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Saint of the week

The holy pope who lived on vegetable broth and crayfish

St Pius V (April 30), who excommunicated Queen Elizabeth, continued to live as a monk even after he became pope

By on Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Pope St Pius V set up interest-free loan banks for the poor

Pope St Pius V set up interest-free loan banks for the poor

Pius V, pope from 1566 to 1572, was the kind of Counter Reformation pontiff dear to the hearts of Roman triumphalists. That he still freezes the blood of Protestants he would have regarded as a badge of honour.

Zealots, however, do not always apprehend the consequences of their actions. By excommunicating Queen Elizabeth in 1570, Pius V put paid to any chance that Catholicism might be tolerated in England. Even Philip II of Spain considered that the pope was mistaken in this matter.

Yet Pius V was certainly a holy man. Born in 1504 at Bosco, some 30 miles north of Genoa, Antonio Ghislieri came from an impoverished noble family. In boyhood he worked as a shepherd; at 14, he became a Dominican, adopting the name Michele.

After studying theology in Bologna and being ordained in Genoa, he taught theology in Pavia for 16 years. Appointed Inquisitor for Como and Bergamo, he made an impression with another hardliner, Cardinal Carafa. As Pope Paul IV (1555-59) Carafa made Michele Ghislieri a bishop (1556), a cardinal (1557) and “perpetual supreme Inquisitor” (1558).

Although Ghislieri’s severity raised some eyebrows he was elected pope in 1566 through the influence of Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan.

As Pius V Ghislieri continued to live as a monk, wearing the coarse clothing of a friar under his papal robes and living mainly on vegetable broth and crayfish. He felt it his duty, moreover, to indulge in public exhibitions of piety, processing through the streets with head and feet bare. 

Eager to make Rome a holy city in reality as well as in name he expelled prostitutes, banned bullfights and tried to restrict the use of taverns to visitors to the city. He also looked after the poor by distributing alms and food and by setting up interest-free loan banks. 

In spiritual affairs Pius V fostered his own strong devotion to the Virgin Mary. He laboured to enforce the decrees of the Council of Trent, which he circulated abroad as far as Mexico, Goa and the Congo. To the same end he published the Roman Catechism (1566) and the revised Roman Breviary (1568).

The Roman Missal, issued in 1570, standardised the celebration of Mass. Any national and regional variations had to be warranted by an antiquity of at least 200 years.

Following the example of his mentor Paul IV Pius V continued to sharpen the powers of the Inquisition and eagerly persecuted anyone who showed the least deviation from orthodoxy. He also expelled Jews from the papal state, moderating his anti-Semitism only in favour of commercial advantage.

In 1571 Pius V achieved a triumph when the Spanish and Venetian coalition he had organised destroyed the Turkish fleet at the battle of Lepanto.

  • anonymous

    It is written: “He who curses you, I will curse.”
    How can you call an anti-Semite a saint. 2+2=4. Come on. Isn’t it obvious “the Church” (Catholicism) is the whore of Revelation. Catholicism says the departure of the faith in Paul’s letter to Timothy is the gnostics and a couple other of sects many haven’t heard of. Come on. Most haven’t even heard of all of those sects (Douay-Rheims commentary – Chandler), yet about everybody has heard of the Catholic church. Do I need to explain the refusing to marry, abstaining from meats. Come on.
    Check this out. I bet you’ve never heard this argument: If the OT is a reminder of sins, how can the forgetting of sins of the NT apply to the Catholic church when your sins aren’t forgiven until the sacrament of penance. Quite the reminder within one’s mind, huh? Again, come on. My Master let’s me know I’ve been forgiven. All glory and honor to the Fear of Isaac for allowing even a wretched man like myself to not deservedly be destroyed, that I may come to repentance. Awesome. Period.
    Again, it is written: “Yea, rather, happy are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.”
    Do you remember what was said by the woman before he said that? Quite resembling to the Hail Mary, no? So answer this: Is a direct command given to pray to Mary, the angels, or the saints given in the Word (bible or Yeshua)? Come on. The answer is no. Isn’t hearing numerous prayers at once one of the characteristics that makes God, well, God? Also, remember what Paul said about those with false humility encouraging to worship the angels. He said that those who listened could lose their reward. So what about those who encourage? Didn’t he say not once, but twice, that if someone were to preach a gospel that wasn’t already preached that they’d be eternally condemned? Remember, “preached” is past tense. There were no hints of prayers to the saints at that time (the moment he penned “preached”).

