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The Motto of St. Pius X and the Restoration of the Church

The mission of the Church and each of her members, in heart and soul, is to recapitulate in the deeper sense of Saints Paul and Irenaeus, not to retreat into the past.

Flames and smoke billow from the Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire broke out in Paris April 15, 2019. (CNS photo/Benoit Tessier, Reuters)

The Church Burns would be an English translation for the title of Andrea Riccardi’s recent book, La Chiesa Brucia. He began writing it after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was severely damaged by fire. The internationally renowned professor saw in the cathedral a symbol of the situation of the Church today in crisis…the Church burns. The book’s promotions make clear that people inside and outside the Church are aware of the crisis and worry that it represents a definitive decline of Christianity.

For all of us, the question is not: how do we restore Notre Dame? The question is: how do we restore the Church? After all, the Church is not a building in stone to be restored architecturally. It is Christ’s mystical body and God’s plan for the salvation of all men (cf. Ephesians 1).

The word “restore” often suggests making something as it was in the past. When a building is restored, it looks as it did in the past. But when the Church is restored, it will not look as it did in the past. All that belongs to its essential nature will be preserved. It will be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. But its existential nature, how it operates in a contemporary and indifferent world, may be very different. We need to consider more deeply what “restore” means in a Christian context.

“To Restore All Things in Christ” is an English translation of the Latin phrase Instaurare Omnia in Christo. The phrase is a partial quotation of Ephesians 1:10 as rendered in the Vulgate of St. Jerome. It was the motto of Saint Pius X and, understood rightly, it refers to a part of every confirmed Christian’s personal mission.

English translations differ: they include “to sum up all things in Christ” and variations of “to restore all things in Christ.” The phrase belongs to one of the most theologically rich passages in one of St. Paul’s most theologically developed letters. There may be no better way to live as Christians than to center our mission on these words. We restore in Christ not only things outside of us, but even our own souls.

When we “work-out our own salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), we do not return the image of God in our souls to the condition it was in when we were children. We develop it, bring it to “full maturity…and the full stature of Christ” (cf. Eph 4:13). We do not leave it as it is. We strengthen it daily in virtue (cf. 2 Pet 1:5) so that we abide more firmly in Christ. In this work we are guided by the Pauline understanding of instaurare.

To that end, we turn to the meaning of the original Greek word anakephalaiosasthai [a-na-ke-fa-lie-OH-sas-thigh], which Saint Jerome translates as instaurare. The meaning of the Greek word is an important corrective to those who might misunderstand what English translations, such as “restore all things in Christ,” are meant to convey. As the English noun “heading” is derived from “head”, the Greek noun kephalaion [ke-FA-lie-on] is derived from the Greek noun for “head”. It means “main point”. The verb kephalaiosasthai means giving the main point(s) of something, or summing it up. With the prefix ana-, which is like the Latin prefix re-, it has the sense of doing something over again.

Thus, the verb anakephalaiosasthai means recapitulating, giving a new—usually shorter—version that more clearly expresses the main point(s) of the original. It brings the main points to maturity. That is why St. Paul uses the verb in Romans 13:19 when he, following Our Lord, “sums up” (anakephalaioutai) the commandments with a single phrase, “to love one’s neighbor as oneself.”

In Saint Paul’s usage, anakephalaiosasthai also has a deeper meaning: it connotes bringing all that needs saving into the present by purifying and restoring it inside the healing power of integration with God’s plan in Christ. It means forgiveness, reconciliation, and a new beginning through Christ’s glorious power to bring good even out of evil and past mistakes. “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5).

All the “main points,” the best things in human history (individual and communal), need to be brought into Christ for their saving and proper realization. The process involves shedding the misunderstandings and ignorance of the past and finding a new way forward through Christ. In the Pauline tradition of Saint Irenaeus, recapitulating is about lifting every aspect of creation into a new synthesis through the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is about renewing our minds and hearts in Christ (cf. Rom 12:2).

We cannot, in fidelity to the tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, interpret instaurare omnia in Christo as calling for a retreat to the past. The Thomistic tradition is clear: “all truth is of the Holy Spirit.” The mission of the Church and each of her members, in heart and soul, is to recapitulate in the deeper sense of Saints Paul and Irenaeus, not to retreat into the past. Instaurare does not mean restoring the cultural make-up of church and state at the time of Trent (or earlier). It means gathering up again structures and fragments of goodness, gathering up new discoveries of authenticated knowledge, gathering and summing up all that makes humanity better, and producing day by day a stronger synthesis founded in the mystery of Christ and love of neighbor. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Mt 13:52).

Instaurare omnia in Christo means gathering all things in the daily Sacrifice of the Mass and implementing Christianity anew in today’s world. It means drawing the best from the political systems of yesterday and today. It means taking the best of today’s sciences and the revealed meaning of the imago Dei and directing them lovingly to the development of all of humanity for the glory of Jesus Christ. It is about a daily integration of faith and reason that renews each of them in the fullness of Christ’s revelation. It is what St. Thomas Aquinas did when he showed us “the right way to do theology” (Fides et Ratio, 43.3).

