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Address of Pope Saint Pius X

Con Vera Soddisfazione (1909)

From Pope Pius X in Audience on May 10, 1909, to Youths attached to Catholic Universities, assembled after the second Convention in Rome


It is with genuine joy that I welcome the sentiments and expressions of devotion and reverence toward this Apostolic See which you have declared to me in your name and that of your companions. And these [sentiments] are all the more dear to me because they are expressed by young people who, dedicated to studying in order to attain the goal of true knowledge, declare themselves to be followers of Catholic doctrine and recognize the necessity of uniting in a holy union these two daughters of the same Father, reason and faith, by which we all live: these two suns, which shine in the sky of our souls; these two forces, which constitute the beginning and the end of our grandeur; these two wings which rise up to the knowledge of all truth: in a single word, reason, which is the eye of man who sees, aided by the eye of God, which is faith.

It is therefore a sweet consolation for me to see you, beloved young people, who represent the age of noble sentiments, generous actions and splendid victories; and, as a representative of Jesus Christ, who found his delight in the young, as he once looked at a young man: intuitus eum, dilexit eum [cf. Mk 10:21], so I, in looking at you, feel the need to tell you that I love you, that I appreciate your virtue, and that you must have me not only as a father, but as a brother and a dear friend. For this reason, I make my own the words of the youngest of the Apostles, the beloved of the divine Redeemer, who wrote to young people: “Scribo vobis, iuvenes, quoniam fortes estis, et verbum Domini manet in vobis, et vicistis malignum” [I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one] (1 Jn 2:14).

Be strong to preserve and defend your faith when so many fight against it and lose it; be strong to keep the word of God in you and to manifest it in your works when so many others have banished it from their souls; be strong to acquire true knowledge and to overcome the obstacles you will encounter in working for your brothers. Do not worry that serious sacrifices will be required of you or that you will be denied lawful amusements; We only want to make your age of youth truly precious, which is the age of beautiful expectations, to make your career splendid, so that in the autumn of life you may reap copiously those fruits, of which the blossoms of your spring are a token; and I recommend to you only to remain strong in your determination to be loyal sons of the Church of Jesus Christ, at a time when there are so many who, perhaps without knowing it, have shown themselves disloyal. For the first and greatest criterion of the faith, the ultimate and unassailable test of orthodoxy is obedience to the teaching authority of the Church, which is ever living and infallible, since she was established by Christ to be the columna et firmamentum veritatis, “the pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim 3:15).

Jesus Christ, who knew our weakness, who came into the world to preach the gospel to the poor above all, chose for the spread of Christianity a very simple means adapted to the capacity of all men and suited to every age: a means which required neither learning, nor research, nor culture, nor rationalization, but only willing ears to hear, and simplicity of heart to obey. This is why St. Paul says: fides ex auditu (Rom 10:17), faith comes not by sight, but by hearing, from the living authority of the Church, a visible society composed of masters and disciples, of rulers and of governed, of shepherds and sheep and lambs. Jesus Christ Himself has laid on his disciples the duty of hearing the instructions of their masters, on subjects of living in submission to the dictates of rulers, on sheep and lambs of following with docility in the footsteps of their shepherds. And to shepherds, to rulers, and to teachers He has said, Docete omnes gentes. Spiritus veritatis docebit vos omnem veritatem. Ecce ego vobiscum sum usque ad consummationem sæculi (Mt 28:19-20): “Going, teach ye all nations. The Spirit of truth will teach you all truth. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

From these facts you can see how far astray are those Catholics, who, in the name of historical and philosophical criticism and that tendentious spirit which has invaded every field, put in the foremost rank the religious question itself, insinuating that by study and research we should form a religious conscience in harmony with our times, or, as they say, “modern”. And so, with a system of sophisms and errors they falsify the concept of obedience inculcated by the Church; they arrogate to themselves the right of judging the actions of authority even to the extent of ridiculing them; they attribute to themselves a mission to impose a reform — a mission which they have received neither from God nor from any authority. They limit obedience to purely exterior actions, even if they do not resist authority or rebel against it, opposing the faulty judgment of some individual without any real competence, or of their own inner conscience deceived by vain subtleties, to the judgment and commandment of the one who by divine mandate is their lawful judge, master, and shepherd.

