Ordinary Time: November 4th
Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, bishop
Old Calendar: St. Charles Borromeo; Sts. Vitalis and Agricola, martyrs
St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was a member of a noble family and a nephew of Pope Pius IV. He was made a Cardinal at the age of 23 and assisted the Pope in administering the affairs of the Holy See and in governing the Church. Soon thereafter he was made Archbishop of Milan. His endeavors on behalf of the 19th Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1564) were especially meritorious and fruitful. He helped to direct and guide it and bring it to a successful conclusion. He then proceeded to enforce its decrees in the Archdiocese of Milan and thoroughly reformed Catholic life in his See. During a plague he walked barefooted in the public streets, carrying a cross, with a rope around his neck, offering himself as a victim to God for the transgressions of his people.According to the 1962 Missal of Bl. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the commemoration of Sts. Vitalis and Agricola, martyrs in Bologna.
St. Charles Borromeo
Charles Borromeo, the bishop of Milan, came from a wealthy, aristocratic Italian family. He was born in the family castle, and lived a rather lavish life, entertaining sumptuously as befit a Renaissance court. He personally enjoyed athletics, music, art, and the fine dining that went along with lifestyles of the rich and famous of the sixteenth century. His maternal uncle, from the powerful Medici family, was pope. As was typical of the times, his uncle-pope made him a cardinal-deacon at age twenty-three and bestowed on him numerous offices. He was appointed papal legate to Bologna, the Low Countries, and the cantons of Switzerland, and to the religious orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others.
—Excerpted from The Way of the Saints, Tom Cowan
Let us fear lest the angered judge say to us: If you were the enlighteners of My Church, why have you closed your eyes? If you pretended to be shepherds of the flock, why have you suffered it to stray? Salt of the earth, you have lost your savor. Light of the world, they that sat in darkness and the shadow of death have never seen you shine. You were apostles; who, then, put your apostolic firmness to the test, since you have done nothing but seek to please men? You were the mouth of the Lord, and you have made that mouth dumb. If you allege in excuse that the burden was beyond your strength, why did you make it the object of your ambitious intrigues?
Great was Charles' love of neighbor and liberality toward the poor. When the plague raged in Milan, he sold his household furniture, even his bed, to aid the sick and needy, and thereafter slept upon bare boards. He visited those stricken by the disease, consoled them as a tender father, conferred upon them the sacraments with his own hands. A true mediator, he implored forgiveness day and night from the throne of grace. He once ordered an atonement procession and appeared in it with a rope about his neck, with bare and bloody feet, a cross upon his shoulder—thus presenting himself as an expiatory sacrifice for his people to ward off divine punishment. He died, dressed in sackcloth and ashes, holding a picture of Jesus Crucified in his hands, in 1584 at the age of forty-six. His last words were, "See, Lord, I am coming, I am coming soon." His tomb in the cathedral of Milan is of white marble.Patron: Against ulcers; apple orchards; bishops; catechists; catechumens; colic; intestinal disorders; diocese of Monterey, California; seminarians; spiritual directors; spiritual leaders; starch makers; stomach diseases. Symbols: Altar; chalice and host; rope around neck; casket and crucifix; cardinal's hat; word Humiltitas crowned.
Often Portrayed As: Bishop wearing a noose around his neck; cardinal wearing a noose around his neck. Things to Do:
- Pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin in imitation of St. Charles who recited it daily;
- Say a rosary for our Bishops that they will have the courage to be the salt and light in our confused world;
- Learn more about the Council of Trent;
- Pray for vocations and pray for the pastor and the priests in your parish that they will plant the life of grace and help it grow;
- Meditate on the common priesthood bestowed on all of us at baptism and confirmation;
- Do something today to spread the faith, explain some teaching to your children, witness to your neighbor, purchase good Catholic books for others, mindful that "every Catholic is responsible for the salvation of those with whom he lives!" (Pius Parsch)
- From the Catholic Culture library: Charles Borromeo: Hero of Reform and Editae Saepe (On St. Charles Borromeo).
Sts. Vitalis and Agricola
Vitalis and Agricola were two martyrs of Bologna. Their bodies were discovered in 393 during the episcopate of St. Ambrose who was present at the translation of their relics.
Vitalis, a slave, and Agricola, his master, were cruelly tortured under Diocletian. In vain was Vitalis tempted by promises to renounce his faith; he merely showed himself more constant as a confessor of Christ. He was tortured most dreadfully, but bore all with incomparable patience till in prayer he gave up the spirit. Agricola's sentence was delayed in the hope that the torments of his slave would frighten him into a denial of Christ, but the constancy of Vitalis confirmed him in the faith. He was nailed to a cross and thereby became a comrade and sharer with his servant in the crown of martyrdom (c. 304). Later times distinguished two persons by the name Vitalis, one the martyr of Ravenna, the other Agricola's companion at Bologna; actually there is question that they are but one and the same individual.—Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace by Pius ParschSymbols: White war horse; spiked club; post; cross and nails.