Saint Charles Borromeo

4 November

St. Charles Borromeo has always been strongly connected to the Council of Trent that was held in three sessions from 1545 to 1563. This council was a meeting of bishops and priests called by the Popes of the time to clarify the beliefs of the Catholic Faith that were being challenged by the Protestant Reformation,  a Movement that challenged the authority  and certain beliefs of the Catholic Church.
Charles was only 7 years old at the opening of this Council, having been born in 1538, in the Castle of Arona, Milan, in a family of great influence in the North of Italy. His father was the Count of Arona, and his mother was ‘a Medici’, a very powerful Italian family of those times.
Being the second son in a family of 6 children, he was not destined to inherit the title and wealth of the family. As was the custom in those times, the second son was directed to follow renowned careers within the Church.

His widowed father sent him to Milan for his education, where he was considered as ‘a slow learner’ because of a speech impediment. He strived on, so that when he was 16 years old, he continued with his studies for a Doctorate in Church and Civil Law at the University of Pavia. Charles was 19 years old when after the death of his father, while his brother took over the responsibility of being the Count, he had to take over the responsibility of organizing the family estate and wealth, before returning to his studies.
In 1559, Charles’ uncle, Cardinal John Angelo Medici who had been elected Pope as Pope Pius IV, called Charles to Rome to occupy significant roles there and in the Archdiocese of Milan. He was instrumental in the internal measures to be implemented to reform the Church while encouraging his uncle, the Pope, to bring the Council of Trent to its conclusion in 1563.
Towards the final session of the Council, Charles’ brother died childless and the family Borromeo put pressure on Charles who had not yet been ordained priest, to renounce his career in the Church, get married and provide an heir for the continuation of the family name, Borromeo.

Although  he was enjoying wealth and power in his high positions in the Church, at this point in his life he acknowledged that his real vocation was the priesthood. With his studies as background he knew that he could be ordained priest, so he organized his ordination without making it public. From then on, he experienced a transformation in his personal life, as his lifestyle changed from one of wealth and power to one of simplicity. He donated most of his wealth to the poor, spending time in prayer and penance.
By the time he was 25 years old, he was appointed Archbishop of Milan where he was faced with a mammoth task because of the moral and religious situation he had to face. He dedicated his time and energy journeying across his diocese, implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent. During the plague of Milan, while those in authority fled from the city, he stayed on administering to the sick and dying, finding ways and means at his own expense to feed hundreds of people every day.
Charles Borromeo succeeded in igniting a ‘Catholic reawakening.’ He established seminaries to improve training for the priesthood, reviewed liturgical practices especially in the administration of the Sacraments, provided a reformed Catechism, establishing the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to teach religion to children embracing hundreds of catechists. He also encouraged the Pope to make separation between political and Church appointments.

He was greatly loved by the people of Milan but he was also threatened, to the point of an assassination attempt by opponents, who had been irked by his attempts to ’put things right’.
Worn out by his constant travelling and efforts, Charles Borromeo contracted a strong fever that led him to his death while he was travelling. He was 46 years old.

St. Charles Borromeo had a speech impediment. Yet he was able to overcome it and continued to contribute sterling service to the Church of his times.
– As parents and guardians we all want the best for our children especially throughout their educational development that will lead to successful careers. However we tend to forget that each child not only learns at a different pace  reaching levels of readiness that are not the same for all, but also that every child learns differently.
– We need to identify the real underlying cause when kids act out, start being defiant, seem to be lazy, not responsive in class, refusing to go to school, bringing up pretences of being sick. They could very well be struggling with learning issues.
– Seek professional help for assessment of learning difficulties that could be stemming from some form of impairment of speech, vision and hearing
– In these situations talk to the children ~ acknowledge their feelings ~ set short term goals ~ praise their efforts~ endorse their successes. Explore if the school is adopting the approach of differentiated teaching in the classroom.
– Sometimes these differences might lend themselves to bullying issues in the classroom and elsewhere. Discuss with the child strategies to adopt ~ if he/she is experiencing attitudes of bullying ~ if they are aware of other children who are being bullied, mocked or ridiculed.

Family Prayer Time:

Lead prayers:

  • For the Catechists in the parish. Thank God for providing these generous people who offer voluntarily to pass on the Catholic Faith. Let the children mention those they know by name and formulate their own simple prayer 
  • For Catechists in countries where it is not so easy to teach the Catholic Catechism, so that they continue to be brave in spite of many difficulties. 
  • For the young men studying in Seminaries preparing to be ordained to become priests. (Do point out a local Seminary if it is close by!)

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.