St Charles Borromeo

Who is Saint Charles Borromeo? Our Parish is named after this saint but few people know much about him.

Charles Borromeo came from a wealthy and influential family. He was made Archbishop of Milan by his uncle, Pope Pius lV, in 1560. This period was the worst in the history of the Church. At that time every country in Europe was in some sort of political crisis. 

Heresy in the Church was spreading, avarice and vice were everywhere. Indifference to the things of God was the order of the day within the Church, it was dying spiritually.

However, St. Charles was instrumental in bringing about huge reforms within the Church. He upset some members of the hierarchy in the Church who were quite happy with the way the Church was then; powerful, rich, comfortable. He made some enemies and there was even an assassination attempt on him.Charles in his post of Papal Secretary, supported the Pope in reopening the Council of Trent after a break of ten years. He worked on drafting the Catechism, a summary of the whole of the teaching as was decreed during the Council of Trent. 

During his life he showed by example and teaching, that Faith alone was not enough — action was required. He was a doctor and as such, wanted to help others both physically and spiritually. Charles was said to be a workaholic, a turbulent and ambitious man. He was responsible for setting up many organisations that helped the poor and outcast. He believed in the value of fasting and often prescribed this as a treatment for some physical ailments. He fasted himself and friends would say that he over-did it. He was a ‘walking skeleton’. 

Charles came from a noble background but regarded this as a gift from God and lived an austere lifestyle. When plague struck in Milan, the leaders of the city fled whilst people were dropping dead in the street. Charles was begged to take charge in the city. He stayed there organising emergency hospitals and burying the dead. 

Amazingly, he avoided infection even though the plague lasted more than a year. 

He is a saint for today. In his time, people had become very “worldly” and the moral teachings of Jesus were ignored quite openly. Sound familiar? Charles worked hard to change this and his influence was great in putting the message of Christ across to the people.”