Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Luke 14:12-14
Do not invite those who might be able to invite you back

Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’


Romans 11:29-36
God never takes back his gifts

God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice.
Just as you changed from being disobedient to God, and now enjoy mercy because of their disobedience, so those who are disobedient now – and only because of the mercy shown to you – will also enjoy mercy eventually. God has imprisoned all men in their own disobedience only to show mercy to all mankind.

How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything?

All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.


Psalm 68(69):30-31,33-34,36-37
In your great love, answer me, O God.

As for me in my poverty and pain
let your help, O God, lift me up.
I will praise God’s name with a song;
I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
In your great love, answer me, O God.
The poor when they see it will be glad
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
In your great love, answer me, O God.
For God will bring help to Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession.
The sons of his servants shall inherit it;
those who love his name shall dwell there.
In your great love, answer me, O God.

Source: Jerusalem Bible
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Church and non-Christians

839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,”the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
842 The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”

844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:

Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.

845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood.


Charles Borromeo (Italian: Carlo Borromeo, Latin: Carolus Borromeus, 2 October 1538 – 3 November 1584) was Roman Catholic archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584 and a cardinal. He was a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation combat against the Protestant Reformation together with St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Philip Neri. In that role he was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. He is honored as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, with a feast day on November

Early life
Charles was a descendant of nobility: the Borromeo family was one of the most ancient and wealthy in Lombardy, made famous by several notable men, both in the church and state. The family coat of arms included the Borromean rings, which are sometimes taken to symbolize the Holy Trinity. Charles’ father Gilbert was Count of Arona. His mother Margaret was a member of the Milan branch of the House of Medici. The third son in a family of six children, he was born in the castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore 36 miles from Milan on 2 October 1538.
Borromeo received the tonsure when he was about twelve years old. At this time his paternal uncle Giulio Cesare Borromeo turned over to him the income from the rich Benedictine abbey of Sts. Gratinian and Felin, one of the ancient perquisites of the family. Charles made plain to his father that all revenues from the abbey beyond what was required to prepare him for a career in the Church belonged to the poor and could not be applied to secular use. The young man attended the University of Pavia, where he applied himself to the study of civil and canon law. Due to a slight impediment of a speech he was regarded as slow but his thoroughness and industry meant that he made rapid progress. In 1554 his father died, and although he had an elder brother, Count Federico, he was requested by the family to take the management of their domestic affairs. After a time, he resumed his studies, and on 6 December 1559, he earned a doctorate in canon and civil law.

Rome period
On 25 December 1559 Borromeo’s uncle Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici was elected as Pope Pius IV. The newly-elected pope required his nephew to come to Rome, and on 13 January 1560 appointed him protonotary apostolic. Shortly thereafter, on 31 January 1560, the pope created him cardinal, and thus Charles as cardinal-nephew was entrusted with both the public and the privy seal of the ecclesiastical state. He was also brought into the government of the Papal States and appointed a supervisor of the Franciscans, Carmelites and Knights of Malta.

During his four years in Rome Borromeo lived in austerity, obliged the Roman Curia to wear black, and established an academy of learned persons, the Academy of the Vatican Knights, publishing their memoirs as the Noctes Vaticanae.
Charles organized the third and last session of the Council of Trent, in 1562-63. He had a large share in the making of the Tridentine Catechism (Catechismus Romanus). In 1561, Borromeo founded and endowed a college at Pavia, today known as Almo Collegio Borromeo, which he dedicated to St. Justina of Padua.
On 19 November 1562, his older brother, Federico, suddenly died. His family urged Charles to seek permission to return to the lay state (laicization), to marry and have children so that the family name would not become extinct, but he decided not to leave the ecclesiastic state. His brother’s death, along with his contacts with the Jesuits and the Theatines and the example of bishops such as Bartholomew of Braga, were the causes of a conversion of Charles towards a more strict and operative Christian life, and his aim became to put into practice the dignity and duties of the bishop as drafted by the recent Council of Trent.

Archbishop of Milan
Charles was appointed an administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan on 7 February 1560. After his decision to put into practice the role of bishop, he decided to be ordained priest (4 September 1563) and on 7 December 1563 he was consecrated bishop in the Sistine Chapel by Cardinal Giovanni Serbelloni.Charles was formally appointed archbishop of Milan on 12 May 1564 after the former archbishop Ippolito II d’Este waived his claims on that archbishopric, but he was only allowed by the pope to leave Rome one year later. Charles made his formal entry into Milan as archbishop on 23 September 1565.

