St. Charles Borromeo

"Understand this, there is nothing quite so necessary as mental prayer,prayer that paves the way for every act we do." St Charles Borromeo

The name of St Charles Borromeo is associated with reform. He lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation, and had a hand in the reform of the Archdiocese of Milan as well as the reform of the whole Church during the final years of the Council of Trent.

Charles (Carlo) was born on the 2nd October 1538, in Arona. Although he belonged to a noble Milanese family and was related to the powerful Medici family, he desired to devote himself to the Church. When his uncle, Cardinal de Medici, was elected Pope in 1559 as Pius IV, he made Charles cardinal-deacon and administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan while he was still a layman and a young student. Because of his intellectual qualities he was entrusted with several important offices connected with the Vatican and later appointed Secretary of State with full charge of the administration of the papal states. The untimely death of his elder brother brought Charles to a definite decision to be ordained a Priest, despite relatives' insistence that he marry. He was ordained a priest at the age of 25 and soon afterward he was consecrated Bishop of Milan, in 1563.

But because of his work at the Council of Trent he was not allowed to take up residence in Milan until the Council was over. It had been Charles who encouraged the Pope to renew the Council in 1562 after it had been suspended 10 years before. Working behind the scenes, St Charles deserves the credit for keeping the Council in session, when at several points it was on the verge of breaking up. He took upon himself the task of the entire correspondence during the final phase. In 1566 St Charles was allowed to devote all his time too the Archdiocese of Milan. The religious and moral picture was far from bright. The reform needed in every phase of Catholic life among clergy and laity was initiated at a Provincial Council of all his suffragan bishops. Specific regulations were drawn up for bishops and other clergy: if the people were to be converted to a better life, these had to be the first to give a good example and renew their apostolic spirit.

St Charles himself took the initiative in giving good example. He allotted most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury, imposed severe penances upon himself. He sacrificed wealth, high honours, esteem and influence to become poor. During the famine in 1570 and plague of 1576 he tried to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily. To do this he borrowed large sums of money that required years to repay. When the civil authorities fled at the height of the plague, he stayed in the city where he administered to the sick and the dying and helped those in want. Work and heavy burdens of his high office began to affect his health. He died at the age of 46 on November 3rd. He was buried in the Cathedral in Milan, and canonised in 1610. His feast day is November 4.

The quote below gives us an insight into the spirituality of the man who is our patron:

"The tiniest fire of divine love has been lit in you. Then do not rush to make a parade of it. Do not take it out into the icy blast. Keep the furnace door shut on it so that it does not die out. Keep your mind fixed on God."

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