Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Luke (16: 1-8) in which Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the dishonest steward. After reading the Gospel, Fr Paul shares a little about the life of St Charles Borromeo, whose memorial we celebrate today.
Fr Paul notes, Charles Borromeo was born in a castle on the shores of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy, to a very powerful family. As the second son, he was destined for a career in the Church from an early age. He received a doctorate in civil and canon law at the University of Pavia, and, when his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV in 1559, Charles was summoned to Rome and made a cardinal. Among many other responsibilities he was made administrator of the vacant diocese of Milan and protector of the Catholic cantons of Switzerland and of the Franciscans and the Carmelites. In late 1562 Charles’s elder brother died, leaving him as head of the family. His relations wanted him to abandon his ecclesiastical career and marry, and even the Pope suggested it; but Charles saw his brother’s death as a sign of the vanity of human wishes. Eventually, in 1563, he settled the argument by secretly being ordained priest. He was soon consecrated as Archbishop of Milan, but the Pope would not let him leave Rome because he was needed there. He worked on the catechism, the Missal and the Breviary, and reformed his own diocese as well as he could from a distance through trusted deputies. At length Pius IV died and in 1566 his successor permitted Charles to take up residence in his diocese. He began reform from the top, giving much of his property to the poor. He set up the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine to teach children the faith: it was the beginning and inspiration of the Sunday School movement. When famine struck the province, he fed 3,000 people at his own expense for three months and inspired others to do likewise. When plague came, he prepared himself for death, made his will, and went to the hospital where the worst cases were. After enormous amounts of nagging, preaching and persuasion the secular clergy then followed his example. As might be expected, Charles encountered determined opposition to his programme of reform. Charles died on 3 November 1584 at the age of 46. Today, Fr Paul invites us to pray St Charles Borromeo, pray for us!