Theology of the Heart- Life of the Saints- St. Charles Borromeo



Patron of seminarians and catechists

Feast: November 4

St. Charles Borromeo was born on October 2nd 1538 in Lago Maggiore in Northern Italy. His parents were Count Giberto Borromeo and Margherita de Medici. He was the third of six children. His mother died when he was only nine years old and his father married again after she died. He was sent to Milan to study Latin. His uncle was Cardinal de’ Medici of Milan.

His father died in early August of 1558 and St. Charles returned home to assume responsibility for the family affairs. Even though his studies were interrupted by this in 1559 he received his doctorate of civil and canon law.

In 1559 Pope Paul IV died and Cardinal de’ Medici was elected taking the name Pope Pius IV.  St. Charles immediately left for Rome when he heard the news about his uncle being elected Pope. Although he traveled quickly he was unable to make it in time for the coronation on January 6th. On January 31st of the same year Charles was created cardinal-deacon and was placed as the administrator of the Ferrara. He had a strong influence in the re-assembling of the Council of Trent that had been suspended since 1552. Much of Europe was in the middle of a crisis of faith and there were many difficulties to be overcome. But despite all these obstacles he continued to work toward re-assembling the council. Because of St. Charles’ patience and devotion the council was reconvened on January 18th, 1562. There were two cardinals 106 bishops, four mirted abbots and 4 generals of religious orders present. There were many questions and issues that almost broke up the council, but St. Charles was able to skillfully and delicately give attention to what was happening and keep the council moving forward. The final session of the council was the 3rd and 4th of December, 1563. Pope Pius IV then confirmed the decrees of the council and ordered that the decrees be carried out.

During the time of the council St. Charles’ older brother, Count Federigo, died. This put great pressure on him to give up his position at the Vatican and marry. Many of his relatives were insisting on this including the Holy Father. But, he resolved to be more dedicated to his faith and give up worldly things. He was secretly ordained as a priest on September 4th, 1563.  In addition to re-assembling the Council of Trent he put into effects measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity. He established many seminaries, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine for the religious education of children, and strongly encouraged the Jesuits to continue their work. He also helped the poor and needy. He also did a lot of work in resisting protestanism and bringing fallen away Catholics back to the Church.

He died in Milan on November 4th and was canonized in 1610.



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