One of the most interesting things that brought me to the knowledge of this great saint and bishop was my stumbling across an online version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that is hosted by the parish and seminary bearing his name: St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Picayune, Mississippi. This is the complete Catechism offered in both standard web and mobile formats and is completely searchable, indexed and cross-referenced.
Granted, this is not the only thing that is worth saying about St. Charles Borromeo but it is a testament of the faith he had and the importance he placed on catechises, thus his patronage of catechumens and catechists. Concerning the latter patronage, it is no wonder that St. Charles Borromeo is also identified as a patron of those suffering the pains of ulcers.
St. Charles Borromeo pray for us!
Don’t forget to pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory from November 1 to the 8th.
Read the Bible at Mass
Reflections from the Saints
If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.
St. Charles Borromeo
Charles Borromeo, the bishop of Milan, came from a wealthy, aristocratic Italian family. He was born in the family castle, and lived a rather lavish life, entertaining sumptuously as befit a Renaissance court. He personally enjoyed athletics, music, art, and the fine dining that went along with lifestyles of the rich and famous of the sixteenth century. His maternal uncle, from the powerful Medici family, was pope. As was typical of the times, his uncle-pope made him a cardinal-deacon at age twenty-three and bestowed on him numerous offices. He was appointed papal legate to Bologna, the Low Countries, and the cantons of Switzerland, and to the religious orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others.When Count Frederick Borromeo passed away, many people thought Charles would give up the clerical life and marry now that he had become head of the Borromeo family. But he did not. He deferred to another uncle and became a priest. Shortly thereafter he was appointed bishop of Milan, a city that had not had a resident bishop for over eighty years.Although raised to the grand life, Borromeo spent much of his time dealing with hardship and suffering. The famine of 1570 required him to bring in food to feed three thousand people a day for three months. Six years later a two-year plague swept through the region. Borromeo mobilized priests, religious, and lay volunteers to feed and care for the sixty thousand to seventy thousand people living in the Alpine villages of his district. He personally cared for many who were sick and dying. In the process, Borromeo ran up huge debts, depleting his resources in order to feed, clothe, administer medical care, and build shelters for thousands of plague-stricken people.
As if the natural disasters facing Borromeo were not enough, a disgruntled priest from a religious order falling out of favor with Church authorities attempted to assassinate him. As Charles knelt in prayer before the altar, the would-be assassin pulled a gun and shot him. At first, Charles thought he was dying, but the bullet never passed through the thick vestments he was wearing. It only bruised him.
Borromeo combined the love of the good life with the self-sacrificing zeal one would expect of a Renaissance churchman. Once when he was playing billiards, someone asked what he would do if he knew he only had fifteen more minutes to live. “Keep playing billiards,” he replied. He died at age forty-six, not at the billiard table but quietly in bed.
Excerpted from The Way of the Saints, Tom Cowan
St. Charles used the following strong language to the assembly of bishops during the convocation of the Synod:
Let us fear lest the angered judge say to us: If you were the enlighteners of My Church, why have you closed your eyes? If you pretended to be shepherds of the flock, why have you suffered it to stray? Salt of the earth, you have lost your savor. Light of the world, they that sat in darkness and the shadow of death have never seen you shine. You were apostles; who, then, put your apostolic firmness to the test, since you have done nothing but seek to please men? You were the mouth of the Lord, and you have made that mouth dumb. If you allege in excuse that the burden was beyond your strength, why did you make it the object of your ambitious intrigues?Great was Charles’ love of neighbor and liberality towa
rd the poor. When the plague raged in Milan, he sold his household furniture, even his bed, to aid the sick and needy, and thereafter slept upon bare boards. He visited those stricken by the disease, consoled them as a tender father, conferred upon them the sacraments with his own hands. A true mediator, he implored forgiveness day and night from the throne of grace. He once ordered an atonement procession and appeared in it with a rope about his neck, with bare and bloody feet, a cross upon his shoulder—thus presenting himself as an expiatory sacrifice for his people to ward off divine punishment. He died, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, holding a picture of Jesus Crucified in his hands, in 1584 at the age of forty-six. His last words were, “See, Lord, I am coming, I am coming soon.” His tomb in the cathedral of Milan is of white marble.
Patron: Against ulcers; apple orchards; bishops; catechists; catechumens; colic; intestinal disorders; diocese of Monterey, California; seminarians; spiritual directors; spiritual leaders; starch makers; stomach diseases.
Symbols: Altar; chalice and host; rope around neck; casket and crucifix; cardinal’s hat; word Humiltitas crowned.
Often Portrayed As: Bishop wearing a noose around his neck; cardinal wearing a noose around his neck.
Things to Do:
- Pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin in imitation of St. Charles who recited it daily;
- Say a rosary for our Bishops that they will have the courage to be the salt and light in our confused world;
- Learn more about the Council of Trent;
- Pray for vocations and pray for the pastor and the priests in your parish that they will plant the life of grace and help it grow;
- Meditate on the common priesthood bestowed on all of us at baptism and confirmation;
- Do something today to spread the faith, explain some teaching to your children, witness to your neighbor, purchase good Catholic books for others, mindful that “every Catholic is responsible for the salvation of those with whom he lives!” (Pius Parsch)
- From the Catholic Culture library: Charles Borromeo: Hero of Reform and Editae Saepe (On St. Charles Borromeo).