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Friday, November 4, 2011

St Charles Borremeo

"In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God." Rom 15:17

Named Archbishop of Milan when he was 25yrs old, Charles Borremeo was hugely influential at the Council of Trent. For many years he was a church careerist, working to assure himself and his family a comfortable life, but when his elder brother died during the Council, everything changed. Aware that life was short, Charles became an avid church reformer who lived a very simple personal life and gave most of his income to the poor. More important, he insisted that everyone named bishop in his provincial council be an example to the faithful of men committed to the gospel, and be well trained in Scripture for their ministries. In fact, the education of the clergy became so important to him that he started the seminary system which continues, even today, to train priests all over the world.

Today’s selection from St Paul’s letter to the Romans sounds like Charles could have written it. Concerned that some of his disciples and converts were taking credit for their own good works, Paul first praises them but then reminds them that without Christ nothing of ultimate value can happen. The apostle writes, “I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” Any distraction from the works of God in Christ fails to advance the cause of the gospel.

Charles Borremeo knew this well. When he came to power, the church was still reeling from the Protestant Reformation. The clergy had been disgraced. There was little trust in the institutional church but Charles did not shrink from the work of reform that had to be done. No doubt the saint was asked to act more discreetly in the world, to remember the prominent family from which he came, and not to offend those who might be helpful in civil affairs. But Charles, like Paul, would have none of it. He was determined to move forward for the sake of Christ and the gospel, and while some of his decisions strike modern hearers as unnecessarily harsh, because Charles was afraid the church was about to collapse from within, he was committed to a sweeping reform.

Both St. Charles and St Paul warn us today to be vigilant and not take for granted what God has done in us. When we acknowledge how needy we are, God can do God’s work.

Today, thank God for everything and ask for the grace to reform your life.

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