ST CHARLES BORROMEO, CARDINAL, ARCHBISHOP OF MILAN, AND CONFESSOR1538-1584 A.D.
Feast: November 4
[His life was originally and accurately written by three eminent persons who had all had the happiness of living some time with him by two in Latin, Austin Valerio, afterwards Cardinal and Bishop of Verona, and Charles Bascape, or a Basilica St. Petri, General of the Barnabites, afterwards Bishop of Novara; and more in detail in Italian by Peter Giussano, a priest of the congregation of the Oblates at Milan. See also Vagliano, Sommario delle vite degli arcivescovi di Milano, in Milano, an. 1715, c. 126, p. 340, and his life by John Baptist, possevini priest of Mantua. Likewise Lettera di Agata Sfondrata, Priora di St. Paolo in Milano alla priora de Angeliche di St. Marta di Cremona, per la morte di San Carlo; inter sermones St. Caroli per Saxium, t. v. p. 292; Lades St. Carolo tributae, ib. p. 299; and Oltrocchi, Not. in Giuss. printed at Milan, 1751.]
St Charles Borromeo, the model of pastors and the reformer of ecclesiastical discipline in these degenerate ages, was son of Gilbert Borromeo, Count of Arona, and his lady, Margaret of Medicis, sister to John James of Medicis, Marquis of Marignan, and of Cardinal John Angelus of Medicis, afterwards Pope Pius IV. The family of Borromeo is one of the most ancient in Lombardy, and has been famous for several great men, both in the church and state. The saint's parents were remarkable for their discretion and piety. Their family consisted of six childrenCount Frederic, who afterwards married the sister of the Duke of Urbino, and our saint, and four daughters; Isabel, who became a nun in the monastery called of the Virgins in Milan; Camilla, married to Caesar Gonzaga, Prince of Malfetto; Jeronima, married to Fabricio Gesualdi, eldest son to the Prince of Venosa; and Anne, married to Fabricio, eldest son of Mark-Antony Colonna, a Roman prince and Viceroy of Sicily. All these children were very virtuous. Anne, though engaged in the world, imitated all the religious exercises and austerities of her brother Charles, prayed many hours together with a recollection that astonished everyone; and, in order to increase the fund of her excessive charities, retrenched every superfluous expense in her table, clothes, and housekeeping. By her virtue and the saintly education of her children, she was the admiration of all Italy and Sicily, and died at Palermo in 1582.
St. Charles was born on the cad of October, in 1538, in the castle of Arona, upon the borders of Lake-Major, fourteen miles from Milan. The saint in his infancy gave proofs of his future sanctity, loved prayer, was from the beginning very diligent in his studies, and it was his usual amusement to build little chapels, adorn altars, and sing the divine office. By his happy inclination to piety and love of ecclesiastical functions, his parents judged him to be designed by God for the clerical state, and initiated him in it as soon as his age would allow him to receive the tonsure. This destination was the saint's earnest choice; and though by the canons he was not yet capable of taking upon him an irrevocable obligation, both he and his father were far from the sacrilegious abuse of those who determine their children, or make choice of the inheritance of Christ, with a view merely to temporal interest or the convenience of their family. Charles was careful, even in his childhood, that the gravity of his dress and his whole conduct should be such as became the sanctity of his profession. When he was twelve years old, his uncle, Julius Caesar Borromeo, resigned to him the rich Benedictine abbey of SS. Gratinian and Felin, martyrs, in the territory of Arona, which had been long enjoyed by some clergymen of that family in <commendam>. St. Charles, as young as he was, put his father in mind that the revenue, except what was expended on his necessary education at his studies for the service of the church, was the patrimony of the poor, and could not be applies to any other uses or blended with his other money. The father wept for joy at the pious solicitude of the child; and though during his son's nonage the administration of the revenues was committed to him, he gave this up to the young saint that he might himself dispose of the overplus in alms, which he did with the most scrupulous fidelity in his accounts. St. Charles learned Latin and humanity at Milan, and was afterwards sent by his father to the university of Pavia, where he studied the civil and canon law under Francis Alciat, the eminent civilian. St. Charles, though on account of an impediment in his speech, and his love of silence, was by some esteemed slow, yet, by the soundness of his judgment and a diligent application, made good progress in it. And the prudence, piety, and strictness of his conduct rendered him a model of the youth in the university, and proof against evil company and all other dangers, which he watchfully shunned. Such was the corruption of that place that several snares were laid for his virtue; but prayer and retirement were his arms against all assaults, and the grace of God carried him through difficulties which seemed almost insurmountable. He communicated every eight days, after the example of his father, and shunned all connections or visits which could interrupt his regular exercises or hours of retirement; yet was he very obliging to all who desired to speak to him. His father's death brought him to Milan in 1558; but when he had settled the affairs of his family with surprising prudence and address, he went back to Pavia, and after completing his studies, took the degree of doctor in the laws towards the end of the year 1559.
When he had taken the degree of doctor he returned to Milan, where he soon after received news that his uncle, the Cardinal of Medicis, by whom he was tenderly beloved, was chosen pope on the 25th of December, in 1559, in the conclave held after the death of Paul IV. The new pope being a patrician of Milan, that city made extraordinary rejoicings, and complimented his two nephews in the most pompous and solemn manner. St. Charles gave no signs of joy on the occasion, but only persuaded his brother Frederic to go with him to confession and communion; which they did. Count Frederic went to Rome to compliment his holiness; but St. Charles stayed at Milan, living in the same manner he did before, till his uncle sent for him, and on the last day of the same year created him cardinal, and on the 8th of February following, nominated him Archbishop of Milan, when he was in the twenty-third year of his age. The pope, however, detained him at Rome, placed him at the head of the Consult, or council, with power to sign in his name all requests, and entrusted him with the entire administration of the ecclesiastical state. St. Charles endeavoured as much as possible to decline these posts, but after he was made priest, he accepted the office of grand penitentiary, wherein he was to labour for God and the people. He was also legate of Bologna, Romaniola, and the marquisate of Ancona, and protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and the Orders of St. Francis, the Carmelites, the Knights of Malta, and others. By the entire confidence which his uncle reposed in him, he may be said to have governed the church during his pontificate; and, as he received from him daily the most sensible tokens of the strongest and most sincere affection, so, full of the most tender sentiments of gratitude, he constantly made him the best return of duty, tenderness, and affection he was able. The sole end which he proposed to himself in all his actions and undertakings was the glory of God and the good of his church. For fear of ever deceiving himself, he had about him several persons of approved wisdom and virtue, without whose advice he took no resolution, and to whom he listened with great humility and prudence. In the government of the ecclesiastical state he was very careful that provisions should be everywhere plentiful and cheap, and that all judges and magistrates should be persons of consummate prudence and inflexible integrity. His patience in bearing contradictions and hearing the complaints of persons of all ranks was a proof of his sincere charity. It is incredible what a multiplicity of business he dispatched without ever being in a hurry, merely by the dint of unwearied application, by his aversion to idle amusements, and being regular and methodical in all that he did. He always found time, in the first place, for his devotions and sacred studies, and for conversing with himself by reflection and pious reading. He read also some of the ancient Stoic philosophers, and reaped much benefit from the Enchyridion of Epictetus, as he frequently expressed. He was a great patron of learning, and promoted exceedingly all its useful branches among the clergy.