Reform in Milan
After the death of his uncle, Pius IV (1566), Charles contributed materially to suppressing the cabals of the conclave. Before Charles went to Milan, while he was overseeing reform in Rome, a nobleman remarked that the latter city was no longer a place to enjoy oneself or to make a fortune. “Carlo Borromeo has undertaken to remake the city from top to bottom,” he said, predicting that the reformer’s enthusiasm “would lead him to correct the rest of the world once he has finished with Rome.

Subsequently, he devoted himself to the reformation of his diocese which had deteriorated in practice owing to the 80-year absence of previous archbishops. Milan was the largest archdiocese in Italy at the time, with more than 3,000 clergy and 800,000 people. Both its clergy and laity had drifted from church teaching. The selling of indulgences and ecclesiastical positions was prevalent; monasteries were “full of disorder”; many religious were “lazy, ignorant, and debauched”. Charles made numerous pastoral visits, and restored dignity to divine service. He urged churches to be designed in conformity with the decrees of the Council of Trent, which stated that sacred art and architecture lacking adequate scriptural foundation was in effect prohibited, as was any inclusion of classical pagan elements in religious art. He divided the nave of the church into two compartments to separate the sexes at worship.

He extended his reforms to the collegiate churches, monasteries and even to the Confraternities of Penitents, particularly that of St. John the Baptist. This group was to attend to prisoners and those condemned to death, to give them help and support.

Influence on English affairs
Charles had also been involved in English affairs when he assisted Pius IV. Many English Catholics had fled to Italy at this time because of the persecutions under Queen Elizabeth I. He gave pastoral attention to English Catholics who fled to Italy to escape the new laws against the Catholic faith.Saint Edmund Campion, a Jesuit, along with Saint Ralph Sherwin visited him at Milan in 1580 on their way to England. They stayed with him for eight days, talking with him every night after dinner. A Welshman, Griffith Roberts, served as his canon theologian, and an Englishman, Thomas Goldwell, as vicar-general. The archbishop carried on his person a small picture of John Fisher, who, with Thomas More, had been executed during the reign of Henry VIII, and for whom he held a great veneration. During the nineteenth-century Catholic restoration in England, Cardinal Wiseman was to institute an order of Oblates of St Charles, led by Henry Edward Manning, as a congregation of secular priests directly supporting the Archbishop of Westminster.

Persecution of religious dissidents
Though the Diet of Ilanz of 1524 and 1526 had proclaimed freedom of worship in the Republic of the Three Leagues, Charles repressed Protestantism in the Swiss valleys. The Catholic Encyclopedia relates: “In November [1583] he began a visitation as Apostolic visitor of all the cantons of Switzerland and the Grisons, leaving the affairs of his diocese in the hands of Monsignor Owen Lewis, his vicar-general. He began in the Mesoleina Valley; here not only was their heresy to be fought, but also witchcraft and sorcery, and at Roveredo it was discovered that “the provost or rector, was the foremost in sorceries.” During his pastoral visit to the region, 150 people were arrested for practicing witchcraft. Eleven women and the provost were condemned to be burned alive.
Reacting to the pressure of the Protestant Reformation, Borromeo encouraged Ludwig Pfyffer in his development of the Golden League, but did not live to see its formation in 1586. Based in Lucerne, the organization (also called the Borromean League) linked activities of several Swiss Catholic cantons of Switzerland, which became the center of Catholic Counter-Reformation efforts. This organization was determined to expel heretics and burned some people at the stake. It created severe strains in the civil administration of the confederation, and caused the break-up of Appenzell canton along religious lines.

Controversy and last days
Borromeo was described by a biographer as “an austere, dedicated, humorless and uncompromising personality”. Charged with implementing the reforms dictated by the Council of Trent, his uncompromising stance brought him into conflict with secular leaders, priests, and even the Pope.He met with much opposition to his reforms. The governor of the province and many of the senators addressed complaints to the courts of Rome and Madrid.

In 1584, during his annual retreat at Monte Varallo, he fell ill with “intermittent fever and ague”, and on returning to Milan grew rapidly worse. After receiving the Last Sacraments, he died quietly on 4 November at the age of 46.

Source: Wikipedia