November 4

Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop


“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.”[1]

Charles Borromeo was the Archbishop of Milan and a Papal Secretary of State in the 16th century. He was born in 1538 to one of the most wealthy and notable families in Lombardy. He studied civil and canon law at the University of Pavia, where he graduated with high honors. When Borromeo was 22 years old, his uncle Pius IV, made him a cardinal. Borromeo attended the Council of Trent. When he became Bishop of Milan in 1564, he undertook reforming his vast archdiocese. He focused on the morals of the clergy and laity, diocesan effectiveness, and educational programs. He founded seminaries and a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to educate children. He supported the Counter-Reformation. In 1576, during the bubonic plague, Borromeo worked tirelessly for the poor and dying. He established hospitals, buried the dead, and was a constant source of spiritual support. He died in 1584 and was canonized in 1610. St. Charles Borromeo is the patron saint of seminarians, spiritual directors and religious leaders.[2][3]

Written by Sarah Ciotti
Reviewed by Fr. Hugh Feiss, OSB, STD

[1] Charles Borromeo, “Practice what you preach,” in The Liturgy of the Hours, ed. English Translation prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Corp, 1975), 1544-1545.
[2] Benedict XVI, Angelus, 4 November 2007,
[3] F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), 270.

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