    Listen, I mean no harm. It’s just that Satan influenced me to be engulfed by the whore for a period of time. But the Great One heard my cries and showed me the truth bit by bit over time. Glory to His name. Look, most “protestants” get into theology debates with Catholics over pride in their college degrees or some other reason. As for me, my family on my dad’s side has been Catholic for almost a thousand years. (That’s all the further the history goes. It’s probably longer than that.) As someone who’s sight and mind has seen the dark side of life, I just worry for Catholics and others who have ears, but do not hear. Been there, done that. May I never fall away again. May those who have ears, but do not hear find His favor. And may those who’ve never heard of Him, hear Him and find His favor. Lord, in Yeshua’s name, hear my prayer. AMEN.

  • another anonymous

    “How can you call an anti-Semite a saint”
    -> first of all, a saint is anyone who gets into heaven. and yes, even anti-semites, murderers, etc, if they repent, can go to heaven

    “”the Church” (Catholicism) is the whore of Revelation. Catholicism says the departure of the faith in Paul’s letter to Timothy is the gnostics and a couple other of sects many haven’t heard of. Come on. Most haven’t even heard of all of those sects (Douay-Rheims commentary – Chandler), yet about everybody has heard of the Catholic church.”
    -> whether you’ve read history and heard of such sects or not doesn’t change a thing. just because you haven’t heard of something before doesn’t mean it is nonexistent (people learn new things everyday!) if you don’t believe history, i don’t know what else to say to you but that these things happened regardless of whether you think so or not, whether you’ve read about it or not. and wait a minute, everyone has heard of the catholic church? don’t you find it weird that Jesus commanded his disciples to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and that the catholic church is just about the only church heard of around the world and exists basically in every country?

    “Do I need to explain the refusing to marry, abstaining from meats. Come on”
    -> if you’re talking about the celibate priesthood, are you saying that Christ was married? was saint paul married? ever read Matthew 19 about how some have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom?

    “Check this out. I bet you’ve never heard this argument: If the OT is a reminder of sins, how can the forgetting of sins of the NT apply to the Catholic church when your sins aren’t forgiven until the sacrament of penance.”
    -> i’m not quite sure of the premise that the OT is a reminder of sins, and that the NT is the forgetting of sins. i thought repentance from sin applied in both. which is what penance is, an opportunity to repent. and anyways, if you have perfect contrition, that is, when you are sorry for your sins out of PERFECT love of God, then your sins can be forgiven outside of the sacrament of penance. God set up the sacraments to make grace available to us, but at the same time God is not limited by His sacraments.

    “Quite the reminder within one’s mind, huh? Again, come on. My Master let’s me know I’ve been forgiven.”
    -> from this i wonder if you fully understand the sacrament. what did Jesus mean when he said to his apostles, Whatever sins you forgive are forgiven, whatever sins you retain are retained? Jesus set up the sacrament of penance with a guarantee that when the apostles (including the successors of those apostles) say your sins are absolved, they are absolved. but hey, if you think you don’t need what Jesus offers to us in the sacrament, and God speaks to you directly, then well and good, i’m not the judge, God is

    “Is a direct command given to pray to Mary, the angels, or the saints given in the Word (bible or Yeshua)? Come on. The answer is no.”
    -> well, this is a symptom of sola scriptura. apparently, everything needs to be directly commanded in the bible for it to be acceptable, when in reality individuals who hold to such an interpretive methodology only expect people who have opinions that they don’t agree with to come up with such evidence, and for themselves they find acceptable those things that are not directly commanded in scripture but that seem to fit in with their own opinions. yes, there is no direct command to pray to Mary, the angels, or the saints. then again, the word Trinity is not found in the bible either. There are scores of texts that imply prayer to the saints, such as in the book of Revelation where you have the image of elders in heaven collecting the prayers from people on earth into bowls and presenting it to the Father. but again, if you outright deny implied doctrines from the bible, then there is nothing i can say that can satisfy you because your method of interpretation doesn’t even allow it.

