Saint Charles Borromeo





Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.






Saint Charles Borromeo, born on October 2nd, 1538, was a descendant of nobility - his father was the Count of Arona and his mother a member of the House of Medici. After receiving the tonsure at twelve, he attended the University of Pavia, studying law. He suffered during this time from a speech impediment but recognized for his quick taking of new ideas and lectures. He earned his Doctorate in Canon and Civil Law in 1559.


On December 25th, 1559, less than a month after earning his Doctorate, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici (Saint Charles's uncle) was elected as Pope Pius IV and requested Saint Charles to come to Rome as protonotary apostolic. Just a month later, Pope Pius IV made Saint Charles a Cardinal and appointed him a supervisor of the Franciscans, Carmelites and Knights of Malta. Saint Charles organized the third council of Trent in 1562 and played a major role in making the Tridentine Catechism, also known as the Catechismus Romanus.


Saint Charles was appointed of the Archdiocese of Milan in 1560 and took his duties as Bishop so intensely that he decided to become ordained a Priest in September of 1563 and was consecrated a Bishop in the Sistine Chapel just a few months later in December of 1563. He formally entered into the Archbishop of Milan on September 23rd, 1565.


Following the death of Pope Pius IV, Saint Charles committed himself fully to the reform of the Church. One nobleman wrote of his reforms:


"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."

He stressed the clergy of Milan return to the decrees made at the Council of Trent and forbade any art or architecture lacking scriptural foundation to be created in the city. He believed the abuses of selling indulgences came from ignorant clergy and set out immediately to establish seminaries and colleges for the education of men choosing Holy Orders. His reforms and efforts for the instruction of youth included the very first "Sunday School" classes for children. His efforts brought opposition though, and a member of the Humiliati (brothers of Humility) fired a shot at him in the archiepiscopal chapel.


In 1576, a massive famine and resulting plague fell upon the city of Milan. The Governor and many of the nobility fled the city, but Saint Charles remained and organized the Holy Orders to feed nearly 70,000 people every day, at one point going into personal debt to ensure food was provided for the poor.


Saint Charles died in 1584 at his annual retreat to Monte Varallo. He received his Last Sacraments and died on November 4th. He is venerated as the Patron Saint of Seminarians, Cardinals, Spiritual directors, Spiritual leaders and Catechists among many others.


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