Rorate Caeli

St. Pius X and the Imponderable of what lies ahead: A Lesson for Our Time - by Roberto de Mattei

Corrispondenza Romana

On the morning of Sunday, August 2, 1903, the third ballot to elect Pope Leo XIII's successor began in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro, the late pontiff's former secretary of state, could count on a majority of the votes and was about to be elected, when Cardinal Ian Puzyna, archbishop of Krakow, asked for the floor and, on behalf of His Apostolic Majesty Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, declared an exclusionary veto against his candidacy. The exclusion veto, which was abolished after this conclave, was an ancient privilege granted not only to the Austrian Empire but also to the Catholic kingdoms of France and Spain. Rampolla's election foundered, and on the evening of Monday, August 3, on the seventh ballot, Patriarch Giuseppe Sarto of Venice was elected Pope with the name Pius X. The new pontiff begged the conclave's secretary Msgr. Rafael Merry del Val to remain at his side as secretary of state. Under their leadership, for eleven years, the Catholic Church experienced one of the most fruitful eras in its history, interrupted by another unpredictable event: the assassination of the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914.

On that Sunday morning, the archduke and his wife arrived in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, and boarded an open car, taking the Appel Quay to reach the city hall in the center of the city. A first bomber went into action along the crowded route, but the bomb missed its target and exploded under the next car, injuring several of the officers in it. Instead of leaving the danger zone immediately, the archduke stayed to attend the treatment given to the wounded and ordered the motorcade to continue to the town hall to perform the ceremony. Then the line of cars left the palace and crossed the city again, but the driver took a wrong turn and found himself in front of the tavern in which one of the bombers, Gavrilo Princip was getting drunk. The conspirator unexpectedly found himself only a few meters from his victim, and two revolver shots triggered World War I. Cannons began to thunder across Europe and St. Pius X, his heart crushed with grief at the catastrophe, passed away on August 20, 1914.

Cardinal Puzyna's veto, like the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, were unpredictable events that changed the course of human affairs. The imponderable is part of human life, as each of us can also testify with our own personal experience. The imponderable, the unpredictable, is what cannot be foreseen and planned by humans. It exists, it is part of our life, but it is not chance. Chance, which is the meaninglessness of events, does not exist. Everything that happens, in fact, in our life and in the life of the whole universe, has meaning. Only God knows the meaning of everything, and only He gives everything its meaning, but history as St. Bonaventure states, hides within itself spiritual lights and intelligences.

It may happen that seemingly unpredictable events are not really unforeseen, because they are organized by occult forces that seek to direct history -- but often even these events have unforeseen consequences, because only God is the master of history, and no matter how hard man struggles to govern it, he never succeeds.

One hundred and twenty years after the election of St. Pius X, the chaos in which we are immersed is the ultimate outcome of a revolutionary process that has remote origins and its own centuries-long dynamism. Bishop Jean-Joseph Gaume (1802-1879) identified the soul of this process in nihilism. "If, tearing off the Revolution's mask, you ask it, Who are you? it will say to you, I am hatred for every religious and social order that man has not established and in which he is not king and God together. I am the philosophy of revolt, the politics of revolt, the religion of revolt: I am armed negation (nihil armatum); I am the foundation of the religious and social state on the will of man instead of the will of God! In a word I am anarchy, because I am God dethroned and man in his place. That is why I am called Revolution, that is, overthrow."

Planetary anarchy is wanted by revolutionary forces to destroy the natural and Christian order at its roots. This disorder is not limited to the political and social level, but today extends to the way of being and thinking of individuals, causing contradictions, irrationalism and imbalance in thinking and behavior. Those with the highest responsibilities of government, on the political or ecclesiastical fields, do not escape this process of psychological destabilization that multiplies the imponderability of events.

Revolutionary forces today try to master the process they have generated by relying on artificial intelligence algorithms, but any such attempt is doomed to failure. Mathematics can, on the basis of calculations, construct conventional representations of the world, but it is incapable of understanding the metaphysical nature of reality. The science of algorithms does not serve to understand the world and does not erase the imponderability of the future.

Our prediction of an imminent conflagration of war is not based on mathematical science, but on logic, which tells us that public and systematic violation of the moral law brings with it global destruction. However, no one can predict where and how the conflict will break out. Similarly, it is logic that tells us that if the Church has always known great schisms and heresies, in the age of liquid apostasy in which we are immersed, the explosion of a myriad of schisms and conflicts within it is to be expected, even if one cannot predict what event will detonate them visibly.

The use of logic, however, is not enough without the exercise of faith. For God, as Father Calmel observes, manifests Himself in historical events, but on the condition that we carry in our hearts that supernatural light that transcends and judges them.

One hundred and twenty years after the election of St. Pius X, his first encyclical E supremi apostolato, dated Oct. 4, 1903, casts on our confused age the supernatural light needed to understand contemporary events. Aiming at the most funereal conditions in which mankind found itself, Pius X stated, 

"For who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deeprooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is - apostasy from God, than which in truth nothing is more allied with ruin, according to the word of the Prophet: 'For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish.' (Ps. 1xxii., 17)."


"Verily no one of sound mind," added St. Pius X,  "can doubt the issue of this contest between man and the Most High. Man, abusing his liberty, can violate the right and the majesty of the Creator of the Universe; but the victory will ever be with God - nay, defeat is at hand at the moment when man, under the delusion of his triumph, rises up with most audacity."

With this trust in Divine Providence and through the intercession of St. Pius X, on the anniversary of his death, let us try to discern and face with courage the imponderable that awaits us. (Roberto de Mattei)