St. Charles judged it so far necessary to conform to the custom of the court as to have a magnificent palace well furnished, to keep a sumptuous equipage, and a table suitable to his rank, and to give entertainments. Yet he was in his heart most perfectly disengaged from all these things, most mortified in his senses, humble, meek, and patient in all his conduct. Honoured and caressed by the whole Christian world, having in his power the distribution of riches and honours, and enjoying himself whatever the world could bestow, he considered in all this nothing but dangers; and far from taking any delight herein, watched with trembling over his own heart lest any subtle poison of the love of the world should insinuate itself, ant in all things sought only the establishment of the kingdom of God. Many are converted to God by adversity; but St. Charles, in the softest gale of prosperity, by taking a near view of the emptiness, and arming himself against the snares of the world, became every day more and more disentangled from it, and more an inhabitant of heaven. He sighed after the liberty of the saints, and trembled at the sight both of the dangers and of the obligations of his situation; he also considered that obedience to the chief pastor fixed him for a time at a distance from the church of Milan, the charge of which he had taken upon himself. And though he had provided for its government and the remedying of its disorders in the best manner he was able, by excellent regulations, by a suffragan bishop named Jerome Ferragata (whom he sent thither to make the visitation and to officiate in his place), and by a vicar-general of great experience, learning, and piety called Nicholas Ormanetto (who had formerly been Grand Vicar of Verona, had afterwards attended Cardinal Pole in his legation in England and been there his chief assistant, and after his return would take upon him no other charge but that of a single curacy in the diocese of Verona), yet St. Charles considered the duty of personal service and residence, neither did the command of the pope, by which he was obliged to attend for some time the government of the universal church for a greater good and necessity, make him easy.
It happened that Bartholomew de Martyribus, the most pious and learned Archbishop of Braga, came from Trent to Rome to wait upon his holiness. To him, as to a faithful servant of God, enlightened by him, and best able to direct others in perplexing circumstances, the saint opened his heart in the manner following: "For this long time I have begged of God, with all the earnestness I am able, to enlighten me with regard to the state in which I live. You see my condition; you know what it is to be a pope's
nephew, and a nephew most tenderly beloved by him; nor are you ignorant what it is to live in the court of Rome. The dangers which encompass me are infinite. I see a great number; and there are a great many more which I do not discern. What, then, ought I to do, young as I am, and without experience, and having no part or ingredient of virtue but through the divine grace an earnest desire of obtaining it?" The holy cardinal proceeded to explain his difficulties and fears; then added, "God has inspired me with a vehement ardour for penance, and an earnest desire to prefer his fear and my salvation to all things; and I have some thoughts of breaking my bonds and retiring into some monastery, there to live as if there were only God and myself in the world." This he said with an amiable sincerity which charmed the director, who, after a short pause, cleared all his doubts, assuring him by solid reasons that he ought not to quit his hold of the helm which God put into his hands for the necessary and most important service of the universal church, his uncle being very old; but that he ought to contrive means to attend his own church as soon as God should open him a way to it. St. Charles, rising up, embraced him and said God had sent him thither for his sake, and that his words had removed a heavy weight from his heart; and he begged that God, who by his grace had shown him the station in which it was his will that he should labour in his service, would vouchsafe to support him in it by his divine grace.
In November 1562, the saint's elder and only brother was carried off in the bloom of life and most flourishing fortune by a sudden fever. St. Charles, who had never forsaken him during his illness, bore his death, which overwhelmed all other friends with consternation and grief, with surprising resignation; the sentiments of a lively faith being stronger in him than those of flesh and blood. In profound recollection he adored the decrees of Providence, and was penetrated more seriously than ever with a sense of eternity and of the instability of human things. All his friends, and the pope himself, pressed him to resign his ecclesiastical dignities and marry to support his family: but more effectually to rid himself of their solicitations, he made more haste to engage himself in orders, and was ordained priest before the end of that year. The pope soon after created him grand penitentiary and arch-priest of St. Mary Major. St. Charles founded at that time the noble college of the Borromeos at Pavia for the education of the clergy of Milan, and obtained several bulls for the reformation of many abuses in ecclesiastical discipline. The council of Trent, which had been often interrupted and resumed, was brought to a conclusion in 1563, the last session being held on the 5th of December, in which the decrees of all the former sessions under Paul III, Julius III, and Pius IV were confirmed and subscribed by two hundred and fifty-five fathers, viz. four legates of the holy see, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-eight bishops, thirty-nine deputies of absent prelates, seven abbots, and seven generals of religious Orders. Difficulties which seemed insurmountable had been thrown in the way, sometimes by the emperor, sometimes by the King of France, sometimes by the King of Spain, or others; and it was owing to the unwearied zeal and prudence, and doubtless to the prayers of St. Charles Borromeo, that they were all happily removed; who, informing the prelates and princes of his uncle's sickness, engaged them by his pressing solicitations to hasten the close of that venerable assembly. No sooner was it finished but St. Charles began strenuously to enforce the execution of all its decrees for the reformation of discipline. At his instigation, the pope pressed earnestly all bishops to found seminaries according to the decree of the council, and set the example by establishing such a seminary at Rome, the care of which was committed to the Jesuits. In opposition to the new errors, his holiness published, in 1564, the creed which bears his name, and commanded all who are preferred to ecclesiastical livings, dignities, &c., to subscribe the same.
St. Charles had always about him several very learned and virtuous persons: his spiritual director in Rome was F. Ribera, a learned Jesuit, and by his advice he regulated his retreats and devotions.
