dimanche 4 novembre 2012

Saint CHARLES BORROMÉE, archevêque et confesseur

Saint Charles Borromée

Archevêque de Milan

(1538-1584)

Saint Charles Borromée, né au sein de l'opulence et des grandeurs, devait être l'un des plus illustres pontifes de l'Église dans tous les temps. Sa vocation se révéla d'une manière si remarquable, que son père le destina dès son enfance au service des autels. Neveu du Pape Pie VI, Charles était cardinal avant l'âge de vingt-trois ans, et recevait les plus hautes et les plus délicates missions.

Après son élévation au sacerdoce, il fut promu à l'archevêché de Milan, qu'il devait diriger avec la sagesse et la science des vieillards. Ce beau diocèse était alors dans une désorganisation complète: peuple, clergé, cloîtres, tout était à renouveler. Le pieux et vaillant pontife se mit à l'oeuvre, mais donna d'abord l'exemple. Il mena dans son palais la vie d'un anachorète; il en vint à ne prendre que du pain et de l'eau, une seule fois le jour; ses austérités atteignirent une telle proportion, que le Pape dut exiger de sa part plus de modération dans la pénitence.

Il vendit ses meubles précieux, se débarrassa de ses pompeux ornements, employa tout ce qu'il avait de revenus à l'entretien des séminaires, des hôpitaux, des écoles, et au soulagement des pauvres honteux et des mendiants. Son personnel était soumis à une règle sévère; les heures de prières étaient marquées, et personne ne s'absentait alors sans permission. Les prêtres de son entourage, soumis à une discipline encore plus stricte, formaient une véritable communauté, qui fut digne de donner à l'Église un cardinal et plus de vingt évêques.

Le saint archevêque transforma le service du culte dans sa cathédrale et y mit à la fois la régularité et la magnificence. Aucune classe de son diocèse ne fut oubliée; toutes les oeuvres nécessaires furent fondées, et l'on vit apparaître partout une merveilleuse efflorescence de vie chrétienne. Ce ne fut pas sans de grandes épreuves. Saint Charles reçut un jour, d'un ennemi, un coup d'arquebuse, pendant qu'il présidait à la prière dans sa chapelle particulière; par une protection providentielle, la balle ne fit que lui effleurer la peau, et le Saint continua la prière sans trouble. On sait le dévouement qu'il montra pendant la peste de Milan. Il visitait toutes les maisons et les hôpitaux, et sauva la vie, par ses charités, à soixante-dix mille malheureux. Les pieds nus et la corde au cou, le crucifix à la main, il s'offrit en holocauste, fit des cérémonies expiatoires et apaisa la colère divine. Il mourut sur la cendre, à quarante-six ans.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950

SOURCE : http://magnificat.ca/cal/fr/saints/saint_charles_borromee.html


Borromée, Charles

2.10.1538 à Arona, 3.11.1584 à Milan, de Milan. Fils de Gilberto, comte d'Arona, et de Margherita de' Medici. Neveu par sa mère du pape Pie IV (Giovan Angelo de' Medici), cousin de Federico Borromeo et de Mark Sittich von Hohenems. B. fut orienté précocement vers la carrière ecclésiastique et reçut à 12 ans déjà le titre d'abbé commendataire. Eduqué par des précepteurs privés à Arona et à Milan, B. fit ses études de droit à Pavie et obtint son doctorat en l'un et l'autre droits (1559). La même année, son oncle devint pape; ce dernier l'appela à Rome et en fit son proche collaborateur en le nommant cardinal-diacre et secrétaire d'Etat (1560). En 1560 encore, B. se vit confier l'administration permanente de l'archidiocèse de Milan mais, comme il resta à Rome jusqu'en septembre 1565, il délégua cette charge aux évêques auxiliaires Sebastiano Donati (1561) et Gerolamo Ferragata (1562). Son séjour à Rome coïncida avec un processus de maturation spirituelle (peut-être liée à la mort de son frère en 1562) qui le conduisit au sacerdoce puis à l'épiscopat (1563). En 1564, B. devint cardinal du titre de Sainte-Praxède. Il s'installa dans son diocèse en 1566 et y appliqua immédiatement les directives du concile de Trente. Il accorda une attention particulière aux cantons catholiques et à leurs bailliages italiens soumis à la juridiction ecclésiastique de Milan, s'y rendant fréquemment au cours de son épiscopat. En 1560 déjà, il avait été nommé Protector Helvetiae à la demande des cantons catholiques. Ses visites pastorales et diplomatiques lui permirent de prendre conscience de la gravité de la situation morale et matérielle dans laquelle se trouvaient le clergé et le peuple et d'établir les fondements d'une profonde réforme spirituelle. Afin de renforcer l'instruction et la discipline du clergé et de contenir le développement du protestantisme, B. demanda en 1579 la création d'une nonciature permanente auprès des Confédérés, instituée en 1586 seulement en raison de la résistance de la curie romaine; il demanda aussi l'ouverture d'un collège jésuite et d'un grand séminaire. La fondation à Milan du Collegium helveticum, destiné à la formation du clergé suisse et doté de cinquante bourses d'études (1579), et le patronage de la fondation du collège Papio d'Ascona (1584) vont dans le même sens. Encouragés par ces exemples, les jésuites s'établirent à Lucerne puis dans d'autres villes de la Confédération (Fribourg, Porrentruy), tandis que les capucins ouvraient leurs missions en Suisse centrale (Altdorf, Stans et Lucerne) avec l'appui du nonce Giovanni Francesco Bonomi. Considéré comme un modèle d'évêque post-tridentin, B. fut canonisé le 1er novembre 1610; il est le patron de la Suisse catholique.

Bibliographie

– P. D'Alessandri, Atti di san Carlo riguardanti la Svizzera e i suoi territori, 1909
HS, I/1, 42; I/6, 355-356
DBI, 20, 360-369
– C. di Filippo Bareggi, «San Carlo e la Riforma cattolica», in Storia religiosa della Svizzera, éd. F. Citterio, L. Vaccaro, 1996, 193-246

Auteur(e): Pablo Crivelli / LT

SOURCE : http://www.hls-dhs-dss.ch/textes/f/F10211.php


Johann Michael Rottmayr . Intercession de Charles Borromée supporté par la Vierge Marie, 
1714. Fresque, dôme de l'Église Saint-Charles-Borromée, Vienne.

Biographie de Saint Charles Borromée

Paroisse Saint-Charles à Marseille > Biographie de Saint Charles Borromée
Humilitas ! Cette devise figurant en lettres d’or sur le blason familial aurait pu paraître bien incongrue chez les Borromée, tant ils n’étaient pas habitués à la pratiquer. Il revint pourtant au plus illustre de leurs enfants de l’illustrer, et de quelle façon !
Sa jeunesse
Deuxième fils du comte Gilbert II Borromée et de Marguerite de Médicis de Marignan, Charles, né à Arona le 2 octobre 1538, était par sa mère le neveu du cardinal Jean Ange de Médicis de Marignan.
En 1547, il reçut la tonsure la charge d’abbé commendataire de l’abbaye d’Arona, dans la province de Manfredonia. Manifestant déjà la vertu de charité qui marquera toute sa vie, il en reversera la totalité des revenus aux pauvres.
Le jeune Charles entreprit par la suite des études de droit canonique et civil à Pavie. En 1559, il devint docteur in utroque jure.
Son père étant mort en 1558, et bien qu’il eût un frère aîné, Charles fut appelé dès cette date à gérer les affaires de sa puissante famille. La même année, il reçut également les titres d’abbé commendataire de San Silano de Romagnano, et prieur commendataire de Santa Maria di Calvenzano, en perçevant ainsi les bénéfices.
A Rome
Le 25 décembre 1559, son oncle maternel fut élu pape sous le nom de Pie IV. Le nouveau pontife appela immédiatement à Rome ses neveux Charles et Frédéric Borromée, nommant le premier son secrétaire privé et administrateur apostolique de Milan. Ce dernier titre titre lui permettait de gérer les affaires temporelles du diocèse (et d’en perçevoir les revenus) sans avoir à en assumer la charge spirituelle, Charles n’étant même pas prêtre à cette époque.
Ce n’était qu’un début, car il a plu au nouveau pape de combler son neveu de titres et d’honneurs : en 1561, et bien que n’étant que simple clerc tonsuré, Pie IV le créa cardinal et en fit son secrétaire d’Etat (à l’époque cardinal-neveu, ce qui correspondait effectivement à sa situation). Charles fut également légat apostolique à Bologne, en Romagne et dans les Marches, archiprêtre de la basilique Sainte Marie Majeure et Préfet de la Congrégation Consistoriale.
En 1562, le comte Frédéric Borromée, frère aîné de Charles, mourut brusquement. Sa famille insista pour que Charles renonce à ses charges ecclésiastiques et fonde une famille. Mais Charles avait déjà choisi de ne rien préférer à l’amour de Dieu et en 1563 il reçut successivement le sacerdoce et l’épiscopat, devenant ainsi archevêque de Milan.
Le concile de Trente était alors suspendu depuis près de huit ans, sans avoir terminé ses travaux. Ce fut l’une des grandes oeuvres de Charles de persuader son oncle mais également les divers souverains d’Europe de convoquer la dernière session du concile : il y consacra deux ans de négociations avant que la sainte assemblée puisse se réunir en toute sécurité et indépendance, sa continuité étant désormais garantie. En 1566, le concile étant terminé, il revint à Charles de diriger les travaux de rédaction du Catéchisme du Concile de Trente, lequel est resté en vigueur jusqu’à la promulgation du Catéchisme de l’Eglise Catholique par Saint Jean-Paul II.
Pendant ses années romaines, Charles s’attacha également à réformer la chapelle musicale vaticane, exigeant selon les prescriptions du concile, qu’on cherchât à obtenir l’intelligibilité des paroles et une musique en rapport avec le texte chanté.
A Milan
A la mort de Pie IV en 1566, Charles se démit de toutes ses fonctions pour aller résider dans son diocèse de Milan. Celui-ci était alors dans un état moral et spirituel désastreux, et aucun de ses archevêques n’y avait résidé depuis plus de quatre-vingt ans.
Le cardinal Borromée, dès son arrivée, donna dans son diocèse l’exemple de la sainteté et s’attacha à restaurer la discipline selon les normes de la Contre Réformes voulues par le concile de Trente. C’est avec raison qu’il est appelé le modèle des évêques et le restaurateur des vertus, tant il fit preuve pendant son épiscopat d’une science, d’une persévérance et d’un renoncement à l’amour de soi qui justifient ces titres.
Cette discipline, il se l’imposa d’abord à lui-même, vivant dans l’ascétisme le plus rigoureux, portant le cilice, allant jusqu’à dormir par terre (il avait vendu tous ses meubles précieux pour faire un don en argent aux pauvres) et à ne prendre qu’un repas maigre par jour, voulant ainsi s’offrir lui-même en victime pour les péchés de son peuple, comme le Christ s’immola en croix pour ceux du genre humain tout entier.
Tout d’abord, il ouvrit un grand séminaire à Milan, un séminaire helvétique pour former des prêtres devant exercer en Suisse menacée par les progrès du protestantisme, et plusieurs petits séminaires pour assurer au clergé une formation convenable. Il imposa également aux communautés religieuses de revenir à l’observance de leur règle et fit remettre les grilles aux parloirs des couvents.
Dans son oeuvre réformatrice il s’appuya sur les Jésuites, les Théatins et les Barnabites, et fonda une nouvelle congrégation, les Oblats de Saint Ambroise en 1578.
Se dépensant sans compter, Saint Charles s’attacha également à visiter chacune des paroisses de son immense diocèse, fit restaurer ou construire plusieurs églises, monastères et établissements d’enseignement, et, pour s’assurer de la bonne application des réformes qu’il voulait introduire, tint pas moins de onze synodes diocésains et six conciles provinciaux et instaura un conseil permanent pour veiller à l’application de leurs décisions. A ces assemblées, s’ajouta l’interminable et admirable suite des mandements généraux ou spéciaux, lettres pastorales, instructions aux confesseurs, sur la liturgie, la tenue des églises, la prédication, les sacrements : une véritable encyclopédie pastorale, dont l’ampleur grandiose ne laisse pas soupçonner la brièveté de l’existence de leur auteur.
Bien évidemment, tous ces changements, cette lutte incessante contre les abus et dérèglements en tous genres rencontrèrent de vives résistances, de la part des évêques de la région négligents des affaires de leur diocèse, du chapitre de la cathédrale imbu de ses privilèges, du clergé habitué à vivre dans le relâchement moral et la molesse spirituelle, mais également de la noblesse lombarde depuis longtemps accoutumée à s’ingérer dans les affaires de l’Eglise. L’une des plus fortes fut celle de l’ordre dit des Humiliés, dont les idées dérivaient en outre vers le calvinisme. L’un des membres de cet ordre n’hésita pas à commettre un attentat contre Saint Charles en tirant un coup d’arquebuse dans son dos, alors que le cardinal étant en prière dans son oratoire privé, ajoutant l’horreur du sacrilège (l’attentat a été commis dans une chapelle) à celle de la tentative de meurtre. Fort heureusement, Saint Charles s’en tira avec une éraflure à l’épaule. Bien que Charles fut prêt à pardonner à son aggresseur, l’ordre des Humiliés fut dissous et ses biens répartis entre d’autres ordres et églises du diocèse.
La sollicitude pastorale de Saint Charles trouva encore à s’exprimer de façon éclatante pendant la famine de 1570 et surtout lors de la peste qui affecta Milan en 1576 et 1577. N’hésitant pas à interrompre une visite pastorale pour rentrer en ville malgré le danger de la contagion, il porta secours aux malades autant qu’il le pouvait. L’Histoire a surtout retenu à cette occasion la grande procession dont il prit la tête, pieds nus et la corde au cou, tenant en mains une croix de bois dans laquelle avait été enchâssée la relique du Saint Clou, à la suite de quoi l’épidémie cessa.
Mort et canonisation
A la fin d’octobre 1584, s’étant retiré au Sacro Monte de Varallo pour méditer sur la Passion de Notre Seigneur, Saint Charles, affaibli par les mortifications, tomba malade. Ramené en litière et atteint d’une forte fièvre jusqu’à Milan, il s’éteignit dans la nuit du 3 au 4 novembre 1584 à l’âge de 46 ans, couché sur le sac et la cendre, les yeux fixés sur le crucifix qu’il tenait à la main.
Il fut béatifié en 1602 et canonisé le 1er novembre 1610 par le pape Paul V. Sa fête, de 3ème classe dans l’église universelle mais de 1ere classe dans notre paroisse dont il est le patron, est fixée au 4 novembre.
En 1910 le pape Saint Pie X publia l’encyclique Editae Saepe, célébrant la mémoire de Saint Charles.
Saint Charles est le saint patron des séminaristes et des directeurs spirituels. Il repose dans la cathédrale de Milan.
Saint Charles est ainsi l’un des plus beaux ornements de l’Eglise au XVIè siècle. La collecte de la messe de sa fête résume, admirablement et en peu de mots ce que fut sa vie : pastoralis sollicitudo gloriosum redidit (la sollicitude pastorale le rendit glorieux).
Sancte Carole, gloriose patrone, ora pro nobis ! Successeur de Saint Ambroise, vous fûtes l’héritier de son zèle pour la maison de Dieu. Votre action fut puissante aussi dans l’Eglise, et vos deux noms, à plus de mille ans d’intervalle, s’unissent dans une commune gloire. Puissent de même s’unir au pied du trône de Dieu vos prières au profit de nos temps amoindris ; puisse votre crédit au Ciel nous obtenir des chefs dignes de continuer, de reprendre au besoin, votre oeuvre sur terre ! Elle éclata de vos jours en pleine évidence, cette parole des Saints Livres : « tel le chef de la cité, tels sont les habitants », et cette autre encore : « j’enivrerai de grâce les âmes sacerdotales et mon peuple sera rempli de mes biens, dit le Seigneur ». (Dom Guéranger)

Saint Charles Borromée

Archevêque de Milan ( 1584)

Fils cadet d'une noble famille italienne, il avait tout pour se laisser entraîner dans une vie facile et fastueuse. 

Neveu d'un pape, nommé cardinal à 22 ans, il est submergé de charges honorifiques très lucratives: son revenu annuel était de 52.000 écus(*). Il reçoit les revenus du diocèse de Milan, des abbayes de Mozzo, Folina, Nonatella, Colle et de quelques autres légations: Bologne, Spolète, Ravenne, etc ... Il reste laïc, grand amateur de chasse et de musique de chambre. 

Mais la conscience de son devoir est telle qu'il s'impose dans la vie mondaine et brillante de Rome, par sa rigueur et son travail. Il collabore efficacement à la reprise du Concile de Trente, interrompu depuis huit ans. Au moment de la mort subite de son frère aîné, alors qu'il pourrait quitter l'Église pour la charge de chef d'une grande famille, il demande à devenir prêtre. 

Désormais il accomplit par vocation ce qu'il réalisait par devoir. Devenu archevêque de Milan, il crée des séminaires pour la formation des prêtres. Il prend soin des pauvres alors qu'il vit lui-même pauvrement. Il soigne lui-même les pestiférés quand la peste ravage Milan en 1576. Il demande à tous les religieux de se convertir en infirmiers. Les années passent. Malgré le poids des années, il n'arrête pas de se donner jusqu'à l'épuisement. 

"Pour éclairer, la chandelle doit se consumer, " dit-il à ceux qui lui prêchent le repos. 

(*) Un internaute nous signale: "si on se rapporte à l'écu de François Ier (environ même époque ), il pesait environ 3 grammes; les 52 000 écus du revenu de Charles ne devaient donc pas de beaucoup dépasser les 150 000 grammes d'or fin soit 150 kg"

Le 4 novembre 2010, le Saint-Père a fait parvenir un message au Cardinal Dionigio Tettamanzi, Archevêque de Milan (Italie), pour le quatrième centenaire de la canonisation de saint Charles Borromée. En voici les passages principaux:  Charles Borromée vécut dans une période difficile pour le christianisme, "une époque sombre parsemée d'épreuves pour la communauté chrétienne, pleine de divisions et de convulsions doctrinales, d'affaiblissement de la pureté de la foi et des mœurs, de mauvais exemples de la part du clergé. Mais il ne se contenta pas de se lamenter ou de condamner. Pour changer les autres, il commença par réformer sa propre vie... Il était conscient qu'une réforme crédible devait partir des pasteurs" et pour y parvenir il eut recours à la centralité de l'Eucharistie, à la spiritualité de la croix, à la fréquence des sacrements et à l'écoute de la Parole, à la fidélité envers le Pape, "toujours prompt à obéir à ses indications comme garantie d'une communion ecclésiale, authentique et complète".

Après avoir manifesté le désir de voir l'exemple de saint Charles continuer à inspirer la conversion personnelle comme communautaire, Benoît XVI encourage prêtres et diacres à faire de leur vie un parcours de sainteté. Il encourage en particulier le clergé milanais à suivre "une foi limpide, à vivre une vie sobre, selon l'ardeur apostolique de saint Ambroise, de saint Charles Borromée et de tant d'autre pasteurs locaux... Saint Charles, qui fut un véritable père des pauvres, fonda des institutions d'assistance" et, "durant la peste de 1576 il resta parmi son peuple pour le servir et le défendre avec les armes de la prière, de la pénitence et de l'amour". Sa charité ne se comprend pas si on ignore son rapport passionné au Seigneur, qui "se reflétait dans sa contemplation du mystère de l'autel et de la croix, d'où découlait sa compassion des hommes souffrants et son élan apostolique de porter l'Évangile à chacun... C'est de l'Eucharistie, cœur de toute communauté, qu'il faut tirer la force d'éduquer et de combattre pour la charité. Toute action charitable et apostolique trouve force et fécondité dans cette source". Le Saint-Père conclut par un appel aux jeunes: "A l'exemple de Charles Borromée, vous pouvez faire de votre jeunesse une offrande au Christ et au prochain... Si vous êtes l'avenir de l'Église, vous en faites partie dès aujourd'hui. Si vous avez l'audace de croire dans la sainteté, vous serez le principal trésor de l'Église ambrosienne, bâtie sur ses saints". (source: VIS 20101104 420)

Nommé par son oncle, le pape Pie IV, cardinal et archevêque de Milan, il se montra sur ce siège un vrai pasteur, attentif aux besoins de l’Église de son temps. Pour la formation de son clergé, il réunit des synodes et fonda des séminaires ; pour favoriser la vie chrétienne, il visita plusieurs fois tout son troupeau et les diocèses suffragants et prit beaucoup de dispositions  pour le salut des âmes. Il s’en alla la veille de ce jour à la patrie du ciel, en 1584.
SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/7/Saint-Charles-Borromee.html

Martyrologe romain

Leçons des Matines (avant 1960)

Quatrième leçon. Charles naquit à Milan, de la noble famille des Borromée. Une lumière divine, qui brilla la nuit de sa naissance sur la chambre de sa mère, fit présager combien sa sainteté serait éclatante. Enrôlé dès son enfance dans la milice cléricale et pourvu quelque temps après d’une abbaye, il avertit son père de ne pas employer pour sa maison les revenus de ce’ bénéfice ; et lorsque l’administration lui en fut dévolue, il en distribua aux pauvres tout le superflu. La chasteté lui fut si chère, qu’il repoussa avec une invincible constance les femmes impudiques plusieurs fois envoyées pour lui faire perdre sa pureté. A vingt-trois ans, son oncle le Pape Pie IV l’ayant agrégé au Sacré Collège des Cardinaux, il s’y distingua par une piété insigne et par l’éclat de toutes les vertus. Bientôt après, le même Pape l’ayant fait Archevêque de Milan, il s’appliqua avec beaucoup de sollicitude à gouverner l’Église qui lui était confiée, selon les règles du concile de Trente, qui venait d’être terminé, grâce à lui surtout ; et pour réformer les mœurs déréglées de son peuple, outre qu’il assembla maintes fois des synodes, il montra dans sa personne un modèle d’éminente sainteté. Il travailla par-dessus tout à extirper l’hérésie du pays des Rhètes et des Suisses, dont il convertit un grand nombre à la foi chrétienne.

Cinquième leçon. La charité de cet homme de Dieu brilla tout particulièrement lorsqu’ayant vendu sa principauté d’Oria, il en donna aux pauvres, en un seul jour, tout le prix, qui était de quarante mille pièces d’or. Ce fut avec la même charité qu’il en distribua vingt mille qu’on lui avait léguées. Il renonça aux amples revenus ecclésiastiques dont il avait été comblé par son oncle, et n’en retint que ce qui lui était nécessaire pour lui-même et pour assister les indigents. Pour les nourrir pendant la peste qui ravagea Milan, il vendit tout le mobilier de sa maison, sans même se réserver un lit ; de sorte que, depuis, il coucha sur le plancher. Empressé à visiter ceux que le fléau atteignait, il les soulageait avec une affection de père, et, leur administrant lui-même les sacrements de l’Église, les consolait d’une façon merveilleuse. Pendant ce temps, pour se faire médiateur auprès de Dieu par de très humbles prières et pour détourner sa colère, il ordonna une procession publique : il y marcha la corde au cou, les pieds nus et ensanglantés par les pierres contre lesquelles il se heurtait, portant une croix et s’offrant lui-même comme victime pour les péchés de son peuple. Il fut un très énergique défenseur de la liberté de l’Église. Mais, comme il avait à cœur de rétablir la discipline, des séditieux lâchèrent contre lui, pendant qu’il était en prières, la roue d’une arquebuse ; le projectile l’ayant frappé, il ne dut qu’à la protection divine d’être préservé de tout mal.

