November 4: St Charles Borromeo, Memorial


Saint Carlo Borromeo (2 October 1538 – 3 November 1584) was a cardinal responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests.

The nephew of Pope Pius IV (his mother was a Medici) and son of the Count of Arona, through sheer nepotism he was appointed a titular abbot at the age of 12, and archbishop of Milan at 22.  Despite family pressure to quit the Church, he pursued doctoral studies in civil and canon law and was an active reformer of the Church, playing a large role in the Catechism of Trent and the final sessions of the Council itself.

He is not a saint for the faint-hearted.  In line with the spirit of Trent, he substantially revamped his own cathedral removing much of the ornamentation there, and remodelling the nave so as to segregate the sexes.   He was also a vigorous campaigner against heresy and witchcraft.  Ans so strong was the opposition to his reforms of one religious order in his diocese that an attempt to assassinate him was made.

In 1576, when Milan suffered an epidemic of the bubonic plague, Borromeo persuaded his flock that it was sent as a chastisement for sin, and led religious exercises to bring it to an end.  He also  led efforts to accommodate the sick and bury the dead, avoiding no danger and sparing no expense. He visited all the parishes where the contagion raged, distributing money, providing accommodation for the sick, and punishing those, especially the clergy, who were remiss in discharging their duties.

His cult  became established very quickly after his death in Milan, and he was canonised in 1610.

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