Memorial of St. Pius X
Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22
Patterns of migration are commonplace throughout the contemporary world. These occur both within nations, as population groups move from one part of a country to another, as happened in our nation during the 1920s and 1930s, with African-Americans, especially, moving from southern, agricultural, states, northward, to industrial states. And it also occurs between nations, as is happening now, in the movement of peoples from Mexico to this country, again, largely for economic reasons.
Most of these migrants think of their moves as temporary, allowing them enough time to earn some capital for themselves and their families, so that they can then return home, to lead a better life there. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way.
We hear of a similar move, in today’s readings, on the part of Elimelech, as he and his wife Naomi and sons, left Bethlehem for the plains of Moab, whether for economic reasons or not is unclear. Tragedies intervene for Naomi, as she loses to death, first, her husband, then her two sons. So she decides to go home to Bethlehem, and one of her daughter-in-laws, Ruth, accompanies her.
How familiar a scene, both biblically and contemporaneously: exile, tragedy, return. These are the makings of disintegration and fragmentation, and yet something prevails to bond the pieces together: love-the love of Ruth for Naomi. Ruth will not leave Naomi alone.
So Ruth anticipates Jesus’ reply to the somewhat intrusive lawyer, inquiring about the law and its center-piece. Love, Jesus instructs him, is at the heart of things: love of God, love of one another. Jesus notes the powerful bonding force of love, uniting the more than 600 pieces of a fragmentary law, plus many prophetic injunctions, into one whole cloth. Jesus may have remembered Ruth.
Pius X went about this process in his own way: he opposed what he judged to be the disintegrating impact of Modernism on his flock; and he offered what he thought to be the answer: the unifying force of the Eucharist, extending it to young children, and encouraging adults to approach it more frequently. Fr.Roger Mercurio venerated Pius X for this reason: he loosened pastoral practice on the Eucharist.
As we journey through life, we can well look to a love nourished in the Eucharist, to prevent us from wandering too far off, by bonding us more closely with one another.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.