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November 4

St Charles Borromeo - November 4

Saint Charles Borromeo
(1538 – 1584)

“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.”

Saint Charles Borromeo

His Early Years

Charles (Carlo) was born on October 2, 1538 at the Castle of Arona in Arona, on Lake Maggiore 36 miles from Milan, Italy. His wealthy and powerful parents were Count Giberto II Borromeo and Margherita de’ Medici. His father was a man of virtue and skill, and his mother was a member of the famous Medici family of Milan, sister of Angelo de Medici, who was to become Pope Pius IV. Charles was the second son and third of six children. He suffered with a speech impediment.

Raised in a pious family, Charles was deeply devoted to the Passion of Christ and to the Blessed Mother. Charles showed signs of a vocation early. He received the clerical tonsure at age twelve.

Charles was educated at the Benedict Abbey of Saints Gratian and Felinus at Arona. He had an unusual gravity of manner and loved to study. One of his masters said of him: “You do not know the young man; one day he will be a reformer of the Church and do wonderful things.” This prediction was fulfilled to the letter.

In 1554, his father died. Although he had an elder brother, Count Federico, Charles was requested by the family to take the management of their domestic affairs.

Doctor in Civil and Canon Law

In December 1559, Charles earned a doctorate in civil and canon law at the University of Pavia, studying at one point under the future Pope Gregory XIII.  At age 21, Charles was a civil and canon lawyer.

Protonotary Apostolic and Papal Legate

When his uncle, Cardinal de Medici, was elected Pope Pius IV in 1559, Charles was made cardinal-deacon and administrator to the archdiocese of Milan while still a lay person and a student. In January 1560, Pope Pius IV appointed Charles as protonotary apostolic.

Next, Charles was made the pope’s secretary of state, papal legate to Bologna, the Low Countries, and the regions of Switzerland, and cardinal – protector of the Franciscans, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others. In spite of his youth, he demonstrated great energy, skill, and tact in accomplishing these various responsibilities.

Only two years after his arrival in Rome at the age of 22 and still in minor orders, Charles had among his other responsibilities, duties similar to those of the present-day Secretary of State of the Vatican.


In 1562, Pope Pius IV reconvened the Council of Trent, which had opened in 1545 but had been suspended between 1552 and 1562. Charles is credited with keeping the council going for the next two years and hastening it to the completion of its work by reconciling opponents. He helped draft the catechism, missal, and breviary it produced.

An energetic reformer, who consistently took the strict understanding of the dictates of the Council of Trent, Charles Borromeo was instrumental in helping revive the church during the Counter-Reformation. It is said that his work “gave new confidence to a shaken church.”

Priest and Archbishop of Milan

During the council Charles’s older brother, Count Frederick Borromeo, died, leaving Charles as head of the family. Everyone assumed he would resign his clerical state and marry. But Charles opted to name his uncle Julius as successor. Instead, Charles was ordained a priest in September 1563. Later in that same year in December, Charles was consecrated Archbishop of Milan.

Finally taking over his see in 1566, the 28-year-old Charles modified the luxurious life style he had in Rome, and set himself to apply the principles of the Council of Trent in the reformation of a large, disordered diocese that had been without a resident archbishop for 80 years. At this time the archdiocese of Milan stretched from Venice to Geneva. It comprised 3,000 clergy and 600,000 lay men and women in over 2,000 churches, 100 communities of men, and 70 of women – about the size of the Roman Church in England today.

Charles immediately set about reforming the diocese with great respect for those involved. He started seminaries for the education of clergy, founded a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) for the religious instruction of children, instituted ‘Sunday schools, and seminaries were opened for the training of clergy. It is said he had 3,000 catechists and 40,000 pupils enrolled in the CCD programs of Milan. He arranged retreats for the clergy and encouraged the Jesuits in their educational work.

Charles Borromeo was an outstanding figure among Catholic reformers after the Council of Trent, and has been called a second Saint Ambrose of Milan. His rigorism in some directions and his imperiousness have not escaped criticism, but such work of his as the religious education of children has been very widely appreciated.

Assassination Attempt

On October 26, 1569, Archbishop Charles Borromeo of Milan, was at evening prayer. He had been attempting to bring order to a corrupt religious group known as the Humiliati, which had no more than 70 members, but who possessed the wealth of 90 monasteries. One of the Humiliati, a priest named Jerome Donati Farina, was hired by three friars with the proceeds from selling church decorations to assassinate Borromeo.

Jerome shot at the archbishop as he knelt before the altar during evening prayer and he escaped. Charles, thinking himself mortally wounded, commended himself to God. The bullet, however, only struck his clothes in the back, bruising him. He calmly ordered the service to continue. When it turned out that the wound was not mortal, Charles Borromeo rededicated himself to the reform of the Church.

Cared for His Flock

During a famine, Charles fed 3,000 people daily for three months with his own money. Next, Charles set an example of personal heroism during the outbreak of the plague in 1576, organizing care of the sick, burial of the dead, and feeding of the population. His simplicity, piety, generosity, and self-sacrifice during this time, made him beloved by his flock. Exhausted, he died at the age of 46. His last words were, “See, Lord, I am coming, I am coming soon.”

