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Holy Cross Convent in Bosco Marengo (Alessandria-Italy)
Sunday 18 January 2004


The responsorial psalm for this Mass has invited us to praise the Lord, who never ceases to guide and sanctify his people: 

"Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name" (Ps 96[95]).

And today this hymn bursts from our lips as we commemorate St Pius V, a great saint that the Lord brought forth for his Church at a difficult time in her history, choosing him from a family of humble, country folk of Bosco Marengo.

The great Pope of the Italian Renaissance, the great Pope of the Catholic Reform desired by the Council of Trent, was in fact a son of this beautiful corner of Italy. Here he was educated in the heart of a Catholic family and a fervent parish community. Here he prepared for his great apostolic service, which brought so much good not only to the Church of the 1500s, but also to the Church today.

Miracles of the Spirit

1. Of course, as we heard in the Second Reading a little while ago, everything in the Church comes from on high:  it is God who, with his Holy Spirit, always works among us, or exactly as the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians, "it is the same God who inspires them all [the variety of gifts] in everyone" (I Cor 12: 6).

The Gospel then presented to us the important scene of the transformation of the water into wine at Cana in Galilee. That miracle, however, was only the first of many others that would be worked throughout the entire history of the Church. It is above all miracles of holiness that God frequently causes to flourish in our midst. Therefore, the Church is holy, not only because Christ who founded her and enlivens her with his Spirit is such, but also because many of her members are holy.

A man of God

2. Today we rejoice in commemorating a giant of holiness as was Michele Ghislieri, a son of this beloved region of Alessandria. The grace of God guided him to religious life in the Dominican Order, and then led him to carry out a busy apostolate in Pavia, Vigevano, Alba, Mondovì and later in Rome to serve the Holy See. Wherever he went, the fervent Dominican Father distinguished himself for his austere life, his sense of duty and sacrifice, his love for the poor and the suffering.
Actually, I am fond of seeing in these interior gifts of his a profound influence on the people of his region, enlivened as it is by the Christian sense of human life.

On the Chair of Peter

3. These were the values that he brought to the Chair of Peter in the six years of his Pontificate, from 17 January 1566 to 1 May 1572.

It was an impressive Pontificate because of the spirit of reform that he brought to the Church of Rome which was suffering from the shock of the deep wound inflicted on her by Luther's heresy, and, on the other hand, was in need of a deep spiritual renewal.

In the few years of his Pontificate, he left to posterity the example of a man of God totally dedicated to his pastoral mission. Due to his work, the Catholic liturgy was enriched with a new Missal. He then gave us a new Breviary and a new Catechism of Catholic doctrine. Life in the religious orders was renewed. A time of grace then spread in the Church, in harmony with the work of other great saints of that time, such as St Charles Borromeo in Milan and St Philip Neri in Rome.

Like any good father of a family, St Pius V later had to defend his children from the attacks of adversaries. This explains why he needed to encourage the initiatives of Spain and of the Republic of Venice that were aiming to contain the threats of the Turkish army bearing down on the West.
This is the deepest meaning of the victory of Lepanto, so celebrated in our history books. And also on that occasion, the adamantine faith of the Pope was revealed in its full splendour:  rather than to the weapons of men, he attributed that victory, to the powerful intercession of Mary Most Holy, invoked by the beautiful name of Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Victories!

A gift to the Church

4. This was his supernatural vision of human history, seen as a great stage over which God's Providence always watches and on which the saints and angels of Heaven always have a part to play.

Our unforgettable Pius V is truly great! How great is divine Providence who chose him from this region and gave him to Italy, to Europe and to the world!

Pope Pius V would have wanted to be buried here in this church that was so dear to him, and he would have returned here had not his Successor, Gregory XIII, Pope Ugo Boncompagni of Bologna, who deeply revered our Saint, arranged otherwise, placing his blessed body in the great Basilica of St Mary Major, where he rests to this day.


5. From Heaven, therefore, St Pius V will continue to watch over this land that he so loved, as well as over the entire Church which he built up with his example and served with his apostolic zeal.
Times change, but Christ's Gospel is always the same. The primacy of the Pope in the Church is thus ever timely. Two thousand years ago he was called Peter, today he is called John Paul II. A series of Pastors who connect us with Christ unwind before us in an unbroken chain of 265 links.

St Pius V had an important place in this apostolic chain, both because of the holiness of his life and the ardour of his pastoral zeal. May he intercede for us from Heaven, and may he obtain for us the grace to love and to serve Christ's holy Church with great generosity.

So be it!