Thursday, November 4, 1998
First Reading: Romans 14: 7-12
Psalms: Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14
Gospel Reading: Luke 15: 1-10
Feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop
Born into the influential de Medici family in 1538 at the height of the Protestant Revolution, Saint Charles Borromeo went on to become one of Holy Mother Church's staunchest defenders and one of the authors of the last session of the Council of Trent. He is venerated today as the Patron Saint of Seminarians and Catechists for Charles was always interested in the formation of seminarians and the need for all youth to understand their faith. He spoke from first-hand experience for a vocation was planted early in Charles' life and he was given the Clerical Tonsure at only 12 years old, then sent to the Benedictine Abbey of Saints Gratian and Felinus in Arona, Italy to complete his studies before receiving his doctorate in canon and civil law at the early age of 21 from the prestigious University of Pavia in 1559. Three years later he was ordained a priest and immediately called to Rome by Pope Pius IV who was the brother of Charles' mother Margaret de Medici. There he helped oversee the last stages of the Council of Trent, drawing up documents and guidelines for the liturgy of the faith. Almost immediately Charles was appointed Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan by his uncle Pope Pius IV. Before taking possession of the Diocese, he finished overseeing the catechism, breviary and missal called for by the Council of Trent. He remained in Rome until Pius IV died in 1565 and then, with permission from the new pontiff Pope Saint Pius V, returned to Milan to serve as Head of that See for the next 18 years. In 1566 he instituted in the Diocese of Trent a model See for that episcopate had been without a residen bishop for over 80 years. This became the model for all dioceses throughout Italy and beyond. He went to great lengths to install guidelines to enhance devotion and reverence, while improving morals and manners of the clergy and laity alike for both branches of the Church had fallen into a rut and apathy and amoralism ruled. Charles streamlined Diocesan operations and established seminaries so the clergy would not only be well-educated, but properly formed. To help implement this, he invited the Jesuits back into his Diocese for they had been banished in the past. He then founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children everywhere. CCD remains today the benchmark for educating the youth to the faith throughout the world. As if Charles wasn't busy enough, he increased the aid to the poor, earmarking more Diocesan funds to assist the needy as well as establishing hospitals and hospices to tend to those who had fallen victim to the plague in 1576. So enraptured was he with the Christ's Gospel of the poor that he gave away all he had, wearing only an old patched cloak instead of the rich robes of a Cardinal. He also lent episcopal encouragement and guidance to the English missionaries by sending learned men to the English college at Douay in bringing the Bible up to date, in particular the Old Testament in the proper translation of the Latin Vulgate into English. Today the Douay-Rheims Version remains the benchmark for all Biblical translations though, unfortunately, newer versions have swayed from the true meanings of the words conveyed in the Douay-Rheims Version. Charles held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils during his tenure as well as founding an order of secular priests in 1578 - the Oblates of St. Charles, as they are known today, though when he founded the society it was the Oblates of St. Augustine. In addition to all this, he spoke tirelessly and ceaselessly against the dangers of Protestantism and encouraged lapsed Catholics to return to the fold. Naturally, when one is striving to do God's Will, satan will do all he can to confuse and mess up the good works by attacking the subject. This happened to Charles and he aroused much enmity in the Milan Senate over his wide-wielding power throughout the city and region. Though the Spanish dominated Lombardy, Charles fended off all efforts to allow the Spanish Inquisition in Milan. At the same time Protestantism was making great inroads in England where the Catholic Restoration which Mary Tudor had installed was being eroded by Queen Elizabeth; in France and the Netherlands religious wars were breaking out. Meanwhile in Milan St. Charles ruled with a velvet glove, kind and loving, but firm on maintaining all the Catholic Church teaches. Still, his enemies pressed on. Often times attempts were made to imprison the Archbishop of Milan, but each time he was exonerated by the Holy Father and King Philip II. There was even an attempted assassination on his life by a fanatic Humiliati priest Jerome Donati Farina because Charles had insisted that the Humiliati Order be reformed. Despite political machinations within the Milan government, Charles held his ground, excommunicating those who refused to obey and was subsequently upheld by higher authorities. When the plague broke out in 1576 Charles commandeered the clergy and religious to care for the afflicted. Because of the long two-year epidemic and the many who had died, the Diocese ran up a tremendous debt that took centuries to make up. In 1583 Charles, as an apostolic visitor in Switzerland - heart of the Reformation - preached feverishly against Protestantism and the spread of of witchcraft and sorcery. Though Charles had great power and influence, he used it humbly as a servant of the Church instilling a great reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and a love for all Holy Mother Church taught in his life-long mission to reform his beloved Church of the evils and abuses that had ravaged the clergy for so many years and spawned the Protestant Revolution. Charles was often seen in public procession, clutching his Crucifix with a noose around his neck as a sign of public penance, emphasizing the fact to all that all men are sinners and only through the One, True Church Jesus Christ founded can we be saved. Though he was only 46, the burdens of his duties and the aftermath of the plague took its toll on this dynamic saint who had personally attempted to feed over 60,000 people daily. Thus, Charles passed on to his Heavenly reward on November 4, 1584 in Milan.