Oh, my dear young men! Listen to the words of him who truly wishes you well: do not let yourselves be seduced by mere outward show, but be strong to resist illusions and flatteries and you will be saved!

But the official Church, they say, wants ignorance, impedes the development of religious studies; an intolerable discipline imposes silence. No, dear students: the Church, representing Jesus Christ, continually preaches those same words He addressed to the Jews: Mea doctrina non est mea, sed eius qui misit me; “My doctrine is not mine, but his that send me”; and He added: Si quis voluerit voluntatem eius facere, cognoscet de doctrina, utrum ex Deo sit, an ego a meipso loquar: “If any man will do the will of him, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (Jn 7:16-17). That is why the Church has always honored, not only the early Fathers and Doctors, but also the writers of every age who have studied and published works to spread the truth, to defend it against the attacks of unbelievers, and to throw into relief the absolute harmony which exists between faith and reason.

To find rational grounds for your faith, study the works of those eminent men whom the Church has always honored and continues to honor at the present time: they are the great defenders of religion. Do not let yourselves be taken unawares by these new reformers. The world may judge them to be great minds, men of powerful genius, brilliant intellect, and unsullied conscience. Perhaps! But Jesus has judged them all by this verdict: “Qui a semetipso loquitur, gloriam propriam quærit; qui autem quærit gloriam ejus qui misit eum hic verax est, et iniustitia in illo non est”: “He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no untruth in him” (Jn 7:18).

Do not let yourselves be deceived by the subtle declarations of others who do not cease to pretend that they wish to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight for her so that she will not lose the masses, to work for the Church so that she will come to understand the times and so to win back the people and attach them to herself. Judge these men according to their works. If they maltreat and despise the ministers of the Church and even the Pope; if they try by every means to minimize their authority, to evade their direction, and to disregard their counsels; if they do not fear to raise the standard of rebellion, what Church are these men speaking about? Not, certainly, of that Church established super fundamentum Apostolorum et Prophetarum, ipso summo angulari lapide, Christo Jesus: “upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20). So We must have ever before our mind’s eye that counsel of St. Paul to the Galatians: “If we ourselves or if an angel should teach you any other Gospel than that which we have taught you, let him be anathema” (Gal 1:8).

You will meet, and unfortunately very frequently, with such a new breed of apostles, because it is impossible, given the pride of the mind and the corruption of the heart, for the world to be without scandals; Necesse est [It is necessary], Christ said [in Mt 18:7], ut veniant scandala [that scandals come], and God permits and tolerates them in order to stir up the fidelity and constancy of the just. However, in the face of these scandals, painful as they are, do not be terrified or discouraged, but, pitying these poor blind men who in their ignorance or obstinacy, while believing themselves to be wise, stulti facti sunt [they became fools — Rom 1:22], and praying for them, that the Lord may enlighten them and cause them to return to the fold they have wrongfully abandoned, be strong and faithful to the promises you made: in your society you will find help to escape the dangers that surround you and, by serving the interests of religion and the Church, you will provide for your true good. And in order that my exhortations and my desires may be fulfilled completely, I implore from Heaven an abundance of divine favors, of which, as well as of my very special affection, the apostolic benediction may be a pledge, which with deep affection I impart to all of you, to your families, to your ecclesiastical assistant, to dear Professor Toniolo, to the Most Eminent Cardinal Maffi, present here, and to the entire University Federation.


[Translated from the Italian in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. I (1909), pp. 461-464. Translation taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 716-720; remainder translated using DeepL Translator.]

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
License: public domain

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