Sixième leçon. Il était d’une abstinence étonnante ; jeûnait très souvent au pain et à l’eau, et, d’autres fois, se contentait de légumes. Il domptait son corps par les veilles, un cilice très dur, de fréquentes disciplines. L’humilité et la douceur lui étaient on ne peut plus chères. Il ne manqua jamais de se livrer à la prière et à la prédication de la parole de Dieu, quelque grandes occupations qu’il eût. Il bâtit beaucoup d’églises, des monastères et des collèges. Il a écrit plusieurs ouvrages très utiles, surtout pour l’instruction des Évêques, et c’est par ses soins que le catéchisme des curés a paru. Enfin, il se retira dans une solitude du mont Varale, où se trouvent des tableaux représentant au vif la passion de notre Seigneur. C’est là que, menant pendant quelques jours une vie rude par la mortification volontaire, mais douce par la méditation des souffrances de Jésus-Christ, il fut pris de la fièvre, et comme la maladie s’aggravait, il revint à Milan, où, sous la cendre et le cilice, les yeux attachés sur un crucifix, il partit pour le ciel, âgé de quarante-sept ans, le troisième jour des nones de novembre de l’année mil cinq cent quatre-vingt-quatre. Des miracles l’ayant illustré, le Souverain Pontife Paul V le mit au nombre des Saints.


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Humilitas. A sa naissance au château d’Arona, Charles trouvait inscrit en chef de l’écu de famille ce mot couronné d’or [1]. Parmi les pièces nombreuses du blason des Borromées, on disait de celle-ci qu’ils ne connaissaient l’humilité que dans leurs armes. Le temps était venu où l’énigmatique devise de la noble maison se justifierait dans son membre le plus illustre ; où, au faîte des grandeurs, un Borromée saurait vider de soi son cœur pour le remplir de Dieu : en sorte pourtant que, loin de renier la fierté de sa race, plus intrépide qu’aucun, cet humble éclipserait dans ses entreprises les hauts faits d’une longue suite d’aïeux. Nouvelle preuve que l’humilité ne déprime jamais. Charles atteignait à peine sa vingt-deuxième année, quand Pie IV, dont sa mère était la sœur, l’appelait au poste difficile qu’on nomme aujourd’hui la Secrétairerie d’État, et bientôt le créait cardinal, archevêque de Milan, semblait se complaire à entasser honneurs et responsabilités sur ses jeunes épaules. On était au lendemain du règne de Paul IV, si mal servi par une confiance pareille, que ses neveux, les Caraffa, y méritèrent le dernier supplice. Mais l’événement devait montrer que son doux successeur recevait en cela ses inspirations de l’Esprit-Saint, non de la chair et du sang.

Soixante ans déjà s’étaient écoulés de ce siècle de Luther qui fut si fatal au monde, et les ruines s’amoncelaient sans fin, tandis que chaque jour menaçait l’Église d’un danger nouveau. Les Protestants venaient d’imposer aux catholiques d’Allemagne le traité de Passau qui consacrait leur triomphe, et octroyait aux dissidents l’égalité avec la liberté. L’abdication de Charles-Quint découragé donnait l’empire à son frère Ferdinand, tandis que l’Espagne et ses immenses domaines des deux mondes allaient à Philippe II son fils ; or Ferdinand Ier inaugurait la coutume de se passer de Rome, en ceignant le diadème mis au front de Charlemagne par saint Léon III ; et Philippe, enserrant l’Italie par la possession de Naples au Sud, du Milanais au Nord, semblait à plusieurs une menace pour l’indépendance de Rome elle-même. L’Angleterre, un instant réconciliée sous Marie Tudor, était replongée par Élisabeth dans le schisme où elle demeure jusqu’à nos jours. Des rois enfants se succédaient sur le trône de saint Louis, et la régence de Catherine de Médicis livrait la France aux guerres de religion.

Telle était la situation politique que le ministre d’État de Pie IV avait mission d’enrayer, d’utiliser au mieux des intérêts du Siège apostolique et de l’Église. Charles n’hésita pas. Appelant la foi au secours de son inexpérience, il comprit qu’au déluge d’erreurs sous lequel le monde menaçait de périr, Rome se devait avant tout d’opposer comme digue l’intégrale vérité dont elle est la gardienne ; il se dit qu’en face d’une hérésie se parant du grand nom de Réforme et déchaînant toutes les passions, l’Église, qui sans cesse renouvelle sa jeunesse [2], aurait beau jeu de prendre occasion de l’attaque pour fortifier sa discipline, élever les mœurs de ses fils, manifester à tous les yeux son indéfectible sainteté. C’était la pensée qui déjà, sous Paul III et Jules III, avait amené la convocation du concile de Trente, inspiré ses décrets de définitions dogmatiques et de réformation. Mais le concile, deux fois interrompu, n’avait point achevé son œuvre, qui restait contestée. Depuis huit ans qu’elle demeurait suspendue, les difficultés d’une reprise ne faisaient que s’accroître, en raison des prétentions discordantes qu’affichaient à son sujet les princes. Tous les efforts du cardinal neveu se tournèrent à vaincre l’obstacle. Il y consacra ses jours et ses nuits, pénétrant de ses vues le Pontife suprême, inspirant son zèle aux nonces accrédités près des cours, rivalisant d’habileté autant que de fermeté avec les diplomates de carrière pour triompher des préjugés ou du mauvais vouloir des rois. Et quand, après deux ans donnés à ces négociations épineuses, les Pères de Trente se réunirent enfin, Charles apparut comme la providence et l’ange tutélaire de l’auguste assemblée ; elle lui dut son organisation matérielle, sa sécurité politique, la pleine indépendance de ses délibérations, leur continuité désormais ininterrompue. Retenu à Rome, il est l’intermédiaire du Pape et du concile. La confiance des légats présidents lui est vite acquise ; les archives pontificales en gardent la preuve : c’est à lui qu’ils recourent journellement, dans leurs sollicitudes et parfois leurs angoisses, comme au meilleur conseil, à l’appui le plus sûr.

Le Sage disait de la Sagesse : « A cause d’elle, ma jeunesse sera honorée des vieillards ; les princes admireront mes avis : si je me tais, ils attendront que je parle ; quand j’ouvrirai la bouche, ils m’écouteront attentifs, les mains sur leurs lèvres [3]. » Ainsi en fut-il de Charles Borromée, à ce moment critique de l’histoire du monde ; et l’on comprend que la Sagesse divine qu’il écoutait si docilement, qui l’inspirait si pleinement, ait rendu son nom immortel dans la mémoire reconnaissante des peuples [4].

C’est de ce concile de Trente dont l’achèvement lui est dû, que Bossuet reconnaît, en sa. Défense de la trop fameuse Déclaration, qu’il ramena l’Église à la pureté de ses origines autant que le permettait l’iniquité des temps [5]. Écoutons ce qu’à l’heure où les assises œcuméniques du Vatican venaient de s’ouvrir, l’évêque de Poitiers, le futur cardinal Pie, disait « de ce concile de Trente, qui, à meilleur titre que celui même de Nicée, a mérité d’être appelé le grand concile ; de ce concile dont il est juste d’affirmer que, depuis la création du monde, aucune assemblée d’hommes n’a réussi à introduire parmi les hommes une aussi grande perfection ; de ce concile dont on a pu dire que, comme un arbre de vie, il a pour toujours rendu à l’Église la vigueur de sa jeunesse. Plus de trois siècles se sont écoulés depuis qu’il termina ses travaux, et sa vertu curative et fortifiante n’a point cessé de se faire sentir [6]. »

« Le concile de Trente est demeuré comme en permanence dans l’Église au moyen des congrégations romaines chargées d’en perpétuer l’application, ainsi que de procurer l’obéissance aux constitutions pontificales qui l’ont suivi et complété [7]. » Charles inspira les mesures adoptées dans ce but par Pie IV, et au développement desquelles les Pontifes qui suivirent attachèrent leurs noms. La révision des livres liturgiques, la rédaction du Catéchisme romain l’eurent pour promoteur. Avant tout, et sur toutes choses, il fut l’exemplaire vivant delà discipline renouvelée, acquérant ainsi le droit de s’en montrer envers et contre tous l’infatigable zélateur. Rome, initiée par lui à la réforme salutaire où il convenait qu’elle précédât l’armée entière des chrétiens, se transforma en quelques mois. Les trois églises dédiées à saint Charles en ses murs [8], les nombreux autels qui portent son nom dans les autres sanctuaires de la cité reine, témoignent de la gratitude persévérante qu’elle lui a vouée.

Son administration cependant et son séjour n’y dépassèrent pas les six années du pontificat de Pie IV. A la mort de celui-ci, malgré les instances de saint Pie V, qu’il contribua plus que personne à lui donner pour successeur, Charles quitta Rome pour Milan où l’appelait son titre d’archevêque de cette ville. Depuis près d’un siècle, la grande cité lombarde ne connaissait guère que de nom ses pasteurs, et cet abandon l’avait, comme tant d’autres en ces temps, livrée au loup qui ravit et disperse le troupeau [9]. Notre Saint comprenait autrement le devoir de la charge des âmes. Il s’y donnera tout entier, sans ménagement de lui-même, sans nul souci des jugements humains, sans crainte des puissants. Traiter dans l’esprit de Jésus-Christ les intérêts de Jésus-Christ sera sa maxime [10], son programmées ordonnances édictées à Trente. L’épiscopat de saint Charles fut la mise en action du grand concile ; il resta comme sa forme vécue, son modèle d’application pratique en toute Église, la preuve aussi de son efficacité , la démonstration effective qu’il suffisait à toute réforme, qu’il pouvait sanctifier à lui seul pasteur et troupeau.

Nous eussions voulu donner mieux qu’un souvenir à ces Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, pieusement rassemblés par des mains fidèles, et où notre Saint paraît si grand ! C’est là qu’à la suite des six conciles de sa province et des onze synodes diocésains qu’il présida, se déroule l’inépuisable série des mandements généraux ou spéciaux que lui dicta son zèle ; lettres pastorales, où brille le Mémorial sublime qui suivit la peste de Milan ; instructions sur la sainte Liturgie, la tenue des Églises, la prédication, l’administration des divers Sacrements, et entre lesquelles se détache l’instruction célèbre aux Confesseurs ; ordonnances concernant le for archiépiscopal, la chancellerie, les visites canoniques ; règlements pour la famille domestique de l’archevêque et ses vicaires ou officiers de tous rangs, pour les prêtres des paroisses et leurs réunions dans les conférences dont il introduisit l’usage, pour les Oblats qu’il avait fondés, les séminaires, les écoles, les confréries ; édits et décrets, tableaux enfin et formulaire universels. Véritable encyclopédie pastorale, dont l’ampleur grandiose ne laisse guère soupçonner la brièveté de cette existence terminée à quarante-six ans, ni les épreuves et les combats qui, semble-t-il, auraient dû l’absorber tout entière.

Successeur d’Ambroise, vous fûtes l’héritier de son zèle pour la maison de Dieu ; votre action fut puissante aussi dans l’Église ; et vos deux noms, à plus de mille ans d’intervalle, s’unissent dans une commune gloire. Puissent de même s’unir au pied du trône de Dieu vos prières, en faveur de nos temps amoindris ; puisse votre crédit au ciel nous obtenir des chefs dignes de continuer, de reprendre au besoin, votre œuvre sur terre ! Elle éclata de vos jours en pleine évidence, cette parole des saints Livres : Tel le chef de la cité, tels sent les habitants [11]. Et cette autre non moins : J’enivrerai de grâce les âmes sacerdotales, et mon peuple sera rempli de mes biens, dit le Seigneur [12].

Combien justement vous disiez, ô Charles : « Jamais Israël n’entendit pire menace que celle-ci : Lex peribit a sacerdote [13]. Prêtres, instruments divins, desquels dépend le bonheur du monde : leur abondance est la richesse de tous ; leur nullité, le malheur des nations [14]. » Et lorsque, du milieu de vos prêtres convoqués en synode, vous passiez à l’auguste assemblée des dix-sept pontifes, vos suffragants ; réunis en concile, votre voix se faisait, s’il se peut, plus forte encore : « Craignons que le Juge irrité ne nous dise : Si vous étiez les éclaireurs de mon Église, pourquoi donc fermiez-vous les yeux ? Si vous vous prétendiez les pasteurs du troupeau, pourquoi l’avez-vous laissé s’égarer ? Sel de la terre, vous vous êtes affadis. Lumière du monde, ceux qui étaient assis dans les ténèbres et dans l’ombre de la mort n’ont point vu vos rayons. Vous étiez Apôtres ; mais qui donc éprouva votre vigueur apostolique, vous qui jamais n’avez rien fait que pour complaire aux hommes ? Vous étiez la bouche du Seigneur, et l’avez rendue muette. Si votre excuse doit être que le fardeau dépassait vos forces, pourquoi fut-il l’objet de vos brigues ambitieuses [15] ? »

Mais, par la grâce du Seigneur Dieu bénissant votre zèle pour l’amendement des brebis comme des agneaux, vous pouviez ajouter, ô Charles : « Province de Milan, reprends espoir. Voici que, venus à toi, tes pères se sont rassemblés dans le but de guérir tes maux ; ils n’ont plus d’autre souci que de te voir porter des fruits de salut, multipliant à cette fin leurs efforts communs [16]. »

Mes petits enfants que j’enfante de nouveau, jusqu’à ce que le Christ soit formé en vous [17] ! C’est l’aspiration de l’Épouse, le cri qui ne cessera qu’au ciel : et synodes, visites, réformation, décrets concernant prédication, gouvernement, ministère, ne sont à vos yeux que la manifestation de cet unique désir de l’Église, la traduction du cri de la Mère [18] en travail de ses fils [19].

Daignez, bienheureux Pontife, ranimer en tous lieux l’amour de cette discipline sainte, où la sollicitude pastorale qui vous rendit glorieux [20] trouva le secret de sa fécondité merveilleuse. Il peut suffire aux simples fidèles de n’ignorer point que parmi les trésors de l’Église leur Mère existe, à côté de la doctrine et des Sacrements, un corps de droit incomparable, œuvre des siècles, objet de légitime fierté pour tous ses fils dont il protège les privilèges divins ; mais le clerc, qui se voue à l’Église, ne saurait la servir utilement sans l’étude approfondie, persévérante, qui lui donnera l’intelligence du détail de ses lois ; mais fidèles et clercs doivent supplier Dieu que le malheur des temps ne mette plus obstacle à la tenue par nos chefs vénérés de ces assemblées conciliaires et synodales prescrites à Trente [21], magnifiquement observées par vous, ô Charles, qui fîtes l’expérience de leur vertu pour sauver la terre. Veuille le ciel exaucer en votre considération notre prière, et nous pourrons redire avec vous [22] à l’Église : « O bénigne Mère, ne pleurez plus ; vos peines seront récompensées, vos fils vous reviendront de la contrée ennemie. Et moi, dit le Seigneur, j’enivrerai de grâce les âmes sacerdotales, et mon peuple sera rempli de mes biens [23]. »

1] Le chef de l’écu d’argent, chargé du mot humilitas, en lettres gothiques de sable, surmonté d’une couronne d’or.

[2] Psalm. CII, 5.

[3] Sap. VIII, 10-12.

[4] Ibid. 13.

[5] Gallia orthodoxa, Pars III, Lib. XI, c. 13 ; VII, c. 40.

[6] Discours prononcé à Rome, dans l’église de Saint-André della Valle, le 14 janvier 1870.

[7] Instruction pastorale à l’occasion du prochain concile de Bordeaux, 26 juin 1830.

[8] Saint-Charles aux Catinari, l’une des plus belles de Rome ; Saint-Charles au Corso, qui garde son cœur ; Saint-Charles aux Quatre-Fontaines.

[9] Johan. X, 12.

[10] Acta Eccl. Mediolanensis, Oratio habita in concil. prov. VI.

[11] Eccli. X, 2.

[12] Jerem. XXXI, 14.

[13] La loi périra, s’éteindra, sera muette, au cœur du prêtre et sur ses lèvres. Ezech. VII, 26. Acta Eccl. Mediolan. Constitutiones et regula ; societatis scholarum doctrina : christianae, Cap. III.

[14] Concio I ad Clerum, in Synod. diœces. XI.

[15] Oratio habita in Concil. prov II.

[16] Oratio habita in Concil. prov. VI.

[17] Gal. IV, 19.

[18] Apoc. XII, 2.

[19] Concio I ad Clerum, in Synod. diœces. XI.

[20] Collecte de la fête.

[21] Sessio XXIV, de Reformatione cap. II.

[22] Concio I ad Clerum, in Synod. XI.

[23] Jerem. XXXI, 16, 14.


Bhx Cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

Si Milan regarde saint Charles comme le plus illustre de ses pasteurs depuis saint Ambroise, l’Église Mère de Rome le serre sur son cœur et le salue comme l’un des plus chers et des plus méritants de ses enfants.

En effet, l’œuvre de saint Charles peut être considérée en deux périodes et sur deux champs distincts. D’abord son activité aux côtés de son oncle Pie IV, activité qui embrassa non seulement Rome mais l’Église universelle elle-même. Vient ensuite l’action pastorale accomplie à Milan par le Saint, apôtre et pasteur de ce vaste diocèse.

Secrétaire d’État de Pie IV, saint Charles se trouva aux côtés du Pontife à l’une des époques les plus décisives pour l’histoire de la papauté. Il s’agissait de savoir si le Saint-Siège s’engagerait enfin d’une manière résolue dans la voie de la réforme ecclésiastique, si longtemps et si universellement réclamée ; ou bien s’il ajournerait encore cette difficile entreprise, se contentant, comme malheureusement quelques-uns des Pontifes de ce siècle, de demi-mesures.

Ce fut sous l’influence personnelle de saint Charles que Pie IV se décida pour la réforme ; et de ce jour le Saint, au nom et avec l’autorité de son oncle, marcha hardiment dans la voie ouverte, sans considérations humaines. On peut donc dire que, de Rome, il dirigea la dernière période du Concile de Trente, et ce qui est encore plus important, lorsque le Concile eut été approuvé par le Pape, saint Charles s’appliqua avec toute son énergie à en réaliser effectivement le plan de réforme.

Ici commence la seconde partie de la vie de saint Charles. Pie IV étant mort, il se fixa définitivement dans son Église de Milan, où étaient à relever les ruines accumulées par de longues années de mauvais gouvernement, en l’absence des pasteurs légitimes.

Saint Charles, pour sanctifier son troupeau, commença par se sanctifier lui-même. Comme Jésus avait voulu racheter le monde moins par sa prédication et ses miracles que par sa passion, ainsi saint Charles s’offrit-il comme une victime à Dieu pour son peuple par une vie très austère. Les âmes, disait-il, se gagnent à genoux, faisant ainsi allusion à ses longues prières au pied du Crucifix ou dans la crypte de l’église du Saint-Sépulcre à Milan.

L’activité déployée par saint Charles en toute sorte de labeur pastoral est incroyable. Son champ d’action, à titre de métropolitain de Milan et de légat du Saint-Siège, était immense. Et pourtant il n’y eut pas de village des Alpes ou de pays perdu où saint Charles ne se rendît pour y faire la visite pastorale. Ses biographes nous disent qu’en moins de trois semaines il lui arriva de consacrer quinze églises.

L’archevêque de Milan avait alors à résoudre d’importants et difficiles problèmes. L’hérésie, qui avait infecté les cantons suisses confinant au diocèse, menaçait de contaminer aussi celui-ci. Il fallait tout au moins en paralyser l’influence et saint Charles le fit. Il fallait en outre former des évêques et des prêtres inspirés par l’idéal le plus élevé : le Saint érige des collèges et des séminaires, rassemble des conciles, promulgue des canons, favorise l’ouverture de maisons religieuses pour l’éducation de la jeunesse.

L’affaiblissement de l’esprit ecclésiastique dans le clergé est presque toujours favorisé par le pouvoir civil qui avilit en effet le prêtre pour pouvoir ensuite se l’assujettir plus aisément. Saint Charles fut le vengeur intrépide de l’autorité épiscopale ; aussi non seulement il eut à lutter contre les chanoines, les religieuses et les religieux qui s’étaient écartés de leur route primitive — par exemple les Humiliés qui allèrent jusqu’à tenter d’assassiner le Saint ! — mais il trouva des adversaires beaucoup plus redoutables dans les gouverneurs de Milan, trop jaloux des prétendues prérogatives de la couronne d’Espagne.

Ainsi vécut, agit et combattit le grand saint Charles Borromée, qui se montra le digne champion de la lutte sacrée pour laquelle il s’immola. Usé avant le temps par les dures fatigues de sa vie pastorale, il mourut sur la brèche le 3 novembre 1584, âgé seulement de quarante-six ans.

Dans la collecte de la Messe, l’Église résume son éloge dans ces brèves mais éloquentes paroles : pastoralis sollicitudo gloriosum reddidit.

Rome conserve de lui de nombreux souvenirs, à Saint-Martin-aux-Monts, par exemple, et à Sainte-Praxède, dont il fut titulaire. Son cœur est conservé dans la grande église qui lui est dédiée près de la porte Flaminienne, église qui représente aujourd’hui le sanctuaire particulier des Lombards dans la Ville éternelle. Outre cette église de Saint-Charles au Corso, deux autres sanctuaires de la Ville se parent de son nom ; ce sont : Saint-Charles a’ Catinari et Saint-Charles-aux-Quatre-Fontaines. Dans le palais Altemps on vénère toujours la chambre habitée par le Saint. Quant au manteau de pourpre du grand Cardinal, il est conservé religieusement dans le Titre de Sainte-Cécile.

La messe est du commun Státuit, à l’exception de la première collecte : « Gardez toujours, Seigneur, votre Église sous la protection de votre saint pontife Charles ; et de même que la sollicitude pastorale l’éleva à une si grande gloire, que son intercession nous embrase aussi du saint amour. »


Dom Pius Parsch, le Guide dans l’année liturgique

« Un véritable et grand pasteur d’âmes »

Saint Charles. — Jour de mort : 3 novembre 1584. Tombeau : à la cathédrale de Milan. Image : On le représente en archevêque, une corde au cou, bénissant des malades. Vie : Le saint est l’un des plus beaux ornements de l’Église catholique au XVIe siècle ; c’est un des plus grands pasteurs d’âmes de tous les temps ; il travailla beaucoup à l’achèvement et à l’application du concile de Trente ; ses instructions pastorales sont encore en vigueur de nos jours. Né en 1538, dans une famille de la haute noblesse de Milan, il se destina dès son enfance à l’état ecclésiastique. Cardinal à 23 ans (1560), il devint bientôt archevêque de Milan. Son grand souci fut alors de faire exécuter dans sa province ecclésiastique les décisions du concile de Trente ; ce qui lui valut de sérieuses attaques et oppositions, tant du côté civil que du côté ecclésiastique. Sa charité pleine de miséricorde envers le prochain et sa libéralité envers les pauvres étaient très grandes. Lorsque la peste sévit à Milan, il vendit son mobilier, jusqu’à son lit, pour venir en aide aux malades et aux nécessiteux et, à partir de cette époque, il coucha sur de simples planches. Il visitait les malades atteints de la peste, les consolait comme un tendre père et leur administrait les sacrements de ses propres mains. Véritable médiateur, il implorait jour et nuit le pardon divin en d’humbles prières devant le trône de la grâce. Ayant ordonné une procession publique d’expiation, il y parut la corde au cou, les pieds nus et ensanglantés, une croix sur les épaules, s’offrant en victime expiatoire pour son peuple afin de détourner de lui la justice divine. Il mourut dans sa 47e année, couché sur un sac et sur la cendre, tenant en ses mains le crucifix ; c’était le 3 novembre 1584. En mourant, il prononça ces paroles : « Seigneur, voici que je viens ; je viendrai bientôt. » Il avait atteint seulement l’âge de 46 ans. Son tombeau est dans la célèbre cathédrale de Milan, construite en marbre blanc. La Messe est du commun des évêques (Statuit). L’Oraison propre fait mention de son zèle pastoral (pastoralis sollicitudo).

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/04-11-St-Charles-Borromee-eveque

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo was the son of Count Gilbert Borromeo and Margaret Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV. He was born at the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, Italy on October 2. He received the clerical tonsure when he was twelve and was sent to the Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratian and Felinus at Arona for his education.

In 1559 his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV and the following year, named him his Secretary of State and created him a cardinal and administrator of the see of Milan. He served as Pius’ legate on numerous diplomatic missions and in 1562, was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent, which had been suspended in 1552.

