Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Memorial of St Charles Borromeo

"Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was born at the family castle at Arona in Lombardy of a noble family in the year 1538. He studied at the Benedictine abbey at Arona and later studied civil and canon law in Milan receiving his doctorate in 1559 at the age of 21. The same year his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV. He was made Secretary of State to the Pope. In 1562 he was instrumental in having Pius reconvene the Council of Trent. Charles played a leading role in guiding it and in fashioning the decrees of the third and last group of sessions. He was ordained a priest in 1563 and consecrated bishop of Milan the same year. Charles oversaw the catechism, missal and breviary called for by the Council of Trent and instituted radical reforms, despite great opposition and was even wounded by an assassin. But he was so successful, his diocese became a model see. He put into effect measures to improve the morals and manners of clergy and laity, established seminaries, and founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for religious instruction of children. He increased assistance to the poor and needy and during his bishopric held eleven diocesan synods and six provincial councils. He helped mitigate the famine that struck Milan in 1570 by feeding three thousand people a day for months. When a plague struck Milan in 1576 Charles mobilized the clergy and religious to aid the stricken after the governor and other officials fled the city, and personally ministered to the afflicted. He was one of the towering figures of the Catholic Reformation, preaching against the heresies of Protestants all-the-while evidencing humility and personal sanctity in his efforts to reform the Church of the evils and abuses so prevalent among the clergy and nobles of the times. He died on November 3, 1584.


I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?

Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God's love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.

If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.

My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on the Lord's blood that has washed them clean. In this way, all that you do becomes a work of love.

This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men."
-- From the Liturgy of the Hours

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