Blessed Pius IX: Death and Miracles
Blessed Pius IX
Death and Miracles
Compiled by Catholic Family News
Editor's note: December 8, 2014 marked the 100th Anniversary of Blessed Pius IX's magnificent Syllabus of Errors. Catholic Family News is marking this entire year with articles on the Syllabus, Pius IX, Quanta Cura and related topics (see reference to our special edition of CFN, December, 2014).
“They write that I am tired,” said Pius IX fives weeks before his death. “They are right. I am tired of so much iniquity and discord.”
The date was December 29, 1877. In what would be his final Consistory, the 85-year-old Pius IX continued, “I am tired of seeing religion attacked every day. I am above all tired of seeing young people perverted at school without God. But if I am tired, I am not yet ready to lay down my arms, to compromise, or to stop doing my duty. No, thank God, I am not so tired to do any of these things, and I hope I never shall be.”
Pius, the uncompromising foe of liberalism, knew his health was failing and prepared for his final end.
In the last week of Pius’s life, he was consoled by the presence by his bedside of England’s Cardinal Manning, the staunch defender of the rights of the Papacy. Manning arrived in Rome on December 2, 1877, and remained constantly with the Pope until the day of his death.
“More than once in those weeks,” said Manning, “I was able, as I hope, to bring before him some momentary solace; and I thank God that my lot was so ordered that I stood beside the Pontiff, whom we have so revered and loved, in the last days and in the last moments of his great and glorious life.”
Pius’ health continually deteriorated. On February 7, 1878, he grew significantly worse. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed in all churches, prelates, diplomats and other personalities from the Papal Court and Roman aristocracy filled the Pontifical antechamber. The Cardinal Camelengo Pecci approached the Pope saying, “Holy Father, bless us all in the sacred College, bless the whole Church.”
In a weak but clear voice, Pius replied, “May the whole Sacred College be blessed. I pray to God that He will enlighten you to make a good choice.” Pius was here referring to the Papal Conclave that would come to elect this same Cardinal Pecci as the magnificent Pope Leo XIII, indeed a “good choice.” Pius also blessed the whole Catholic world.
“Toward five o’clock in the afternoon,” writes Catholic historian Roberto de Mattei, “Cardinal Bilio intoned the Proficiscere [“Go forth from this world Christian soul ...”] The Pope expired after pronouncing the word Proficiscar, ‘as if he were looking at an invisible object which gave him great consolation and sweetness. Those present conjectured that he could see the Most Blessed Virgin’.” It was 5:40 p.m., February 7, 1878, and the bells were ringing the Ave Maria.
Saint John Bosco, who was in Rome at the time, noted on the day of the Pope’s death, “Today was extinguished the supreme and incomparable star of the Church, the Pontiff Pius IX. Within a very short time, he will most certainly be on our altars.”
After Pius’ death, many prayed to him for special favors. Among these was St. John Bosco. He had long revered the profound spirituality, sanctity and heroic charity of Pius IX. In his school paper he published a number of articles and bulletins describing the inner beauty of the Pope’s last years and the many favors obtained through his intercession.
From all over the world, particularly from France and Italy, came innumerable testimonies that spoke of the celestial power of Pius IX. Some examples from this remarkable record are as follows:
At the time of the Pope’s death in Rome, a Belgian child, dying from an undiagnosed illness, told his mother he had a vision of Pius IX being crowned by the Virgin in Heaven. The child was instantly cured. Since news of the Pope’s death had not yet reached Belgium, the mother sent a telegram to Rome. The answer indicated the child had been cured at the very moment of the Pope’s death.
In September 1878, Sister Agnes Serafina of Jesus, aged twenty-five, was ill with typhus. Doctor Monti, her physician, said there was no possible chance of recovery. The nuns started a novena to Pius IX. On the last day of the novena Sister Agnes felt a tingling sensation all over her body. She was cured immediately, and Doctor Monti issued a statement that the cure could only have been supernatural.
During the same month, Salvatore de Angelis, a layman, was suffering terrible agony from a tumor on the liver. Doctors Topai and Scalzi said an immediate operation was the only possible way of saving the young man’s life. A friend of the family, Carlo Insegna, urged the family to pray to Pius IX. Insegna brought a relic of the dead Pope, which was applied to the afflicted spot. Within two hours the tumor had disappeared, the young man’s temperature was normal. The doctors were amazed and quite willingly gave their testimony to a cure beyond nature.
De Angelis would go on to become a priest and spent most of his clerical life as pastor of Sassia. Father de Angelis was noted for his lifelong devotion to Pius IX.
Achille Beccalori, a poor farmer, aged sixty-four, of Borgo San Donnino, was skinning a calf that had died of a malignant disease. In the hasty process of skinning the animal, Beccalori cut his arm with the knife. Within twenty-four hours the man became desperately ill; his arm was swollen to an enormous size. At the hospital to which he was moved, Doctor Cenci, the resident physician, and Professor Ingami of Parma, said there was no hope for Beccalori’s recovery. Sister Anna Maria Valentina, a nurse, urged Beccalori to pray to Pius IX. She applied a relic to the swollen arm. Beccalori at once went to sleep, and by morning he was cured.