Charles played a leading role in guiding and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He refused the headship of the Borromeo family on the death of Count Frederick Borromeo, was ordained a priest in 1563, and was consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Before being allowed to take possession of his see, he oversaw the catechism, missal, and breviary called for by the Council of Trent. When he finally did arrive at Trent (which had been without a resident bishop for eighty years) in 1556, he instituted radical reforms despite great opposition, with such effectiveness that it became a model see.

He put into effect, measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity, raised the effectiveness of the diocesan operation, established seminaries for the education of the clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious instruction of children and encouraged the Jesuits in his see. He increased the systems to the poor and the needy, was most generous in his help to the English college at Douai, and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils. He founded a society of secular priests, Oblates of St. Ambrose (now Oblates of St. Charles) in 1578, and was active in preaching, resisting the inroads of protestantism, and bringing back lapsed Catholics to the Church. He encountered opposition from many sources in his efforts to reform people and institutions.

He died at Milan on the night of November 3-4, and was canonized in 1610. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, a patron of learning and the arts, and though he achieved a position of great power, he used it with humility, personal sanctity, and unselfishness to reform the Church, of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and the nobles of the times. His feast day is November 4th. He is the patron saint of leaning and the arts.

SOURCE : http://www.ucatholic.com/saints/saint-charles-borromeo/


St. Charles Borromeo


St. Charles BorromeoArchbishop of Milan, Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St. Prassede, Papal Secretary of State under Pius IV, and one of the chief factors in the Catholic Counter-Reformation — was born in the Castle of Arona, a town on the southern shore of the Lago Maggiore in northern Italy, 2 October, 1538; died at Milan, 3 November, 1584. His emblem is the word humilitas crowned, which is a portion of the Borromeo shield. He is usually represented in art in his cardinal's robes, barefoot, carrying the cross as archbishop; a rope round his neck, one hand raised in blessing, thus recalling his work during the plague. His feast is kept on 4 November.

His father was Count Giberto Borromeo, who, about 1530, married Margherita de Medici. Her younger brother was Giovanni Angelo, Cardinal de' Medici, who became pope in 1559 under the title of Pius IV. Charles was the second son, and the third of six children, of Giberto and Margherita. Charles' mother died about the year 1547, and his father married again.

His early years were passed partly in the Castle of Arona, and partly in the Palazzo Borromeo at Milan. At the age of twelve his father allowed him to receive the tonsure, and, upon the resignation of his uncle, Julius Caesar Borromeo, he became titular Abbot of Sts. Gratinian and Felinus at Arona.

When he received the tonsure he was sent by his father to Milan, where he studied Latin under J.J. Merla. In October, 1552, he left Arona for the University of Pavia, where he had as his tutor Francesco Alciato, afterwards cardinal. His correspondence shows that he was allowed a small sum by his father, and that often he was in straitened circumstances, which caused him considerable inconvenience. It was not only that he himself suffered, but that his retinue also were not suitably clothed. Charles evidently felt bitterly his humiliation, but he does not seem to have shown impatience. Leaving Pavia to meet his uncle, Cardinal de' Medici, at Milan, he was, within a few weeks called upon to attend the funeral of his father, who died early in August, 1558, and was buried in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Fresh responsibilities at once came to Charles, for though he was not the elder son, yet, at the request of his family, including even his brother, he assumed charge of all the family business. The question of possession of the Castle of Arona was one of great difficulty, as it was claimed by both France and Spain. Charles conducted the negotiations with great energy and diplomatic skill, and as a consequence of the Peace of Cambrai (3 April, 1559) the castle was handed over to Count Francesco Borromeo, in the name of his nephew, Federigo Borromeo, to be held by him for the King of Spain. He also did much to restore to their ancient monastic discipline the religious of his Abbey of Sts. Gratinian and Felinus. Though his studies were so often interrupted, yet his seriousness and attention enabled him to complete them with success, and in 1559 he maintained his thesis for the doctorate of civil and canon law.

In the summer of 1559, Paul IV died, and the conclave for the election of his successor, which began on 9 September, was not concluded till December, when Cardinal Giovanni Angelo de' Medici was elected and took the name of Pius IV. On the 3rd of January, 1560, Charles received a message by a courier from the pope, asking him to proceed at once to Rome. He started immediately for the Eternal City, but though he travelled rapidly he was not in time for the pope's coronation (6 January). On 22 January he wrote to Count Guido Borromeo that the pope had given him the charge of the administration of all the papal states. On 31 January he was created cardinal-deacon, together with Giovanni de' Medici, son of the Duke of Florence, and Gianantonio Serbellone, cousin of the pope. Charles was given the title of Sts. Vitus and Modestus, which was in the August following changed to that of St. Martino-ai-Monti. He wished for no rejoicings at Milan; all the celebration was to be at Arona, where were to be said ten Masses de Spiritu Sancto. At this time Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, of Ferrara, resigned the Archbishopric of Milan, and on 8 February the pope named Charles as administrator of the vacant see. In succession he was named Legate of Bologna, Romagna, and the March of Ancona. He was named Protector of the Kingdom of Portugal, of Lower Germany, and the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. Under his protection were placed the orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Humiliati, the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra, the Knights of Jerusalem (or Malta), and those of the Holy Cross of Christ in Portugal. By a motu proprio (22 January, 1561) Pius IV gave him an annual income of 1000 golden crowns from the episcopal mensa of Ferrara.

Charles' office of secretary of state and his care for the business of the family did not prevent him from giving time to study, and even to recreations in the form of playing the lute and violoncello, and a game of ball. He lived at first at the Vatican, but in July, 1562, removed to the Palazzo Colonna, Piazza Sancti Apostoli. Soon after his arrival in Rome he founded at the Vatican an academy, which was a way of providing, by literary work, a distraction from more serious occupations. The members, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, met nearly every evening, and many of their contributions are amongst the works of Charles as "Noctes Vaticanae". Charles was very soon occupied as secretary of state in using his influence to bring about the re-assembling of the Council of Trent, which had been suspended since 1552. The state of Europe was appalling from an ecclesiastical point of view. Many were the difficulties that had to be overcome — with the emperor, with Philip II of Spain, and, greatest of all, with France, where the demand was made for a national council. Still, in spite of obstacles, the work went on with the view of re-assembling the council, and for the most part it was Charles' patience and devotion that accomplished the object.

It was not until 18 January, 1562, that the council resumed at Trent, with two cardinals, 106 bishops, 4 mitred abbots, and 4 generals of religious orders present. The correspondence which passed between Charles and the cardinal legates at Trent is enormous, and the questions which arose many times threatened to bring about the breaking-up of the council. Difficulties with the emperor, the national principles put forward on behalf of France by the Cardinal Charles of Lorraine, Archbishop of Reims, required from Charles constant attention and the greatest delicacy and skill in treatment. The twenty-fifth, and last, session of the council was held 3 and 4 December, 1563; at it were present 255 Fathers. At a consistory on the 26th of January, 1564, Pius IV confirmed the decrees of the council, and later appointed a congregation of eight cardinals to see to the execution of these decrees. During the sitting of the re-assembled council Charles' elder brother, Count Federigo, had died (28 November, 1562). This event had a very determining result as to Charles, for he immediately resolved to give himself with greater strictness to spiritual matters, and he looked upon his brother's death as a warning to him to give up all worldly things. His resolution was well needed, for, as he was now head of the family, great pressure was brought to bear upon him to give up the ecclesiastical state and to marry. This view was even suggested to him by the pope at the instance of other relatives. Some months passed in these efforts to influence Charles, but finally he resolved to definitely fix himself in the ecclesiastical state by being secretly ordained priest. The ordination took place, by the hands of Cardinal Federigo Cesa, in Santa Maria Maggiore, on the 4th of September, 1563. He writes that he celebrated his first Mass on the Assumption, in St. Peter's, at the altar of the Confession. He said his second Mass at his house, attached to the Gesu, in an oratory where St. Ignatius had been accustomed to celebrate. Charles at this time had as his confessor Father Giovanni Battista Ribera, S.J. On the 7th of December, 1563, the feast of St. Ambrose, he was consecrated bishop in the Sistine Chapel; on the 23rd of March, 1564, he received the pallium, and was preconized on the 12th of May. In the following June his title was changed to that of Santa Prassede.

Meanwhile Charles had provided for the spiritual wants of his diocese. Antonio Roberti, in May, 1560, has, as his vicar, taken possession of his archbishopric, and Charles sent Monsignor Donato, Bishop of Bobbio, as his deputy for episcopal functions. Monsignor Donato soon died, and in his place, Charles commissioned Monsignor Girolamo Ferragato, O.S.A., one of his suffragans, to visit the diocese, and to report on its needs. Ferragato entered Milan, 23 April, 1562; on 24 June of the same year Charles sent to Milan Fathers Palmio and Carvagial, S.J., with the object of preparing the faithful of the diocese, both clergy and laity, for the carrying out of the reforms prescribed by the Council of Trent. While anxious for the spiritual welfare of his flock, he was no less solicitous for his own. There came to him the thought of what was the will of God concerning him, and whether he was to continue as the spiritual father of his diocese or retire to a monastery. It happened in the autumn of 1563, between the sessions of the Council of Trent, that the Cardinal of Lorraine went to Rome, accompanied by Ven. Bartholomew of the Martyrs, O.P., Archbishop of Braga, in Portugal. Bartholomew had already shown himself to be of a like spirit to Charles, and when Pius IV introduced them, and suggested that he should begin the reform of the cardinals in the person of Charles, Bartholomew answered that if the princes of the Church had all been like Cardinal Borromeo, he would have proposed them as models for the reform of the rest of the clergy. In a private interview, Charles opened his heart to Bartholomew and told him of his thought of retiring to a monastery. Bartholomew applauded his desire, but at the same time declared his opinion that it was God's will that he should not abandon his position. Charles was now assured that it was his duty to remain in the world; but all the more he felt he ought to visit his diocese, though the pope always opposed his departure. Bartholomew counselled patience, and represented the assistance he could give to the pope and the whole Church by remaining in Rome. Charles was satisfied, and stayed on, doing the great work necessary by sending zealous deputies. After the Council of Trent he was much occupied with the production of the catechism embodying the teaching of the council, the revision of the Missal and Breviary. He also was a member of a commission for the reform of church music, and chose Palestrina to compose three masses; one of these is the "Missa Papae Marcelli".

Pastoral solicitude, which is the characteristic chosen for mention in the collect of his feast, made him ever anxious to have the most suitable representatives in Milan. He heard of the excellent qualities of Monsignor Nicolò Ormaneto, of the diocese of Verona, and succeeded in obtaining the consent of his bishop to his transference to Milan. Ormaneto had been in the household of Cardinal Pole, and also the principal assistant of the Bishop of Verona. On the 1st of July, 1564, Ormaneto reached Milan, and at once carried out Charles' instructions by calling together a diocesan synod for the promulgation of the decrees of the Council of Trent. There were 1200 priests at the Synod. It was with the clergy that Charles began the reform, and the many abuses needed skilful and tactful treatment. Father Palmio contributed much in bringing the clergy to a sense of the necessity for reform. The synod was followed by a visitation of the diocese by Ormaneto. In September Charles sent thirty Jesuit Fathers to assist his vicar; three of these were placed over the seminary, which was opened on the 11th of November (feast of St. Martin of Tours). Charles was constantly directing the work of restoration of ecclesiastical discipline, and the education of the young, even down to minute details, was foremost in his thoughts. The manner of preaching, repression of avaricious priests, ecclesiastical ceremonies, and church music are some of the subjects on which Charles wrote many letters. The revival of strict observance of rule in the convents of nuns was another matter to which Charles urged Ormaneto's attention; the setting up of grilles in the convent parlours was ordered, and, to remove material difficulties, Charles ordered his agent, Albonese, to pay the cost of this where the convents, through poverty, were unable to bear the expense. This order brought difficulties with his own relations. Two of his aunts, sisters of Pius IV, had entered the Order of St. Dominic; they resented the setting up of the grilles as casting a slur on their convent. Charles, in a letter (28th of April, 1565) displaying much thought and great tact, strove to bring his aunts to see the good purpose of the order, but without success, and the pope wrote on the 26th of May, 1565, telling them that he had given general orders for the setting up of the grilles, and that it would be pleasing to him that those united to him by ties of blood and affection should set a good example to other convents.

Notwithstanding the support which Charles gave, Ormmaneto was discouraged by the checks with which he met, and wished to return to his own diocese. Charles pressed the pope to allow him to leave Rome, and at the same time encouraged Ormaneto to remain. At last the pope gave his consent to Charles visiting his flock and summoning a provincial council; but, desiring his stay to be short one, he created Charles legate a latere for all Italy. Charles prepared to start, chose canonists to help the council, and wrote to the Court of Spain and Philip II. He left Rome 1 September, and, passing through Florence, Bologna, Modena, and Parma, he made his solemn entry into Milan on Sunday, 23 September, 1565. His arrival was the occasion of great rejoicings, and the people did their utmost to welcome the first resident archbishop for eighty years. On the following Sunday he preached in the Duomo, on the words: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you" (Luke 22:15).

On the 15th of October the first provincial council met. It was attended by ten out of the fifteen bishops of the province, those absent being represented by their procurators. Three of these prelates were cardinals, and one, Nicolò Sfondrato of Cremona, was afterwards pope with the title of Gregory XIV. Charles announced that the reform must begin with the prelates: "We ought to walk in front, and our spiritual subjects will follow us more easily." He commenced by fulfilling all things required in himself, and his wonderful clergy astonished the prelates. The council was finished on the 3rd of November, and Charles sent a minute report to the pope. On the 6th of November he went to Trent as legate, to meet the Archduchesses Giovanna and Barbara, who were to be married to the Prince of Florence and the Duke of Ferrara. Charles conducted Barbara to Ferrara and Giovanna to Tuscany, where at Fiorenzuola, he received the news of the pope's serious illness. He reached Rome to find that the pope's condition was hopeless, and he at once bade the Holy Father turn all his thoughts to his heavenly home. On the 10th of December Pius IV died, assisted by two saints, Charles and Philip Neri. On the 7th of January, 1566, the conclave for the election of his successor was concluded by the election of Cardinal Michele Ghislieri, O.P., of Alessandria, Bishop of Mondovì, who, at the request of Charles, took the name of Pius V. It had been maintained that Charles at first favoured Cardinal Morone, but his letter to the King of Spain (Sylvain, I,309) seems to prove that he did his utmost to secure the election of Cardinal Ghislieri. Pius V wished to keep Charles to assist him in Rome; but though Charles delayed his departure for some time, in the end his earnest representations obtained permission for him to return to Milan, at least for the summer. He returned to his see, 5 April, 1566, having made a detour to visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Loreto. Charles showed admirably how the Church had the power to reform from within, and, though the task he had to do was gigantic, he set about its execution with great calmness and confidence. He began with his household, gave up much of his property to the poor, and insisted that in all that concerned him personally the greatest economy should be used; for his position as archbishop and cardinal he required due respect. He practised great mortification, and whatever the Council of Trent or his own provincial council had laid down for the life of the bishops he carried out, not only in the letter, but also in the spirit.

The rules for the management of his household, both in spiritual and temporal affairs, are to be found in the "Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis". The result of the care that was taken of his household was seen in the many members of it who became distinguished bishops and prelates. More than twenty were chosen while members of the cardinal's household; one of these was Dr. Owen Lewis, fellow of New College, Oxford, who taught at Oxford and Douai, and after being vicar-general to St. Charles was made Bishop of Cassano in Calabria.

The administration of the diocese needed to be perfected; he therefore chose a vicar-general of exemplary life, learned in law and ecclesiastical discipline. He also appointed two other vicars, one for civil and the other for criminal causes. He associated with them other officials, all chosen for their integrity, and took care that they should be well paid, so as to preclude all suspicion of venality. Corruption in such matters was specially distasteful to him. Whilst providing for upright officials, the needs of the prisoners were not forgotten, and in time his court was known as the holy tribunal. He so organized his administration that by means of reports and conferences with the visitors and the vicars forane, his pastoral visits were productive of great fruit. The canons of his cathedral chapter were in turn the object of his reforming care. He put before them his plan of giving them definite work in theology and in connexion with the Sacrament of Penance. They welcomed his reforms, as he wrote to Monsignor Bonome: "The result of the way I have taken is very different to that in vogue today" (27 April, 1566). Pius V congratulated Charles on his success and exhorted him to continue the work.

Another great work which was begun at this time was that of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, in order that the children might be carefully and systematically instructed. This work was really the beginning of what is now known as the Sunday school, and there is a remarkable testimony to this in an inscription under a statue outside the Essex Unitarian Church, Kensington, London, where Cardinal Borromeo is mentioned in connexion with the work. The visitation of his flock was steadily carried out and various pious foundations were made to succour the needy and sinners. In 1567 opposition began to be made to his jurisdiction. The officials of the King of Spain announced that they would inflict severe penalties on the archbishop's officers if they imprisoned more laymen, or carried arms. The matter was referred to the king, and finally to the pope, who counselled the Senate of Milan to support the ecclesiastical authority. Peace was not restored; and the bargello, or sheriff, of the archbishop was imprisoned. The archbishop announced sentence of excommunication on the captain of justice and several other officials. Much trouble followed, and again the matter was laid before the pope, who decided in favour of the archbishop.

In October, 1567, Charles started to visit three Swiss valleys, Levantina, Bregno, and La Riviera. In most parts, indeed, there was much to reform. The clergy especially were in many cases so lax and careless, and even living scandalous lives, that the people had grown to be equally negligent and sinful. The hardships of this journey were great; Charles travelled on a mule, but sometimes on foot, over most difficult and even dangerous ground. His labours bore great fruit, and a new spirit was put into both clergy and laity. In August, 1568, the second diocesan synod was held, and it was followed in April, 1569, by the second provincial council. In August, 1569, matters came to a head in connexion with the collegiate church of Santa Maria della Scala. This church had been declared by Clement VII, in 1531, exempt from the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Milan, provided that the consent of the archbishop was obtained; but this consent had never been obtained, and consequently the exemption did not take effect. Now the governor, the Duke of Albuquerque, had been induced by the opponents of the archbishop to issue an edict declaring that all who violated the king's jurisdiction should receive severe punishment. The canons of La Scala claimed exemption from the archbishop and relied on the secular power to support them. Charles announced his intention of making his visitation in accordance with the wishes of the pope, by sending Monsignor Luigi Moneta to the canons. He was met with opposition and open insult. Early in September Charles himself went, vested for a visitation. The same violent demeanour was again shown. The archbishop took the cross into his own hands and went forward to pronounce the sentence of excommunication. The armed men raised their weapons; the canons closed the door of the church against Charles, who with eyes fixed on the crucifix, recommended himself and these unworthy men to the Divine protection. Charles was indeed in danger of his life, for the canons' supporters opened fire, and the cross in his hand was damaged. His vicar-general then put up the public notice that the canons had incurred censures. This act was followed by blows and cries, removal of the notices, and the declaration that the archbishop was himself suspended from his office. Pius V was shocked at this incident, and only with very great difficulty allowed Charles to deal with these rebellious canons, when they repented.

In October, 1569, Charles was again in great danger. The Order of the Humiliati, of which he was protector, had by his persevering care been induced to accept certain reforms, in 1567. But some of its members strove to bring about a return to their former condition. As Charles would not consent to this, some of the order formed a conspiracy to take his life. On the 26th of October, whilst Charles was at evening prayer with his household, a member of the Humiliati, dressed as a layman, having entered with others of the public who were admitted to the chapel, took his stand four or five yards from the archbishop. The motet "Tempus est ut revertar ad eum qui me misit", by Orlando Lasso, was being sung; the words "Non turbetur cor vestrum, neque formidet" had just been sung, when the assassin fired his weapon, loaded with ball, and struck Charles, who was kneeling at the altar. Charles, thinking himself mortally wounded, commended himself to God. A panic arose, which allowed the assassin to escape, but Charles motioned to his household to finish the prayers. At their conclusion it was found that the ball had not even pierced his clothes, but some of the shot had penetrated to the skin, and where the ball had struck a slight swelling appeared, which remained through his life.

It was seen how far the unruly-minded had gone, and the serious turn affairs had taken. At once the governor took prompt steps to assure Charles of his sympathy and his wish to find the assassin. Charles would not allow this, and asked the governor to use his efforts to prevent the rights of the Church being infringed. In some measure this occurrence led the canons of La Scala to sue for pardon, and on the 5th of February, 1570, Charles publicly absolved them before the door of his cathedral. Notwithstanding his wish to forgive those who had attempted his life, and his efforts to prevent their prosecution, four of the conspirators (amongst them Farina, who actually fired) were sentenced to death. All being of the clergy, they were handed over to the civil power (29 July, 1570); two were beheaded; Farina and another were hanged.

Charles at this time made a second visit to Switzerland, first visiting the three valleys of his diocese, then over the mountains to see his half-sister Ortensia, Countess d'Altemps. Afterwards he visited all the Catholic cantons, everywhere using his influence to remove abuses both among the clergy and laity, and to restore religious observance in monasteries and convents. He visited Altorf, Unterwalden, Lucerne, Saint Gall, Schwyz, Einsiedeln, where he said that he nowhere except at Loreto, experienced a greater religious feeling (10 September, 1570). Heresy had spread in many of these parts, and Charles sent to them experienced missionaries to win back those who had embraced it.

At this time Pius V came to the conclusion that nothing less than the suppression of the Order of the Humiliati was adequate. He therefore issued a Bull (7 February, 1571) suppressing the order and providing for its property. This same year, owing to the short harvest, the whole province suffered from a terrible famine, during which Charles worked with unceasing toil to help the starving, relieving at his own expense as many as 3000 daily for three months. His example induced others to help, the governor, especially, giving large alms. In the summer of 1571 Charles was for somme time seriously ill, in the month of August; having partly recovered, he was making his visitation when he heard of the serious illness of the governor, the Duke of Albuquerque. Charles returned to Milan only in time to console the duchess. He made use of the prayers ordered by Pius V for the success of the Christians against the Turks, to urge on his flock the necessity of averting God's anger by penance. Great were the rejoicings at the victory of Lepanto (7 October, 1571). Charles was especially interested in this expedition by reason of the papal ships being commanded by Marco Antonio Colonna, whose son Fabricio was married to his sister, Anna Borromeo.

The archbishop remained in bad health, suffering from low fever and catarrh. It was feared that consumption would set in; in spite of his illness he prepared for the third diocesan synod, which was held in his absence in April, 1572. He soon afterwards heard of the death of Pius V (1 May, 1572), and, though feeble, he started for the conclave, which lasted one day and resulted in the election of Cardinal Ugo Buoncompagni, with the title of Gregory XIII, 13 May, 1572. As medical treatment had not restored Charles to health, he now abandoned it and returned to his ordinary rule of life, with the result that he was before long quite well. On his homeward journey he again visited Loreto, in November, and reached Milan on 12 November. He at this time resigned the offices of Grand Penitentiary, Archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore, and other high dignities. In April, 1573, he held his third provincial council.

The new governor of Milan was Don Luigi di Requesens, who had known Charles in Rome. However, as soon as he took office, being urged by the opponents of Charles, he published some letters falsely incriminating Charles in questions of the royal authority and containing much that was contrary to the rights of the Church. Charles protested against their publication; with great reluctance, and after much anxious deliberation, he publicly pronounced, in August, sentence of excommunication explicitly against the grand Chancellor and implicitly against the governor. As a consequence of this, libels were published in the city against Charles. The governor showed his displeasure by placing restrictions on the meetings of the confraternities, also depriving Charles of the Castle of Arona. Various rumours were in circulation of more wicked plans against Charles, but his tranquillity was maintained, and he carried on his work with his usual care, despite the fact that the governor had placed an armed guard to watch his palace. None of the governor's actions succeeding, the governor was led to ask for absolution, which he obtained by deception. When Gregory XIII learned of this, he compelled the governor to make satisfaction to Charles. This was done, and on 26 November Charles announced that the governor was absolved from all penalties and censures. In this year Charles founded a college for the nobility at Milan.