King Philip II had settled upon St. Charles a yearly pension of nine thousand crowns, and confirmed to him the gift of the principality of Oria, which he had before bestowed on his elder brother Frederic. The pope before his departure created him a legate <a latere> through all Italy. The saint left Rome on the 1st of September in 1565, stopped some days at Bologna, where he was legate, and was received at Milan with the utmost joy and pomp that can be imagined, the people calling him in their acclamations a second St. Ambrose. After having prayed a long time prostrate before the blessed sacrament in the great church, he went to his palace and received visits, but made this necessary ceremony of civility as short as possible. On Sunday he made a pathetic sermon, and soon after opened his first provincial council, at which assisted two foreign cardinals and eleven suffragan bishops, among whom were Bernardin Scoti, Cardinal of Trani, Bishop of Placentia, Guy Ferrier, Bishop of Vercelli (to whom St. Charles gave the cardinal's hat in this council, by his uncle's deputation), Jerome Yida, the famous Bishop of Alba, and Nicholas Sfondrat, Bishop of Cremona, afterwards Pope Gregory XIV. Five suffragan bishops (of whom two were cardinals) sent deputies, being themselves hindered from making their appearance; the suffragan see of Ventimil was vacant. The dignity, majesty, and piety with which this council was celebrated by a young cardinal, only twenty-six years of age, and the excellence of its regulations for the reception and observance of the council of Trent, for the reformation of the clergy, the celebration of the divine office, the administration of the sacraments, the manner of giving catechism in all parish churches on Sundays and holydays, and many other points, surprised everyone; and the pope wrote to St. Charles a letter of congratulation. When the council was broke up, St. Charles set about the visitation of his diocese; but went through Verona to Trent, by the pope's orders, to receive the two sisters of the Emperor Maximilian II: Barbara, married to Alphonsus of Esti, Duke of Ferrara, and Jane, married to Francis of Medicis, Duke of Florence. The former he attended to Ferrara, and the latter as far as Fiorenzola, in Tuscany, where he received news by an express that the pope lay dangerously ill. He hastened to Rome, and being informed by the physicians that his uncle's life was despaired of, he went into his chamber, and showing him a crucifix which he held in his hand, said to him, "Most holy father, all your desires and thoughts ought to be turned towards heaven. Behold Jesus Christ crucified, who is the only foundation of our hope; he is our mediator and advocate; the victim and sacrifice for our sins. He is goodness and patience itself; his mercy is moved by the tears of sinners, and he never refuses pardon and grace to those who ask it with a truly contrite and humbled heart." He then conjured his holiness to grant him one favour, as the greatest he had ever received from him. The pope said anything in his power should be granted him. "The favour which I most earnestly beg," said the saint, "is, that as you have but a very short time to live, you lay aside all worldly business and thoughts, and employ your strength and all your powers in thinking on your salvation, and in preparing yourself to the best of your power for your last passage." His holiness received this tender advice with great comfort, and the cardinal gave strict orders that no one should speak to the pope upon any other subject. He continued by his uncle's bedside to his last breath, never ceasing to dispose him for death by all the pious practices and sentiments which his charity could suggest; and administering himself the viaticum and extreme unction. Pope Pius IV was also assisted in his last moments by St. Philip Neri, and died on the 10th of December in 1565, being sixty-six years and nine months old, and having sat six years wanting sixteen days. His last words as he expired were, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." In the conclave, in which St. Charles had much the greatest sway, our saint's conduct was such as convinced his colleagues that he had nothing but the glory of God and the good of the church at heart, and that the most subtle passions which so often blind men in their views, and insinuate themselves into their actions, had no place in his heart. At first he had thoughts of preferring Cardinal Morone, whose moderation, zeal, and experience had recommended him at Trent, or the most pious Cardinal Sirlet; but finding obstacles raised, he concurred strenuously to the promotion of St. Pius V, though he was a creature of the Caraffas, and consequently esteemed no friend to his uncle and his family. The saint in his letter to Cardinal Henry of Portugal, giving an account of this election, says that entering into the conclave, he had looked upon it as his principal duty and care to watch over himself with great circumspection, and examined narrowly his heart for fear of being seduced by any personal affection or interest which might have any secret influence and infect the purity of his views and intention. St. Pius V, who was chosen on the 7th of January in 1566, did all in his power to engage St. Charles to stay at Rome and accept of the same employments which he had enjoyed under his predecessor. But the holy archbishop feared that even to resign his church without having remedied the disorders which had taken root in it would have been to abandon it; and pressed his return to his people with such zeal that the pope, after having taken his advice for several days, dismissed him with his blessing.
St. Charles arrived at Milan in April 1566, and went vigorously to work for the reformation of his diocese. He began by the regulation of his own family, considering that the task would be easier when all he could prescribe to others was already practiced at home. He laboured, in the first place, for the most perfect sanctification of his own soul, the episcopal character being a state of the greatest perfection and sanctity, and was most severe towards himself. The austerities which he practiced amidst the incredible fatigues of his apostolic life seem almost excessive. His fasts were at first moderate, that he might inure his body by degrees to greater severities; but for a long time he continued every week to increase them out of an earnest desire of practicing every means of advancing in the path of Christian perfection. Yet his austerities were discreet, and even at the end of his life his strength seemed never to fail him for his functions; it seemed to redouble through his zeal when extraordinary fatigues presented themselves, so that he never sunk under any burden. To exclude the imperfection of secretly seeking his own will in his austerities (which he said was to corrupt our penance), he treated his body with an entire indifference, and ate either wheat, or black bread, or chestnuts; and drank either clear, dirty, or snow water, such as he met with where he came. For several years before his death he fasted every day on bread and water, Sundays and holydays only excepted, on which he took with his bread some pulse, herbs, or apples; but never touched any flesh, fish, eggs, or wine; nor would he allow the water he drank to have been warmed. In Lent he abstained even from bread, and lived on dried figs and boiled beans; in Holy Week his food was only a small bitter sort of peas which he ate raw. The whole year he never ate oftener than once a day. From a violent cold and long sickness which he had contracted whilst he was a student at Pavia, in the twentieth year of his age, he was for many years troubled with phlegm, which caused frequent disorders in his health; and which no remedies could cure till, by this excessive abstemiousness, it was perfectly removed. Whence it became a proverb to call a long and rigorous abstinence "The remedy of Cardinal Borromeo." Pope Gregory XIII commanded him by a brief to moderate his austerities. The saint received this order after he had passed the Lent to the last week without any other food than dried figs; and in compliance mitigated some little of his intended rigours in Holy Week. He wrote to his holiness, declaring his readiness to obey, but assuring him that he found by experience that a spare diet was conducive to his health. Whereupon the pope left him to his discretion; and the same rigid life he continued to his death. St. Charles constantly wore a rough hair shirt; took very little rest; and before great festivals passed the whole night in watching. When others advised
him to allow more to the necessity of nature, he used to say his uncle, John James of Medicis, a famous captain, and many other generals, only slept a short time in a chair in the night; "and ought not a bishop who is engaged in a warfare against hell," said he, "to do as much?" The saint only slept sitting in a chair, or lying down upon a rough bed in his clothes, till, at the earnest request of the bishops of his province, he consented to alter this custom. From which time he lay on a bed of straw, having for his pillow a sack filled with straw, without any other covering than a poor counterpane stuffed with straw, and two coarse sheets laid on a straw bed.
