Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto was born at Riese in the diocese of Treviso in 1835 to Giovanni Battista and Margherita Sanson Sarto. His childhood was one of poverty, being the son of the village postman. Though poor, his parents valued education, and Giuseppe walked six kilometers to school every day.
The excellence he demonstrated in all of his studies was only outdone by the sterling quality of his moral character, which evinced admiring accolades from his superiors at the seminary of Padua. Ordained at the age of twenty-three in 1858, Fr. Sarto spent nine years as curate in Tombolo and then nine as pastor in Salzano, striving to be “all to all” and truly living his priesthood to the fullest. In 1875, he was named a Canon of the Cathedral of Treviso and Chancellor of the diocese. Nine years later, he was consecrated as the Bishop of Mantua. Raised to the Cardinalate on June 12, 1893, he was made Patriarch of Venice three days later.
Upon the death of Pope Leo XIII in 1903, Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro was posed to succeed him. However, against to the protests of the conclave, Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, making use of an age-old privilege of the Holy Roman Emperors, used his power of veto against the Cardinal, and Cardinal Sarto was elected instead. Taking the name of Pius, the new pope immediately put an end to the rights of any civil authority to interfere with a papal election.
The name of Pope Pius X is associated with the battle against the errors of Modernism attacking the Church. With the laser-like quality of a saint, the new Pope penetrated the wiles of the new “ism” to its very essence. The whole tendency of Modernism is anti-dogmatic, seeking to tailor dogma to the culture of the age through ambiguity and dilution of divinely revealed doctrine. A 1907 decree of the Holy Office condemned certain writers and propositions. This decree was followed by the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, defining the dangerous tendencies and errors of the new heresy which Pius X defined as “the synthesis of all heresies”. Strong disciplinary measures followed, one of them being the requirement for all bishops, priests, and teachers to take the “Oath against Modernism,” an oath of fidelity to the perennial teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church.
In this first encyclical letter Pope Pius X announced his ideal to “renew all things in Christ.” In the light of this ideal, he greatly promoted the Holy Eucharist, formally recommending daily Communion when possible, and reducing the age of first communicants from adolescence to the age of reason. He also facilitated the reception of Holy Communion by the sick, and urged daily reading of the Holy Scriptures.
In 1903 the Holy Father issued an instruction on sacred music which struck at current abuses. He was also responsible for a thorough reorganization of the tribunals, offices and congregations of the Holy See.
The eleventh anniversary of his election was met with the beginning of World War I. It is said the outbreak of the war killed him: he became ill and died in 1914. He was canonized in 1954 by his successor, Pope Pius XII.