Thought for the Day – 4 November – The Memorial of St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)
Working behind the scenes, Saint Charles deserves the credit for keeping the Council of Trent in session when at several points it was on the verge of breaking up. Borromeo encouraged the pope to renew the Council in 1562, after it had been suspended for 10 years. He took upon himself the task of the entire correspondence during the final phase. Because of his work at the Council, Borromeo was unable to take up residence in Milan until the Council concluded.
Eventually, Borromeo was allowed to devote his time to the Archdiocese of Milan, where the religious and moral picture was far from bright. The reform needed in every phase of Catholic life among both clergy and laity was initiated at a provincial council of all the bishops under him. Specific regulations were drawn up for bishops and other clergy. If the people were to be converted to a better life, Borromeo had to be the first to give a good example and renew their apostolic spirit
Charles took the initiative in giving a good example. He allotted most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury and imposed severe penances upon himself. He sacrificed wealth, high honours, esteem and influence to become poor. During the plague and famine of 1576, Borromeo tried to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily. To do this he borrowed large sums of money that required years to repay. Whereas the civil authorities fled at the height of the plague, he stayed in the city, where he ministered to the sick and the dying, helping those in want.
Saint Charles Borromeo made his own the words of Christ: “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Matthew 25:35-36). Borromeo saw Christ in his neighbour, and knew that charity done for the least of his flock was charity done for Christ.