One Hundred and Sixty-one Years Ago...
On this day in 1846, Blessed Pope Pius IX, born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was elected Pope. He was elected on only the second day of the conclave of cardinals, on the fourth ballot. His predecessor, Pope Gregory XVI, had made him a Cardinal Priest with the title of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus in 1840. In his book on Blessed Pius IX, Italian author Roberto de Mattei, a Profesor of Modern History at the University of Cassino in Rome, recounted how a 19th century biographer of the pope described him.
"'Mastai,' writes Mgr. Balan, who draws a flattering portrait of him, 'was a man of singular virtue, of great piety and purity, and of a mild and compassionate character. But he was also firm and a great expert in political matters; he had a deep understanding of the sad conditions of our society, he had had personal experience of numerous upheavals and of the artfulness of the sects, and he was well versed in ecclesiastical discipline. He was eloquent, sober, temperate, with an attractive personality, kindly, a stranger to any undeserved favour towards his relatives, generous in giving his help and protection, affectionate, of a singular delicate conscience, and he had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary. But in very stormy times he became Pope.'"
Besides his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Yves Chiron wrote in another recent biography on the beatified pope that Pius IX:
"Before taking his meal, he frequently used to read, or have read to him, a selection of texts from St. Francis de Sales, and he often recommended this work.... We can be sure that it was this love of St. Francis de Sales - which was communicated to him by Cardinal Polidori [one of the pope's spiritual teachers when he was a young priest] - that led Pius IX to proclaim him a Doctor of the Church in 1877. This special attachment to the author of the Introduction to the Devout Life was also evident after his death when, in one of his prayer-books, a special little picture was found: in it, he himself had put together tiny portraits of the saints who were dear to him: the Blessed Virgin [Mary]; the apostles Peter and Paul; St. John; St. Catherine, virgin and martyr [probably St. Catherine of Alexandria, patron of philosophers]; St. Philip Neri; St. Louis [Aloysius] Gonzaga; and St. Francis de Sales."
Blessed Pius IX's election wasn't announced until the following morning. It was Cardinal Tommaso Riario Sforza who made the announcement from the balcony of the Quirinal Palace (which was the location of many papal conclaves before the Papal States were overthrown, and the kings of Italy between 1871 and 1946 took their residence there). His solemn coronation as pope took place several days later on June 21 at St. Peter's Basilica.
Blessed Pius IX reigned as Pope for thirty-two years, the longest pontificate in history, only after St. Peter himself. It is often stated that the the three greatest acts of papacy were his solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; the issuing of the Syllabus of Errors, which, according to Professor de Mattei, "condemned the principal errors which corrupt culture and modern society;" and the First Vatican Council, in which papal infallibility was dogmatically defined. All three events are associated with December 8 - December 8, 1854 for the definition of the Immaculate Conception; December 8, 1864 for the promulgation of the Syllabus, which was an annex of the encyclical Quanta Cura; and December 8, 1869 for the opening the First Vatican Council.
+Blessed Pius IX ~ Ora pro nobis+
Pray for the canonization of Pope Pius IX
(I credit Caesar on the Catholic.com forums for this, though I happen to have agreed with this sentiment for some time now.)