Who is St. Charles?

Who is St. Charles?
St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584 A.D.) was born into an aristocratic family, and was the second of two sons in a family of six.  He was always serious about religion. Though the young Charles was never thought to be too bright, he made good progress in administrative and theological studies.  He did so well, in fact, that he was running a large diocese at age 23 while he was still only a deacon.

Charles became a priest and bishop three years later.

During the 1530s, The Protestant Reformation had challenged the Church with a need for reform within itself.  The Church responded by convening the Council of Trent. Charles was a mastermind of the Council of Trent, which reformed seminary training, revised the catechism, reformed the liturgy, and accomplished many other remarkable achievements. 


Curiously enough, St. Charles was the favorite saint of Pope John XXIII who, as Angelo Roncalli, was made bishop in the church of San Carlo Borromeo, Rome.

Teaching and administration of the sacraments were vital to Charles. He had such high regard for the Mass that he is said to have never said any prayer or carried out any rite in a rushed manner no matter how busy he was.  Particularly concerned with catechetical formation of kids and not being content with the short instructions given every Sunday and Holyday, he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), which eventually numbered 740 schools with 40,000 students and 3,000 catechists.  This makes him the originator of "Sunday schools," 200 years before Protestant churches popularized the idea.

During a great famine in 1570, Charles sold many church valuables to procure supplies and feed some 3,000 of the poor for over three months.  He even took down the curtains in his house to make clothes for the poor.  While meetings, councils and administration of his diocese kept him busy, he never lost touch with basic needs — he once delayed is arrival at a meeting until he was sure a shepherd boy he met on the road knew his Our Father and Hail Mary!

Charles was acquainted with many of the great saints of his time — Pope St. Pius V, St. Philip Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola.  He gave St. Aloysius Gonzaga his First Holy Communion. 

Our statue of him depicts him as a Cardinal Archbishop (red robes & skullcap) and holding a crucifix to which he appears to be giving very thoughtful attention.  This is so appropriate as he was known to extend and apply Lenten penances to himself throughout the year so strictly that a pope once had to remind him to get sufficient sleep and eat properly to sustain his health.