Thursday, November 4, 2010

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Philippians 3:3-8a; Luke 15:1-10)

As much as Paul could boast of his pedigree Hebrew background, St. Charles Borromeo could have basked in the glory of Italian nobility. Charles was born into the Medici family and his uncle was Pope Pius IV, who made him a cardinal of the Church at twenty-two years of age! At the same time, before he was ordained a priest, Charles became administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan. He might have sat on his laurels at this point enjoying the luxury of a prominent public authority but chose a different course.

Charles took seriously the Council of Trent’s reforms bringing the Church more in line with gospel mandates. He founded a seminary in Milan and set up orphanages, hospices, shelters for the homeless, hospital and schools. When epidemic scourged his city, Charles did not lay back in fear but personally visited the parishes most affected by the plague. He distributed money to aid the victims and gave spiritual support. He died several years later, a victim of disease.

Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians the motivation of such sacrifice as Charles Borromeo’s. Whatever one has or whatever one does, it is as nothing compared to the glory of Christ. The victory that Christ has won over death is freely shared with us so that whatever achievements we have racked up on our own become as insignificant as drops of water in a river. Rather than boast of the insignificant, we are wise to praise Christ’s infinite accomplishment.