“THE HERETICS ATTEMPTED MORE THAN ONCE TO DESTROY HIS LIFE WHICH BAFFLED ALL THEIR HOPES OF PERVERTING THE FAITH…THEY PUT POISON ON THE FEET OF HIS CRUCIFIX…WHEN HE WAS ABOUT TO KISS IT, SUDDENLY THE FEET OF THE CRUCIFIX DETACHED THEMSELVES FROM THE CROSS…”
THE POPE OF THE GREAT COMBATS
HIS FAVOURITE FOOD WAS PLAIN BREAD COOKED WITH OIL
“St Pius V was a man of sterling quality: he was a person who was serious, methodical and very rigorous. The cardinals of the Holy Roman Church understood this immediately, when the newly elected Pope brusquely refused the proposal of organising a party for his rise to the Papal throne. Also his food was very simple: at the Pontifical Court, the food which the new Pope wanted to be put on the table, day after day, was connected to his being part of the Dominican Order, which adopted a strict and prohibitive [vegan] diet: no meat, no dairy products, no eggs, and this was for three hundred and sixty five days of the year. He himself was reluctant to eat all those foods which were too agreeable or elaborate. One of his favourite dishes was bread cooked with oil. This was made of stale bread, garlic, oil, salt and pepper.
A FIRM HAND SENT BY GOD AMIDST INSIDIOUS SNARES
In the course of the XVI Century, heresy made its attack upon Catholicism: the Turks greatly desired and prepared for the annihilation of Christianity; the Council of Trent handed over its acts to the Holy See, which was to assume the grave duty of carrying out its decisions. Pius V was ‘the man sent by God’ to direct the destiny of the Church with an able and firm hand amidst insidious snares. A fearless defender of the truth and justice at a crucial hour, he worked unceasingly for the return of the solidity of the Faith and clarity of order, by means of the fervour of his prayer and the yoke of penance.
The whole life of Pius V was a combat. His pontificate fell during those troubled times when Protestantism was leading whole countries into apostasy. Italy was not a prey that could be taken by violence: artifice was therefore used, in order to undermine the Apostolic See and to thus drag the whole Christian world into the darkness of heresy. Pius defended the Peninsula from the dangers that threatened her with untiring devotedness. Even before he was raised to the Papal Throne, he frequently manifested his zeal in opposing the preaching of false doctrines. Like Peter the Martyr, he braved every danger and was the dread of the emissaries of heresy. When seated on the Chair of Peter, he kept the innovators in check by fear, roused the sovereigns of Italy to action and by measures of moderate severity, drove back beyond the Alps the torrent that would have swept Christianity from Europe, had not the Southern States thus opposed it. From that time forward, Protestantism has never made any further progress: it has been wearing itself out by doctrinal anarchy. We repeat it: this heresy would have laid all Europe waste, had it not been for the vigilance of the pastor who animated the defenders of truth to resist Protestantism where it already existed, and who set himself as a wall of brass against its invasion in the country where he himself was the master.
Another enemy, taking advantage of the confusion caused in the West by Protestantism, organised an expedition against Europe. Italy was to be its first prey. The Ottoman fleet started from the Bosphorus. This again would have meant the ruin of Christendom but for the energy of the Roman Pontiff, our Saint. He gave the alarm, and called the Christian Princes to arms. Germany and France, torn by domestic factions that had been caused by heresy, turned a deaf ear to the call. Spain alone, together with Venice and the little Papal fleet, answered the summons of the Pontiff. The Cross and the Crescent were soon face to face in the Gulf of Lepanto. The prayers of Pius V [including all the Rosaries prayed by the Faithful] decided the victory in favour of the Christians, whose forces were far inferior to those of the turks. We shall return to this important event when we come to the Feast of the Holy Rosary in October. But we cannot omit to mention today the prediction uttered by the holy Pope on the evening of the great day of October 7th, 1571. The battle between the Christian and Turkish fleets lasted from six o’clock in the morning until late in the afternoon. Towards evening, the Pontiff suddenly looked up towards Heaven and gazed upon it in silence for a few seconds. Then turning to his attendants, he exclaimed: ‘Let us give thanks to God. The Christians have gained the victory!’ The news soon reached Rome; and thus Europe once more owed her salvation to a Pope! The defeat at Lepanto was a blow from which the Ottoman Empire has never recovered: its fall dates from that glorious day.
EVEN PROTESTANTS COULDN’T BUT ADMIRE THIS VIGOROUS OPPONENT OF THE SO-CALLED REFORMATION
The zeal of this holy Pope for the reformation of Christian morals, his establishment of the observance of the laws of discipline prescribed by the Council of Trent and his publication of the new Breviary and Missal, have made his six years’ pontificate one of the richest periods of the Church’s history. Protestants themselves have frequently expressed their admiration of this vigorous opponent of the so-called ‘Reformation’. ‘I am surprised’ said Bacon, ‘that the Church of Rome has not canonised this great man.’ Pius V did not receive this honour until about a hundred and thirty years after his death; so impartial is the Church, when She has to adjudicate this highest of earthly honours even to Her most revered Pastors!
Of the many miracles which attested to the merits of this holy Pontiff, even during his life, we select the following two: As he was one day crossing the Vatican piazza, which is on the site of the ancient Circus of Nero, he was overcome with a sentiment of enthusiasm for the glory and courage of the martyrs who had suffered on that very spot in the first persecution. Stooping down, he took a handful of dust from the hallowed ground which had been trodden by so many generations of Christian people since the peace of Constantine. He put the dust into a cloth which the Ambassador of Poland, who was with him, held out to receive it. When the Ambassador opened the cloth, after returning to his house, he found it all saturated with blood, as fresh as though it had been that moment shed: the dust had disappeared. The faith of the Pontiff had evoked the blood of the martyrs, which thus gave testimony against the heretics that the Roman Church, in the sixteenth Century, was identically the same as that for which those brave heroes and heroines laid down their lives in the days of Nero.
The heretics attempted more than once to destroy a life which baffled all their hopes of perverting the faith in Italy. By a base and sacrilegious stratagem, aided by treachery, they put a deadly poison on the feet of the crucifix which the Saint kept in his Oratory, and which he was frequently seen to kiss with great devotion. In the fervour of prayer, Pius was about to give this mark of love to the image of his crucified Master, when suddenly the feet of the crucifix detached themselves from the Cross and eluded the proffered kiss of the venerable old man. The Pontiff at once saw through the plot whereby his enemies would fain have turned the life-giving Tree into an instrument of death.
In order to encourage the Faithful to follow the sacred Liturgy, we will select another interesting example from the life of this great Saint. When, lying on his bed of death, and just before breathing his last, he took a parting look at the Church on earth, which he was leaving for that of Heaven and he wished to make a final prayer for the flock which he knew was surrounded by danger; he therefore recited, but with a voice that was scarcely audible, the following stanza of the Paschal hymn: ‘We beseech thee, O Creator of all things! that in these days of Paschal joy, thou defend thy people from every assault of death!’ Having said these words, he died peacefully.”
– Servant of God Dom Prosper Gueranger. This article was published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), issue May 2013. [Capital headings added.]