PIUS XI. (1857-1939), pope from 1922 to 1939, was born on May 31, 1857, at Desio, north of Monza, in the environs of Milan, on the road to Como, and was named Ambrose Damien Achille. His father was Francesco Ratti, the manager of one of the great silk factories of Desio, and partner in the firm of Gadda. Achille was educated at the seminaries of San Pietro Martire and of Monza, and at the college of St. Charles at Milan, where he graduated. Feeling that he was called to the priesthood, he studied for two years in the greater seminary. His life at this time was profoundly influenced by his spending his vacation months with his uncle, Don Rodolpho, the venerable and exemplary parish priest and provost of Asso, a village in the promontory of the Bellagio. From his windows he could see Lake Como and the Alps, of which later on he was so strongly to feel the lure. It was also here that he came under the personal notice of the archbishop of Milan, Mgr. Nazario di Calebiana, who was stay ing as the guest of Count de Herra and was a frequent visitor at his uncle's presbytery. The archbishop was much struck by the future pope's earnestness and maturity of judgment, and was wont to call him his "young old man." Ever afterwards he took a deep interest in his career. He sent him to the college of St. Martin and then to Rome to study at the Lombard college and attend the lectures at the Gregorian university. Here Achille Ratti took with distinction the degrees of doctor of philosophy, of theology and canon law. He was ordained priest on Dec. 2o, 1879.
appointed for a period of some months to a curacy at the village of Barni.
Following up the intentions of Leo XIII., the archbishop trans ferred him to the Great Seminary, where he filled for five years the post of professor of dogmatic theology. In 1888 he was admitted as a member of the college of doctors at the great Ambrosian Library. This appointment gave a new direction to his scholarship. In this task, Dr. Ratti found a congenial field of labour under the guidance of the prefect of the college, the learned Abbate Cerriani. He became an expert, especially in Latin palae ography and published several studies, and contributed numerous articles to the learned reviews. In 1907 he succeeded Cerriani as prefect of the library. He was made domestic prelate by Pius X. During 1905-07 he undertook and carried out a reclassification of the library upon modern methods so as to facilitate the work of consultation and research. His success in this enterprise was recognized by the king of Italy, who bestowed on him the knight hood of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.
From 1888 onwards he was chaplain and director to the nuns of the Cenacle, an order specially devoted to the work of arrang ing spiritual retreats or conferences for all classes of women. At their convent he was brought into contact with all that was most distinguished and zealous among the laity of Milan and became an active organiser of their manifold works of charity. At the same time, he spent the hours that he could spare from his library in teaching the catechism to numbers of poor children, including the little chimney sweeps that annually come down from Tirol. He clung to this work during the 3o years that he remained in Milan.