Truly we are passing through disastrous times, when we may well make our own the lamentation of the Prophet: “There is no truth, and there is no mercy, and there is no knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Yet in the midst of this tide of evil, the Virgin Most Merciful rises before our eyes like a rainbow, as the arbiter of peace between God and man.
Pope Saint Pius X
The Conclave of 1903 was a highly unusal one. The first Conclave to occur within the glare of modern media, the proceedings leaked like a sieve to eager waiting journalists, so much so that after this Conclave Pope Pius decreed that participants were to take an oath of silence as to the proceedings of all future conclaves.
The front runner was Cardinal Mariano Rampolla, Leo XIII’s Secretary of State. He would almost certainly have been chosen Pope by the Conclave but for the exercise of the Austrian veto by a Polish Cardinal at the behest of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. (Three Catholic powers had traditionally claimed a right of vetoes in conclaves: the King of France, the King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. Contemporary Catholics who sigh for Catholic confessional states are often bone ignorant as to how much traditional Catholic confessional states interfered in the operation of the Church.) Why the veto was used remains a mystery. The Cardinals met the use of the veto with outrage, but its use stopped Rampolla as a viable candidate. After the election of Pope Pius, he banned the use of vetoes in any future conclaves.
After five days and seven ballots, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, a man of humble birth who had risen to be Patriarch of Venice, was chosen Pope, and decided to reign as Pius. Although the Holy Spirit chose a most convoluted path in the Conclave of 1903, the choice of Pope Pius X was a great one. He would be a masterful Pope, immensely popular with the average Catholic. Fond of children he had a wry sense of humor. When Roman aristocrats complained that he had not made his sisters Papal countesses he responded that he had made them the sisters of a pope and he didn’t see how he could improve on that! His piety, his wisdom and his leadership, along with well-attested miracles that occurred during his lifetime, assured that he would become the first pope canonized since the seventeenth century, almost by popular acclaim, modernists, of course, excepted. May God send us another such Pope.