It is true: the Church burns. It is also true that the Holy Spirit enkindles in us the love of Christ which impels us to restore all things in Christ.

(Editor’s note: This essay appeared in a different form in December 2000 edition of Christendom College’s Instaurare Magazine.)

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About Matthew Tsakanikas, STD 3 Articles
Dr. Matthew Tsakanikas is Chair of the Department of Theology, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia. His doctorate was from the Pontifical University of the Lateran’s John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, Rome. He has taught for Benedictine College, Saint Meinrad Seminary’s Permanent Diaconate Program, and Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.
About Kevin Tracy, PhD 0 Articles
Kevin Tracy, PhD, is an associate professor in Classics at Christendom College.


  1. The problem today is ecclesial self-hated by a large faction within the Church, a faction that is so fixated (“rigidity”!) with the past and its shortcomings, real and imagined, that it is intent on erasing what the Church actually IS. Instead, DO something; baptize whatever moves! The “hermeneutics of discontinuity.”

    Ratzinger (Emeritus Pope Benedict) looked at this penitential charade, and wrote, instead: “the inner precondition for penance is precisely the affirmation of oneself [!], of reality as such [!]” (Principles of Catholic Theology, 1987). Deeper self-discovery, not self-rejection…
    It is precisely this deepened self-discovery that is victimized by the clericalist “throwaway culture.” As when:

    (a) “hierarchical communion” (Lumen Gentium) is replaced by fully horizontal collegiality; as when
    (b) the sanity of the Catechism and Veritatis Splendor is butted-out by the Fundamental Option, consequentialism, and proportionalism (and by the “third option”!!!); as when
    (c) Penance is eclipsed by Eucharistic IN-coherence; as when
    (d) the Mass is not only reformed, but then amputated from its own perennial identity; as when
    (e) the nature of permanent sacramental ordination would be replaced by musical-chairs functionaries with a limited shelf-life, and even by invalid gaia impersonators (the synodal way agenda in Germania).

    All of this, the ecclesial equivalent to various cultural redefinitions, and to multiple sex partners, serial bigamy, and transgenderism?

    For these pathological termites, the early and more-or-less anathematized theologian Origen probably should be erected into a Father of the Church—except that he castrated himself. The fourth option (!): self-amputation, a prominent cardinal’s “anthropological-cultural change”—-and the “hermeneutics of discontinuity.”

  2. St. Pius X condemned the fatal heresy of Modernism. I’m sure in heaven St. Pius X sees and is shocked at whats happened to Christ’s Church. We have self-destructed or have been destroyed by this great evil. St. Pius X desired “All things restored in Christ”. Instead, Christ has been dethroned. Among our Prelates and Faithful we are devoid of God Himself. Why? Because we want it that way. I want the Church restored to the days before Vatican ll. The Faithful were by no means faithful but the Church Herself was and is Perfect and we still have the Church. We have the Church but the Modernists have done all they could to obscure Her from the eyes of the faithful. The people of God are mired in filth and we have Church leaders who don’t care at all. What an unholy people we are. We are like the prodigal son desiring the husks given to the swine but the Bishops and priests deny them to us. The inhabitants of Ninevah repented at the warning of Jonah. Christ has sent His own Mother to warn us of the consequences of our sins, but have we heeded Her? Today we don’t even know what, “To restore all things in Christ” means. We are wallowing on our own dunghills, all because we don’t have leaders to show us God’s ways, instead they show us their ways and we are ordered to follow. Such is the heresy of Modernism condemned by St. Pius X. All the way from Top to Bottom.

  3. Good to read the hope and trust filled words of the author ; reading slowly through the Divine Will here and there , came across the 18th Round that mentions the raising of Lazarus , that the words of Martha were likely true that there was foul odor – having always discounted that possibilty in thinking that the Jewish people knew how to preserve the body longer 🙂 and the Lord’s words as to how Lazarus represent all of humanity , in the stench of sin and death . ? Likely too that Lazarus , having known how The Lord was going to be the Paschal Victim ,to raise all of humanity into the Sun Rise of The Divine Will , had desired to follow His steps
    esp. in wanting conversion of Magdalene , thus the ? untimely death that was allowed , to be a witness of hope ; ? such goodness of his heart as the reason for The Lord’s special affection for the family .

    Interestingly , the Chaplet of Mercy Novena for today mentiones same theme , how the lukewarm souls fill the Lord with deep loathing like corpses , inviting us to bring such to His mercy –
    One good from that image of a foul smelling corspe can be for occsions when even children can come across bad images – such to be seen as rotting corpses and to bring all such to The Lord , to be called back to Life in holiness and Love in The Lord as He did for Lazarus !

    Glory be !

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