Saint of the Day – 21 August

Saint Pius X – August 21

Pope Pius X is perhaps best remembered for his encouragement of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially by children.

The second of 10 children in a poor Italian family, Joseph Sarto became Pope Pius X at age 68. He was one of the 20th century’s greatest popes.

Ever mindful of his humble origin, Pope Pius stated, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I will die poor.” He was embarrassed by some of the pomp of the papal court. “Look how they have dressed me up,” he said in tears to an old friend. To another, “It is a penance to be forced to accept all these practices. They lead me around surrounded by soldiers like Jesus when he was seized in Gethsemani.”

Interested in politics, Pope Pius encouraged Italian Catholics to become more politically involved. One of his first papal acts was to end the supposed right of governments to interfere by veto in papal elections—a practice that reduced the freedom of the 1903 conclave which had elected him.

In 1905, when France renounced its agreement with the Holy See and threatened confiscation of Church property if governmental control of Church affairs were not granted, Pius X courageously rejected the demand.

While he did not author a famous social encyclical as his predecessor had done, he denounced the ill treatment of indigenous peoples on the plantations of Peru, sent a relief commission to Messina after an earthquake, and sheltered refugees at his own expense.

On the 11th anniversary of his election as pope, Europe was plunged into World War I. Pius had foreseen it, but it killed him. “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.” He died a few weeks after the war began, and was canonized in 1954.


Reflection

His humble background was no obstacle in relating to a personal God and to people whom he loved genuinely. Pius X gained his strength, his gentleness and warmth for people from the source of all gifts, the Spirit of Jesus. In contrast, we often feel embarrassed by our backgrounds. Shame makes us prefer to remain aloof from people whom we perceive as superior. If we are in a superior position, on the other hand, we often ignore simpler people. Yet we, too, have to help “restore all things in Christ,” especially the wounded people of God.


MOVIE SHELF

NAMESAKE

The Namesake is a 2006 English language drama film directed by Mira Nair and written by Sooni Taraporevala based on the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri.

The Namesake depicts the struggles of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli (Irrfan Khan and Tabu), first-generation immigrants from the East Indian state of West Bengal to the United States, and their American-born children Gogol (Kal Penn) and Sonia (Sahira Nair). The film takes place primarily in Kolkata, New York City, and suburbs of New York City.

The story begins as Ashoke and Ashima leave Calcutta and settle in New York City. Through a series of miscues, their son’s nickname, Gogol (named after Russian author Nikolai Gogol), becomes his official birth name, an event which will shape many aspects of his life. The story chronicles Gogol’s cross-cultural experiences  and his exploration of his Indian heritage, as the story shifts between the United States and India.

Gogol becomes a lazy, pot-smoking teenager indifferent to his cultural background. He resents many of the customs and traditions his family upholds and doesn’t understand his parents. After a summer trip to India before starting college at Yale, Gogol starts opening up to his culture and becomes more accepting of it.

After college, Gogol uses his “good name” Nikhil (later shortened to Nick). He works as an architect and dates Maxine (Jacinda Barrett), a white American woman from a wealthy background, who is clueless about their cultural differences. Gogol falls in love with Maxine and introduces her to his parents, who struggle to understand his modern, American perspectives on dating, marriage and love. They are hesitant and guarded when meeting her. Gogol gets along with Maxine’s family and feels closer to them than he does his own family.

Before he goes to Ohio for a teaching apprenticeship, Ashoke tells Gogol the story of how he came up with his name. Shortly after, while Gogol is on vacation with Maxine’s family, Ashoke dies. Grieving, Gogol tries to be more like what he thinks his parents want him to be and begins following cultural customs more closely. He grows distant from Maxine and eventually breaks up with her.

Gogol rekindles a friendship with Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson), the daughter of family friends. They begin dating and soon after get married. However, the marriage is short-lived as Moushumi, bored with being a wife, starts having an affair with an old boyfriend from Paris. Gogol divorces her, while Ashima blames herself for pressuring Gogol to marry a fellow Bengali. Gogol returns home to help Ashima pack the house when he finds the book Ashoke gave him as a graduation present. Searching for comfort, and accepting his new life alone, Gogol finally reads the stories written by his namesake on the train home.

As well as depicting Gogol/Nikhil’s experiences, the film describes the courtship and marriage of Ashima and Ashoke, and the effect on the family from Ashoke’s early death from a massive heart attack. Through experiencing his father’s funeral rites on the banks of the Ganges, Gogol begins to appreciate Indian culture.