In August, 1574, Henry III of France was passing through the Diocese of Milan on his way from Poland to take the French throne. Charles met him at Monza. The fourth diocesan synod was in November, 1574. Gregory XIII proclaimed a jubilee for 1575, and on the 8th of December, 1574, Charles left for Rome. He visited many shrines and, having reached Rome, performed the required devotions and started for Milan, in February. He assisted at the death-bed of his brother-in-law, Cesare Gonzaga, and continued the visitation of his province. In 1576 the jubilee was kept in the Diocese of Milan. It began on the 2nd of February. Whilst the jubilee was being celebrated, news came of the outbreak of plague in Venice and Mantua. The fourth provincial council was held in May. In August, Don John of Austria, visited Milan. Religious exercises were being carried out, and his arrival was made the occasion of rejoicings and spectacular effects. All at once everything was changed, for the plague appeared in Milan. Charles was at Lodi, at the funeral of the bishop. He at once returned, and inspired confidence in all. He was convinced that the plague was sent as a chastisement for sin, abd sought all the more to give himself to prayer. At the same time he thought of the people. He prepared himself for death, made his will (9 September, 1576), and then gave himself up entirely to his people. Personal visits were paid by him to the plague-stricken houses. In the hospital of St. Gregory were the worst cases; to this he went, and his presence comforted the sufferers. Though he worked so arduously himself, it was only after many trials that the secular clergy of the town were induced to assist him, but his persuasive words at last won them so that they afterwards aided him in every way. It was at this time that, wishing to do penance for his people, he walked in procession, barefooted, with a rope round his neck, at one time bearing in his hand the relic of the Holy Nail.

At the beginning of 1577 the plague began to abate, and though there was a temporary increase in the number of cases, at last it ceased. The Milanese vowed to build a church dedicated to St. Sebastian, if he would deliver them. This promise was fulfilled. Charles wrote at this time the "Memoriale", a small work, addressed to his suffragans, which had for its object to recall the lessons given by the cessation of the plague. He also compiled books of devotion for persons of every state of life. By the beginning of 1578 the plague had quite disappeared from all parts. At the end of 1578 the fifth diocesan synod was held. It lasted three days. Charles endeavoured at this time to induce the canons of the cathedral to unite with himself in community life. In this year, on the 16th of August, he began the foundation of the congregation of secular priests under the patronage of Our Lady and St. Ambrose, giving it the title of the Oblates of St. Ambrose. Though he had been helped by various orders of religious, especially by the Jesuits and the Barnabites, one of whom (now Bl. Alexander Sauli) was for many years his constant adviser, yet he felt the need of a body of men who could act as his assistants and, living in community, would be more easily impressed by his spirit and wishes. He was the master mind of this new congregation, and he ever insisted on the need of complete union between himself and its members. It was his delight to be with them, and, looking to him as a father, they were ready to go where he wished, to undertake works of every kind. He placed them in seminaries, schools, and confraternities. The remaining synods were held in 1579 and succeeding years, the last (the eleventh) in 1584.

His first pilgrimage to Turin, to visit the Holy Shroud, was in 1578. About this time he first visited the holy mountain of Varallo to meditate on the mysteries of the Passion in the chapels there. In 1578-9 the Marquis of Ayamonte, the successor of Requesens as governor, opposed the jurisdiction of the archbishop, and in September of the latter year Charles went to Rome to obtain a decision on the question of jurisdiction. The dispute arose in consequence of the governor ordering the carnival to be celebrated with additional festivities on the first Sunday of Lent, against the archbishop's orders. The pope confirmed the decrees of the archbishop, and urged the Milanese to submit. The envoys sent by them were so ashamed that they would not themselves present the pope's reply. Gregory XIII had welcomed Charles and rejoiced at his presence. Charles did much work during his stay for his province, especially for Switzerland. In connexion with the rule which Charles drew up for the Oblates of St. Ambrose, it is to be noted that when in Rome he submitted it to St. Philip Neri, who advised Charles to exclude the vow of poverty. Charles defended its inclusion, so St. Philip said, "We will put it to the judgment of Brother Felix". This brother was a simple Capuchin lay brother at the Capuchins, close to the Piazza Barberini. St. Philip and St. Charles went to him, and he put his finger on the article dealing with the vow of poverty, and said, "This is what should be effaced". Felix was also a saint, and is known as St. Felix of Cantalicio. Charles returned to Milan by Florence, Bologna, and Venice, everywhere reviving the true ecclesiastical spirit. When he reached Milan the joy of his people was great, for it had been said he would not return. After the beginning of Lent (1580), Charles began his visitation at Brescia; soon after, in April, he was called back to Milan to assist at the death-bed of the governor, Ayamonte. In this year Charles visited the Valtelline valley in the Grisons. In July he was brought to know a youth who afterwards reached great sanctity. He was invited by the Marquis Gonzaga to stay with him, and refused, but while staying at the archpriest's house he met the eldest son of the marquis, Luigi Gonzaga, then twelve years old, now raised to the altars of the Church as St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J.. Charles gave him his first Communion. The next year (1581) Charles sent to the King of Spain a special envoy in the person of Father Charles Bascape of the Barnabites, charging him to endeavour to come to an understanding on the question of jurisdiction. The result was that a governor, the Duke of Terra Nova, was sent, who was instructed to act in concert with Charles. After this no further controversy arose.

In 1582 Charles started on his last journey to Rome, both in obedience to the decrees of the Council of Trent, and to have the decrees of the sixth provincial council confirmed. This was his last visit, and during it he resided at the monastery attached to his titular church of Santa Prassede, where still are shown pieces of furniture used by him. He left Rome in January, 1583, and travelled by Sienna and Mantua, where he had been commissioned by the pope to pronounce a judgment. A great portion of this year was taken up by visitations. In November 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 there 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. Charles spent considerable time in setting right this terrible state of things. It was his especial care to leave holy priests and good religious to guide the people. Next he visited Bellinzona and Ascona, working strenuously to extirpate heresy, and meeting with much opposition from the Bishop of Coire. The negotiations were continued into the next year, the last of Charles on earth. All his work bore fruit, and his efforts in these part ensured the preservation of the Faith. The heretics spread false reports that Charles was really working for Spain against the inhabitants of the Grisons. In spite of their falsehoods Charles continued to attack them and to defend Catholics, who had much to suffer.

At the end of 1584 he had an attack of erysipelas in one leg, which obliged to remain in bed. He however has a congress of the rural deans, sixty in number, with whom he fully discussed the needs of the diocese. He also made great exertions to suppress the licentiousness of the carnival. Knowing the needs of the invalids who left the great hospital he determined to found a convalescent hospital. He did not live to see it completed, but his immediate successor saw that the work was executed. During September and early October he was at Novara, Vercelli, and Turin. On the 8th of October he left Turin and thence travelled to Monte Varallo. He was going to prepare for death. His confessor, Father Adorno, was told to join him. On 15 October he began the exercises by making a general confession. On the 18th the Cardinal of Vercelli summoned him to Arona to discuss urgent and important business. The night before Charles spent eight hours in prayer on his knees. On the 20th he was back at Varallo; on the 24th an attack of fever came on; he concealed it at first, but suffering from sickness he was obliged to declare his state. For five days this state lasted, but still he said Mass and gave Communion daily, and carried on his correspondence. He seemed to know that death was at hand and determined to work as long as he had strength left. The foundation of the college at Ascona was not completed, and it was urgent that it should be finished in a short time, so Charles pressed on and started, in spite of his sufferings, on 29 October, having previously paid a farewell visit to the chapels. He was found prostrate in the chapel where the burial of Our Lord was represented. He rode to Arona, thence went by boat to Canobbio, where he stayed the night, said Mass on the 30th, and proceeded to Ascona. He visited the college, and afterwards set out at night for Canobbio, staying a short time at Locarno, where he intended to bless a cemetery, but, finding himself without his pontifical vestments, he abandoned the idea. When he reached Canobbio the fever was decreasing, and he was very weak. The next day he took the boat for Arona and stayed there with the Jesuits, at the novitiate he had founded, and on All Saints' Day he said Mass for the last time, giving Communion to the novices and many of the faithful. The next day he assisted at Mass and received Holy Communion. His cousin, Rene Borromeo, accompanied him on the boat, and that evening he reached Milan. It was not known there that he was ill. He at once was visited by doctors, whose orders he obeyed. He would not allow Mass to be said in his room. A picture of Our Lord in the tomb was before him, together with two others of Jesus at Gethsemani and the body of the dead Christ. The physicians regarded the danger as extreme, and though there was a slight improvement, it was not maintained, and the fever returned with great severity. The archpriest of the cathedral gave him the Viaticum, which he received vested in rochet and stole. The administration of extreme unction was suggested. "At once", Charles replied. It was at once given, and afterwards he showed but little sign of life. The governor, the Duke of Terra Nova, arrived after great difficulty in getting through the crowds which surrounded and had entered the palace. The prayers for a passing soul were said, the Passion was read, with Father Bascapè and Father Adorno at the bedside, the words "Ecce venio" (Behold I come) being the last words he was heard to utter (3 November, 1584). On the 7th of November his requiem was sung by Cardinal Nicolò Sfondrato, Bishop of Cremona, afterwards Gregory XIV. He was buried at night in the spot which he had chosen.

Devotion to him as a saint was at once shown and gradually grew, and the Milanese kept his anniversary as though he were canonized. This veneration, at first private, became universal, and after 1601 Cardinal Baronius wrote that it was no longer necessary to keep his anniversary by a requiem Mass, and that the solemn Mass of the day should be sung. Then materials were collected for his canonization, and processes were begun at Milan, Pavia, Bologna, and other places. In 1604 the cause was sent to the Congregation of Rites. Finally, 1 November, 1610, Paul V solemnly canonized Charles Borromeo, and fixed his feast for the 4th day of November.

The position which Charles held in Europe was indeed a very remarkable one. The mass of correspondence both to and by him testifies to the way in which his opinion was sought. The popes under whom he lived — as has been shown above — sought his advice. The sovereigns of Europe, Henry III of France, Philip II, Mary Queen of Scots, and others showed how they valued his influence. His brother cardinals have written in praise of his virtues. Cardinal Valerio of Verona said of him that he was to the well-born a pattern of virtue, to his brother cardinals an example of true nobility. Cardinal Baronius styled him "a second Ambrose, whose early death, lamented by all good men, inflicted great loss on the Church".

It is a matter of interest to know that Catholics in England late in the sixteenth or at the beginning of the seventeenth century had circulated some life of St. Charles in England. Doubtless some knowledge of him had been brought to England by Blessed Edmund Campion, S.J., who visited him at Milan in 1580, on his way to England, stopped with him some eight days, and conversed with him every day after dinner. Charles had much to do with England in the days of his assistance to Pius IV, and he had a great veneration for the portrait of Bishop Fisher. Charles also had much to do with Francis Borgia, General of the Jesuits, and with Andrew of Avellino of the Theatines, who gave great help to his work in Milan.

Keogh, William. "St. Charles Borromeo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 4 Nov. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03619a.htm>.

SOURCE : http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03619a.htm



Giovanni Battista Crespi,Statue colossale de saint Charles Borromée, érigée en 1697
 à Arona (Italie), sa ville natale. 23 mètres sur un piédestal de 12 mètres.


Charles Borromeo B Cardinal (RM)

Born Arona, Italy, October 2, 1538; died night of November 3-4, 1584; canonized in 1610; feast day formerly on November 5.


More than saints working great miracles, it is harder to believe that a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth during an age of decadence that defined nepotism should become a saint. Nevertheless, Charles Borromeo was a man of great humility though he had received many worldly benefits very early in life. The patrician with fairy godmothers galore had the spirit of a hardened ascetic. He gives us hope that we, who also live in a corrupt age, can successfully run the race like Saint Paul and reach for the crown of glory God has waiting for each of us.

Charles (Carlo), the second son of Count Gilbert Borromeo, a talented and pious man, and Margaret de Medici, was born in the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore. As a boy he was sent to Milan, for his father was determined the his son should receive the education fitting his station in life even though everyone believed that Charles was retarded because he had a speech impediment.

Charles showed signs of a vocation early. He received the tonsure of minor orders at age 12 and was allowed to wear the cassock. He had an unusual gravity of manner and loved to study. One of his masters said of him: "You do not know the young man; one day he will be a reformer of the Church and do wonderful things." This prediction was fulfilled to the letter.

His uncle, Julius Caesar Borromeo, had the young cleric assigned the rich Benedictine Abbey of Saints Gratian and Felinus, at Arona, which had long been enjoyed by his family in commendam. Here he studied for three years. The abbey provided him with some income and his father made him subsist on this limited allowance. Charles, it appears, was always short of money to pay his household expenses for he set a fine table and liked to entertain.

After studying Latin at Milan, at the age of 15, Charles was sent to the University of Pavia to study civil and canon law under Francis Alciati, who was later made a cardinal. By age 22 Charles had earned his doctorate and both his parents were dead.

In 1559 his mother's younger brother, the Cardinal de Medici, was elected pope and took the name Pius IV. In 1560, Pius IV called his nephew Charles to Rome, where the hat of cardinal-deacon awaited him. In his enthusiasm His Holiness appointed Charles in 1561 to administer the vacant see of Milan, but refused to allow him to go there. In his avuncular zeal his also appointed his beloved nephew as the papal legate of Bologna, Romagna, March of Ancona, and Protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and the Orders of Saint Francis, the Carmelites, Knights of Malta, and others.

Only two years after his arrival in Rome at the age of 22 and still in minor orders, Charles had among his other responsibilities, duties similar to those of the present-day Secretary of State of the Vatican. The pope clearly found it easy to make appointments and had a strong sense of family. Anyone else in this position would have felt that he was one of Saint Peter's seven gold keys. But Borromeo was made of stronger stuff. Perhaps he bowed his head under the weight of so many honors, but he certainly didn't bend his knee. More importantly, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

Nevertheless, he led a balanced life. Charles still managed to find the time to play music and engage in sports; to attend to family responsibilities, such as finding husbands for his four sisters.

To the consternation of many, Charles soon was attacking the Roman court. It his eyes it was worthless, with its display of luxury, its low morals, and its stink of treacherous scheming. Loudly he declared his contempt for the practices that defiled it, condemning lechery, praising charity and humility, denouncing abuses and extolling the virtues of a good example. His daring action earned the hostility of many clerics and the reputation as a kill-joy.

As a patron of learning, Charles promoted it among the clergy and laity by instituting a literary academy at the Vatican. The record of its many conferences and studies can be found in Borromeo's Noctes Vaticanae.

In 1562, Pope Pius IV reconvened the Council of Trent, which had opened in 1545 but had been suspended between 1552 and 1562. Charles is credited with keeping the council going for the next two years and hastening it to the completion of its work by reconciling opponents.

During the council Charles's older brother, Count Frederick Borromeo, died, leaving Charles as head of the family. Everyone assumed he would resign his clerical state and marry. But Charles opted to name his uncle Julius as successor, and instead was ordained a priest in 1563 and consecrated archbishop of Milan the following year.

Charles was anxious to travel to Milan and begin implementing the reforms of Trent in his see, but was forced by the growing frailty of his uncle to remain in Rome. He supervised writing of the new catechism, missal, and breviary, and the reform of the liturgy and church music called for by the council. He even commissioned Palestrina's Mass Papae Marcelli.

At last he received permission to travel to Milan and convene a provincial synod (the first of six during his administration) because his see was in great disorder. But in 1565 he was called to the pope's deathbed, where Saint Philip Neri was also present. The new pope Saint Pius V asked him to continue his duties in Rome for a time, but Charles resisted because he wanted to attend to his diocese.

Finally taking over his see in 1566, the 28-year-old Charles modified the luxurious life style he had in Rome, and set himself to apply the principles of the Council of Trent in the reformation of a large, disordered diocese that had been without a resident archbishop for 80 years. At this time the archdiocese of Milan stretched from Venice to Geneva. It comprised 3,000 clergy and 600,000 lay men and women in over 2,000 churches, 100 communities of men, and 70 of women--about the size of the Roman Church in England today.

Born an aristocrat, Charles Borromeo decided he ought to identify himself with the poor of his diocese. He regulated his household and sold household plate and other treasures to raise 30,000 crowns. The whole sum was used to relief the distress of the poor. His almoner was ordered to give poor families 200 crowns monthly. He confessed himself each morning before celebrating Mass (generally to Griffith (Gruffydd) Roberts, author of the well-known Welsh grammar). Borromeo set his clergy an example of virtuous and selfless living, of caring for the needy and sick, of making Christ a reality to society.

Charles is described as having a robust and dignified carriage. His nose was large and aquiline, his color pale, his hair brown, and his eyes blue. He sported a short, unkempt reddish-brown beard until 1574 when he ordered his clergy to shave and, as in everything, set the example himself.

He travelled the length and breadth of his huge diocese. Eventually, Charles overcame his early speech impediment, but his was never able to preach with ease. Nevertheless, he always spoke convincingly, and constantly preached and catechized on his visitations.

To help remedy the people's religious ignorance he established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and instituted 'Sunday schools'; seminaries were opened for the training of clergy (he was a great benefactor of the English College at Douai that Cardinal Allen called him its founder); the dignity of public worship was insisted upon. It is said he had 3,000 catechists and 40,000 pupils enrolled in the CCD programs of Milan. He arranged retreats for the clergy and encouraged the Jesuits in their educational work. His influence was felt even outside his own diocese and time.

Charles Borromeo was an outstanding figure among Catholic reformers after the Council of Trent, and has been called a second Saint Ambrose. His rigorism in some directions and his imperiousness have not escaped criticism, but such work of his as the religious education of children has been very widely appreciated.

Charles's uncompromising reforms were not carried out without opposition, not least from highly-placed laity whose disorderly lives he curbed with stringent measures. Efforts were made to get him removed from office. In 1567, he aroused the enmity of the Milan Senate over episcopal jurisdiction when he imprisoned several laypersons for their evil lives; when the episcopal sheriff was driven from the city by civil officials, he excommunicated them and was eventually upheld by King Philip II and the pope.

Again his episcopal rights were challenged. Backed by governor Arburquerque, the canons of Santa Maria della Scala in Milan one day refused to allow Borromeo to enter their church. You might imagine the scene: the clergy all gathered together like commandos opposing a rampart of pot-bellied prebendaries against their sworn enemy, fulminating and raising their hands against this godly man. Borromeo pardoned the offense but the pope and king upheld his rights again.

On October 26, 1569, Archbishop Charles Borromeo of Milan, was at evening prayer. He had been attempting to bring order to a corrupt religious group known as the Humiliati, which had no more than 70 members but which possessed the wealth of 90 monasteries. One of the Humiliati, a priest named Jerome Donati Farina, was hired by three friars with the proceeds from selling church decorations to assassinate Borromeo.

He shot at the archbishop as he knelt before the altar during evening prayer. Farina escaped. Charles, thinking himself mortally wounded, commended himself to God. The bullet, however, only struck his clothes in the back, bruising him. He calmly ordered the service to continue. Not long afterwards he obtained a papal bull which dissolved the congregation permanently. After thanksgiving, Charles retired for a few days to a Carthusian monastery to consecrate his life anew to God. When it turned out that the wound was not mortal, Charles Borromeo rededicated himself to the reform of the Church.

He then travelled to the next three valleys of the diocese in the Alps, visiting each of the Catholic cantons, removing ignorant and unworthy clergy, and converting a number of Zwinglians. It is said the Charles possessed the extraordinary gift of being able to instantaneously recognize the gifts and capabilities of those around him. He wished to have an efficient body of priests as auxiliaries to help him in his many works, so gathered together men of exemplary lives known for the sanctity and learning. Anyone showing ambition for place or office would not be tolerated by him.

During the famine of 1570 he managed to find food for 3,000 people a day for three months.

Lombardy was under the civil authority of Philip II of Spain at this time. Tired of the jurisdictional struggles and the political games being played, in 1573 Charles excommunicated the governor Luis de Requesens, who was then removed by Philip. The last two governors learned from this not to mess with the cardinal- archbishop.

In 1575 he went to Rome to gain a jubilee indulgence, and the following year it was published in Milan. Huge crowds of penitents came to Milan. Unfortunately, they brought the plague with them. The governor and other officials fled the city; Charles Borromeo refused, remaining to care for the stricken.

He assembled the superiors of the religious communities and begged them for their help. Many religious lodged in his house. The hospital of Saint Gregory was inadequate and overflowed with the sick and dead, with too few to care for them. He sent for help from priests and lay helpers in the Alpine valleys, because the Milanese clergy would not go near the sick.

As plague choked off commerce, want began. Daily food had to be found for 60,000 to 70,000 people. Borromeo first sold off his large estate at Oria, Naples, to raise money to relieve suffering. Having exhausted his own resources and he began piling up debt to get supplies. Clothes were made from the flags that had been hung from his house to the cathedral during processions. Empty houses were used, and shelters were built for the sick. Altars were set up in the streets so that the sick could attend public worship from their windows. He himself ministered to the sick, in addition to supervising care in the city. The plague lasted from 1576-78.

Even during this period, resentful magistrates tried to make trouble between Charles and the pope. When the plague was over, Charles wanted to establish anew his cathedral chapter on the basis of a common life, but the canons refused. This led him to originate his Oblates of Ambrose (who was also bishop of Milan) (now the Oblates of Saint Charles).

In addition to his connection to the English College at Douai and his Welsh confessor Fr. Roberts, Borromeo appointed another Welshman , Dr. Owen Lewis (later bishop of Calabria), to be his vicar general, and he always had with him a little picture of Saint John Fisher. In 1580, he met, aided, and entertained for a week twelve young priests going on a mission to England. Two preached before him--Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion, English martyrs.

A little later the same year, Charles met the 12-year-old Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom he gave his first Communion.

Charles was a martyr in his own way. He travelled under much strain and without enough sleep. In 1584, his health declined. After arranging for the establishment of a convalescents' home in Milan, he went to Monte Varallo to make his annual retreat, accompanied by the Jesuit Father Adorno. He told several people that he was not long for this world, took ill on October 24, and arrived back in Milan on All Souls' Day (November 2), having celebrated Mass for the last time the day before in his hometowm of Arona.

He went to bed, requested the last rites, received them, and died quietly during the early hours of November 4 in the arms of his Welsh confessor, Fr. Roberts, in 1584, aged only 46, with the words, "Behold, I come. Your will be done."

He was buried in Milan Cathedral. A spontaneous cultus arose immediately. Soon after his death the people agreed to build a monument to him--a 28-meter statue set upon a 14-meter pedestal. The statue was called "Carlone" or "Big Charles."

Among Walter Savage Landor's poems is one addressed to Saint Charles, invoking his pity on Milan at the time of the troubles in 1848.

Another of Charles's confessors, Saint Alexander Sauli, a Barnabite clerk regular, followed Charles's example and carried out similar necessary, but unwelcome, religious reforms in Corsica (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Guissiano, Murray, Orsenigo, Walsh, White, Yeo).

In art his emblem is a cardinal's hat and crozier. Normally he is shown as a cardinal praying before a crucifix, generally barefoot and often with a rope around his neck. Sometimes he is shown (1) kissing the hand of the Blessed Virgin and blessed by the Christ Child; (2) weeping over a book with untouched bread and water nearby; or (3) bringing the Blessed Sacrament to plague victims (Roeder, White).

He is the patron of Roman clergy, seminaries, spiritual directors, catechists, catechumens, and starch makers. Invoked against the plague (Roeder, White).


SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/1104.shtml



Agostino Bonisoli,. Saint Charles Borromée (à gauche) et saint Louis de Gonzague priant la Vierge Marie
1695, Musée de Mantoue

November 4


St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal, Archbishop of Milan, Confessor

        
His life was originally and accurately written by three eminent persons, who had all had the happiness of living some time with him; by two in Latin, Austin Valerio, afterwards cardinal and bishop of Veronâ, and Charles Bascapè, or a Basilicâ S. Petri, general of the Barnabites, afterwards bishop of Novara; and more in detail in Italian, by Peter Giussano, a priest of the Congregation of the Oblates at Milan. Many others have since compiled lives of this saint, principally Ripamont, (who, in his history of Milan, employs eight books chiefly about St. Charles.) Ciaconius speaks of him, (In vitis Pontif. et Cardin. t. 3, p. 891,) and the eloquent Godeau, bishop of Vence, who wrote the life of this saint at the request of the French clergy, to whom he dedicated that performance, which is less useful than that of Giussano, because the history of public transactions leaves too little room for a just detail of the saint’s private actions and virtues, in which his spirit chiefly shines. See also Vagliano, Sommario delle vite degli arcivescovi di Milano. (In Milano, an. 1715, c. 126, p. 340.) And his life by John Baptist, Possevini, priest of Mantua. Likewise Lettera di Agata Sfondrata, priora di S. Paolo in Milano alla priora de Angeliche di S. Marta di Cremona, per la morte di San Carlo. Inter sermones S. Caroli per Saxium, t. 5, p. 292. Lades S. Carolo tributæ, ib. p. 299. And Oltrocchi, Not. in Giuss. printed at Milan, 1751.

