On this last day of April, the Church celebrates the feast of Pope Saint Pius V, and because he was a Dominican, we members of the Family of Saint Dominic have more than the usual reason to celebrate.
I was struck in the last few days by something having to do with Saint Pius. Because of her bitter persecution of the Church in the British Isles, Saint Pius excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, hoping that that would turn her kingdom against her and force her to treat the Catholics under her rule with justice and the fairness they deserved. But much time had elapsed since her father, Henry VIII, had wrenched the Church away from Rome and made it into a schismatic and heretical group. And her Catholic half-sister had used similar means to try to bring the British Isles back to union with Rome, so the people of the British Isles called her “Bloody Mary” and would have little to do with her. She ruled only 5 years, from 1553–1558, then died leaving the throne to Elizabeth who could now complete the divorce of her realms from the Catholic Church.
While thinking about these events, I received a postcard from a friend who was traveling in Rome with his wife. He bought postage stamps at a Vatican post office, and it happened that the stamp he put on the postcard which he sent to me had been issued in honor of the good relations between the Vatican and the United Kingdom, which is what England and Scotland is now officially called. On the face of the stamp there appears the image of Pope Benedict XVI, the British flag, and Westminister abbey. A far cry from the situation that obtained in 1570 when the English Queen was excommunicated by the Pope! In our own day, we have seen British royalty visit the Popes in the Vatican, and Popes welcomed into Buckingham Palace in London.
This morning at Mass, we prayed for the continuing progress of the good will and ecumenical union between Canterbury and Rome so that even after more than four hundred years, the desires of Pope Saint Pius V can be fulfilled. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.