Pope Pius V was from a poor Italian family and had entered the Dominican order at age 14. A teacher, a master of novices, a bishop, and finally a cardinal, he was a strict and honest man, as well as a zealous reformer. He wept when he was told in 1566 that he had been elected pope. The 18-year-long Council of Trent had ended 3 years before, and he, as Holy Father, had the task of implementing it.
The previous pope had been easygoing, but Pius V made immediate changes. At first, the people complained that the atmosphere of Rome became like that of a monastery. But soon the pope’s personal character changed their minds. He ordered that the gifts given at his coronation be sent to hospitals and to those in need. The Church finances were examined, the army was reduced, and the lifestyles of the cardinals and bishops were simplified. Seminaries were established, synods were held, dioceses were organized, and parish priests were called to regular meetings. A new catechism was completed. Parish priests were made responsible for Catholic education. The Roman Missal became the sole Mass book for the Western Church (with a few minor exceptions) for four centuries. Pius V had difficulty in international affairs. He was unable to restore England to Catholic unity. Pius V’s excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I opened new persecutions against the Catholics in England. The pope was more successful in checking the Turks, who threatened to overrun Europe. At the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Christian forces successfully defeated the Turkish fleet. After only six years as pope, Pius V died of a painful disease of which he had never complained.
Pius V prayed, fasted, and denied himself comforts to show his love for Christ. Encourage the students to make sacrifices—to sit up in class, to pay attention, and to avoid distracting others.
Excerpted from Christ Our Life, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio
Image credit: Portrait of Pope Pius V by El Greco, 1610. Public Domain via Wikimedia.