In the same town, in March of 1878, a young man named Giuseppe Flori was dying from cancer of the liver. The doctor said he could not possibly live. A neighbor, Mrs. Elena Papini, begged the family to pray to the Pope who had recently died. Mrs. Papini applied a picture of Pius IX to the diseased spot, Flori was cured within a few hours.
The wonders, carefully documented, and many others too numerous to mention, impelled thousands to pay private honor to Pius IX. The miracles listed above are found in the out-of-print book Cross Upon Cross that bears the 1955 Imprimatur of Archbishop Murray from St. Paul, MN.
A Soldier of Our Lady
Pius IX’s Pontificate was the longest in Church history, thirty-two years. There had been a belief that no pope would reign longer than St. Peter’s 30 years. Pius surpassed it.
He suffered the malice and persecution of liberals and “liberal Catholics,” which exposes the true anti-Catholic nature of these counter-syllabus forces.
Pius was the great Pope of Quanta Cura and the Syllabus, he defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and convoked the First Vatican Council that included that dogmatic definition of Papal Infallibility.
His strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother is manifest in these great magisterial documents. All of these acts were accomplished on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
December 8, 1854 was the date of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
December 8, 1864 was the date of the promulgation of Quanta Cura and the Syllabus.
December 8, 1869 was the date of the opening of the First Vatican Council.
As noted elsewhere in this issue, all of Pius’ magisterial doctrine defending Catholic truth against modern error was accomplished with the indirect acknowledgment of Our Blessed Virgin under the title, “Conqueror of All Heresies”.
Pius’ Body Attacked: “Throw the old pig into the Tiber!”
A special note of glory for Pius IX is the hatred he inspired among liberals. Pius was not a sentimental clergyman of dialogue, of seeking “common ground,” with anti-Christian forces. He was a fighting General of the Church Militant. The liberals hated him for it.
Pius IX’s will requested that he be buried in the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura, about nine kilometers from the Vatican. The church had always been dear to him because of the martyr’s memory. Three years after the Pope’s death, July 13, 1881, Pius’ desire was fulfilled and his remains were transferred from the Basilica of St. Peter to Mura. During the translation of the body, Masonic and anti-clerical agents of the counter-syllabus attacked the cortege.
In the book Cross Upon Cross, Francis Beauchesne Thornton describes the outrage:
“July 13, 1881 was the appointed day. The Vatican [anticipating the violent reaction of the liberals] had agreed that the funeral should be kept very quiet. To insure this result the hour was set for midnight.
“The night of July 13 was heavy and still. The jets of the tinkling fountains before St. Peter’s were woven with starlight. From the bell-cote of the basilica the ancient bells chimed out the hour of twelve. On the echo of the last note a simple cortege formed in the wide piazza. There were two closed carriages following the hearse. After these walked a small number of Saint Peter’s clergy, the diplomats accredited to the Holy See, and a considerable group of Roman citizens who loved Pius IX and had somehow got wind of his funeral. The mourners carried massive, lighted candles.
“The slow procession went down the Borgo di Santo Spirito (now the Via della Conciliazione). A menacing crowd suddenly materialized along the narrow sidewalks. They shouted ugly words and made obscene gestures of derision.
“In the wider space before the Castle of Sant’ Angelo a larger crowd waited, ugly in temper and armed with knives, stones and clubs. There was a rush toward the hearse and carriages, there were organized blasphemies, and torrents of horrible invective swept from the sewers of the mind. Above all this foul background rose a concerted scream.
“’Throw the old pig into the Tiber! Throw the old pig into the Tiber!’ Knives flashed, clubs rose and fell. The screams of the injured pierced through the shouting.
“The attending prelates, ambassadors, and groups of the faithful formed a thick cordon about the hearse. They used their massive wax candles to good advantage in defense of their lives and the Pope’s body.
“At last they were across the bridge. The most serious rioting was over. No more than a token police effort had been made in attempting to control the passions of the organized mob.
“The remaining distance across the city was dogged with shouted insults and blasphemies. An occasional stick or stone fell with a thud on the simple hearse.
“By the time the filth-spattered profession had reached the Piazza Verano, wiser heads in government had decided to stage a face-saving incident. Files of soldiers were in waiting. The mob leaders faded away in the crowd.
“The mortal remains of Pius IX were entombed in eloquent silence … The next day, July 14, Mancini, the Foreign Minister, [in another face-saving attempt] imposed a rigid censorship on all telegrams describing the disgraceful episode. Meanwhile Mancini, by note, instructed his ambassadors abroad, indicating the false light in which they were to represent the sordid affair.”
As an act of reparation of the ferocious outrages against Pius IX’s body and memory, Count Giovanni Acquaderni proposed the idea of erecting a great monument in the modest place where he was buried, in the crypt of the Basilica. It was done. This noble and secluded mausoleum houses Pius’s remains to this day.
The great life of Pius IX gives us pause. The Pope of the Syllabus is blessed by Our Lady and is the worker of miracles. The forces of the counter-syllabus are intellectually aligned with the same radicals who sacrilegiously attacked Pius’ holy remains to heave his body into the Tiber.
Blessed Pius IX, scourge of liberal Catholics, pray for us.
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