St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was a major figure in the Counter-Reformation. Although he was a member of the wealthy and influential Medici family, he let go of riches and prestige and instead lived a life of humility, austerity, and service. When Charles’ uncle became Pope Pius IV, he put Charles in charge of the oversight of the Papal States. Although his family wished him to marry and take responsibility for the family interests, he felt called to the priesthood. He served as the Archbishop of Milan, where he set an example of simplicity and care for the poor. In 1576 there was a famine and outbreak of plague that drove most of the civil and religious leaders from the city. Charles stayed behind, ministered to the sick, and fed up to 70,000 people daily. Charles Borromeo is also known for his leadership at the Council of Trent and for the attention he gave to improving education for seminarians and for all youth (including starting the practice of Sunday school). He is the patron saint of catechists, catechumens, and seminarians. His feast day is November 4.
Questions for Reflection:
- Charles Borromeo spent his life reforming the Church, clearing away the trappings of wealth and worldly influence in favor of a return to the basics of our faith: prayer, care the for poor, and passing on the teachings of Christ. How could your faith use a little decluttering? What do you need to let go of in order to focus on what’s most important?
- How are you called in your own life to serve others?