How Pope Saint Pius V saved the Church and Christianity

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. During the month, we may also greet the person known as the Pope of the Rosary, Pope Saint Pius V.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, posted his 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany. His thesis challenged many Church practices and teachings. Within the Catholic world, a tremendous theological revolt ensued. And the revolt quickly spread throughout Europe.

The selling of indulgences, papal authority, and transubstantiation were the primary goals of Luther’s challenges. And the ensuing “revolt” is more commonly known as the Protestant Reformation.

Church doctrines have been challenged

The Catholic Church only began to seriously confront the Reformation when Pope Paul III called the Council of Trent in 1545. The confrontation was a colossal undertaking. The Reformation challenged virtually every doctrine of the Church, including the real presence and validity of the sacraments.

The Council finally adjourned in 1563, nearly 18 years after its creation. (A period of 46 years had elapsed since the publication of the 95 Theses.) Even so, the Council’s final declarations had not yet been promulgated and sealed as doctrinal teaching.

Three years after the adjournment of the Council, Cardinal Michael Ghislieri was elected pope. He took the name of Pope Pius V.

Pope Pius V was a devout priest who found his strength in the crucified Christ. He also held deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His first acts as pontiff were to approve the changes instituted by the Council of Trent and to immediately implement the reforms set forth.

The Mass defined as a true sacrifice

Pope Pius V codified the Tridentine Mass (Latin Mass) as the main Mass of the Roman Church and authorized a revised Breviary and a new Roman Catechism and Missal. He endorsed the teachings of the Council that Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine. He also endorsed the Council’s teaching that the Mass is a true sacrifice.

Pius V also approved doctrinal statements on the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony. And he affirmed the teachings of the church on purgatory and indulgences.

But soon after, Pius V had more problems to deal with. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire were determined to conquer Europe and Rome.

He was deeply devoted to the Blessed Virgin and to the Rosary

Deeply devoted to Our Lady, Pope Pius V published in 1569 the papal bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices (On the Rosary). The permanent format of the Rosary has been put in place. This is the same format used today. And it is the same Rosary that Our Lady presented to Saint Dominic in 1214.

Pope Pius V knew very well that a spiritual war was about to be waged. The Ottoman Empire was the greatest challenge at the time for the papacy of Pius V and for the Catholic Church. And Pius V understood the intense desire of these Muslim Turks to conquer the entire Mediterranean space. Muslim imams said jihadjust like they did today.

The Pope unites European nations in the Holy League

Pope Pius brought together the Catholic nations of Europe and formed them into the Holy League. Catholics from different countries came together under the leadership of Pope Pius V to fight against Muslims.

Pope Pius asked all Catholics to pray the Rosary, asking for Our Lady’s intercession when the battle ensued. And so, on October 7, 1571, the battle of Lepanto took place.

As the Pope and thousands of devout Catholics prayed the Rosary, the Battle of Lepanto raged. But under the military leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the Christian fleet won a resounding victory over the more powerful Ottoman Turks. This battle saved Christianity and Western civilization.

After the battle, Pope Pius V declared that from that day the day would be called the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory. Today we call this day the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The pontificate of Pope Pius V lasted only six years. During his reign, he led the forces of good against the forces of evil. He literally saved Christianity throughout Europe. And he gave all the credit to our Blessed Mother. Today, one of the titles she bears is Our Lady of the Rosary.

The Doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Real Presence

As already noted, Pope Pius V instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which remained unchanged for over 400 years (until Vatican II). He also established the doctrines of transubstantiation and the real presence, restored discipline in the seminaries, and republished the Roman Breviary and the Roman Missal.

Pope Pius V was canonized a saint on May 22, 1712 by Pope Clement XI. Pius V must be so honored to be called the Pope of the Holy Rosary.

Pope Saint Pius V, please pray for us.

Jerry B. Hatch