His patience in bearing cold and all other hardships he carried to a like excess. When one would have a bed aired for him, he said with a smile, "The best way not to find the bed cold is to go colder to bed than the bed is." His austerities are not mentioned as imitable; yet ought to excite all to the constant practice of some mortification, in order to keep the senses in due subjection and to make our lives a constant martyrdom of penance. But the essential mortification is that of the will and the passions, to which this exterior is a great help. How eminently St. Charles excelled herein appears by his humility, meekness, and entire disengagement from all earthly things. So deeply was he grounded in the knowledge and contempt of himself that the highest honours which he enjoyed under his uncle made no impression upon his mind; he regarded them as burdens, and declined all except those which he was obliged to accept for the good of the church and the salvation of souls. In his undertakings he never suffered anything to be ascribed to himself but faults. Under his robes he wore a very poor garment which he called his own, and which was so mean, and usually so old and ragged, that once a beggar refused to accept of it. His servants he chiefly employed in other affairs, but did everything for himself that he could, and it was his delight even to serve others; though he did this in such a manner as never to do anything unbecoming his dignity, being sensible what he owed to his rank. The least shadow of praise or flattery was most hateful to him. All supernatural favours and interior graces and consolations which he received in prayer he was most careful to conceal; and he had a little cell in the garrets of his palace at a distance from the chambers of others to which he often retired. He never spoke of his own actions unless to ask advice or to condemn himself. It was an extreme pleasure to him to converse with and to catechise the poor, which he did among the poor inhabitants of the wildest mountains. The Bishop of Ferrara, coming to meet him when he was occupied in the visitation of a poor valley, found him sick of an ague, lying on a coarse bed in a very poor cottage. At the sight he was so struck as to be scarce able to speak. St. Charles, perceiving his confusion, told him he was treated very well, and much better than he deserved. The accent with which he spoke this astonished the bishop much more than what he saw. If he was put in mind of any fault, he expressed the most sincere gratitude; and he gave a commission to two prudent and pious priests of his household to put him in mind of everything they saw amiss in his actions, and he often begged that favour of strangers. The sweetness and gravity with which he reproved or exhorted others was the fruit of his sincere humility and charity. From his childhood mildness seemed to form his character, and even in his youth he seemed never to feel any emotion of anger against schoolfellows or others. This virtue was daily more and more perfected in him as he advanced in the victory over himself. A certain priest who took delight in finding fault with his actions he kept constantly in his family, treated him with the greatest regard, and in his will left him a pension for life upon his estate. The saint's tongue was always the interpreter of his heart; his candour and sincerity appeared in all his words and transactions, and his promises were inviolable. The confidence which everyone on this account reposed in him showed the incomparable advantage which a character of strict sincerity and veracity gives over lying and hypocrisy, which the saint could never bear in anyone. He refused dispensations and grants which seemed unjust with invincible firmness, but with so much sweetness as to make the parties themselves enter into his reasons.
The management of his temporalities he left entirely to stewards of approved probity and experience, whose accounts he took once a year. To inspire his clergy with the love of holy poverty, he severely reproved even bishops who discovered a spirit of interestedness; and he used to repeat to them the prayer of St. Austin, who often begged of God that he would take from his heart the love of riches, which strangely withdraws a man from the love of God, and alienates his affections from spiritual exercises; certainly nothing can be baser in a minister of the altar, or more unworthy and more contrary to his character, than that foul passion. When others told him he ought to have a garden at Milan to take the air in, his answer was that the holy scriptures ought to be the garden of a bishop. If any spoke to him of fine palaces or gardens he said, We ought to build and to think of eternal houses in heaven. His chief almoner, who was a pious priest named Julius Petrucci, was ordered to give among the poor of Milan, of whom he kept an exact list, two hundred crowns a month, besides whatever extraordinary sums he should call upon the stewards for, which were very frequent, and so great that they were obliged to contract considerable debts to satisfy them, of which they often complained to St. Charles, but could not prevail with him to moderate his alms. The saint would never suffer any beggar to be dismissed without some alms, wherever he was.
Hospitality the saint looked upon as a bishop's indispensable duty, and he was most obliging and liberal in entertaining princes, prelates, and strangers of all ranks, but often at the table at which his upper family ate all together, and without dainties or luxury; and he endeavoured as much as possible to conceal his own abstemiousness; of which he would not suffer the least sign to be given or notice taken, everyone being free to eat as he pleased at his table. His liberality appears in many monuments which yet remain at Rome, Milan, and in many parts of that diocese. The Church of St. Praxedes, at Rome, which gave him the title of cardinal? was magnificently repaired and almost rebuilt by him. He adorned the Church of St. Mary Major, of which he was arch-priest. At Bologna, whilst he was legate there, he built the public schools in a stately and finished manner, with a beautiful fountain in the middle of the city. At Milan he did many things to adorn the metropolitical church, and built houses for all the canons of an admirable architecture, with a subterraneous passage for them to go to the church without being seen by anyone; also a dwelling-place for the rest of the clergy of that church; and the archiepiscopal palace, chapel, prisons, and stables; the great seminary at Milan, and two other seminaries there; three more in other parts of the diocese; the convent of Capuchins (whom he established at Milan), with apartments for his clergy to make retreats there, near one of his seminaries. He settled at Milan the Theatins; also the Jesuits, whose college of Brera he founded at Milan, and to whom he made over for the foundation of their novitiate his abbey of St. Gratinian, at Arona. It would be tedious to enumerate the pious settlements he made for his Oblats, and the churches, hospitals, and other public buildings which he repaired or adorned. The revenues of his archbishopric he divided into three parts, one of which was appropriated to his household, another to the poor, and the third to the reparation of churches; and the account of these revenues, to the last farthing, he laid before his provincial councils, saying he was no more than the administrator and steward.
The saint expressed always a particular joy when he found any opportunity of serving his enemies, or of returning good for evil. This watchfulness over his heart against all inordinate affections made him also watchful in his words, in which he was very sparing, and careful never to say anything superfluous. Fearing to mis-spend, or rob from the great obligations of his charge, one moment of his time, he laid it all out in serious employments: at table, or whilst his hair was cutting, he listened to some pious book that was read to him, or he dictated letters or instructions. When he fasted on bread and water and dined in private, he ate and read at the same time, and on his knees when the book was the holy scripture; and, at the same time, his cheeks were often watered abundantly with his tears. After dinner he gave audience to his country vicars and curates, instead of conversing. In his journeys he always either prayed or studied on the road, and in the regular distribution of his time allowed himself none for recreation, finding in the different employments of his charge both corporeal exercise and relaxation of the mind sufficient for maintaining the vigour of the mind and health of body. He said that "A bishop ought never to take a walk either alone or with others." Certain persons telling him that a very experienced and pious director said a person ought generally to allow himself seven hours for rest every night, he said bishops must be excepted from that rule. When some persons told him he ought to read some newspapers in order to be acquainted with certain public transactions, for his own conduct on certain occasions, and might spare now and then three or four minutes for this, he made answer that a bishop ought totally to employ his mind and heart in meditating on the law of God; which he cannot do who fills his soul with the vain curiosities of the world; and he attends more easily to God who hears least of them.