Future Saints

In 1580, Charles met, aided, and entertained for a week twelve young priests going on a mission to England. Two preached before him – Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion, English martyrs. A little later the same year, Charles met the 12-year-old Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom he gave his first Communion.

His Death

Charles was a martyr in his own way. He travelled under much strain and without enough sleep. In 1584, his health declined. After arranging for the establishment of a convalescents’ home in Milan, he went to Monte Varallo to make his annual retreat, accompanied by the Jesuit Father Adorno. He told several people that he was not long for this world, took ill on October 24, and arrived back in Milan on All Souls’ Day (November 2), having celebrated Mass for the last time the day before in his hometowm of Arona.

Charles requested the last rites, received them, and died quietly during the early hours of November 4 in the arms of his Welsh confessor, Father Roberts, in 1584, aged only 46, with the words, “Behold, I come. Your will be done.”

Charles was buried in Milan Cathedral.

Soon after his death the people agreed to build a monument to him – a 28-meter statue set upon a 14-meter pedestal.

St Charles Borromeo - The Hugh Saint Charles - November 4

The statue was called “Carlone” or “Big Charles.”

In art, his emblem is a cardinal’s hat and crozier. Normally, Saint Charles is shown as a cardinal praying before a crucifix, generally barefoot and often with a rope around his neck.

Born :                   October 2, 1538 in the Castle of Arona in Arona, Lombardy, Italy

Died:                    November 3, 1584 in Milan, Italy

Beatified:            May 12, 1602 by Pope Clement VIII

Canonized:         November 1, 1610 by Pope Paul V

Feast Day:          November 4

Patron Saint:     Against Intestinal Disorders; Against Stomach Diseases; Against Ulcers; Apple Orchards; Archdiocese of Milan, Italy; Bishops; Catechists; Catechumens; Diocese of Monterey, California; Learning; Lombardy, Italy; San Carlos; Brazil; Seminarian; Spiritual Directors



In the midst of the plague that ravaged Milan, Saint Charles Borromeo demonstrated extraordinary courage and compassion. He fearlessly tended to the sick and dying, illustrating the depth of his love for God’s people. Saint Charles Borromeo donated his own money and resources to provide people with food during this plague. His example challenges us to be instruments of hope and healing, especially in times of crisis, and to recognize the inherent dignity of every individual at all stages of life.

How can you demonstrate to others today your compasssion for your sick and needy neighbors near and far?



O Holy Saint Charles Borromeo, model of pastoral care, we turn to you in prayer.

You who dedicated your life to the service of God’s people, inspire in us a similar zeal for the Gospel.

Guide us in the path of holiness, that, like you, we may respond to the needs of the Church with courage, wisdom, and compassion.

Strengthen our commitment to prayer, that we may draw closer to God and be open to His will in our lives.

Saint Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us. Amen.


Saint Charles Borromeo, patron of bishops and catechists,

Pray for our shepherds and teachers, that they may lead with humility and love.

May your example inspire us to live the Christian life with purpose and dedication, always seeking the greater glory of God.

Saint Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us and for the whole Church. Amen.


Saint Links 

Aleteia – St. Charles Borromeo: The “provocative” reformer translated into English after 400 years

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Charles Borromeo

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

Bartleby – Rev. Alban Butler Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. November 4 St. Charles Borromeo, Cardinal, Archbishop of Milan, Confessor

Catholic Culture – St. Charles Borromeo

Catholic Exchange – St. Charles Borromeo

Catholic Ireland – Nov 4 – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) zealous archbishop of Milan

Catholic News Agency – St. Charles Borromeo Feast day: Nov 04

Catholic Online – St. Charles Borromeo

CatholicSaints.Info – Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Charles Borromeo, Archbishop and Cardinal

Daily Compass – Saint Charles Borromeo

Daily Prayers – Charles Borromeo

Franciscan Media – Saint Charles Borromeo

Independent Catholic News – St Charles Borromeo

Loyola Press – Saint John Climacus Feast day March 30

My Catholic Life – November 4: Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop

National Catholic Register – St. Charles Borromeo: Patron Saint of Stomach Ailments, Dieting — and Obesity?

New Advent – Keogh, W. (1908). St. Charles Borromeo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

RC Spirituality (Uncle Eddy) – St. Charles Borromeo

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Charles Borromeo’s Story

Saints for Sinners – Saint Charles Borromeo

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

Saint of the Day – St. Charles Borromeo: A Legacy of Faith and Resilience

Saint Resources – Charles Borromeo

The Daily Mass – St. Charles Borromeo

uCatholic – Saint Charles Borromeo

Video Link

Cradio Saint of the Day: Saint Charles Borromeo – YouTube (CatholicSaints.Info)

St. Charles Borromeo – YouTube (Catholic Online)

Saint Charles Borromeo 11-04 – YouTube (ChurchMilitant Archives)