Ambiences and Tendencies
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Tension & Repose in the Semblance of a Saint

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Pope Pius X greeting a visitor in the Vatican gardens

In the Vatican gardens, Pope St. Pius X welcomes distinguished visitors who present themselves to pay him homage. The Pope's body, erect and vigorous despite the years, gives an impression of asceticism and firmness; but something in his person, above all his calm physiognomy, expresses repose and relaxation.

The Saint is walking in a moment of leisure. The affable, almost affectionate smile, the gesture of the outstretched arm, of the open hand, expresses a frank and paternal welcome. In everything around him, we can see the effect of the presence of the Pontiff: a great respect, which does not exclude a gentle, natural joy.

It is the leisure of a Saint who is, however, never forgetful of his duties. Notice how the gaze with which the Pontiff considers the visitor greeting him is attentive and penetrating. St. Pius X was an excellent psychologist, and many persons with whom he spoke had the impression that he read their hearts.

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Pius X near the end of his life sitting in a chair

Consider the second picture at right. The gaze says everything. Firm, serene, lucid, he seems to scrutinize – with impressive sharpness and sorrow, but also courage – a very far-off horizon, weighted with heavy clouds.

One has the impression that in his soul he is experiencing something of what a captain feels when he is astonished by the size of the storm that is coming, but is willing to proceed intrepidly on the prescribed route. This resolution of the Holy Pope is evident in his whole being: His body is still erect and strong, he gives a lively impression of robustness, despite his age.

The immensity of the burden of concerns is revealed in the head, a little bent, the body almost imperceptibly arched. The Pope seems to have reached the apex of his Calvary. His soul is bitterly laden with the sins of the world, and he sees in the distance the punishments that are amassing on the horizon.

It is the approaching World War I with its entourage of material and moral disasters, and the political, social, economic and especially religious ruins of the post-war. But his whole state of mind is one of a man who preserves a great inner peace: Ecce in pace amaritudo mea amarissima (Behold, in peace is my most bitter bitterness – Is 38:17).

Catolicismo. n. 47 - November 1954
Posted on May 4, 2018

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