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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 26, 2020

Even though a man may be unable to attain such a height of s...

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May 26

 

Even though a man may be unable
to attain such a height of sanctity,
he ought to desire it,
so as to do at least in desire
what he cannot carry out in effect.

St. Philip Neri


My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Philip Neri

All taste for earthly things left him and he made his way to...

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St. Philip Neri

Philip Neri, known as “The Apostle of Rome,” was Florentine by birth, one of four children born to a notary.

At eighteen, sent to work with a well-to-do uncle, Phillip had a mystical experience which he called his “conversion”. All taste for earthly things left him and he subsequently made his way to Rome.

There he found lodgings at the house of one Galeotto Caccia and taught his children in return for his keep.

For the next two years, Philip led the life of a virtual recluse, giving up whole days and nights to prayer and contemplation. When he did emerge from his garret, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and theology, determined to live for God alone.

Philip started an apostolate, first at street corners talking to all who would listen, and then with young Florentines working in Rome.

In 1548 with the help of his confessor, Fr. Persiano Rossa, Philip founded a confraternity of poor laymen, popularized the devotion of the forty hours, and undertook the care of pilgrims in need. Greatly blessed, this work developed into the celebrated hospital of Santa Trinitá dei Pellegrini.

Philip Neri was ordained on May 23, 1551 and became known for the gift of reading the thoughts of his penitents. As the number of conversions increased, he began to give regular conferences.

With five initial disciples, among them the future historian and cardinal, Cesare Baronius, he went on to found the Congregation of the Oratory, which was approved in 1575 by Pope Gregory XIII who gave them the ancient church of Santa Maria in Vallicella. Philip rebuilt the church on a larger scale and it became known as the “Chiesa Nuova,” or the "New Church."

On May 25, 1595, Philip, who was known for his good humor and infectious joy, was in an especially radiant mood. His doctor told him he hadn’t looked so well in years. Only the saint knew his hour had come. He heard confessions all day, and saw visitors as usual but, upon retiring, he remarked to those around him, “Last of all, we must die.” At midnight he was seized by a severe hemorrhage. His disciples gathered around him, and as Baronius besought him for a parting word, unable to speak, the ardent apostle raised his hand and imparted a last blessing to his congregation before entering his reward. He was eighty years old. St. Philip’s body is interred in the Chiesa Nuova, which his sons in the Congregation of the Oratory serve to this day.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion t...

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Mary and the Simple Country Wife

There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier. Little did she know that her soldier-husband had made a deal with the devil, that he would sell his wife for a certain sum of money.

One crisp, autumn morning the couple went out for their customary walk. Oddly, this time the young man insisted on heading towards the forest. It was at the forest where he intended to deliver his young bride over to the devil.

On their way to the forest, the couple passed in front of a Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The wife, overtaken with a desire to enter the church begged her husband to allow her to pray a Hail Mary in that church.

As the young lady entered the church, Holy Mary came forth from it, taking the form of the wife and accompanied the man into the forest.

When they at last approached the devil at the forest, he said to the man, “Traitor! Why have you brought me instead of your wife, my enemy, the mother of God?”

“And you,” said Mary, addressing the devil, “how have you dared to think of injuring my servant? Go, flee to hell.”

And then, turning to the man, Mary said to him, “Amend your life, and I will aid you.”

She then disappeared and that wretched man repented, amended his life and became a husband worthy of his simple country wife.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

 

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There was once a young country wife who practiced devotion to Holy Mary, just as her mother had taught her to do. This simple young lady considered herself fortunate to have married a handsome soldier.

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