A.D. 1584.


ST. CHARLES BORROMEO, the model of pastors, and the reformer of ecclesiastical discipline in these degenerate ages, was son of Gilbert Borromeo, count of Arona, and his lady, Margaret of Medicis, sister to John James of Medicis, marquis of Marignan, and of Cardinal John Angelus of Medicis, afterwards Pope Pius IV. The family of Borromeo is one of the most ancient in Lombardy, and has been famous for several great men, both in the church and state. The saint’s parents were remarkable for their discretion and piety. Count Gilbert behaved in such a manner in the wars between the French and Spaniards in Lombardy, as to preserve the favour of both courts; and the Emperor Charles V., when he was left in quiet possession of the duchy of Milan, made him senator of the city, and colonel, and honoured him with other considerable posts. The count was so pious that he communicated every Sunday, said every day the office of the church on his knees, and often shut himself up for many hours together, in a little retired chapel which he made in the castle of Arona, where, covered with sackcloth, in the habit of a penitent, he spent a considerable part of his time alone at his devotions. By much praying his knees became hard and brawny. He was a tender father to all his tenants and vassals, took care of all orphans, and was so charitable that his friends often told him he injured his children. To whom he made answer: “If I have care of the poor, God will have care of my children.” It was a custom with him never to take any meal without first giving some alms. His abstemiousness and rigorous fasts were not less remarkable than his charities. The countess was, by her pious deportment, a living rule to all the ladies in Milan, and to cut off all dangerous visits, scarcely ever went out of doors but to some church or monastery. Their family consisted of six children, Count Frederick, who afterwards married the sister of the Duke of Urbino, and our saint, and four daughters: Isabel, who became a nun in the monastery called of the Virgins, in Milan; Camilla, married to Cæsar Gonzaga, prince of Malfetto; Jeronima, married to Fabricio Gesualdi, eldest son to the Prince of Venosa; and Anne, married to Fabricio, eldest sort of Mark-Antony Colonna, a Roman prince, and viceroy of Sicily. All these children were very virtuous: Anne, though engaged in the world, imitated all the religious exercises and austerities of her brother Charles, prayed many hours together with a recollection that astonished every one; and in order to increase the fund of her excessive charities, retrenched every superfluous expense in her table, clothes, and house-keeping. By her virtue and the saintly education of her children, she was the admiration of all Italy and Sicily, and died at Palermo in 1582.

  St. Charles was born on the 2nd of October, in 1538, in the castle of Arona, upon the borders of Lake-Major, 1 fourteen miles from Milan. The saint in his infancy gave proofs of his future sanctity, loved prayer, was from the beginning very diligent in his studies; and it was his usual amusement to build little chapels, adorn altars, and sing the divine office. By his happy inclination to piety and love of ecclesiastical functions, his parents judged him to be designed by God for the clerical state, and initiated him in it as soon as his age would allow him to receive the tonsure. This destination was the saint’s earnest choice; and though by the canons he was not yet capable of taking upon him an irrevocable obligation, both he and his father were far from the sacrilegious abuse of those who determine their children, or make choice of the inheritance of Christ, with a view merely to temporal interest, or the convenience of their family. Charles was careful, even in his childhood, that the gravity of his dress and his whole conduct should be such as became the sanctity of his profession. When he was twelve years old, his uncle, Julius Cæsar Borromeo, resigned to him the rich Benedictin abbey of SS. Gratinian and Felin, martyrs, in the territory of Arona, which had been long enjoyed by some clergymen of that family in commendam. St. Charles, as young as he was, put his father in mind, that the revenue, except what was expended on his necessary education at his studies, for the service of the church, was the patrimony of the poor, and could not be applied to any other uses, or blended with his other money. The father wept for joy at the pious solicitude of the child; and though during his son’s non-age the administration of the revenues was committed to him, he gave this up to the young saint that he might himself dispose of the overplus in alms; which he did with the most scrupulous fidelity in his accounts. St. Charles learned Latin and humanity at Milan, and was afterwards sent by his father to the university of Pavia, where he studied the civil and canon law under Francis Alciat, the eminent civilian, who was afterwards promoted, by St. Charles’s interest, to the dignity of cardinal, and who had then succeeded in the professorship to Andrew Alciat, whom De Thou commends for banishing barbarism of style out of the schools and writings of lawyers. In a judicious course of the canon law, the articles of our holy faith and the condemnation of heresies are expounded, and often a fuller resolution of practical cases, and of Christian duties, enforced, not only from the canons, but also from scriptures, tradition, and the law of nature or reason, than is found in courses of moral theology; and this study, which presupposes some acquaintance with the civil or imperial law, is of great importance for the care of souls, especially in the chief pastors. St. Charles, though on account of an impediment in his speech, and his love of silence, was by some esteemed slow, yet by the soundness of his judgment, and a diligent application, made good progress in it; and the prudence, piety, and strictness of his conduct rendered him a model of the youth in the university, and proof against evil company, and all other dangers which he watchfully shunned. Such was the corruption of that place that several snares were laid for his virtue; but prayer and retirement were his arms against all assaults, and the grace of God carried him through difficulties which seemed almost insurmountable. He communicated every eight days, after the example of his father; and shunned all connexions or visits which could interrupt his regular exercises, or hours of retirement: yet was he very obliging to all who desired to speak to him. His father’s death brought him to Milan in 1558; but when he had settled the affairs of his family with surprising prudence and address, he went back to Pavia, and after completing his studies took the degree of doctor in the laws towards the end of the year 1559.

  A little before this, his uncle, the cardinal of Medicis, resigned to him another abbey and priory; but the saint made no addition to his private expenses, so that the poor were the only gainers by this increase of his fortune. It was only with a view to the foundation of a college at Pavia that he accepted these benefices. When he had taken the degree of doctor he returned to Milan, where he soon after received news that his uncle, the cardinal of Medicis, by whom he was tenderly beloved, was chosen pope on the 25th of December, in 1559, in the conclave held after the death of Paul IV. The new pope being a patrician of Milan, that city made extraordinary rejoicings, and complimented his two nephews in the most pompous and solemn manner. St. Charles gave no signs of joy on the occasion; but only persuaded his brother Frederic to go with him to confession and communion; which they did. Count Frederic went to Rome to compliment his holiness; but St. Charles staid at Milan, living in the same manner he did before, till his uncle sent for him, and on the last day of the same year created him cardinal, and on the 8th of February following nominated him archbishop of Milan, when he was in the twenty-third year of his age. The pope, however, detained him at Rome, placed him at the head of the consult or council, with power to sign in his name all requests, and intrusted him with the entire administration of the ecclesiastical state. St. Charles endeavoured as much as possible to decline these posts, and absolutely refused the camerlingate, the second and most lucrative dignity in the Roman court; but after he was made priest, he accepted the office of grand penitentiary, wherein he was to labour for God and the people. He was also legate of Bologna, Romaniola, and the marquisate of Ancona, and protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and the Orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others. By the entire confidence which his uncle reposed in him, he may be said to have governed the church during his pontificate; and, as he received from him daily the most sensible tokens of the strongest and most sincere affection, so, full of the most tender sentiments of gratitude, he constantly made him the best return of duty, tenderness, and affection he was able; and studied by his fidelity and diligence in all affairs to be to him a firm support, and to ease and comfort him in all difficulties and perplexities. The sole end which he proposed to himself in all his actions and undertakings was the glory of God, and the good of his church: and nothing was more admirable in him than his perfect disinterestedness, and the little regard he had for the most pressing human considerations. For fear of ever deceiving himself, he had about him several persons of approved wisdom and virtue, without whose advice he took no resolution, and to whom he listened with great humility and prudence. In the government of the ecclesiastical state he was very careful that provisions should be every where plentiful and cheap, and that all judges and magistrates should be persons of consummate prudence and inflexible integrity. His patience in bearing contradictions, and hearing the complaints of persons of all ranks, was a proof of his sincere charity. It is incredible what a multiplicity of business he despatched without ever being in a hurry, merely by the dint of unwearied application, by his aversion to idle amusements, and being regular and methodical in all that he did. He always found time, in the first place, for his devotions and sacred studies, and for conversing with himself by reflection and pious reading. He read also some of the ancient Stoic philosophers, and reaped much benefit from the Enchyridion of Epictetus, as he frequently expressed. He was a great patron of learning, and promoted exceedingly all its useful branches among the clergy; and among other establishments for this end, having also in view to banish idleness out of the pope’s court, he instituted in the Vatican an academy of clergymen and seculars whose conferences and studies tended to enforce the practice of virtue, and to promote sacred learning. 2 This academy produced many bishops and cardinals, and one pope, who was Gregory XIII. By the conferences which St. Charles made in this public assembly, he, with much difficulty, overcame a natural bashfulness, and a great imperfection in his speech when he harangued, and he acquired a habit of delivering himself slowly and distinctly, by which he qualified himself to preach the word of God with dignity and fruit: the object of his most earnest desires. 3 To fashion and perfect his style he read diligently the philosophical works of Cicero, in which he took great delight. 4

  St. Charles judged it so far necessary to conform to the custom of the court as to have a magnificent palace well furnished, to keep a sumptuous equipage, and a table suitable to his rank, and to give entertainments. Yet he was in his heart most perfectly disengaged from all these things, most mortified in his senses, humble, meek, and patient in all his conduct. Honoured and caressed by the whole Christian world, having in his power the distribution of riches and honours, and enjoying himself whatever the world could bestow, he considered in all this nothing but dangers; and far from taking any delight herein, watched with trembling over his own heart lest any subtle poison of the love of the world should insinuate itself, and in all things sought only the establishment of the kingdom of God. Many are converted to God by adversity; but St. Charles, in the softest gale of prosperity, by taking a near view of the emptiness, and arming himself against the snares of the world, became every day more and more disentangled from it, and more an inhabitant of heaven. He sighed after the liberty of the saints, and trembled at the sight both of the dangers, and of the obligations of his situation; he also considered that obedience to the chief pastor fixed him for a time at a distance from the church of Milan, the charge of which he had taken upon himself. And though he had provided for its government and the remedying of its disorders in the best manner he was able, by excellent regulations, by a suffragan bishop named Jerom Ferragata, (whom he sent thither to make the visitation and to officiate in his place,) and by a vicar-general of great experience, learning, and piety, called Nicholas Ormanetto, (who had formerly been grand vicar of Verona, had afterwards attended Cardinal Pole in his legation in England, and been there his chief assistant, and after his return would take upon him no other charge but that of a single curacy in the diocess of Verona,) yet St. Charles considered the duty of personal service and residence, neither did the command of the pope, by which he was obliged to attend for some time the government of the universal church for a greater good and necessity, make him easy.

  It happened that Bartholomew de Martyribus, the most pious and learned Archbishop of Braga, came from Trent to Rome to wait upon his holiness. To him as to a faithful servant of God, enlightened by him, and best able to direct others in perplexing circumstances, the saint opened his heart, in the manner following: “For this long time I have begged of God, with all the earnestness I am able, to enlighten me with regard to the state in which I live. You see my condition. You know what it is to be a pope’s nephew, and a nephew most tenderly beloved by him: nor are you ignorant what it is to live in the court of Rome. The dangers which encompass me are infinite. I see a great number; and there are a great many more which I do not discern. What then ought I to do, young as I am, and without experience; and having no part or ingredient of virtue but through the divine grace, an earnest desire of obtaining it?” The holy cardinal proceeded to explain his difficulties and fears; then added: “God has inspired me with a vehement ardour for penance, and an earnest desire to prefer his fear and my salvation to all things: and I have some thoughts of breaking my bonds, and retiring into some monastery, there to live as if there were only God and myself in the world.” This he said with an amiable sincerity which charmed the director; who, after a short pause, cleared all his doubts, assuring him by solid reasons, that he ought not to quit his hold of the helm which God put into his hands for the necessary and most important service of the universal church, his uncle being very old; but that he ought to contrive means to attend his own church as soon as God should open him a way to it. St. Charles rising up embraced him, and said God had sent him thither for his sake, and that his words had removed a heavy weight from his heart; and he begged that God, who by his grace had shown him the station in which it was his will that he should labour in his service, would vouchsafe to support him in it by his divine grace. 5 The Chrysostoms, the Austins, and the Gregories trembled at the charge of one soul, a burden which would appear dreadful even to angels; he who does not tremble is undone by his presumption. This fear makes the pastor humble, solicitous, always watchful, and earnest in prayer. But this distrust of himself, is no longer humility, but abjection and pusillanimity, if it weaken the necessary confidence he ought to have in God, when called to undertake any thing for his glory. He chooses the weak and the things that are not, to confound and beat down the wise and the strong. I can do all things in him who strengthens me, said the apostle. In the same sentiments St. Charles spared not himself, but humbly having continual recourse to God, did wonders for the advancement of his honour.

  In November, 1562, the saint’s elder and only brother was carried off in the bloom of life and the most flourishing fortune, by a sudden fever. St. Charles, who had never forsaken him during his illness, bore his death, which overwhelmed all other friends with consternation and grief with surprising resignation; the sentiments of a lively faith being stronger in him than those of flesh and blood. In profound recollection he adored the decrees of Providence, and was penetrated more seriously than ever with a sense of eternity, and of the instability of human things. All his friends, and the pope himself, pressed him to resign his ecclesiastical dignities, and marry to support his family; but more effectually to rid himself of their solicitations, he made more haste to engage himself in orders, and was ordained priest before the end of that year. The pope soon after created him grand-penitentiary, and arch-priest of St. Mary Major. St. Charles founded at that time the noble college of the Borromeos at Pavia, for the education of the clergy of Milan, and obtained several bulls for the reformation of many abuses in ecclesiastical discipline. The council of Trent, 6 which had been often interrupted and resumed, was brought to a conclusion in 1563, the last session being held on the 5th of December, in which the decrees of all the former sessions under Paul III., Julius III., and Pius IV., were confirmed, and subscribed by two hundred and fifty-five fathers; viz. four legates of the holy see, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-eight bishops, thirty-nine deputies of absent prelates, seven abbots, and seven generals of religious Orders. Difficulties which seemed insurmountable had been thrown in the way, sometimes by the emperor, sometimes by the king of France, sometimes by the king of Spain, or others; and it was owing to the unwearied zeal and prudence, and doubtless to the prayers of St. Charles Borromeo, that they were all happily removed; who informing the prelates and princes of his uncle’s sickness, engaged them by his pressing solicitations to hasten the close of that venerable assembly. No sooner was it finished but St. Charles began strenuously to enforce the execution of all its decrees for the reformation of discipline. At his instigation, the pope pressed earnestly all bishops to found seminaries according to the decree of the council, and set the example by establishing such a seminary at Rome, the care of which was committed to the Jesuits. 7 In opposition to the new errors his holiness published, in 1564, the Creed which bears his name, and commanded all who are preferred to ecclesiastical livings, dignities, &c., to subscribe the same. 8 The council had recommended to the pope 9 the revisal of the Missal and Breviary; likewise the composition of a catechism. To compile this last work Charles detained at Rome for some time F. Francisco Foreiro, a very learned and pious Dominican, who had attended the council in quality of theologian from the king of Portugal. Foreiro was assisted in this work by Leonardus Marini, archbishop of Lanciano, and Giles Forscarari, bishop of Modena, all three Dominicans. The work was revised by Cardinal Sirlet. Paulus Manutius is said to have corrected the style. 10 This is the catechism called of Trent, or the Roman, or ad Parochos; which is recommended both by the erudition, exactness, and conciseness with which it is written, and by the neatness and elegance of the style, as an excellent judge and master of the Latin style observes. 11 He says the same of the acts of the church of Milan, or St. Charles’s councils. A barbarous and half Latin language disgraces and derogates from the dignity of the sublime oracles of religion, which by the dress they wear, appear quite different things, as Secretary Lucchesini elegantly shows. 12 The Roman catechism was published in 1566. 13

  St. Charles had always about him several very learned and virtuous persons: his spiritual director in Rome was F. Ribera, a learned Jesuit, and by his advice he regulated his retreats and devotions. He had the greatest confidence in F. Foreiro during the year that he detained him in Rome before he returned to Portugal; and the saint conversed much with other pious and religious men, and was assisted by some in reviewing a course of theological studies. He retrenched his retinue, discharging the greatest part of his domestics, after handsomely recompensing every one of them; he neither wore any silk, nor allowed any in his family to do it; he banished all superfluities from his house and table, fasted once a week on bread and water, and made every day two meditations of an hour. Full of tenderness for his flock, he wrote every week long and most zealous and affectionate letters to his grand-vicar, and sent some learned Jesuits thither to preach, whom he settled in the church of St. Vitus. Ormanetto began to build a seminary, published the council of Trent, held a diocesan synod, in which twelve hundred persons were assembled, and made the visitation of the churches and monasteries of the city, and part of the country. But finding it impossible to reform all abuses, he wrote to St. Charles begging leave to return to his curacy and representing to him that no other but himself could put things upon a proper footing. This advice pierced the good pastor to the quick, and he renewed his solicitations with his uncle with so much earnestness that he obtained leave to go to Milan, but only to hold a provincial council, and make his visitation.

  King Philip II. had settled upon St. Charles a yearly pension of nine thousand crowns, and confirmed to him the gift of the principality of Oria, which he had before bestowed on his elder brother, Frederic. The pope before his departure created him legate a latere through all Italy. The saint left Rome on the 1st of September, in 1565, stopped some days at Bologna where he was legate, and was received at Milan with the utmost joy and pomp that can be imagined, the people calling him in their acclamations a second St. Ambrose. After having prayed a long time prostrate before the blessed sacrament in the great church, he went to his palace, and received visits, but made this necessary ceremony of civility as short as possible. On Sunday he made a pathetic sermon, and soon after opened his first provincial council, at which assisted two foreign cardinals, and eleven suffragan bishops, among whom were Bernardin Scoti, cardinal of Trani, bishop of Placentia, Guy Ferrier, bishop of Vercelli, (to whom St. Charles gave the cardinal’s hat in this council, by his uncle’s deputation,) Jerom Vida, the famous bishop of Alba, 14 and Nicholas Sfondrat, bishop of Cremona, afterwards Pope Gregory XIV. Five suffragan bishops (of whom two were cardinals) sent deputies, being themselves hindered from making their appearance; the suffragan see of Ventimil was vacant. The dignity, majesty, and piety with which this council was celebrated by a young cardinal, only twenty-six years of age, and the excellence of its regulations for the reception and observance of the council of Trent, for the reformation of the clergy, the celebration of the divine office, the administration of the sacraments, the manner of giving catechism in all parish churches on Sundays and holydays, and many other points, surprised every one; and the pope wrote to St. Charles a letter of congratulation. 15 When the council was broken up, St. Charles set about the visitation of his diocess; but went through Verona to Trent, by the pope’s orders, to receive the two sisters of the Emperor Maximilian II., Barbara, married to Alphonsus of Esti, duke of Ferrara, and Jane, married to Francis of Medicis, duke of Florence. The former he attended to Ferrara, and the latter as far as Fiorenzola in Tuscany, where he received news by an express that the pope lay dangerously ill. He hastened to Rome, and being informed by the physicians that his uncle’s life was despaired of, he went into his chamber, and showing him a crucifix which he held in his hand, said to him: “Most holy father, all your desires and thoughts ought to be turned towards heaven. Behold Jesus Christ crucified, who is the only foundation of our hope; he is our mediator and advocate; the victim and sacrifice for our sins. He is goodness and patience itself; his mercy is moved by the tears of sinners, and he never refuses pardon and grace to those who ask it with a truly contrite and humbled heart.” He then conjured his holiness to grant him one favour, as the greatest he had ever received from him. The pope said, any thing in his power should be granted him. “The favour which I most earnestly beg,” said the saint, “is, that as you have but a very short time to live, you lay aside all worldly business and thoughts, and employ your strength and all your powers in thinking on your salvation, and in preparing yourself to the best of your power for your last passage.” His holiness received this tender advice with great comfort, and the cardinal gave strict orders that no one should speak to the pope upon any other subject. He continued by his uncle’s bed-side to his last breath, never ceasing to dispose him for death by all the pious practices and sentiments which his charity could suggest; and administering himself the viaticum and extreme unction. Pope Pius IV. was also assisted in his last moments by St. Philip Neri, and died on the 10th of December, in 1565, being sixty-six years and nine months old, and having sat six years wanting sixteen days. His last words as he expired were: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” In the conclave, in which St. Charles had much the greatest sway, our saint’s conduct was such as convinced his colleagues that he had nothing but the glory of God and the good of the church at heart, and that the most subtle passions which so often blind men in their views, and insinuate themselves into their actions, had no place in his heart. At first he had thoughts of preferring Cardinal Morone, whose moderation, zeal, and experience had recommended him at Trent, or the most pious Cardinal Sirlet; but finding obstacles raised, he concurred strenuously to the promotion of St. Pius V., though he was a creature of the Caraffas, and consequently esteemed no friend to his uncle and his family. The saint in his letter to Cardinal Henry of Portugal, giving an account of this election, says, that entering into the conclave, he had looked upon it as his principal duty and care to watch over himself with great circumspection, and examined narrowly his heart for fear of being seduced by any personal affection or interest which might have any secret influence, and infect the purity of his views and intention. St. Pius V., who was chosen on the 7th of January, in 1566, did all in his power to engage St. Charles to stay at Rome, and accept of the same employments which he had enjoyed under his predecessor. But the holy archbishop feared that even to resign his church without having remedied the disorders which had taken root in it, would have been to abandon it; and pressed his return to his people with such zeal that the pope, after having taken his advice for several days, dismissed him with his blessing.

  St. Charles arrived at Milan in April, 1566, and went vigorously to work for the reformation of his diocess. He began by the regulation of his own family, considering that the task would be easier when all he could prescribe to others was already practised at home. He laboured, in the first place, for the most perfect sanctification of his own soul, the episcopal character being a state of the greatest perfection and sanctity, and was most severe towards himself. The austerities which he practised amidst the incredible fatigues of his apostolic life seem almost excessive. His fasts were at first moderate, that he might inure his body by degrees to greater severities; but for a long time he continued every week to increase them out of an earnest desire of practising every means of advancing in the path of Christian perfection. Yet his austerities were discreet, and even at the end of his life his strength seemed never to fail him for his functions; it seemed to redouble through his zeal when extraordinary fatigues presented themselves, so that he never sunk under any burden. To exclude the imperfection of secretly seeking his own will in his austerities, (which he said was to corrupt our penance,) he treated his body with an entire indifference, and ate either wheat, or black bread, or chestnuts; and drank either clear, dirty, or snow water, such as he met with where he came. For several years before his death he fasted every day on bread and water, Sundays and holydays only excepted, on which he took with his bread some pulse, herbs, or apples; but never touched any flesh, fish, eggs, or wine; nor would he allow the water he drank to have been warmed. In Lent he abstained even from bread, and lived on dried figs and boiled beans; in Holy Week his food was only a small bitter sort of peas which he ate raw. The whole year he never ate oftener than once a day. From a violent cold and long sickness which he had contracted whilst he was a student at Pavia, in the twentieth year of his age, he was for many years troubled with phlegm, which caused frequent disorders in his health; and which no remedies could cure, till, by this excessive abstemiousness, it was perfectly removed. Whence it became a proverb to call a long and rigorous abstinence, “The remedy of Cardinal Borromeo.” 16 The archbishop of Valentia, in Spain, and F. Lewis of Granada, for whom the saint had the highest esteem, both wrote to him in the strongest manner, insisting that such excessive rigours were incompatible with the labours of the episcopal charge. St. Charles answered the former, that he found the contrary by experience; and that, as to the fatigues of the ministry, a bishop must look upon it as the greatest happiness that could befal him if he lost his life in serving his church, for which Christ died: therefore he ought not too nicely to spare himself in the discharge of his functions. To F. Granada the saint answered, that the Chrysostoms, the Spiridions, the Basils, and many other bishops of very extensive sees, lived in the practice of perpetual watchings and fasts, yet many of them arrived at a very advanced age. Pope Gregory XIII. commanded him by a brief to moderate his austerities. The saint received this order after he had passed the Lent to the last week without any other food than dried figs; and, in compliance, mitigated some little of his intended rigours in Holy Week. He wrote to his holiness, declaring his readiness to obey, but assuring him that he found by experience that a spare diet was conducive to his health. Whereupon the pope left him to his discretion; and the same rigid life he continued to his death. St. Charles constantly wore a rough hair shirt; took very little rest; and before great festivals passed the whole night in watching. When others advised him to allow more to the necessity of nature, he used to say, his uncle, John James of Medicis, a famous captain, and many other generals only slept a short time in a chair in the night: “and ought not a bishop who is engaged in a warfare against hell,” said he, “to do as much?” The saint only slept sitting in a chair, or lying down upon a rough bed in his clothes, till, at the earnest request of the bishops of his province, he consented to alter this custom. From which time he lay on a bed of straw, having for his pillow a sack filled with straw, without any other covering than a poor counterpane stuffed with straw, and two coarse sheets laid on a straw bed.