It was a rule, which he inviolably observed, to go every morning to confession before he said mass, and to make a spiritual retreat twice every year, in each of which he made a general confession for the time since his last spiritual exercises. After employing many hours on his knees in astonishing sentiments of compunction, he accused himself of the least failings and omissions with abundance of tears. His confessors at Milan were F. Francis Adorno, a very pious Jesuit, and an interior man whom he had invited from Genoa; under whose direction he most frequently made his retreats; but sometimes under F. Alexander Saulo, a Barnabite (afterwards Bishop of Pavia), of whose virtue and prudence he had from experience the highest opinion. The first retreat and general confession which he made with this holy director, in 1568, the saint ever after called his conversion to God: so great was the spiritual profit which he reaped from it. But St. Charles's ordinary confessor was Mr. Gryffydd Roberts, a Welshman, a canon and theologian of the great church. A priest, from once hearing the saint's confession, might learn the most perfect lessons of his duties in all his actions; nor could those who had any acquaintance with his interior sufficiently admire the purity of his conscience, the wonderful light with which he discerned the least failings, or the fervour of his compunction and the sincerity of his humility, by which he esteemed himself the last of creatures, and of all others the most unfaithful and ungrateful to God. It happened once that in giving the holy communion at Brescia, by the fault of him who served at mass, he let the host fall; for which, in the deepest compunction and humiliation, he fasted most rigorously eight days, and abstained four days from saying mass. Except on this occasion he never omitted to say mass every day, even in his journeys and the greatest hurries of business, unless in extreme fits of illness, and then he at least received every day the holy communion. Out of respect and devotion to the adorable sacrifice, he always kept a rigorous silence (unless some important business intervened) from the evening prayer and meditation till the next after mass and his long thanksgiving. He prepared himself to offer the sacrifice by the sacrament of penance, and by many vocal and mental prayers; and used to say that it was unbecoming a priest to apply his mind to any temporal business before that great duty.
He always recited the divine office on his knees with his head bare, and his soul seemed all the while absorbed in God. The better to fix his attention, he never said any part of it by heart, but read it all in the breviary; which practice he recommended to all his clergy. He never would be excused from any part of it in any sickness, how grievous soever, except the day before he died; and on that would have his chaplain recite it by him upon his knees, and attended to it with great devotion. He always said each part as near as might be to the canonical hour to which it corresponded; but on Sundays and holidays sung it all in choir in the great church, and passed there the greatest part of those days after the public office on his knees before a private altar. He had an extraordinary devotion to the Blessed Virgin, under whose patronage he put all his colleges: he had a singular devotion to St. Ambrose and the other saints of his church, and had a great veneration for holy relics. He carried always about him, among others in a gold cross, a particle of the true cross of Christ and a small image of St. Ambrose. He always kept with great respect a little picture of Bishop Fisher, who was put to death for his religion under Henry VIII in England. The passion of Christ was a constant object of his devotion and meditations. At Rome he frequently spent five hours together on his knees in the chapel of the holy pillar, in the Church of St. Praxedes, and so in other places of devotion; sometimes whole days or nights. Having once passed the night in the Church of St. Sebastian at the Catacombs, he spent the day following in that of St. Agnes. But what was most astonishing and edifying was the extraordinary exterior and interior recollection with which he prayed. His extreme care that neither persons nor business (unless in some pressing necessity) should interrupt or disturb him at that time, and his watchfulness over his eyes and all his senses, made it easy for his soul to remain totally absorbed in the divine presence; and condemned those who, by neglecting these precautions, and the due preparation of their souls, present themselves before God rather to mock him than to pray. The foot of the altar was the centre of this saint's delights, as he sometimes called it. When he was drawn away he left his heart there in desire to continue praying to God without interruption the homage of praise and love, and imploring his mercy. He never said any prayer or performed any religious ceremony with precipitation, whatever business of importance he had upon his hands, how much soever he was pressed for time, or how long soever his functions continued, which was sometimes from morning till late in the night. In giving audience, and in the greatest hurry of exterior affairs, his very countenance, all his words, and his modesty showed his mind to be perfectly recollected in God, the centre of his heart, his repose, strength, and comfort. From this spirit of prayer, and the ardent love of God which burned in his breast, his words infused a certain spiritual joy into others, gained their hearts, and kindled in them a strong desire of persevering in virtue, and cheerfully suffering all things for its sake. One word spoken by him frequently so animated slothful or desponding priests that they counted labours their gain, and braved dangers without fear. St. Philip Neri testified that he once saw the saint's countenance shining with a heavenly brightness. The practice of always walking in the divine presence he strongly recommended as the principal means of attaining to Christian virtue. To a gentleman who begged he would prescribe him the rules of advancing in piety, he gave this answer, "He who desires to make any progress in the service of God must begin every day of his life with new ardour, must keep himself in the presence of God as much as possible, and must have no other view or end in all his actions but the divine honour."
The saint, who laboured so strenuously for the sanctification of his own soul, began the reformation of his diocese by the regulation of his own family; including the vicars and officers of their courts, it consisted of about a hundred persons, the greatest part being clergymen whom he employed in his own affairs and in those of his diocese. All the priests were obliged to go to confession once a week, the others at least once a month, and to communicate at the archbishop's hands. The priests said mass every day; all assisted every day at regular prayers at night and morning, meditations, and pious reading; abstained from flesh all Wednesdays and all Advent; fasted many vigils besides those of precept; and on fast-days had no regular collation, but those that called for it were allowed to take an ounce and a half of bread. No person in his family was ever to expect any benefice from him, so much did he dread the danger of simony stealing into anyone's intention in serving him. When one of them had obtained a small benefice from his grand vicar, St. Charles discharged him, though he had a good opinion of his learning and virtue, and afterwards recommended him to another bishop. All were allowed handsome salaries, and were strictly forbid to receive presents from anyone. Idleness was banished his house, and those who at any time were not employed were obliged to read the lives of saints or other pious books. His household was a most regular community, and all dined together in a common refectory. Out of the clergy that composed his family, twelve became eminent bishops and many were employed by popes in quality of nuncios, and in other great posts in the government of the church. Ormanetto, his grand vicar (who was afterwards Bishop of Padua), had two other assistants who were also grand vicars; for St. Charles established a vicariate, that things might be done with deliberation and counsel, which many other bishops imitated. He also appointed sixty foraneous or country vicars (whose authority and commission was limited by particular mandates); these were mostly the rural deans; they held frequent conferences, and inspected the behaviour of the curates under their jurisdiction, admonished them of their faults, and, if necessary, informed the archbishop or vicar-general.
