SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO (1538-1584), bishop and founder – Patron saint of catechists, spiritual directors, catechumens, seminarians and bishops
Today, the universal Church honors Saint Charles Borromeo, a faithful disciple of Christ who gave witness to his faith with clarity and demonstrated it in action, and who was also a central figure in the latter years of the Council of Trent.
Charles was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore in Italy in 1538. He received the clerical tonsure (reception into a clerical Order by the shearing of one’s hair and being vested with a tunic) when he was twelve years old and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of Saints Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.
When his uncle was elected pope in 1559 as Pius IV, he made Charles, who was still a layman and a young student, cardinal-deacon and administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan. Because of Charles’ intellectual qualities, he was entrusted with several important offices connected with the Vatican and later appointed Secretary of State with responsibility for the papal states.
The untimely death of his elder brother brought Charles to a definite decision to be ordained to the priesthood, despite his relatives’ insistence that he marry. Soon after he was ordained a priest at the age of 25, Charles was consecrated bishop of Milan.
Before being allowed to take possession of his see (diocese), Bishop Borromeo oversaw the updating of the Catechism, Missal, and Roman Breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Milan in 1556, which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years, he instituted radical reforms with great effectiveness, despite considerable opposition. Under the spiritual and pastoral guidance of Bishop Borromeo, the Diocese of Milan became a model see.
He put into effect measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy and founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children.
He also founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of Saint Ambrose (now called the Oblates of Saint Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of Protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church.
Due to a severe fever, Bishop Charles Borromeo died on the evening of November 3, 1584 in Milan. He was canonized a saint in 1610 by Pope Paul V. His remains lie in the Sepulchral Chapel of Milan’s Duomo Cathedral.
We commemorate his feastday on November 4.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, newadvent.org and scborromeo.org/saints)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal for Saint Charles Borromeo)
“Preserve in the midst of Your people, we ask, O Lord, the spirit with which You filled Saint Charles Borromeo, that Your Church may be constantly renewed and, by conforming herself to the likeness of Christ, may show His Face to the world, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”