Friday, November 4, 2011

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

(Romans 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8)

Two Protestants visiting Rome were amazed by the immensity of St. Peter’s Basilica. One said to the other, “I wonder how much it cost.” The reply was, “Half of Christendom.” The answer implies the trouble which the granting donations for a fee caused. Unable to stomach the transactions, Martin Luther made his famous protest which led to much of northern Europe seceding from papal authority. The Church badly needed reform from within which men like St. Charles Borromeo carried out.

It does not seem unlikely that Charles Borromeo would make a statement like St. Paul’s in the first reading today. “…I will not dare to say anything except what Christ as accomplished through me…,” Paul writes. Like Paul Charles faced a huge task. Nepotism was rampant in appointing bishops and cardinals. Some clerics not only had children but promoted their advancement. The Council of Trent outlined a program to reestablish right order, but it took intelligent, diplomatic, and holy men like Charles to implement it.

In praying to St. Charles Borromeo we implicitly recognize the Church as an institution. Perhaps some of us are uncomfortable with thinking of the Church in this way. But unless it had a definite structure, it would hardly be able to exist much less administer the needs of more than one billion people. Still it behooves the leaders of the institution not to think of themselves as corporate executives but as servants of the Lord.