On the 18th of October 1903, by the firm and decisive will of the Holy Father, St. Pius X, Abp. Merry del Val was nominated Secretary of State. In this delicate decision, the Holy Father was (as was the case for all the decisions he made) neither constrained by external pressure nor by the humility of the young prelate who would rather exempt himself from such a duty. From that moment forth, the young Cardinal was always at the side of the Holy Father with whom he shared joys and sorrows in order to “instaurare omnia in Christo.”
SECRETARY OF STATE
Nominated pro-Secretary of State by St. Pius X, Mgr. Merry del Val carried out his delicate task with extreme diligence, an admirable spirit of sacrifice, and to the great satisfaction of the Pope. Meanwhile, the name of the new Secretary of State was expected. The voices began to circulate, but St. Pius, a great scrutinizer of souls, did not reveal his thoughts.
One time, Merry del Val, who had an audience with the Pope each day, was asked to recommend a certain Cardinal of the Curia as the future Secretary of State. The Archbishop -far from imagining that he would have been entrusted with that duty - presented the recommendation to the Holy Father, who said only that in questions of such importance, it is better to await the promptings of God than those of men.
Meanwhile, the name of Merry del Val continued to be voiced about. These voices also reached the man himself, who, in his sincere humility, asked a Bishop who was very close to the Pope and was about to be received in Audience by him, to pass on the following message: “Tell the Holy Father in my name, that I know what is being done in his presence to make sure that I be nominated Secretary of State. Point out to him, though, that I am a foreigner and too young for such a position and therefore he should think of someone else.”
During that time he wrote to an English friend: “This is a most unenviable position. How any man alive, whether he be dressed in red or purple, can wish to occupy it, is more than I can understand…I would like it to be known, how deeply I desire to withdraw…
These were the sentiments of Abp. Merry del Val. But St. Pius X, who with his most keen intuition observed and scrutinized him daily, delayed not in understanding that this was the “man of God” whom Providence had placed beside him in his Pontificate. Without allowing himself to be affected by the pressure coming from various parts regarding the nomination of the future Secretary of State, on the 18th of October 1903, Pope Pius established that Abp. Merry del Val would be given that duty, creating him titular Cardinal of St. Praxedes. St. Pius did not yield to the resistance which the young prelate- who wanted to be dispensed from such an office- put forward, but encouraging him to take up his cross, he blessed him and with paternal affection said: “Accept: it is the will of God. We will work together, and suffer together for love of the Church,” echoing in this way, the “Courage, Eminence” which Merry del Val had whispered to Cardinal Sarto a few months previously, when encouraging him to accept the Pontificate.
In his first Consistory, on November 9, 1903, when Pius X announced the elevation of Abp. Merry del Val to the dignity of Cardinal to the Sacred College, the Pope did not fear to affirm that he had personally observed his “noble gifts of soul and of character, as well as his outstanding prudence in dealing with the affairs of the Church.” The Holy Father made the following reply to the comments made by one of the Cardinals: “I chose him because he is a polyglot: born in England, educated in Belgium, of Spanish nationality, and living in Italy; the son of a diplomat, and himself a diplomat, he is acquainted with the problems of all countries. He is very modest, he is a saint. He comes here every morning and informs me of the all the questions concerning the world. I need never make an observation to him, and he knows no compromise.” He could not have given a portrait of Merry del Val with greater synthesis and precision than this.
In the simultaneous elevation to the twofold dignity of Cardinal and Secretary of State, Mgr. Merry del Val gave proof of his profound humility by his absolute detachment from the duties and honours. The man who was responsible for organizing all that was necessary for his clothing as a cardinal, said that it was not easy for him to take his measurements and that the young Prelate only realized that he had become a cardinal on the day of the Consistory when he had to wear red. Merry del Val showed himself to be profoundly humble in all things, and delighted in abasing himself the more he was elevated. Upon receiving the message which announced his elevation to the porpora (the first cardinal of St. Pius X) he said that all glory was due to God alone, adding the following words, which express well his innermost feelings: “The new Pope, in whom humility surpasses all other virtues, has shown himself humble likewise in the choice of his 'Prima Creatura'."
This creature was truly “his” (of St. Pius X), who began to speak of Cardinal Merry del Val as “His” Cardinal.
To be continued
From: De vita Contemplativa, Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, Italy. [Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]