  His patience in bearing cold and all other hardships he carried to a like excess. When one would have had a bed aired for him, he said with a smile: “The best way not to find the bed cold is to go colder to bed than the bed is.” The bishop of Asti, in his funeral oration, said of him: “Out of his revenues he expended nothing for his own use except what was necessary for buying a little bread and water for his diet, and straw for his bed. When I attended him in making a visitation in the valley Mesolcina, a very cold country, I found him studying in the night in a single black tattered old gown. I entreated him, if he would not perish with cold, to put on some better garment. He answered me smiling: ‘What will you say if I have no other? The robes which I am obliged to wear in the day belong to the dignity of cardinal: but this garment is my own and I will have no other either for winter or summer.’” Out of the most scrupulous love of purity he would never suffer any servant to see his arm, or foot, or any other part of his body that was usually covered, bare; neither would he speak to any woman, not even to his pious aunt, or sisters, or any nun, but in sight at least of two persons, and in as few words as possible. Seeing one of his chaplains drink once out of meals, he severely chid him, saying: “It is better to suffer thirst than to gratify sensuality.” His austerities are not mentioned as imitable; yet ought to excite all to the constant practice of some mortification, in order to keep the senses in due subjection, and to make our lives a constant martyrdom of penance. But the essential mortification is that of the will and the passions, to which this exterior is a great help. How eminently St. Charles excelled herein appears by his humility, meekness, and entire disengagement from all earthly things. So deeply was he grounded in the knowledge and contempt of himself, that the highest honours which he enjoyed under his uncle made no impression upon his mind; he regarded them as burdens, and declined all except those which he was obliged to accept for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. In his undertakings he never suffered any thing to be ascribed to himself but faults. At Milan he removed out of his palace the fine sculptures, paintings, and hangings, and especially the arms of his family, which some had put up before his arrival: nor would he suffer his name, or the arms of his family, but only those of his bishopric, to be set up upon any edifices which he raised. Under his robes he wore a very poor garment which he called his own, and which was so mean, and usually so old and ragged, that once a beggar refused to accept of it. His servants he chiefly employed in other affairs, but did everything for himself that he could, and it was his delight even to serve others: though he did this in such a manner as never to do anything unbecoming his dignity, being sensible what he owed to his rank. The least shadow of praise or flattery was most hateful to him. All supernatural favours and interior graces and consolations which he received in prayer, he was most careful to conceal; and he had a little cell in the garrets of his palace at a distance from the chambers of others, to which he often retired. He never spoke of his own actions unless to ask advice or to condemn himself. It was an extreme pleasure to him to converse with, and to catechise the poor, which he did among the poor inhabitants of the wildest mountains. The bishop of Ferrara coming to meet him when he was occupied in the visitation of a poor valley, found him sick of an ague, lying on a coarse bed in a very poor cottage. At the sight, he was so struck, as to be scarcely able to speak. St. Charles perceiving his confusion, told him he was treated very well, and much better than he deserved. The accent with which he spoke this astonished the bishop much more than what he saw. If he was put in mind of any fault, he expressed the most sincere gratitude; and he gave a commission to two prudent and pious priests of his household to put him in mind of everything they saw amiss in his actions, and he often begged that favour of strangers. The sweetness and gravity with which he reproved or exhorted others was the fruit of his sincere humility and charity. From his childhood mildness seemed to form his character, and even in his youth he seemed never to feel any emotion of anger against schoolfellows or others. This virtue was daily more and more perfected in him as he advanced in the victory over himself. The most atrocious injuries, even accusations sent to the king of Spain against him, and the blackest actions of ingratitude never discomposed his mind: and defamatory libels published against him he burnt without reading them, or inquiring after the authors. A certain priest who took delight in finding fault with his actions he kept constantly in his family, treated him with the greatest regard, and in his will left him a pension for life upon his estate. The saint’s tongue was always the interpreter of his heart: his candour and sincerity appeared in all his words and transactions, and his promises were inviolable. The confidence which every one on this account reposed in him showed the incomparable advantage which a character of strict sincerity and veracity gives over lying and hypocrisy, which the saint could never bear in any one. He refused dispensations and grants which seemed unjust, with invincible firmness, but with so much sweetness as to make the parties themselves enter into his reasons. Thus when a lady, of great quality desired leave to go into a monastery to see her daughter who lay dying, the saint represented to her, that such a visit would be a very short satisfaction: but that the edification of her example, in preferring the rule of inclosure, would be of great advantage to the church: in which the lady voluntarily acquiesced.

  10
  The management of his temporalities he left entirely to stewards of approved probity and experience, whose accounts he took once a-year. To inspire his clergy with the love of holy poverty he severely reproved even bishops who discovered a spirit of interestedness; and he used to repeat to them the prayer of St. Austin, who often begged of God that he would take from his heart the love of riches, which strangely withdraws a man from the love of God, and alienates his affections from spiritual exercises: certainly nothing can be baser in a minister of the altar, or more unworthy, and more contrary to his character than that foul passion. When others told him he ought to have a garden at Milan to take the air in, his answer was, that the holy scriptures ought to be the garden of a bishop. If any spoke to him of fine palaces or gardens, he said, We ought to build and to think of eternal houses in heaven. When he came to reside at Milan, though his revenues when he left Rome amounted to above one hundred thousand crowns a-year, including his legations or governments, he reduced them to twenty thousand crowns, for he reserved nothing besides the income of his archbishopric, the pension which the king of Spain had granted him, and a pension upon his own estate. His other benefices he resigned, or converted into colleges and seminaries for the education of youth. He made over the marquisate of Romagonora to Frederic Ferrier his kinsman, and his other estates in the Milanese to his uncles the counts of Borromeo, those estates being feoffments or perpetual entails in the family, though his for life. The principality of Oria in the kingdom of Naples, which yielded him ten thousand ducats a-year for his life, he sold for forty thousand crowns: which sum was brought to his palace, according to the terms of the sale. But he could not bear the thought of a treasure lodged in a bishop’s house, and ordered his almoner to distribute the whole without delay among the poor and the hospitals. When the list which the almoner showed him for the distribution, amounted by mistake to forty-two thousand crowns, the saint said the mistake was too much to the advantage of the poor to be corrected, and the forty-two thousand crowns were accordingly distributed in one day. When the officers of king Philip II. seized the castle of Arona for the crown, in which a garrison was always kept, and which was the most honorable title of the family of Borromeo, and of the whole country, the saint could not be prevailed upon to send any remonstrances to the court, or to make interest to recover it. Upon the death of his brother Frederic, he caused the rich furniture, jewels, paintings, and other precious effects to be sold at Rome, Milan, and Venice, and the price which amounted to thirty thousand crowns, he gave to the poor. When he came first to reside at Milan, he sold plate and other effects to the value of thirty thousand crowns, and applied the whole sum for the relief of distressed families in that diocess. Count Frederic’s widow, Virginia of Rouera, left him by will a legacy of twenty thousand crowns; which he made over to the poor without touching a farthing of it. His chief almoner, who was a pious priest named Julius Petrucci, was ordered to give among the poor of Milan, of whom he kept an exact list, two hundred crowns a month, besides whatever extraordinary sums he should call upon the stewards for, which were very frequent, and so great that they were obliged to contract considerable debts to satisfy them, of which they often complained to St. Charles, but could not prevail with him to moderate his alms. The saint would never suffer any beggar to be dismissed without some alms, wherever he was.

  11
  Hospitality the saint looked upon as a bishop’s indispensable duty, and he was most obliging and liberal in entertaining princes, prelates, and strangers of all ranks, but often at the table at which his upper family ate all together, and without dainties or luxury; and he endeavoured as much as possible to conceal his own abstemiousness; of which he would not suffer the least sign to be given or notice taken, every one being free to eat as he pleased at his table. His liberality appears in many monuments which yet remain at Rome, Milan, and in many parts of that diocess. The church of St. Praxedes at Rome, which gave him the title of cardinal, was magnificently repaired and almost rebuilt by him. He adorned the church of St. Mary Major, of which he was arch-priest. At Bologna, whilst he was legate there, he built the public schools in a stately and finished manner, with a beautiful fountain in the middle of the city. At Milan he did many things to adorn the metropolitical church, and built houses for all the canons of an admirable architecture, with a subterraneous passage for them to go to the church without being seen by any one; also a dwelling place for the rest of the clergy of that church: and the archiepiscopal palace, chapel, prisons, and stables; the great seminary at Milan, and two other seminaries there: three more in other parts of the diocess: the convent of capuchins, (whom he established at Milan,) with apartments for his clergy to make retreats there, near one of his seminaries. He settled at Milan the Theatins: also the Jesuits, whose college of Brera he founded at Milan, and to whom he made over for the foundation of their novitiate, his abbey of St. Gratinian at Arona. It would be tedious to enumerate the pious settlements he made for his oblats, and the churches, hospitals, and other public buildings which he repaired or adorned. The revenues of his archbishopric he divided into three parts, one of which was appropriated to his household, another to the poor, and the third to the reparation of churches: and the account of these revenues, to the last farthing, he laid before his provincial councils, saying he was no more than the administrator and steward. Though he tenderly loved his relations, he visited them only twice or thrice a-year; and if they sent him any recommendations he was more scrupulous and severe in examining the affairs or parties than in any others, fearing the danger of any bias upon his mind. He employed no clergyman of his kindred in the government of his diocess, and resigned none of the benefices which had been conferred on him in his youth to any of them. He indeed educated his cousin-german Frederic Borromeo in the college he had founded in Pavia, and he became one of the greatest ornaments of the church. 17

  The saint expressed always a particular joy when he found any opportunity of serving his enemies, or of returning good for evil. This watchfulness over his heart against all inordinate affections made him also watchful in his words, in which he was very sparing, and careful never to say anything superfluous. Fearing to mispend, or rob from the great obligations of his charge, one moment of his time, he laid it all out in serious employments: at table, or whilst his hair was cutting, he listened to some pious book that was read to him, or he dictated letters or instructions. When he fasted on bread and water, and dined in private, he ate and read at the same time, and on his knees when the book was the holy scripture; and, at the same time, his cheeks were often watered abundantly with his tears. After dinner he gave audience to his country vicars 18 and curates, instead of conversing. In his journeys he always either prayed or studied on the road, and in the regular distribution of his time allowed himself none for recreation, finding in the different employments of his charge both corporal exercise and relaxation of the mind sufficient for maintaining the vigour of the mind and health of body. He said, that “A bishop ought never to take a walk either alone or with others.” Certain persons telling him, that a very experienced and pious director said, a person ought generally to allow himself seven hours for rest every night, he said bishops must be excepted from that rule. When some persons told him, he ought to read some newspapers in order to be acquainted with certain public transactions, for his own conduct on certain occasions, and might spare now and then three or four minutes for this, he made answer, that a bishop ought totally to employ his mind and heart in meditating on the law of God: which he cannot do who fills his soul with the vain curiosities of the world: and he attends more easily to God who hears least of them. To make recreations an employ, or to give to them any considerable time, or to indulge an eagerness or passion after hearing news is a vicious and vain curiosity, sloth and dissipation of mind, most pernicious to the spirit of devotion, and particularly contrary to the gravity and sanctity of a clerical state. Motives of charity to ourselves or others may sanctify some small degree of such amusements or actions which St. Charles’s great dignity and authority allowed him the happy liberty of entirely retrenching, and practising in the world a virtue no less severe than that of the most austere penitential religious Order.

  13
  It was a rule, which he inviolably observed, to go every morning to confession, before he said mass, and to make a spiritual retreat twice every year, in each of which he made a general confession for the time since his last spiritual exercises. After employing many hours on his knees in astonishing sentiments of compunction, he accused himself of the least failings and omissions with abundance of tears. His confessors at Milan were F. Francis Adorno, a very pious Jesuit, and an interior man whom he had invited from Genoa; under whose direction he most frequently made his retreats; but sometimes under F. Alexander Saulo, a Barnabite (afterwards bishop of Pavia), of whose virtue and prudence he had from experience the highest opinion. The first retreat and general confession which he made with this holy director in 1568, the saint ever after called his conversion to God: so great was the spiritual profit which he reaped from it; but St. Charles’s ordinary confessor was Mr. Gryffydh Roberts, 19 a Welchman, a canon and theologal of the great church. A priest, from once hearing the saint’s confession, might learn the most perfect lessons of his duties in all his actions: nor could those who had any acquaintance with his interior, sufficiently admire the purity of his conscience, the wonderful light with which he discerned the least failings, or the fervour of his compunction, and the sincerity of his humility, by which he esteemed himself the last of creatures, and of all others the most unfaithful and ungrateful to God. It happened once that in giving the holy communion at Brescia, by the fault of him who served at mass, he let the host fall: for which, in the deepest compunction and humiliation, he fasted most rigorously eight days, and abstained four days from saying mass. Except on this occasion he never omitted to say mass every day, even in his journeys and greatest hurries of business, unless in extreme fits of illness, and then he at least received every day the holy communion. Out of respect and devotion to the adorable sacrifice he always kept a rigorous silence (unless some important business intervened) from the evening prayer and meditation till the next day after mass, and his long thanksgiving. He prepared himself to offer the sacrifice by the sacrament of penance, and by many vocal and mental prayers; and used to say that it was unbecoming a priest to apply his mind to any temporal business before that great duty.

  14
  He always recited the divine office on his knees with his head bare, and his soul seemed all the while absorbed in God. The better to fix his attention, he never said any part of it by heart, but read it all in the breviary: which practice he recommended to all his clergy. He never would be excused from any part of it in any sickness, how grievous soever, except the day before he died; and on that would have his chaplain recite it by him upon his knees, and attended to it with great devotion. He always said each part as near as might be to the canonical hour to which it corresponded; but on Sundays and holidays sung it all in choir in the great church, and passed there the greatest part of those days after the public office on his knees before a private altar. He had an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Virgin, under whose patronage he put all his colleges: he had a singular devotion to St. Ambrose and the other saints of his church, and had a great veneration for holy relics. He carried always about him, among others in a gold cross, a particle of the true cross of Christ, and a small image of St. Ambrose. He always kept with great respect a little picture of Bishop Fisher, who was put to death for his religion under Henry VIII. in England. 20 The passion of Christ was a constant object of his devotions and meditations. At Rome he frequently spent five hours together on his knees in the chapel of the holy pillar, in the church of St. Praxedes, and so in other places of devotion; sometimes whole days or nights. Having once passed the night in the church of St. Sebastian at the Catacombs, he spent the day following in that of St. Agnes. But what was most astonishing and edifying was the extraordinary exterior and interior recollection with which he prayed. His extreme care that neither persons nor business (unless in some pressing necessity) should interrupt or disturb him at that time, and his strict watchfulness over his eyes and all his senses, made it easy for his soul to remain totally absorbed in the divine presence: and condemned those, who, by neglecting these precautions, and the due preparation of their souls, present themselves before God rather to mock him than to pray. The foot of the altar was the centre of this saint’s delights, as he sometimes called it. When he was drawn away he left his heart there in desire to continue paying to God without interruption the homage of praise and love, and imploring his mercy. He never said any prayer, or performed any religious ceremony with precipitation, whatever business of importance he had upon his hands, how much soever he was pressed for time, or how long soever his functions continued, which was sometimes from morning till late in the night. In giving audience, and in the greatest hurry of exterior affairs, his very countenance, all his words, and his modesty showed his mind to be perfectly recollected in God, the centre of his heart, his repose, strength, and comfort. From this spirit of prayer, and the ardent love of God which burned in his breast, his words infused a certain spiritual joy into others, gained their hearts, and kindled in them a strong desire of persevering in virtue, and cheerfully suffering all things for its sake. One word spoken by him frequently so animated slothful or desponding priests, that they counted labours their gain, and braved dangers without fear. St. Philip Neri testified that he once saw the saint’s countenance shining with a heavenly brightness. The practice of always walking in the divine presence he strongly recommended as the principal means of attaining to Christian virtue. To a gentleman who begged he would prescribe him the rules of advancing in piety, he gave this answer: “He who desires to make any progress in the service of God must begin every day of his life with new ardour, must keep himself in the presence of God as much as possible, and must have no other view or end in all his actions but the divine honour.”

  15
  The saint, who laboured so strenuously for the sanctification of his own soul, began the reformation of his diocess by the regulation of his own family: including the vicars and the officers of their courts, it consisted of about a hundred persons, the greater part being clergymen whom he employed in his own affairs, and in those of his diocess. All the priests were obliged to go to confession once a week, the others at least once a month, and to communicate at the archbishop’s hands. The priests said mass every day: all assisted every day at regular prayers at night and morning, meditations, and pious reading: abstained from flesh all Wednesdays, and all Advent: fasted many vigils besides those of precept; and on fast-days had no regular collation; but those that called for it were allowed to take an ounce and a half of bread. No person in his family was ever to expect any benefice from him; so much did he dread the danger of simony stealing into any one’s intention in serving him. When one of them had obtained a small benefice from his grand vicar, St. Charles discharged him; though he had a good opinion of his learning and virtue, and afterwards recommended him to another bishop. All were allowed handsome salaries, and were strictly forbidden to receive presents from any one. Idleness was banished his house, and those who at any time were not employed, were obliged to read the lives of saints or other pious books. St. Charles had about him persons of the greatest learning and piety, whose advice he sought in all matters of moment: and he took no resolution of importance without having earnestly implored the light of heaven by his own and others’ prayers; whence his resolutions were most prudent and happy. His household was a most regular community, and all dined together in a common refectory. Out of the clergy that composed his family, twelve became eminent bishops, and many were employed by popes in quality of nuncios, and in other great posts in the government of the church. Ormanetto, his grand vicar (who was afterwards bishop of Padua), had two other assistants who were also grand vicars; for St. Charles established a vicariat, that things might be done with deliberation and counsel, which many other bishops imitated. He also appointed sixty foraneous or country vicars (whose authority and commission was limited by particular mandates); these were mostly the rural deans: they held frequent conferences, and inspected the behaviour of the curates under their jurisdiction, admonished them of their faults, and, if necessary, informed the archbishop or vicar-general.

  16
  The diocess of Milan, when the saint arrived in it, with regard to ignorance and disorders, was in the most deplorable condition. The great truths of salvation were little known or understood, and religious practices were profaned by gross abuses, and disgraced by superstition. The sacraments were generally neglected, the priests scarcely knew how to administer them, and were slothful, ignorant, and debauched; and the monasteries were full of disorder. St. Charles, by six provincial councils, and eleven diocesan synods, also by many pastoral instructions and mandates, made excellent regulations for the reformation of the manners both of the clergy and people, which all zealous pastors have since regarded as a finished model, and have studied to square their conduct by them. The first part of these, St. Charles collected into one volume in folio; which work, that his name might not be mentioned in it, he, out of humility, entitled The Acts of the Church of Milan. The rest were gathered into a second volume after his death. 21 Partly by the most tender and zealous entreaties and remonstrances, and partly by an inflexible firmness in the most rigorous execution of these most wholesome decrees, without favour, distinction of persons, or regard to rank or pretended privileges, the saint overcame the most obstinate and broke through difficulties which would have daunted the most courageous. Preaching being the means established by God for the conversion of souls, and the principal obligation of a pastor, St. Charles applied himself to it with an unwearied zeal, though every thing in this function cost him much time and pains. A natural impediment in his speech seemed to disqualify him for it: yet this he overcame by much labour and attention. 22 By his disputations and harangues in the Vatican palace he perfectly overcame a natural bashfulness and timidity, which at first gave him great difficulty. It was a more painful task still to break a custom of speaking his discourses too fast, and of conquering o thickness of speech, and other impediments. But his pains were at length crowned with incredible success. The composition also cost him a great deal of study; though an excellent judgment compensated this difficulty. That liveliness of genius, those sprightly thoughts, witty turns, and beautiful flowers, which we admire in the Basils and Chrysostoms, seemed not to be his talent. But zeal, sincere piety, and a thorough acquaintance with the lessons and motives of Christian virtue, could not fail to qualify him for this function. His sermons were solid and pathetic, and he spoke with a vehemence which strongly affects a soul, and with an unction which always penetrates the heart. Whilst those preachers who tickle the ears with the harmonious turn of their periods were dry and barren, the saint’s sermons produced, wherever he came, infinite fruits among all ranks of people. He preached every Sunday and holiday, and often in his visitations two or three times a day. F. Charles Bascape assures us, that hearing him preach he was so strongly affected with the excellent things he said, and the holy energy with which he spoke them, that though he desired to take notice of the preacher and his manner of delivery, it was not in his power to do it; but, in spite of his endeavours, he forgot the sacred orator, being wholly transported and possessed with the great truths he preached; thought his longest sermons short, and was very sorry when he concluded his discourse, that it was over. Possevinus and others assure us of the same. The saint’s zeal in procuring that all children and others throughout his diocess should be perfectly instructed in the catechism or Christian doctrine, was fruitful in expedients to promote and perpetuate this most important duty of religion. Not content with strictly enjoining all parish priests to give public catechism every Sunday and holiday, he established everywhere, under admirable regulations, schools of the Christian doctrine, which amounted to the number of seven hundred and forty, in which were three thousand and forty catechists, and forty thousand and ninety-eight scholars, as Giussano testifies.

  17
  The congregation of regular clerks called Barnabites, in Milan, abounding at that time with spiritual and interior men, the saint conceived a particular esteem and affection for this Order, and employed very much these good religious men in the most important spiritual functions. To supply his diocess with good pastors he founded many colleges and seminaries, and with the same view instituted, in 1578, the congregation of secular priests, called Oblats of St. Ambrose, because they voluntarily offer themselves to the bishop, making a simple vow of obedience to him, and being ready at his discretion to be employed in any manner whatever in labouring for the salvation of souls. 23 St. Charles made excellent regulations for their frequent conferences in all parts of the diocess under proper superiors, who assembled them together; also for their exercises, private conduct, and government. For their chief house he gave them the church of the Holy Sepulchre, with a convenient contiguous building, where a certain number always reside to be ready for any commission or emergency. Out of these Oblats he chose his ablest curates and vicars, and employed others in particular missions and other important services. His great seminary, which he had first committed to the care of the Jesuits, he took from them with their free consent, and put it in the hands of the Oblats. He associated several pious ladies of Milan in regular exercises of devotion and Christian perfection, by whose examples others were engaged to spend much time devoutly in churches, to assist at all the sermons they could, and to be always taken up with serious employments, and withdrawn from that fatal sloth and round of dangerous amusements which many seem to look upon as a privilege of their rank; as if this could make void the maxims of the gospel, or exempt any Christian from the obligation of his baptismal engagements. These sacred vows, made by every one at the font, St. Charles often inculcated, and induced persons to renew them frequently in a solemn manner with incredible fruit.