    “Isn’t hearing numerous prayers at once one of the characteristics that makes God, well, God?”
    -> There is one Mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus. The saints are part of the body of Christ. The only reason they can hear our prayers is through their mystical union with Christ, as members of His body. In other words, Jesus gives the power for them to hear our prayers. And anyway, God and heaven are beyond time and space, so it doesn’t even make sense to say that they hear everything “at once” when they are already in eternity.

    And yes, I appreciate your sincerity but I would encourage you to at least consider that you haven’t fully understood Catholic teaching. I would advise you to go to catholic.com where they have not only a search bar where you can search the answers to some quick questions on catholic teaching but also forums that you can join for free where you can throw out questions to a large online community. I would also advise looking into ewtn which has some good catholic programming and a library of free mp3′s of recorded shows that you can listen to via the internet if you are interested (click on the Faith tab and select Libraries).

    I have read up on Catholic teaching, and an especially straight forward source for Catholic doctrine is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (there are online versions, and there are footnotes with citations at the end of each section which quote writings from church fathers throughout the centuries as well as directly from the Bible).

    So, the Truth is out there. I pray that we both seek it sincerely. I know that I’m not the one who is going to convert you, nor is anyone else. Ultimately, God does the converting, I just felt compelled to give you answers to some of your questions.

    God bless

  • Jasonbryanmiller

    Just curious…you deny the authority of Roman Catholicism, but you accept the authority of the Bible – which was assembled by the Catholic Church. It doesn’t take a degree to figure out that makes no sense. I also don’t think you understand remotely what a saint is – that they don’t make mistakes. A saint is someone of “heroic virtue.” They may still have flaws, but that doesn’t meet they aren’t “heroic” in their virtue. Peter and Paul had flaws, that they were keenly aware of. Yet they were most definitely “heroic” in virtue. Pius V definitely had some flaws, but he was also heroically virtuous – not perfect, but heroically virtuous. If you are going to criticize Catholicism, it is important that you understand what it is. Otherwise it is hard to take seriously. One more thing, since you are downing intercessory prayer, you aren’t allowed to pray for anyone. If people in heaven can’t pray for us, we certainly can’t ask anyone else to pray for us. I am sure glad we have people like you to figure this out, since a 2,000 year old institution that can trace its lineage directly to the apostles doesn’t have the accumulated wisdom to do so. Wow.

  • Lintaro

    “How can you call an anti-Semite a saint?”
    Can you call an anti Christian a saint? Saint Paul, probably the most influential writer of the New Testament, wasn’t always Saint Paul. He was Saul, who persecuted and killed hundreds of Christians. Just sayin’
    God bless!

  • Whodathunk says:

    Perhaps you should investigate Islam in your journey to recede as far as possible from Our Lord’s established Church. Now, there is a whole trough of unexplored lunacy you could crawl through on your belly in search of a pointless debate. It would suit your style of circular argument and your ego. Remember, only YOU have the truth. Unless you convert all those Catholics, heaven is going to be a pretty lonely place. Better yet, go directly to Jesus and educate him on his mistake before it is too late.

  • Siegerrob76

    How could he excommunicate Good Queen Bess, when she was never a Roman Catholic, nor even baptized as such? 

  • Hamish Redux

    She wasn’t “Good” Queen Bess… she persecuted Catholics, some of whom were martyred. Those Tudors… rubbish the lot of them!