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Charles was born into a family both noble and devout and divided his early years between the family’s Castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore and their palace in Milan. At twelve he was admitted to minor clerical orders and received the revenues from a wealthy abbey nearby, but he showed his upright character by assigning the money to the poor except for those funds needed for his education. His college career paralleled that of St. Peter Canisius in that he avoided all circumstances and friendships that would compromise his purity of life. It differed, however, by receiving his doctorate in canon law at the University of Pavia.

Due to his extraordinary talent and seriousness, Charles took charge of all family business at the request of his father and older brother despite his youth. He even found time to restore the ancient monastic discipline in the abbey of which he was titular abbot. One week into his pontificate, Pius IV summoned him to Rome. Promotions and responsibilities soon followed, all leading to his appointment as Papal Secretary of State and Archbishop of Milan, although he was not permitted to reside in Milan during his uncle’s lifetime.

His thoroughness, modesty, and zeal for work had the effect of concealing his capacity for superior judgment in handling the affairs of both the Church and the State, especially when he refused to enrich himself in the manner of the Renaissance era prelates. Virtually all diplomatic correspondence passed through his hands, to the point that historians cannot determine which instructions originated with the Pope and which came from his young administrator. William T. Walsh believes the reform of the Church during Pius IV’s pontificate was chiefly accomplished through the effort of his nephew, whose body is incorrupt to this day.

Despite the uprightness of his life and self-sacrificing devotion to Church affairs, Charles did not practice the strict austerities and self-denial of his later years. He was exceptionally fond of hunting and paid much attention to the magnificence of his own household, which consisted of 150 servants. The improvement of his family’s circumstances also occupied much of his attention. His brother had married the daughter of the Duke of Urbina, a member of the illustrious della Rovere family, and his sisters made wealthy marriages with the Gonzaga and Colonna. Then with the family rising to the heights of the Farnese and de Medici, his brother died after a short illness at the age of twenty-seven.

Although a Cardinal and administrator of the vacant diocesan see of Milan, Papal Secretary of State, and entrusted with the government of the Papal States, as well as supervisor of the Franciscans, the Carmelites and the Order of Malta, Charles was still only a sub-deacon at the time, which nevertheless precluded marriage. Many of his more worldly-minded relatives thought that he would certainly seek a dispensation and pursue fame and fortune to maintain his family’s position. But his brother’s sudden death opened his eyes to the vanity of such ambitions and Charles resolved instead to embrace his ecclesiastical state entirely.

He was ordained a priest on September 4, 1563 and consecrated a bishop on December 7 the same year. He adopted a strict, ascetic life of prayer and fasting after making the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, now intent upon fulfilling the duties of his ecclesiastical office with dignity and without reserve.

Pope Pius IV had reopened the third and last period of the Council of Trent at the beginning of 1562 against strong opposition from numerous prelates who saw that their unwarranted privileges and incomes would be curtailed and many sovereigns who saw that their authority over Church matters would be contested. Yet the bark of Saint Peter steered through all the obstacles to bring the Council to a successful conclusion two years later.

Retained in Rome by the Pope and the heavy duties incumbent upon him by the work of the Council, Charles governed his diocese my means of personal representatives through whom he convoked a diocesan synod for the promulgation of the decrees of the Council. He began the much-needed reform of the clergy by fulfilling all things required in himself first, thus leading by example.

The widespread clerical abuses required skilful and tactful treatment. Ecclesiastical discipline and the education of youth were foremost in his thoughts but his pastoral solicitude encompassed every detail involved in the monumental work: repression of avaricious priests, the founding and staffing of seminaries for the proper formation of the clergy, liturgical ceremony and church music, the manner of preaching, the renewal of strict observance of rule in the convents, etc. This last mentioned brought down upon him the wrath and displeasure of some of his own relatives, two Dominican aunts, sisters of Pope Pius IV. Notwithstanding the opposition and difficulties, Charles persevered, sparing himself in nothing. The apostolic zeal and charity with which he reformed his own household bore fruit in the remarkable number of its members who became distinguished bishops and prelates. The austerities which he practiced amidst the incredible fatigues of his apostolic life seem almost excessive.

Doctrinal and disciplinary controversies and heated disputes of every kind, both ecclesiastical and temporal; complicated questions of spiritual and civil jurisdictions; fierce attacks upon the rights of the Church and life-threatening physical attacks upon himself; heresy, witchcraft, sorcery and wickedness of every sort, libelous personal accusations and epidemic plagues – he faced them all with a moral courage and equanimity that won the grudging admiration of even his most bitter enemies. Ravaged by relentless attacks from every side, the Church weathered the fierce storm of the pseudo-Reformation. From the bosom of the Church, God called forth great saints in that era and they rallied to Her defense like ardent lions – souls of grandeur, on fire with the love of God and zeal for souls. The Church and Faith under attack brought forth unparalleled sanctity. Among these great saints of the sixteenth century is St. Charles Borromeo.

