Patrons and Servants

Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo

Romans 11:29-36, Luke 14:12-14

Today the Church remembers St. Charles Borromeo, who came from an aristocratic and well-connected family. Though he was a son of wealth and privilege, at a young age Charles devoted himself to serve God and God’s people.

When Charles’ uncle was elected Pope, Charles was appointed his Secretary of State and made a deacon and cardinal. He was eventually ordained a priest and he appointed Archbishop of Milan. He was still in his 20’s, and the Church had not yet completed the Council of Trent in response to the Protestant Reformation.

Although he was brilliant, Charles found that the most powerful response to Martin Luther and other critics of the Church was…reform! Seminary training was overhauled. Corruption in the Church and in civil society was rooted out. People who were poor needed prayers, but they also needed material help. St. Charles was there for them, often using his own money to help. Given extraordinary recognition and power at a young age through the graces of a relative and patron, he became a servant of all. Following the words of Jesus in today’s gospel, he gave without looking for something in return.

Not everyone appreciated his efforts. Some thought he pushed too hard. One group tried to assassinate him! Charles was undeterred. But all that work took its toll: Charles died at age 46. Today he is the patron of many who serve in the Church, including deacons, bishops and seminarians, among others. He is also the patron of a parish staffed by Capuchin friars in Detroit that brings people from across the metro area together.

St. Charles Borromeo, pray for us! –jc