  18
  Immediately after his first provincial council he began the visitation of his diocess with the churches of Milan. Several monasteries, especially of nuns, that were subject to the superiors of their own Order, refused to give him admission, and opposed the rules of reformation which he prescribed them. It cost him infinite trouble to effect his good designs amongst them; but no entreaties or interest could soften him, nor were dangers and difficulties which would have discouraged any other person, able to slacken his vigorous endeavours, which were at length crowned everywhere with success. Some nunneries which before were under the obedience of their Order only, by special bulls which he procured, he subjected to the archiepiscopal jurisdiction. Every one of these undertakings was a work of time and much labour, and cost the holy prelate many prayers and tears. The reformation of his chapter was his first essay, and he established the divine service in the metropolitical church with the most edifying devotion, and in the utmost splendour, and obliged the canons to give constant attendance in the choir. The saint founded in it three new prebends, each of which proved singularly useful; the first was given to a theologian, who was to preach every Sunday, and to read lectures in divinity twice a week. The second to a penitentiary, whose business it was to absolve penitents from reserved cases, to be assiduous in hearing confessions, and to hold every week a meeting with four sub-penitentiaries that were under him, and with certain other able divines and canonists, in order to decide difficult cases, upon which curates or others from all parts of the diocess should consult them. The third prebend called the Doctoral was bestowed on a doctor in laws, whose duty it was to instruct young clergymen in the canon law. St. Charles repaired the choir of the great church with great magnificence and decency, forbade any layman, of whatever rank, to come within the chancel during the divine office, removed the escutcheons of noble families and whatever was profane, and took care that all persons were hindered from making the churches a passage in going from one place to another.

  19
  In 1567, the saint had a contest with the officers of justice. Certain lay-persons who lived in public adultery, or kept concubines, and could not be reclaimed by remonstrances, were imprisoned by his order. The senate threatened the serjeants of the archiepiscopal court for this action; and one of the king’s judges caused their barigel or provost to be apprehended, and punished in a public square with three strappados. The archbishop treated with the magistrates with great calmness and meekness; but, after much deliberation, declared the judge, the king’s fiscal, the notary, and jailer excommunicated, for having seized and punished an officer of the ecclesiastical court. Philip II. to whom both parties made their complaint, ordered the affair to be left to the pope’s decision; to whom a senator was sent as deputy to plead the cause, and the duke of Albuquerque, governor of Milan, expressed an extreme displeasure at the treatment of the archbishop’s officer. In the mean time, St. Charles set out in October to perform the visitation of the three vallies of Levantine, Bregno, and Riparie, subject to the three Swiss cantons of Uri, Switz, and Underwald; for the see of Milan is extended in the Alps, as far as Mount St. Goddard’s. Not to give umbrage to the temporal sovereignties he entreated each to send a deputy to accompany him through their territories, which they did in a very obliging manner. These vallies had been, as it were, abandoned by former archbishops, were full of disorders, and the priests there were more corrupt than the laity. The saint travelled through snows and torrents, and over rocks which were almost inaccessible, having iron spikes on his shoes to climb them, and suffering with joy, cold, hunger, thirst, and continual weariness. He preached and catechised everywhere, displaced the ignorant and scandalous priests, and put in their room others endowed with learning, zeal, and piety, who were capable of restoring the faith and morals of the people to their original purity. In some corners of his diocess the Zuinglian heresy had got footing; to them he made his way through incredible difficulties, reconciled many to the church, and settled all this northern part of his diocess in very good order. His method of making his visitation was as follows: He always travelled on horseback or on foot; had never more than six horses with him, and every one carried his own little necessaries on his own horse before him. He had no mules, but was followed by a horse loaded with a sack full of books. He called at no houses of noblemen or gentlemen, and lodged in those of the curates, how mean soever they were, often lying himself on some table, and yielding the beds to those that attended him. At dinner he would only allow a pottage, some fruit, and one dish of meat to be served up; though he never touched the meat himself, and in the last years of his life subsisted only on bread and water which he took privately in his chamber, and did not make his appearance at table. Certain priests went before him to prepare the people to receive the holy communion, which he gave to all himself; he allowed himself no interval of repose from his functions except a short time in the night; and he inquired into the necessities, both corporal and spiritual, even of particular persons in every parish, took down some account of them, and afterwards would be informed how the evils he had observed had been remedied.

  20
  In 1568, he took in hand the reformation of the Humiliati, a religious Order of which he was the protector. Their institute was founded by certain gentlemen of Milan in 1134, who, with the consent of their wives, made religious vows. They adopted the rule of St. Bennet, with certain particular constitutions, and their Order was approved by Innocent III. in 1200. In the beginning of the sixteenth century they fell into such relaxations that in ninety monasteries they had only a hundred and seventy monks; the superiors, who were called provosts, spending the revenues, and living at discretion. St. Charles procured two briefs from the pope, by which he was empowered to ordain and execute what he thought necessary for their reformation; and he published regulations for that purpose in a general chapter of the Order which he assembled at Cremona. The monks received them willingly; but the provosts and lay-brothers obstinately refused to submit to them. Our saint also assembled the Franciscans called Conventuals, in their convent at Milan, and published decrees for the reformation of certain abuses among them, for which he was authorized by Pope Pius V. Upon hearing his new regulations, some of the friars got up, and, by their outrageous clamours and running to the bells, raised a furious uproar, threatening the cardinal himself if he proceeded. 24 He therefore calmly withdrew for the present, but afterwards carried every point into execution, and united their several branches into one body. In many particular commissions of popes to reform abuses in distant cities or in religious bodies, he showed such prudence and disinterested piety and zeal as to seem rather an angel than a man. In 1568 he held a diocesan synod. His method was first to inform himself of the necessities of every part of his diocess by previous assemblies of sixty country vicars. The synod continued three days, in which he published several regulations, and preached to the curates twice every day, whom he always wonderfully inflamed with sincere piety, disinterested zeal, and ardent charity. In 1569 he assembled his second provincial council, and obliged a bishop of his province, who was a cardinal, and excused himself upon various pretences, to assist at it. On another occasion he obliged a bishop to come from an embassy, in which he was employed by his prince, to the council, and even to quit his secular embassy and reside in his diocess. Hearing that one of his suffragans had said in company that he had nothing to do, the saint sent to him a prefect of his household to represent to him the necessities of his flock and the obligations of his charge. The bishop answered him, coldly, that cardinal Borromeo required too much. The saint was extremely grieved at his insensibility and neglect, and wrote him a letter of several leaves, in which he summed up various obligations of the episcopal charge, repeating almost after each of them, “Shall a bishop ever say that he has nothing to do?” Hearing a cardinal, who was bishop of a small diocess, say, it was too little to require constant residence, he found himself pierced to the quick, and strongly represented to his colleague that such is the price of one soul, as to deserve the residence and whole time of the greatest man in the world.

  21
  The tranquillity which St. Charles had for some time enjoyed, stirred up the malice of the enemy of souls, and the storms which were formerly raised against the saint were renewed with greater fury than ever, upon the following occasion. The collegiate church of St. Mary de la Scala, so called from the foundress, Beatrice de la Scala, wife of Barnaby Visconti, lord of Milan, enjoyed great privileges and exemptions, which had been obtained from the apostolic see by Francis Sforza II. duke of Milan, a munificent benefactor. The conduct of some of these canons not being comformable to their state, St. Charles consulted able canonists at Milan, and the pope himself, who all answered him that he had a right, in quality of archbishop, to make the visitation of this church, and, in case of misdemeanours, to proceed against any of the clergy belonging to it. The archbishop therefore went to the church in solemnity to make a canonical visitation: but was thrust from the door by the canons, and the cross which was carried before him, and which, in the tumult, he had taken into his own hands, was shot at. One of their party caused a bell to be rung; then declared that the archbishop had incurred suspension and other censures for having violated the privileges of their church. The grand vicar upon the spot pronounced a sentence of excommunication against the authors of this insult; which the archbishop confirmed the next day in the great church, after having spent a long time in prayer at the foot of the altar. Most of the king’s judges and the senate warmly espoused the cause of these canons, and sent the most virulent invectives against the archbishop to the king of Spain, accusing him of ambition and high treason in invading the king’s rights, this church being under the royal patronage. The governor of Milan wrote to Pope Pius V. in the strongest terms, threatening to banish the cardinal as a traitor. The pope answered him, that nothing could be more glorious to the cardinal than to suffer banishment and death in the faithful discharge of his duty, and in labouring to exterminate vice and abuses from the sanctuary, and that the devil had stirred up this persecution to hinder the good effect of the archbishop’s zealous endeavours and unright intentions. Nevertheless, his holiness was very reserved in declaring in favour of the cardinal, and it is incredible how virulent and outrageous his enemies at Milan were in their invectives. The saint never spoke of any of them but with regard and tenderness; and in justifying his conduct to the pope and king of Spain, discovered his charity towards his persecutors. All this time he ceased not to pray and weep for them, and to beg of God that no resentment might find place in his heart. At length the king wrote to the governor, ordering him to repeal an edict which he had published injurious to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and to support the archbishop; saying he was much obliged to him for the trouble he took for the reformation of the canons of Scala, which undertaking he begged he would accomplish. Hereupon the governor was reconciled to the saint; and the provost of the canons, who had been the least guilty, begged and received absolution from his censures. The canons persisted some time obstinate; but at length submitted, and were absolved by the saint. The pope insisted that the most guilty persons, who had shot at the cross, should be punished in an exemplary manner; but by many earnest solicitations the saint at length obtained their pardon.

  22
  Before this affair was concluded by the king’s letter to the governor, an attempt was made upon the life of the saint, whose preservation was owing to a visible miracle. The Humiliati, amongst whom St. Charles had established a reform, employed the interest of princes and every other means to prevail upon the pope to annul the regulations which our saint had made for their order, but in vain. In the rage of their despair, three provosts of that Order entered into a diabolical conspiracy to murder the archbishop, and drew some others into the plot. To such excess of phrenzy and malice do passions which are not restrained, lead men. A priest of the same Order, named La Farina, engaged for a sum of money to execute this horrid design, imagining that the suspicion would rather fall upon some of the king’s officers who were then at variance with the prelate. On the 26th of October, 1569, the villain found means to post himself at the door of the chapel in the archbishop’s palace, whilst the prelate with his family was at his devotions, which lasted an hour every evening, from six to seven o’clock. An anthem was then singing at these words, Non turbetur cor meum neque formidet, and the prelate was upon his knees, before the altar, when the assassin, who was not above five or six paces from him, discharged at him a blunderbuss, with a large bullet. At the report the music ceased, and every one got up in the utmost consternation; but the saint, without stirring from his place, made them a sign to kneel down again, and finished his prayer with the same sweetness and tranquillity in his countenance as if nothing had happened. This gave the murderer an opportunity of escaping. St. Charles, imagining himself mortally wounded, lifting up his hands and eyes to God offered his life to him. But after the prayer was finished, rising up he found that the ball had only struck upon his rochet, near the middle vertebræ of the back, and leaving a mark upon the rochet had fallen down at his feet. Some small shot had pierced his clothes, but stopped at his skin: and his cassock was pierced with small shot in several places. When he was retired to his chamber, and the part that was struck examined, a light bruise was discovered with a small swelling on his skin, which mark continued even after his death. At the same time that he was wounded, some small shot penetrated a table of hard wood as thick as a finger that was close by him, and struck the wall with a great force and noise. 25 The duke of Albuquerque, governor of Milan, came immediately to see the saint, and earnestly begged that he might be allowed to make a search in his family, and examine his servants in order to discover the author of so black an attempt; but to this St. Charles would never consent. After a solemn thanksgiving to God and a procession, he shut himself up for some days in the chartreuse of Carignan, to consecrate his life anew to God. The world knew not which to call the greater miracle, his serenity of mind under such an accident, or his wonderful preservation, by which all pastors were taught not to fear the world in the discharge of their pastoral duties. St. Charles’s rochet became a proverb in Italy for a thing impenetrable. It is preserved at the chartreuse at Bourdeaux; and the ball in the church of the Oblats at Milan. Some of the Humiliati discovered enough to St. Charles for him to trace the crime to its authors; but he never disclosed it; and always answered with simplicity that so many had taken offence at his regulations, that it was not possible to know who carried their resentment so far. Certain words which some persons of that Order let fall, gave suspicions to the public, so that they were examined, and the four authors convicted. They all confessed the crime with marks of sincere repentance; two provosts who were of noble families were beheaded; the third provost and the assassin were hanged, though St. Charles did every thing in his power that their lives might be spared, and took care of their relations. The punishment of a fifth, who was only condemned to the galleys, was mitigated, to content the saint in some measure, and he was confined for some time in a monastery, and afterwards set at liberty. In execration of this crime Pope Pius V. abolished the Order of the Humiliati, applying their revenues to other pious uses, notwithstanding the intercession which St. Charles made in their favour. It never appeared more clearly than under these dangers and persecutions, how much this great saint was beloved by his people, and reverenced by princes and the whole church. Nor did it seem possible that an Ignatius or a Chrysostom could love their flocks with a more tender and ardent affection than St. Charles did the people of his diocess, for whose sake all labours and dangers were sweet: and he looked upon it as nothing to lay down his life to procure them the least spiritual advantage, as the whole tenour of his conduct showed.

  23
  Before the execution of the assassins he returned to three vallies of his diocess situated in the Alps, and took that opportunity of paying a visit to the states of each of the Catholic cantons, whose breasts he by his exhortations warmed with an ardent love of virtue and zeal against all disorders which are a scandal to religion. The harvest having failed in 1569, the country was afflicted the following year with great scarcity: under which calamity St. Charles, by his care and immense charities, procured abundant supplies for the relief of the poor throughout his whole diocess. That year he assisted the Duke of Albuquerque at his death; and at length succeeded in almost abolishing the disorders of the Carnival or Shrovetide, and turning the attention of the people to religious processions, prayer, and compunction at that season. To extirpate the custom of profaning the holy name of God, or sentences of the holy scripture, the saint armed himself with all his zeal, and had recourse to various pious institutions. Upon the death of St. Pius V. in 1572, St. Charles concurred strenuously to the election of Cardinal Buoncampagno, who took the name of Gregory XIII., is famous for the institution of many colleges for the propagation of the faith, and surpassed, if possible, his two predecessors in his esteem of our saint, whom he detained some time at Rome to take his advice; and he appointed him apostolic visitor of the diocesses of all his suffragans. In 1575, St. Charles went to Rome with the most edifying devotion to gain the jubilee, and in the following year, opened it at Milan. With all his zeal, he was not able to hinder the exhibition of profane diversions of tilts and tournaments that very year. Whilst the people were taken up in them he clearly foretold the plague which broke out before they were over. The news of this calamity reached the saint at Lodi, whither he was gone to assist the bishop of that see at his death, as it was his custom to do towards all his suffragans. The governor fled to Vigevano, and all the rest of the nobility left the town. St. Charles made haste thither, visited the pesthouse whither the infected were sent by the magistrates, and provided both the sick and the poor with every succour spiritual and corporal. According to his custom in all difficulties, he consulted his vicars and canonists, whether he was obliged to remain with the infected, or to withdraw to some other part of his diocess. They answered him with warm solicitations in the negative, entreating him not to expose his life, which was at that time of infinite importance, both to the sick and to those parts of his diocess which were not visited with that calamity. But St. Charles proved to them that a pastor, who is obliged to lay down his life for his flock, must not abandon them in the time of danger. All granted this was the more perfect. And is not a bishop, said the saint, obliged to choose what is most perfect? Sin being the cause of scourges, he strongly exhorted the people to have recourse to the divine mercy by humble penance, and he redoubled his prayers and austerities. In three general processions he walked barefoot, having on a purple cope, as in times of penance, with a halter about his neck, and a crucifix in his hands, from which he seemed never to turn his eyes, which were drowned in tears. Thus he offered himself a victim for the sins of the people. He preached almost every day, and never ceased admonishing his fellow-labourers to contemn life in such a cause, himself exhorting the sick and administering the sacraments. For the relief of those that were destitute, he melted down all his plate, and gave all his furniture, even the straw bed on which he lay, taking his rest on the boards. The number of priests chiefly of his own clergy, whom he at first appointed to attend the sick, not being sufficient, he assembled the superiors of the religious communities, and begging their concurrence, made them a most pathetic discourse, in which he shows how great a happiness it was for any to lose their lives (which are always uncertain and short) in such a cause of the most noble charity, though the danger was not so great as was commonly imagined, and they were under the divine protection. 26 Such was the effect of this zealous discourse, that about twenty-eight priests immediately presented themselves out of that body, and the saint allotted to them their diet and lodgings in his own palace. The magistrates found fault with his numerous processions and assemblies of devotion, for fear of spreading the contagion. The saint justified his conduct by the example of St. Gregory, St. Mammertus, and other great prelates, alleged, that all human remedies failing, it was more necessary to have recourse to those which are divine, and assured them that those devotions, far from increasing, would remove the calamity; which seemed a prophecy: for though four score died in the procession which St. Gregory made, no one caught the infection in those of St. Charles, nor any one of those that attended him in his visits of the sick: only two of his family died who never went to the infected houses. So abandoned to iniquity were some persons, that this scourge itself was not able to reclaim them. Persuading themselves that mirth, jollity, pleasure, and high living, were the best means to preserve them from the contagion, they lived together in a pleasant row of houses near the town, in debauchery and intemperance, and despised the serious admonitions of their holy pastor; but they were more severely visited with the pestilence than any other part, so that not one of their houses escaped it. This dreadful distemper, after raging four months, began to abate in November, and quite ceased about the beginning of the ensuing year. The saint appointed a public solemn thanksgiving, and three days’ prayer for such as had died during the pestilence. The two governors who had succeeded Albuquerque gave the saint much to suffer, chiefly on account of his abolishing the extravagances of Shrovetide, and of the first Sunday in Lent; and, on account of the processions he had made during the pestilence; to which they were stirred up by incorrigible sinners, and persons who were enemies to all reformation of manners, as Giussano shows at large. 27 After the death of the latter of these governors, in 1580, the king of Spain did the saint justice, and Pope Gregory XIII. full of admiration at the wisdom and apostolic spirit which appeared in his whole conduct, approved of all his regulations, and commended his zeal; also the duke of Terra Nuova, the fourth governor of Milan, from the time of our saint’s promotion, lived constantly in good intelligence with the saint, and often assisted at his sermons.

  24
  St. Charles made twice the visitation of his whole diocess, and once of his province: he took a journey into the Valteline, and into the country of the Grisons, where he animated the Catholics to the practice of piety, and converted many Zuinglianists. The diocess of Milan is filled with monuments of his charity and zeal, and in that city itself he founded a convent of Capuchinesses, (in which a daughter of his uncle, John Baptist Borromeo, embraced that austere Order, and died in the odour of sanctity,) one of Ursulines, for the instruction of poor girls, who were educated there gratis; an hospital for beggars, into which all the poor were received; another of Convalescents who were dismissed out of the great hospital, &c. After he had established the college of the Jesuits at Milan, in which grammar, philosophy, and theology are taught, he committed a college which he founded for the Switzers, his six seminaries, (three in the city, and three in other parts of his diocess,) and all the other houses which he instituted, to the care of his Oblats; except a house at Pavia, which he gave to the regular clerks of Somascha, so called from a place of that name between Bergamo and Milan, where their founder, St. Jerom Æmiliani, a nobleman of Venice, established their chief seminary. 28 Though the saint preferred public and general duties, as preaching, to those which regarded only private persons; yet he spent much time in the direction of particulars, in which his prudence was most remarkable. He was very severe in examining and much upon his guard in believing visions and ecstacies, especially in women, whose imagination is easily susceptible of impressions: on such occasions he recommended the practice of humility and solid virtues. When a young woman in Milan, who was one of those who, making a vow of chastity, are called Devotes, (in Italy Beates,) was much spoken of on account of extraordinary favours which it was pretended she had received from God; though F. Adorno, who examined her, judged them real, the saint would not be prevailed upon by any entreaties so much as to go to see her, but ordered her to be shut up in a nunnery, sufficiently testifying that he looked upon the whole as an illusion; as was made manifest some time after the saint’s death. He was no less strict in the scrutiny of miracles and relics, and exploded all those that were not authentic; but visited other holy relics with singular devotion, and translated and adorned the shrines of many saints. It was to him, as he often expressed, a singular pleasure to assist dying persons. In 1583, hearing the Duke of Savoy had fallen sick at Vercelli, and was given over by his physicians, he posted thither, and found him, as it was thought, at the last gasp. The duke seeing him come into his chamber, cried out: “I am cured.” The saint gave him the holy communion the next day, and ordered the forty hours’ prayer for his recovery. The duke was restored to his health, as he was persuaded by the prayers of St. Charles, and after the saint’s death, sent a silver lamp to be hung up at his tomb in memory of this benefit.

  25
  For closer solitude St. Charles sometimes used to make his retreats at Camaldoli and other places; but none seemed so agreeable to his devotion as Mount Varalli, situate in the diocess of Novara, upon the borders of Switzerland, a famous place of devotion to the sufferings of Christ, the mysteries of which are curiously carved in thirty-eight chapels of good architecture, besides the great church, which is served by Franciscans. Thither St. Charles went in 1584, to make his annual retreat and confession, having with him F. Adorno, who proposed to him the points of his meditations. He had before clearly foretold to several persons that he should not remain long with them; and in this retreat redoubled his fervour in his austerities and devotions, and seemed more than ordinarily absorbed in God, and disengaged from his body and all earthly ties. The abundance of his tears obliged him often to stop in saying mass; and a bishop deposed, that he saw his countenance one day at the altar darting a ray of bright light, which seemed to proceed from that interior light which filled his soul, and to be a presage of that glory with which he was going to be crowned. He spent most time in the chapel, called, Of the prayer in the garden, and in that, Of our Redeemer in the sepulchre, endeavouring to put himself in a state of death with him, by a perfect renunciation of all sentiments and thoughts of self-love; and praying that whatever remained in him of the life of Adam, might be entirely destroyed by the death of the Son of God. On the 24th of October, he was taken ill of a tertian ague; but concealed it; on the 26th he had a second fit, and by the order of F. Adorno, abridged the hours of his prayers, had a little straw laid on the boards on which he lay, and took a panado, suffering the bread to be toasted, which he ate with water, but would not use any salt or butter. On the fifth day of his retreat he spent eight hours on his knees with such fervour and compunction, that he could not be persuaded he had been near so long; after this he made his annual confession, and the next day, it being the 29th of October, he went to Arona, and there alighted at the curate’s according to his custom, not at the palace, which had been seized by the governors, but was afterwards restored to him without his solicitations. Having taken a mess of panado he went, though it was night, across the lake to Ascona, to finish the foundation of a college there, though the plague was then in that town. He took a little rest in the boat, and despatched his business the next morning; he returned by water to Conobbio, though in a fit of the ague. The next day he went to Arona; but it being the eve of All-Saints, fasted as usual; except that he took the drugs prescribed him by his physician. His cousin Renatus Borromeo could not induce him to lodge at the castle, but he lay at the Jesuits, and rested well that night; and rose to his prayers at two in the morning. After his confession he said mass at seven; his physicians persuaded him not to set out, that being the day of the return of his ague, and they ordered him to drink a great quantity of ptisan. He obeyed them; but the ptisan had a contrary effect to what they expected it, being too strong for a constitution accustomed to no other fare than bread and water, or pulse. His ptisan and drugs were to him cordials, instead of coolers, and his fever was much increased by them, so that it became from that time continued, and never after left him.