The diocese of Milan, when the saint arrived in it, with regard to ignorance and disorders, was in the most deplorable condition. The great truths of salvation were little known or understood, and religious practices were profaned by gross abuses and disgraced by superstition. The sacraments were generally neglected, the priests scarce knew how to administer them, and were slothful, ignorant, and debauched, and the monasteries were full of disorder. St. Charles, by six provincial councils and eleven diocesan synods, also by many pastoral instructions and mandates, made excellent regulations for the reformation of the manners both of the clergy and people, which all zealous pastors have since regarded as a finished model, and have studied to square their conduct by them. Preaching being the means established by God for the conversion of souls, and the principal obligation of a pastor, St. Charles applied himself to it with an unwearied zeal, though everything in this function cost him much time and pains. A natural impediment in his speech seemed to disqualify him for it; yet this he overcame by much labour and attention. The composition also cost him a great deal of study, though an excellent judgment compensated this difficulty. That liveliness of genius, those sprightly thoughts, witty turns, and beautiful flowers which we admire in the Basils and Chrysostoms seemed not to be his talent; but zeal, sincere piety, and a thorough acquaintance with the lessons and motives of Christian virtue, could not fail to qualify him for this function. His sermons were solid and pathetic, and he spoke with a vehemence which strongly affects a soul, and with an unction which always penetrates the heart. He preached every Sunday and holiday, and often in his visitations two or three times a day. The saint's zeal in procuring that all children and others throughout his diocese should be perfectly instructed in the catechism or Christian doctrine was fruitful in expedients to promote and perpetuate this most important duty of religion. Not content with strictly enjoining all parish priests to give public catechism every Sunday and holiday, he established everywhere, under admirable regulations, schools of the Christian doctrine, which amounted to the number of seven hundred and forty, in which were three thousand and forty catechists and forty thousand and ninety-eight scholars, as Giussano testifies.
He associated several pious ladies of Milan in regular exercises of devotion and Christian perfection, by whose examples others were engaged to spend much time devoutly in churches, to assist at all the sermons they could, and to be always taken up with serious employments, and withdrawn from that fatal sloth and round of dangerous amusements which many seem to look upon as a privilege of their rank; as if this could make void the maxims of the gospel, or exempt any Christian from the obligation of his baptismal engagements. These sacred vows, made by everyone at the font, St. Charles inculcated and induced persons to renew them frequently in a solemn manner with incredible fruit.
In 1567 the saint had a contest with the officers of justice. Certain lay persons who lived in public adultery, or kept concubines and could not be reclaimed by remonstrances, were imprisoned by his order. The senate threatened the serjeants of the archiepiscopal court for this action; and one of the king's judges caused their barigel or provost to be apprehended and punished in a public square with three strappados. The archbishop treated with the magistrates with great calmness and meekness; but after much deliberation declared the judge, the king's fiscal, the notary, and jailer excommunicated for having seized and punished an officer of the ecclesiastical court. Philip II, to whom both parties made their complaint, ordered the affair to be left to the pope's decision; to whom a senator was sent as deputy to plead the cause, and the Duke of Albuquerque, Governor of Milan, expressed an extreme displeasure at the treatment of the archbishop's officer. In the meantime, St. Charles set out in October to perform the visitation of the three valleys of Levantine, Bregno, and Riparie, subject to the three Swiss cantons of Uri, Switz, and Underwald; for the see of Milan is extended in the Alps as far as Mount St. Goddard's. Not to give umbrage to the temporal sovereignties, he entreated each to send a deputy to accompany him through their territories, which they did in a very obliging manner. These valleys had been, as it were, abandoned by former archbishops, were full of disorders, and the priests there were more corrupt than the laity. The saint traveled through snows and torrents, and over rocks which were almost inaccessible, having iron spikes on his shoes to climb them, and suffering with joy cold, hunger, thirst, and continual weariness. He preached and catechised everywhere, displaced the ignorant and scandalous priests, and put in their room others endowed with learning, zeal, and piety, who were capable of restoring the faith and morals of the people to their original purity. In some corners of his diocese the Zuinglian heresy had got footing; to them he made his way through incredible difficulties, reconciled many to the church, and settled all this northern part of his diocese in very good order.
In 1568 he took in hand the reformation of the Humiliati, a religious Order of which he was the protector. Their institute was founded by certain gentlemen of Milan in 1134, who, with the consent of their wives, made religious vows. They adopted the rule of St. Bennet, with certain particular constitutions, and their Order was approved by Innocent III in 1200. In the beginning of the sixteenth century they fell into such relaxations that in ninety monasteries they had only a hundred and seventy monks; the superiors, who were called provosts, spending the revenues and living at discretion. St. Charles procured two briefs from the pope, by which he was empowered to ordain and execute what he thought necessary for their reformation; and he published regulations for that purpose in a general chapter of the Order which he assembled at Cremona. The monks received them willingly; but the provosts and lay-brothers obstinately refused to submit to them. On another occasion he obliged a bishop to come from an embassy, in which he was employed by his prince, to the council, and even to quit his secular embassy and reside in his diocese. Hearing that one of his suffragans had said in company that he had nothing to do, the saint sent to him a prefect of his household to represent to him the necessities of his flock and the obligations of his charge. The bishop answered him coldly that Cardinal Borromeo required too much. The saint was extremely grieved at his insensibility and neglect, and wrote him a letter of several leaves, in which he summed up various obligations of the episcopal charge, repeating almost after each of them, "Shall a bishop ever say that he had nothing to do?"
The tranquillity which St. Charles had for some time enjoyed stirred up the malice of the enemy of souls, and the storms which were formerly raised against the saint were renewed with greater fury than ever, upon the following occasion. The collegiate Church of St. Mary de la Scala, so called from the foundress, Beatrice de la Scala, wife of Barnaby Visconti, lord of Milan, enjoyed great privileges and exemptions, which had been obtained from the apostolic see by Francis Sforza II, Duke of Milan, a munificent benefactor. The conduct of some of these canons not being conformable to their state, St. Charles consulted able canonists at Milan, and the pope himself, who all answered him that he had a right, in quality of archbishop, to make the visitation of this church, and in case of misdemeanours to proceed against any of the clergy belonging to it. The archbishop therefore went to the church in solemnity to make a canonical visitation; but was thrust from the door by the canons, and the cross which was carried before him and which in the tumult he had taken into his own hands, was shot at. One of their party caused a bell to be rung; then declared that the archbishop had incurred suspension and other censures for having violated the privileges of their church. The grand vicar upon the spot pronounced a sentence of excommunication against the authors of this insult; which the archbishop confirmed the next day in the great church, after having spent a long time in prayer at the foot of the altar. Most of the king's judges and the senate warmly espoused the cause of these canons, and sent the most virulent invectives against the archbishop to the King of Spain, accusing him of ambition and high treason in invading the king's rights, this church being under the royal patronage. The governor of Milan wrote to Pope Pius V in the strongest terms, threatening to banish the cardinal as a traitor. The pope answered him that nothing could be more glorious to the cardinal than to suffer banishment and death in the faithful discharge of his duty, and in labouring to exterminate vice and abuses from the sanctuary, and that the devil had stirred up this persecution to hinder the good effect of the archbishop's zealous endeavours and upright intentions. Nevertheless, his holiness was very reserved in declaring in favour of the cardinal, and it is incredible how virulent and outrageous his enemies at Milan were in their invectives. The saint never spoke of any of them but with regard and tenderness; and in justifying his conduct to the pope and King of Spain discovered his charity towards his persecutors. All this time he ceased not to pray and weep for them, and to beg of God that no resentment might find place in his heart. At length the king wrote to the governor, ordering him to repeal an edict which he had published injurious to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and to support the archbishop; saying he was much obliged to him for the trouble he took for the reformation of the canons of Scala, which undertaking he begged he would accomplish. Hereupon the governor was reconciled to the saint; and the provost of the canons, who had been the least guilty, begged and received absolution from the censures. The canons persisted some time obstinate; but at length submitted, and were absolved by the saint. The pope insisted that the most guilty persons who had shot at the cross should be punished in an exemplary manner; but by many earnest solicitations the saint at length obtained their pardon.