Physically worn out by the crushing weight of his many duties and responsibilities, he seemed to know when death was at hand and yet was determined to work as long as he had strength left. Towards the end of 1584, his health took a definite turn. In October he began his annual retreat and began his preparation for death with a general confession. Plagued with recurrent bouts of high fever, he carried on: visitations, correspondence, consultations. Indefatigable to the end, his ardent soul wore out his frail body.

He died at Milan on November 3, 1584 at the age of forty-six. He was canonized in 1610 by Pope Paul V.

 


 Second Photo by: Sailko

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 9, 2021

The privilege of our Church is such that it is never stronge...

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May 9

 

The privilege of our Church is such that
it is never stronger than when it is attacked,
never better known than when it is accused,
never more powerful than when it appears forsaken.

"Treatise on the Trinity"St. Hilary of Poitiers

 
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The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is......

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Mother's Day

 The loveliest masterpiece 
 
of the heart of God is... 
 
the heart of a mother. 

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Pachomius

So much did they impress him, as he observed them daily brin...

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St. Pachomius

Pachomius was born to pagan parents in Upper Thebais in Egypt in the year 292. According to one biographer, he was unwillingly drafted into the Emperor’s army when he was about twenty years old. Along with others pressed into the service of the emperor, Pachomius was ferried down river to Thebes, in which city the young pagan encountered Christians for the first time. So much did they impress him, as he observed them daily bringing food and comfort to the army recruits, who were kept close confined and ill-treated, that he vowed to investigate the Christian religion thoroughly once he had completed his time in the service of the Emperor. He later converted and was baptized in the year 314.

A few years after his conversion, Pachomius became acquainted with several well-known ascetics and decided to pursue their way of life. After seven years of preparation and study under the guidance and direction of a hermit named Palemon, Pachomius received the habit of a monk and set out to join St. Anthony of Egypt in the desert.

For a time Pachomius imitated Anthony’s solitary asceticism, living in his own hut, as the other followers of the great desert father did, and meeting occasionally with them for divine worship. Some time later, Pachomius heard a voice which instructed him to build a monastery at Tabennisi on the banks of the Nile where hermits who were physically or mentally unable to follow the rigor of Anthony’s solitary life could come to live as a community. Thus Pachomius is considered the first founder of cenobitic monasticism.

The first to be received into this new monastic community was his eldest brother John; within a short time their number grew to a hundred. Not only was Pachomius obliged to expand this first monastery at Tabennisi, but eventually, when this became inadequate, to build ten additional monasteries for men and two convents for women. For forty years he ruled the cenobites as their abbot. By the time of his death in 348, there were some seven thousand monks living under the monastic rule he had drawn up for them.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

Here we discover something akin to the “Secret of Mary,”...

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Secret of Mary

Considering Our Lady’s action upon the three Fatima children in a broader sense, the changes she brought about in them was something extraordinary — something far beyond their capacity. From this, we gather that Our Lady suddenly and suavely transformed them through her repeated apparitions.

   
    St. Francisco Marto     St. Jacinta Marto

Here we discover something akin to the “Secret of Mary,” of which Saint Louis de Montfort speaks. We see grace working profoundly in souls, and we see how it works silently, without the person perceiving it. As a result, the person feels truly free. More than ever, the person feels inspired to practice virtue and reject the evil chains of sin; consequently, their love of God blossoms.

Their desire to serve Him increases, and so does their hatred of sin. This marvelous transformation of soul occurs in such a way that the person does not experience the systematic uphill struggle of those who follow the classical system of the spiritual life to obtain virtue, sanctity, and Heaven. Much to the contrary, Our Lady changes them suddenly.

The changes in the two children Our Lady called to Heaven, Jacinta and Francisco, was particularly striking. What does this mean? Does this mean Our Lady will perform the same transformation upon us?

Is it a foretaste of how Our Lady intends to change Humanity when she fulfills her Fatima promises?

Can I say that the transformation in the souls of Jacinta and Francisco are the beginning of Our Lady’s reign? Is this not her triumph over the souls of Jacinta and Francisco, heralds of Our Lady’s message, who helped others accept the Fatima message through their prayers and sacrifices? And who still help us today through their prayers in Heaven?

If this is true, it is logical that Jacinta and Francisco be our intercessors before Our Lady and obtain the coming of her reign in our hearts. Is this not the mysterious transformation that we call the “Secret of Mary”?

I firmly believe that we must ask Jacinta and Francisco to transform us, to grant us the same gifts they received, and to guide us, whose mission it is to live and to preach the Fatima message.

Adapted from a lecture of Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira on October 13, 1971.

Here we discover something akin to the “Secret of Mary,” of which Saint Louis de Montfort speaks.

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