  26
  On All-Souls’ day he arrived at Milan in a litter, called in the ablest physicians, and gave himself up to their direction, which he scrupulously followed in every point. They declared his distemper very dangerous; but the next day, finding his fever much abated, had great hopes of his recovery. The saint gave no signs of joy at this news, and continued his pious exercises, chiefly on the passion of Christ sometimes by himself, sometimes with F. Adorno, F. Charles Bascape, and other devout persons. In the next paroxysm of his fever the physicians found the state of his health desperate; he received the news with a surprising serenity, received the viaticum and extreme-unction with great devotion, and with these words, Ecce venio, Behold I come, expired in the first part of the night between the 3rd and 4th of November. He left by his will his plate to his cathedral, his library to his canons, and his manuscripts to the bishop of Vercelli, and declared the general hospital his heir. His funeral he ordered to be made as privately as might be, and chose for his burial-place a vault near the choir, with this inscription, which remains there to this day, in a small marble stone: “Charles, cardinal of the title of St. Praxedes, archbishop of Milan, desiring to be recommended to the frequent prayers of the clergy, people, and the devout sex, living, chose for himself this monument.” There follows this addition: “He lived forty-six years, one month, and one day; governed this church twenty-four years, eight months, twenty-four days, and died November the 4th, in 1584.” F. Adorno soon after his departure, in a slumber, saw him in great light and glory, and the saint said to him; “I am happy; you will soon follow me.” This F. Adorno told several friends with great comfort, and once affirmed it publicly in a sermon. He returned to Genoa, his own country, and died there very soon after in the odour of sanctity. 29 Several instantaneous miraculous cures were wrought by this saint’s relics and intercession. 30 In 1601, the venerable cardinal Baronius, confessor to Clement VIII. sent to the clergy of Milan an order of his holiness, to change the anniversary mass de Requiem, which the saint had founded to perpetuity in the great hospital, into a mass of the saint: and St. Charles was solemnly canonized by Paul V. in 1610. His sacred remains are now deposited in a rich subterraneous chapel just under the cupola in the great church, and laid in a crystal shrine of an immense value. The altar in this chapel is of solid silver; plates of silver cover the walls of a considerable part of the vault, and a great number of large silver and gold lamps burn there night and day, not to mention the great images and other donaries of gold and silver, with which this chapel is filled by the devotion of many distant princes, cardinals and bishops. Besides the richest vestments and like ornaments Giussano tells us, that in eight years the donaries here amounted to above the value of one hundred and fifty thousand crowns of gold. 31 Thus is he honoured on earth who despised the whole world for Christ.

  27
  St. Charles was raised by God to revive an ecclesiastical spirit in the clergy. Priests are called by our Blessed Redeemer the salt of the earth. Through them the world is to be seasoned, as it were, with the Christian spirit of perfect humility, meekness, patience, charity, devotion, and contempt of the world. How can they infuse these virtues into others who are themselves unacquainted with this spirit? For this, much more is required than barely to know the names of virtues. To be disengaged from the world, and dead to themselves; to love retirement, and to be always employed in the business of their heavenly Father, is the characteristic of the ministers of the altar. Such were the pastors who formed so many saints. The reformation of the manners of the people depends very much upon that of the clergy. Judgment must begin from the house of God. 32 A clergyman is one separated from the people, as his name and office imply: separated not only in his education and ministry, but, in some degree, in his life and conversation. How much soever he is filled with the spirit of his profession, this will be soon extinguished, and the contagion of the world or love of vanity, pleasure, riches, and honour, insensibly contracted by too great familiarity with it. It shall be as with the people, so with the priest. 33


Note 1. In this great lake, which is thirty-nine miles long and five or six broad, in a beautiful island, is the fine villa of Borromeo, belonging to this family. [back]

Note 2. See these conferences of the saint published by Saxius, the learned keeper of the Ambrosian library at Milan in 1548, under the title of S. Caroli Noctes Vaticanæ. The saint gave them this title, because, being occupied the whole day in public affairs, he held these conferences in the night; the principal objects of which were difficult points of morality and theology. At first he admitted several points of philosophy, natural history, and other branches of literature, to be discussed: but after his brother Frederic’s death, he would have the conferences turn entirely on religion; and they were continued during the five years he spent at Rome. Those which are published, treat of the eight beatitudes, of abstinence, of the remedies against impurity, sloth, vanity, &c., with an admirable discourse on the love of God, entitled De Charitate. [back]

Note 3. See Carolus a Basilicâ Petri in vitâ S. Car. Borrom. l. 1, c. 3, et Saxius in Præfat. [back]

Note 4. See Saxius, Præf. in Hom. S. Caroli, t. 1. [back]

Note 5. See Ripamont, de vitâ Caroli, l. 2, c. 2; Giussano, l. 1, c. 2; Sacy, Vie de Barthol. des Martys, l. 2, c. 23, p. 263; Touron, Hommes Illustr. t. 4, p. 638. [back]

Note 6. The bull of Paul III. for the convocation of the general council of Trent in order to condemn new errors that were broached against faith, and to reform the manners and discipline by enforcing ancient canons and establishing new wholesome regulations, was dated the 22d of May, 1542, and the council was opened in the cathedral church at Trent on the 13th of December, 1545. Matters were discussed in particular congregations; and, lastly, defined in the sessions. After some debates, it was agreed that points of faith and matters of discipline should be jointly considered, and the condemnation of errors, and the decrees for the reformation of manners carried on together; there being abuses in practice relative to most points of doctrine. The doctrine of faith is first explained in chapters; then the contrary errors are anathematized, and the articles of faith defined in canons. This faith is in no point new, but the same which the apostles delivered, and which the church in all ages believed and taught. When F. Bernard Lami, the Oratorian, had advanced that the chapters or exposition of doctrine in this council are not of equal authority with the canons, Bossuet, in a few words, charitably convinced him of this mistake, which the other readily corrected, and recalled, as Archbishop Languet relates. The decrees for the reformation of manners, and ecclesiastical discipline, particularly in the clergy, follow the chapters and canons of doctrine in the several sessions. Points relating to the holy scriptures, original sin, free-will, justification, the sacraments in general, and those of baptism and confirmation in particular, are examined in the seven first sessions held under Paul III. On account of an epidemical distemper at Trent, he had consented that the prelates might remove the council to Bologna; this was decreed in the eighth session, and the ninth and tenth were held at Bologna, but no business done; the emperor and some of the prelates being displeased at the translation, so that the pope suspended the council on the 15th of September, and died November the 10th, 1549. His legates a latere in the council were Cardinal Del Monte, bishop of Palestrino, Cardinal Marcellus Cervinus, and Cardinal Reginald Pole. The first of these was chosen pope after the death of Paul III. took the name of Julius III. and reassembled the council of Trent in 1551. His legates there were Cardinal Marcellus Crescenti, legate a latere, and Sebastian Pictini, archbishop of Manfredonia, and Aloysius Lippomannus, bishop of Verona. The eleventh and twelfth sessions were preparatory: in the thirteenth and fourteenth the eucharist, penance, and extreme unction were explained: in the fifteenth the Protestants were invited under a safe-conduct; and in the sixteenth the council was suspended on account of the wars in Germany. Julius III. died March the 23d, 1555, and Cardinal Marcellus Cervinus, an excellent, courageous, and pious man, was chosen pope, and took the name of Marcellus II. but died within twelve days. Cardinal Caraffa was chosen pope, May the 23d, 1555, and called Paul IV. The surrender of the empire by Charles V., a war between France and Spain, and some difficulties which arose between the Emperor Ferdinand and Paul IV. protracted the suspension of the council, and this pope died the 18th of August, 1559. Pius IV. who succeeded, obtained the concurrence of the emperor and Catholic kings to restore the council, and published a bull for the indiction of the same, November 25, 1560. At the head of five papal legates at Trent, was the Cardinal of Mantua, Hercules Gonzaga, and after his death Cardinal Marone. In the seventeenth session, held on the 18th of January, 1562, the council was opened. In the following, the prohibition of books was treated of, and letters of safe-conduct sent to the Protestants. In the twenty-first, the question about communion in both kinds: in the twenty-second the holy mass; and in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth, the latter sacraments were treated of; in the twenty-fifth and last, held on the 14th of December, 1563, the doctrine of purgatory, images, invocation of saints, and indulgences was handled, and the council concluded with the usual acclamations and subscriptions. After the fathers had subscribed, the ambassadors of Catholic kings subscribed as witnesses in a different schedule.

  The council was confirmed by the pope on the 26th of January, 1564, first in the Roman chancery, then by a bull dated the same day, and subscribed by his holiness and all the cardinals then at Rome. Besides Italian, French, and Spanish bishops, there were present at the council only two Germans, (the rest excusing themselves on account of the public disturbances,) three Portuguese, six Grecian, two Polish, two Hungarian, three Illyrican, one Moravian, one Croate, two Flandrican, three Irish, and one English bishop. (The three Irish were Thomas O’Herlihy, bishop of Ross in Munster, who died in 1579: Donat Mac-Congail, bishop of Ross in Munster, who died in 1579: Donat Mac-Congail, bishop of Raphoe in Ulster, who died in 1589; and Eugene O’Hart, a Dominican, bishop of Achonry in Connaught, who died in 1603, at the age of one hundred. The Englishman was Thomas Goldwell, bishop of St. Asaph’s). These prelates were looked upon by their absent colleagues as representatives of the rest, who were not able to come, and all the absent acquiesced in the doctrinal decisions of the general council. Its decrees were solemnly received by the senate of Venice, the diet of Poland, August the 17th, 1564, and the king of Portugal; but published by the king of Spain, in Spain, the Low-Countries, Sicily, and Naples, with a proviso, as to certain laws of discipline, to save the right of the king and kingdom. In France, queen Catherine of Medicis alleged, that the council forbade commendams and several other customs allowed by the discipline of that kingdom, and therefore put off the legal publication. (Pallavicini, l. 24, c. 11. Thuam. l. 35 et 37.) The clergy of France, in their general assembly, in 1567, demanded the publication and execution of the decrees of this council.
(See Recueil Gén. des Affaires du Clergé de Fr. in 4to. chez Vitrè, 1636, t. 2. p. 14, and Acta Cleri Gallicani.) It repeated these solicitations in 1596, 1597, 1598, 1600, 1602, 1605, 1606, 1679, &c. King Henry IV. sent an edict to that purpose to the parliament of Paris; which nevertheless refused to enregister it. But this regarded only certain decrees of discipline, in which particular churches often follow their own jurisprudence. As to this council’s doctrinal decisions in matters of faith, these have been always received in France with the same respect as the doctrinal definitions of all former general councils are; as the writings of all bishops and others in that kingdom demonstrate, and as the French theologians invincibly prove. Charles Du-Moulin, the most learned French lawyer, (who first leaned to Calvinism, afterwards to Lutheranism; but long before his death was brought back to the Catholic faith, by Claude d’Espense, the learned doctor of Sorbonne and controvertist, in whose arms he died in 1566,) in his very counsel concerning the reception of the council of Trent in France, allows that no exception was made or could be made to the decrees relating to faith, doctrine, the constitutions of the church, and reformation of manners. The objections of Du-Moulin to this council are answered by the learned Peter Gregory of Toulouse, professor in laws at Pont-a-Mousson, author of the syntagma Juris Universi, &c. This answer is prefixed to the work in the edition of Du-Moulin’s writings in five volumes folio, at Paris, in 1681. Among the fathers who composed this council, and whom Fra-Paolo and Courayer traduce by the name of Scholastics, &c., were a great number, eminent for learning in the scriptures, fathers, antiquities, and languages, and many for their extraordinary virtue. Cardinal Pole’s learning, humility, temper, and virtue are much extolled by Burnet himself. Cardinal Stanislas Hosius, bishop of Warmia in Poland, was one of the ablest polemical writers that any age ever produced, he was the most dreaded by the heretics, says Du-Pin; and his works are a proof how well skilled he was in the scriptures and fathers, how clear his understanding, and how sound his judgment was. Antony Augustinus, bishop of Lerida, afterwards archbishop of Tarragona, “was one of the greatest men that Spain ever bred,” says Du-Pin (Bibl. p. 131,) “and his piety and wisdom were equal to his learning. His Tr. Of Corrections upon Gratian, is a work of prodigious labour, of wonderful exactness, and of very great use.” Not to mention Bartholomew de Martyribus, archbishop of Braga, Barth. Carranza, archbishop of Toledo, Tho. Campegius, bishop of Feltri, (brother to cardinal Laurence Campegius,) Aloysius Lippomannus, bishop of Verona, Fr. Commendon, bishop of Zacynthus, afterwards cardinal, (see his excellent life by Gratian, translated by Flechier,) Didacus Covarruvias, and many others; the proofs of whose erudition are transmitted down to us in their writings. Besides the prelates, above a hundred and fifty theologians, some of the ablest of all Catholic nations, attended the council, and discussed every point in the conferences. From Paris came Nic. Maillard, dean of the faculty, Claude de Sanctes, famous for his learned work on the eucharist, and other polemical writings; the most learned Dr. Claude d’Espense and ten others; several from other parts of France, Flanders, Spain, Italy; many of all the principal religious Orders, as Peter Soto and Dominic Soto, Spanish Dominicans, Andrew Vega, the learned Spanish Franciscan, &c. The canonists of the council were not less eminent; among these Scipio Lancelotti was afterwards cardinal; as was also Gabriel Paleota, the intimate friend and pious imitator of St. Charles Borromeo. Being made archbishop of Bologna he published excellent regulations for the reformation of discipline, which, in esteem, hold the second place after those of St. Charles, though inferior in style.

  Neither is the authority of these theologians to be considered single, but as united with, and bearing testimony for, all other absent Catholic doctors, who agreed in all doctrines there approved. If any person should have advanced some exotic opinions, we must, (as Maldonat, the Spanish Jesuit, in 1565, the first professor in Clermont College at Paris, one of the most learned and judicious writers of the sixteenth century, speaking of Hesychius and Gregory Nyssen says,) apply to him the rule of Vincentius Lirinensis. That the church conforms not to the sentiments of private men, but these are obliged to follow the sentiments of the church. It is objected, that we are told by historians, that several kings and prelates had often private views, and employed intrigues in this council which could not be inspired by the Holy Ghost. True it is that passions easily disguise themselves; and ambition, envy, and the like vices may insinuate themselves into the sanctuary under false cloaks. In the first general council of Nice, and in the next succeeding councils which Protestants usually receive, there seems mere colour for bringing such a charge against some of the prelates, than appeared at Trent. This council was an assembly of prelates and theologians eminent for learning and piety; though, had it been otherwise, notwithstanding the weakness or wickedness of men, God has engaged to lead the pastors of his church into all truth, and preserve its faith inviolate through all ages by the succour and special protection he has promised to afford it, but which no way necessarily implies an inspiration. The very contests among the prelates and kings prove the liberty which the council enjoyed: Pius IV. testifies in his bull for the confirmation of the council, that he left to them the discussion even of points of discipline peculiarly reserved to the holy see. The promises of God to his church are the anchor of the Catholic faith, which is handed down the same through all ages. See the ingenious Mr. Abraham Woodhead’s treatise on the Council of Trent; Mr. Jenkes on the same; also Mr. Philips in his Life of Cardinal Pole, sect. 6; and the History of the Council of Trent, elegantly written in Italian by Cardinal Pallavicini, in quarto, against that of Fra-Paolo Sarpi, provincial of the Servites at Venice, counsellor and theologian of that republic, during their quarrel with Paul V. This pope having laid that state under an interdict on account of certain laws concerning ecclesiastical matters, Fra-Paolo’s warmth carried him so far in his writings that the pope excommunicated him. He died in 1625. Many reflections which he inserted in his History of the Council, demonstrate him to have been in many points a Calvinist: of which many other proofs are produced. F. Courayer translated this history into French, in two volumes quarto; and has interspersed several new errors in the notes. An eminent French prelate declared that he had discovered in them a number of heresies. See Cardinal Tencin’s Pastoral Instruction against this work. It is manifest from the Life of Bishop Bedel, and from several letters of Fra-Paolo himself, that he was in his heart a Calvinist, and only waited to gain the republic had he been able to do it, before he declared himself; though, in the mean time, he continued to say mass to his death. From Courayer’s Life of this author, prefixed to his translation of this work, Fra-Paolo’s Calvinism undeniably appears, howsoever the translator labours to palliate it. Though a Calvinist he might have been a sincere historian; but his duplicity in dissembling his religious sentiments contrary to his principles, must weaken his credit; and that he has retailed notorious slanders to misrepresent the transactions of the popes, &c. is clearly proved upon him by Pallavicin., as Dr. Fiddes, in his Life of Cardinal Wolsey, acknowledges, and shows in an important instance. 
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Note 7. Ciaconius, vit. Pontif. t. 3, p, 880. [back]

Note 8. Labbe, Conc. t. 14, p. 944. [back]

Note 9. Sess. xvii. in princ. et sess. 25. [back]

Note 10. See Bibliothèque choisie de Colomies, avec les notes de Bourdelot, de la Monnoye, &c. Guerin. 1731, p. 47. [back]

Note 11. Philip Buonamici, de claris Pontificiarum Litterarum Scriptoribus, ad Bened. XIV. an. 1753. [back]


Note 13. Some recommend this catechism and the Acts of the church of Milan, with Melchior Cano, De Locis Theologicis, to the diligent study of young theologians, to form their Latin style on ecclesiastical subjects. The charge of polishing the style of the catechism was intrusted to the learned Julius Poggiani; not to Paul Manutius, son of the famous Aldus, as is proved by Logomarsini, Not. in Gratiani ep ad Card. Commend. Romæ, 1756, against Graveson, Hist. Eccl. t. 7, p. 146, ed. Venet. 1740; and Apostol. Zen. Annot. in Bibl. eloq. Ital. t. 11, p. 131, ad. Venet. 1733, Poggiani wrote in Latin with as much elegance as Bembo, Sadolet, or Manutius; he was secretary to St. Charles, accompanied him to Milan, and translated into Latin the acts of the first council which the saint held there; but died soon after at the age of forty-six. Next to the holy scripture, and canons, Cardinal Rezzonico (afterwards Pope Clement XIII.) recommends to ecclesiastics the assiduous reading of the Discourses of the ancient fathers, especially St. Chrysostom and St. Charles Borromeo, with the Acts of the church of Milan, and the Roman catechism. See Breve Notizie per Buona Direzione dell anime, Trent, 1759, in 12mo. The same pope, in the brief by which he condemned, in 1761, Mezengui’s Exposition of the Christian Doctrine, earnestly exhorts all pastors to read attentively the Roman Catechism on every article, which they are to explain to the faithful.

  St. Charles took care of the new edition of the Roman Missal and Breviary. The Rubrics (or prescriptions and directions relating to the rites observed in the liturgy) formerly were comprised in books apart. Burchard, master of ceremonies to Innocent VIII., compiled the most correct collection, which was printed at Rome in the first edition of the Pontifical, in 1485, and inserted in a missal printed at Venice, in 1542. At the suggestion of St. Charles, Pope Pius V. caused them to be reduced into better order, and printed in all missals, in 1570. The original or first edition of St. Charles’s Councils, or Acta Ecclesia Mediol. is in two vols. folio, Mediolani, 1599. 
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Note 14. Vida, the delight of Christian poets, was born at Cremona, in 1470, was made bishop of Alba in the Montferrat, in 1533, and died on the 27th of September, in 1566, in the ninety-sixth year of his age. His poem On the Art of Poetry is excellent; that On the Game at Chess, and his Christiados, and some of his hymns and pastorals are justly admired; but the Silk-worm is his masterpiece. See De Thou. Hist. 1. 38, Baillet, Jugem. des Sçavans, t. 3, and his Life prefixed to his works. [back]

Note 15. Giussano, l. 1, c. 11, Raynald. ad an. 1565, n. 26, Ciaconius, t. 3, p. 892. [back]

Note 16. Lewis Cornaro, a nobleman of Venice, was cured of a complication of diseases, and protracted a life which was despaired of at forty, to a hundred years, by taking to a spare diet; his daily allowance of bread and other eatables being only twelve ounces, and of drink fourteen. He died at Padua in 1566. His book On the Advantages of Temperance, or of an Abstemious Sober Life, was translated into Latin by Lessius, who, by the same method, restored a weak broken constitution, and died in 1623, sixty-nine years old. [back]

Note 17. Cardinal Frederic Borromeo (younger son of Count Julius Cæsar, brother to Count Gilbert, our saint’s father,) walked in the steps of St. Charles, was consecrated archbishop of Milan in 1595, and died in 1632. He celebrated the seventh council of Milan in 1609, wrote several pious works, and founded the famous Ambrosian Library at Milan, which is said now to contain thirty-eight thousand volumes, including fourteen thousand manuscripts, with many excellent pictures, and literary curiosities and monuments. [back]

Note 18. Vicarii Foranei. [back]

Note 19. St. Charles received with open arms many English clergymen who were voluntary exiles for their faith. Hugh Gryffydh, a Welch priest, nephew to Dr. Owen Lewis, also a Welchman, St. Charles’s last grand vicar, (and after his death bishop of Cassano, in Italy,) was afterwards provost of our Lady’s at Cambray, and alive in 1600. He gave Saint Charles’s cardinal’s cap to Mr. Harley, provost of St. Gery’s, who, in 1616, gave it to the English secular college at Douay, where it is preserved in a decent reliquary. Bishop Owen Lewis was sent by Gregory XII. in quality of nuncio to the Switzers, and died at Rome in 1595. See Ughelli, Ital. Sacra. t. 9. [back]

Note 20. Pope Benedict XIV. expressed on every occasion the highest veneration for the memory of those great men and holy martyrs, Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More. See L. de Canoniz. SS., &c. The life of the former by Dr. Bailey is very defective. His manuscript life in the Norfolk Library, belonging to the Royal Society, furnishes other memoirs.  Sir Thomas More’s life by his grandson is justly esteemed; also that written by Dr. Stapleton is well executed; but even the former is capable of very great improvements, both from our own and foreign writers, and from his own works.

  Cardinal Pole, equally great in prosperity and in adversity, whom many trials of the severest kind seem to have equalled to martyrs, was not a less honour to his age and country than the two foregoing great men. His life is well written in English, in two volumes, by Mr. Thomas Philips, canon of Tongres. It was printed at Oxford, and reprinted in Dublin in 1765. 
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Note 21. The clergy of France, in their general assembly, in 1657, ordered St. Charles’s instructions to confessors to be printed at their common expense; and with the highest commendations of the holy author, and of the wisdom of the regulations which they contain, strongly recommended them to all their colleagues. St. Charles caused a great number of his sermons to be translated into Latin by another hand. These were preserved in manuscripts in the Ambrosian Library, till the learned keeper thereof, Joseph Antony Saxius, published them in a most elegant edition, in five volumes in folio, at Milan, in 1747. By these it sufficiently appears that the saint was a good orator, that his discourses were elegant and methodical; that the genuine simplicity of his style never sunk into conceptions or expressions that were flat or low, and that by a sweet and natural vein of piety they were strongly affecting. In the sermons which he made to his clergy in his synods, the style is more elegant and lofty. Cardinal Frederic Borromeo (De Episcopo concionante, p. 133.) observes, that the excellence to which this saint attained by the dint of pains and assiduity, in spite of natural impediments, is the condemnation of slothful pastors. [back]

Note 22. Helyot, Hist. des Ord. Relig., t. 8, p. 29. Giussano. l. 5, c. 24, p. 417. [back]

Note 23. Helyot, Hist. des Ord. Relig., t. 8, p. 29. Giussano. l. 5, c. 24, p. 417. [back]

Note 24. Helyot, Hist. des Ord. Relig., t. 6, c. 20, l. 21. Giussano, 14. [back]

Note 25. Giussano, l. 2, c. 23. Oltrocchi, Not. ib. Ciacon. Vit. Pontif. t. 3, p. 893, Ripamont, &c. [back]

Note 26. See this discourse extant among his homilies, t. 1, hom. xi. p. 81, with Saxius’s note. Also Carolus a basilica S. Petri in vitâ S. Caroli, l, 4. c. 6. [back]

Note 27. Giussano, l. 5, c. 1, p. 402. L. 5, c. 7, p. 444. L. 6, c. 2, p. 471. L. 6, c. 5. L. 6, c. 9 et 10. [back]

Note 28. See the life of this saint on the 20th of July. Also his life written in Latin by Aug. Turtua, printed at Milan in 1620, octavo; and Helyot, Hist. des Ord. Rel. t. 4, c. 33. [back]

Note 29. Giusanno, l. 7, c. 14. [back]

Note 30. Ib. l. 8. [back]

Note 31. Ib. l. 7, c. 18, p. 556. [back]

Note 32. 1 Pet. iv. 17. [back]


Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.




Voir aussi : http://www.stcharles.diocese.mc/charles_boromee.html