Before this affair was concluded by the king's letter to the governor, an attempt was made upon the life of the saint, whose preservation was owing to a visible miracle.
The harvest having failed in 1569, the country was afflicted the following year with great scarcity; under which calamity St. Charles, by his care and immense charities, procured abundant supplies for the relief of the poor throughout his whole diocese. That year he assisted the Duke of Albuquerque at his death; and at length succeeded in almost abolishing the disorders of the Carnival or Shrovetide, and turning the attention of the people to religious processions, prayer, and compunction at that season. To extirpate the custom of profaning the holy name of God or sentences of the holy scripture, the saint armed himself with all his zeal and had recourse to various pious institutions. Upon the death of St. Pius V in 1572, St. Charles concurred strenuously to the election of Cardinal Buoncampagno, who took the name of Gregory XIII, is famous for the institution of many colleges, for the propagation of the faith, and surpassed, if possible, his two predecessors in his esteem for our saint, whom he detained some time at Rome to take his advice; and he appointed him apostolic visitor of the dioceses of all his suffragans. In 1575 St. Charles went to Rome with the most edifying devotion to gain the jubilee, and in the following year opened it at Milan. With all his zeal he was not able to hinder the exhibition of profane diversions of tilts and tournaments that very year. Whilst the people were taken up in them he clearly foretold the plague, which broke out before they were over. The news of this calamity reached the saint at Lodi, whither he was gone to assist the bishop of that see at his death, as it was his custom to do toward all his suffragans. The governor fled to Vigevano, and all the rest of the nobility left the town. St. Charles made haste thither, visited the pesthouse, whither the infected were sent by the magistrates, and provided both the sick and the poor with every succour spiritual and corporeal. According to his custom in all difficulties, he consulted his vicars and canonists whether he was obliged to remain with the infected or to withdraw to some other part of his diocese. They answered him with warm solicitations in the negative, entreating him not to expose his life, which was at that time of infinite importance, both to the sick and to those parts of his diocese which were not visited with that calamity. But St. Charles proved to them that a pastor, who is obliged to lay down his life for his flock, must not abandon them in the time of danger. All granted this was the more perfect. And is not a bishop, said the saint, obliged to choose what is most perfect? Sin being the cause of scourges, he strongly exhorted the people to have recourse to the divine mercy by humble penance, and he redoubled his prayers and austerities. In three general processions he walked barefoot, having on a purple cope, as in times of penance, with a halter about his neck and a crucifix in his hands, from which he seemed never to turn his eyes, which were drowned in tears. Thus he offered himself a victim for the sins of the people. He preached almost every day, and never ceased admonishing his fellow labourers to contemn life in such a cause, himself exhorting the sick and administering the sacraments. For the relief of those that were destitute, he melted down all his plate and gave all his furniture, even the straw bed on which he lay, taking his rest on the boards. The number of priests, chiefly of his own clergy, whom he at first appointed to attend the sick not being sufficient, he assembled the superiors of the religious communities, and, begging their concurrence, made them a most pathetic discourse, in which he shows how great a happiness it was for any to lose their lives (which are always uncertain and short) in such a cause of the most noble charity, though the danger was not so great as was commonly imagined, and they were under the divine protection. Such was the effect of this zealous discourse that about twenty-eight priests immediately presented themselves out of that body, and the saint allotted them their diet and lodgings in his own palace. The magistrates found fault with his numerous processions and assemblies of devotion, for fear of spreading the contagion. This dreadful distemper, after raging four months, began to abate in November, and quite ceased about the beginning of the ensuing year. The saint appointed a public solemn thanksgiving, and three days of prayer for such as had died during the pestilence. The two governors who had succeeded Albuquerque gave the saint much to suffer, chiefly on account of his abolishing the extravagances of Shrovetide and of the first Sunday in Lent; and on account of the processions he had made during the pestilence; to which they were stirred up by incorrigible sinners and persons who were enemies to all reformation of manners, as Giussano shows at large. After the death of the latter of these governors, in 1580, the King of Spain did the saint justice, and Pope Gregory XIII, full of admiration at the wisdom and apostolic spirit which appeared in his whole conduct, approved of all his regulations and commended his zeal; also the Duke of Terra Nuova, the fourth governor of Milan, from the time of our saint's promotion lived constantly in good intelligence with the saint and often assisted at his sermons.
St. Charles made twice the visitation of his whole diocese and once of his province: he took a journey into the Valteline, and into the country of the Grisons, where he animated the Catholics to the practice of piety and converted many Zuinglianists. The diocese of Milan is filled with monuments of his charity and zeal, and in that city itself he founded a convent of Capuchinesses (in which a daughter of his uncle, John Baptist Borromeo, embraced that austere Order, and died in the odour of sanctity), one of Ursulines, for the instruction of poor girls, who were educated there gratis; a hospital for beggars, into which all the poor were received; another of Convalescents who were dismissed out of the great hospital, &c. After he had established the college of the Jesuits at Milan, in which grammar, philosophy, and theology are taught, he committed a college which he founded for the Switzers, his six seminaries (three in the city and three in other parts of his diocese), and all the other houses which he instituted, to the care of his Oblats; except a house at Pavio, which he gave to the regular clerks of Somascha, so called from a place of that name between Bergamo and Milan, where their founder, St. Jerome Emiliani, a nobleman of Venice, established their chief seminary. Though the saint preferred public and general duties, as preaching, to those which regarded only private persons, yet he spent much time in the direction of particulars, in which his prudence was most remarkable. He was very severe in examining, and much upon his guard in believing visions and ecstasies, especially in women, whose imagination is easily susceptible of impressions: on such occasions he recommended the practice of humility and solid virtues. He was no less strict in the scrutiny of miracles and relics, and exploded all those that were not authentic; but visited other holy relics with singular devotion, and translated and adorned the shrines of many saints It was to him, as he often expressed, a singular pleasure to assist dying persons. In 1583, hearing the Duke of Savoy was fallen sick at Vercelli and given over by his physicians, he posted thither and found him, as it was thought, at the last gasp. The duke, seeing him come into his chamber, cried out, "I am cured." The saint gave him the holy communion the next day, and ordered the forty hours' prayer for his recovery. The duke was restored to his health, as he was persuaded, by the prayers of St. Charles, and after the saint's death sent a silver lamp to be hung up at his tomb in memory of this benefit.
