably, in common with others, the second method being usually more productive of good results, without prejudice to episcopal regulations. We ourselves have already spoken in praise of the advantages to be derived from a retreat, on the occasion when we issued certain decrees on this subject bearing on the discipline of the clergy of Rome (76) .
It will be no less profitable for souls, if a similar retreat lasting a few hours is performed each month either privately or with others. We are happy to note that in many places a custom of this kind has already been introduced, with the encouragement of the bishops who sometimes preside over the group assembled for retreat.
76. Letter <Experiendo> to the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, 27 December 1904 (cf. <supra>, n. 58). St. Pius X frequently gave the practice of retreats first place among the means of perseverance and sanctification which he recommended to the clergy (cf. Letter to the bishops of Brazil, 18 December 1910. AAS III (1911), pp. 311-312).
35 Another suggestion which we warmly recommend is that priests, as befits brothers, should form a closer union among themselves, with the approval and under the direction of the bishop. It is strongly to be recommended that they should form an association in order to help one another in adversity, to defend the honor of their name and office against attack, and for other similar objects. But it is even more important that they should form an association with a view to the cultivation of sacred learning, particularly in order to apply themselves with greater solicitude to the object of their vocation and to promote the welfare of souls by concerting their ideas and their efforts. The annals of the Church show that at times when priests generally lived in a form of common life, this association produced many good results. Why might not one re-establish in our own day something of the kind, with due attention to differences of country and priestly duties? Might not one justifiably hope, and the Church would rejoice at it, that such an institution would yield the same good results as formerly?
36 There are, indeed, associations of this kind which enjoy episcopal approval; and the advantages they confer are all the greater if one becomes a member early in life, in the very first years of the priesthood. We ourselves have had practical experience of the worth of one such association and fostered it during our episcopate; even still we continue to show special consideration to it and others (77) .
Beloved sons, it is your duty to value highly and to apply these aids to priestly grace and such other means as the watchful prudence of your bishops may suggest from time to time; thus with each passing day you will walk more <worthily of the vocation in which you are called,> (Ep 4,1) honoring your ministry and accomplishing in yourselves the will of God, that is, <your sanctification>.
77. The reference is to the <Apostolic Union>. At the very beginning of his pontificate, in the Brief <Cum Nobis> (28 December 1903), St. Pius X had recommended it and enriched it with numerous spiritual favors: "We ourselves were at one time attached to this Institute: we have had practical experience of its utility and excellence and have made a point of continuing to share in its benefits, even after our elevation to the dignity of the episcopate. By offering to all associates a uniform rule of life, with monthly meetings and spiritual conferences, a regular account of one's personal life to be submitted to superiors and a number of other charitable and beneficial relations, the Apostolic Union secures and strengthens the unity of the clergy and links in spiritual brotherhood priests who are widely separated.... In these conditions, each priest applies himself to the welfare and perfection of all and, though the cares of his ministry do not allow him to enjoy the advantages of living in common, he does not feel deprived of the benefit of a spiritual family and he does not want either for advice or the assistance of his brethren" (ASS XXXVI, p. 596).
37 Your sanctification has, indeed, first place in our thoughts and in our cares; therefore, with our eyes raised to heaven, we frequently pray for the whole clergy, repeating the words of Christ, our Lord: <Holy Father ... sanctify them> (Jn 17,11 Jn 17,17) .
It is a source of joy to us that we are joined in that prayer by very many from among the faithful of every condition who are gravely concerned for your welfare and that of the Church; it is no less a source of joy that there are many generous souls, not only within the cloister but in the midst of the busy world, who offer themselves continuously as victims to God for the same object.
May the Lord graciously deign to accept, as a sweet perfume, their pure and sublime prayers, and may he not refuse our own humble supplication; we implore him, in his merciful providence, to come to our aid, and may he pour forth upon all the clergy the riches of grace, charity and virtue which repose in the most pure Heart of his beloved Son.
38 Finally, beloved sons, we are happy to express our heartfelt thanks for the manifold expressions of good wishes, inspired by filial piety, which were offered by you on the approach of the fiftieth anniversary of our ordination. The good wishes which we convey to you in return, we entrust to the care of the great Virgin Mother, Queen of Apostles, in order that they may be fulfilled even more abundantly (80) .
It was she who by her example showed the Apostles, who were the first to share the blessing of the priesthood, how they should persevere with one mind in prayer until they were clothed with power from on high; by her prayers she secured that power for them in more abundant measure, she increased and strengthened it by her counsel, so that their labors were abundantly blessed.
Beloved sons, we pray that the peace of Christ may reign in your hearts with the joy of the Holy Spirit; as a pledge of this we bestow on all with the deepest affection the Apostolic benediction.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter's, 4 August 1908, at the beginning of the sixth year of our pontificate.
80. Cf. Apostolic Letter <Plane Compertum est>. 21 May 1912, erecting the Archconfraternity of Mary, Queen of the Clergy, in the church of St. Nicholas du Chardonnet, Paris (AAS IV (1912), p. 439).
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