For closer solitude St. Charles sometimes used to make his retreats at Camaldoli and other places; but none seemed so agreeable to his devotion as Mount Varalli, situate in the diocese of Novara, upon the borders of Switzerland, a famous place of devotion to the sufferings of Christ, the mysteries of which are curiously carved in thirty-eight chapels of good architecture, besides the great church, which is served by Franciscans. Thither St. Charles went in 1584 to make his annual retreat and confession, having with him F. Adorno, who proposed to him the points of his meditations. He had before clearly foretold to several persons that he should not remain long with them; and in this retreat redoubled his fervour in his austerities and devotions, and seemed more than ordinarily absorbed in God, and disengaged from his body and all earthly ties. The abundance of his tears obliged him often to stop in saying mass; and a bishop deposed that he saw his countenance one day at the altar darting a ray of bright light, which seemed to proceed from that interior light which filled his soul, and to be a presage of that glory with which he was going to be crowned. He spent most time in the chapel called Of the Prayer in the Garden, and in that Of our Redeemer in the Sepulchre; endeavouring to put himself in a state of death with him by a perfect renunciation of all sentiments and thoughts of self-love; and praying that whatever remained in him of the life of Adam might be entirely destroyed by the death of the Son of God. On the 24th of October he was taken ill of a tertian ague, but concealed it; on the 26th he had a second fit, and, by order of F. Adorno, abridged the hours of his prayers, had a little straw laid on the boards on which he lay, and took a panado, suffering the bread to be toasted, which he ate with water, but would not use any salt or butter. On the fifth day of his retreat he spent eight hours on his knees with such fervour and compunction that he could not be persuaded he had been near so long; after this he made his annual confession, and the next day, it being the 29th of October, he went to Arona and there alighted at the curate's, according to his custom, not at the palace, which had been seized by the governors, but was afterwards restored to him without his solicitations. Having taken a mess of panado he went, though it was night, across the lake of Ascona, to finish the foundation of a college there, though the plague was then in that town. He took a little rest in the boat, and dispatched his business the next morning; he returned by water to Conobbio, though in a fit of the ague. The next day he went to Arona; but, it being the eve of All-Saints, fasted as usual, except that he took the drugs prescribed him by his physician. His cousin, Renatus Borromeo, could not induce him to lodge at the castle, but he lay at the Jesuits and rested well that night, and rose to his prayers at two in the morning. After his confession he said mass at seven; his physicians persuaded him not to set out, that being the day of the return of his ague, and they ordered him to drink a great quantity of ptisan. He obeyed them; but the ptisan had a contrary effect to what they expected it, being too strong for a constitution accustomed to no other fare than bread and water, or pulse. His ptisan and drugs were to him cordials instead of coolers, and his fever was much increased by them, so that it became from that time continued and never after left him.
On All-Souls'-day he arrived at Milan in a litter, called in the ablest physicians, and gave himself up to their direction, which he scrupulously followed in every point. They declared his distemper very dangerous; but the next day, finding his fever much abated, had great hopes of his recovery. The saint gave no signs of joy at this news, and continued his pious exercises, chiefly on the passion of Christ, sometimes by himself, sometimes with F. Adorno, F. Charles Bascape, and other devout persons. In the next paroxysm of his fever the physicians found the state of his health desperate; he received the news with a surprising serenity, received the viaticum and extreme unction with great devotion, and with these words, <Ecce venio>, "Behold I come," expired in the first part of the night between the 3rd and 4th of November. He left by his will his plate to his cathedral, his library to his canons, and his manuscripts to the Bishop of Vercelli, and declared the general hospital his heir. His funeral he ordered to be made as privately as might be, and chose for his burial-place a vault near the choir, with this inscription, which remains there to this day, in a small marble stone: "Charles, Cardinal of the title of St. Praxedes, Archbishop of Milan, desiring to be recommended to the frequent prayers of the clergy, people, and the devout sex, living, chose for himself this monument." There follows this addition: "He lived forty-six years, one month, and one day; governed this church twenty-four years, eight months, twenty-four days, and died November the 4th, in 1584." In 1601 the venerable Cardinal Baronius, confessor to Clement VIII, sent to the clergy of Milan an order of his holiness to change the anniversary <mass de Requiem>, which the saint had founded to perpetuity in the great hospital, into a mass of the saint; and St. Charles was solemnly canonized by Paul V in 1610. His sacred remains are now deposited in a rich subterraneous chapel, just under the cupola in the great church, and laid in a crystal shrine of an immense value. The altar in this chapel is of solid silver; plates of silver cover the walls of a considerable part of the vault, and a great number of large silver and gold lamps burn there night and day, not to mention the great images and other donaries of gold and silver with which this chapel is filled, by the devotion of many distant princes, cardinals, and bishops. Besides the richest vestments and like ornaments, Giussano tells us that in eight years the donaries here amounted to above the value of one hundred and fifty thousand crowns of gold. Thus is he honoured on earth who despised the whole world for Christ.
1 See Ripamont, de vita Caroli, lib. ii. c. 2; Giussano, lib. i. c. 2; Sacy, Vie de Barthol. des Martyrs, lib. ii. c. 23, p. 263; Touron, Hommes Illustr. t. iv. p. 638.
2 Ciaconius, vit. Pontif. t. iii. p. 88e.
3 Labbe, Cong. t. xiv, p. 944.
4 Giussano. lib. i. c. II; Raynald. ad an. 1565, n. 26; Ciaconius, t. iii. p. 892.
5 Now St. John Fisher, martyr, canonized with Blessed Thomas More, 1935.
6 See Giussano in his life, and especially Carolus a basilica St. Petri In St. Caroll vita, c. 9 et lib. vii. c. 24, and Card. Frederic Borromeo, lib. de sacris oratoribus, p. 24, Saxius in Praefat in homilies St. Caroli &c.
7 See this discourse extant among his homilies, t. i. hom. xi. p. 81, with Saxius's note; also Carolus a basilica St. Petri in vita St. Caroli. lib. iv. c. 6.
8 Giussano, lib. v. c. I, p. 402; lib. v. c. 7, p. 444; lib. vi. c. 2, p. 471; lib. vi. c. 5; lib. vi. c. 9 et 10.
(Taken from Vol. III of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler.)