Monday, November 04, 2013

Saints Shakers and Movers

Today, November 4, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Charles Borromeo. At a very young age, in his early 20's, Charles' uncle the Pope appointed him a bishop. 21st century opinion would call his a case of pure nepotism. However God Charles' position to help implement the reforms of the Council of Trent--an ecumenical council which last about 20 years. Trent was the council summoned to answer the Protestant Reformation. That Council clarified many issues. spread his new religion using a catechism. Trent issued the Roman Catechism to educate Catholics to the basics of the faith. Luther and other reformers pointed out the failings of many of the clergy and other church officials. To remedy the situation, the council fathers mandated  a more systematic training of future priests: seminaries. Charles Borromeo was especially expert at setting up these centers of priestly formation where men were trained in academic and spiritual subjects. It was important to have clerics steeped in learning to help their parishioners. The seminary fostered growth in the spiritual and ascetical life, with its discipline and prayer, both communal and private. There young men  learned to live more gospel centered, prayerful lives. One of those seminaries, that of the Diocese of Alba, in Italy's Piedmont was instrumental in the forming of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. When one visits the chapel at the Alba seminary, the influence of St. Charles Borromeo is very evident.
St Charles Borromeo
St. Charles worked and prayed hard for his own Diocese of Milan. He lived from 1538 to 1584--a time of great turmoil in Europe. One of the reforms of the Council of Trent was that of making sure a bishop resided in his own diocese. When Carlo (his Italian name) arrived in Milan the church was reeling from the lack of leadership and organization. With prayer and great tact he set about reforming the clergy and the church in general in that huge northern Italian see. There were some who resented his efforts and even tried to kill him. The Lord spared him from a violent death. He died in Milan and was proclaimed a saint only 26 years after his death.
In the 20th century Milan was a huge industrial city. Immigrants from southern Italy came to work in the auto industry and other related factories. Italy's Communist Party was making headway among factory workers.
A priest who had worked with college students during the time of the Fascists was singled out to work in the Vatican. Giovanni Battista Montini preferred to work with the people and with the ordinary laity. Yet Montini
Pope Paul VI
was eventually appointed Archbishop then Cardinal of Milan.Cardinal Montini went to the factories to bless the machinery and to talk to his flock. He even donned a hard hat at least once to evangelize the men and women who had begun to drift away from the faith, I am sure that Montini, who became Pope Paul VI, learned much from his predecessor Carlo Borromeo. I saw Paul VI when he came to New York City to address the UN and beg for peace. Then I saw him up close in Rome. May he rest in peace with the Lord he served so well. Paul VI traveled outside of the Vatican several times. He was the first Pope in hundreds of years to embrace a Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Athenagoras. Like his predecessor who brought the reforms of the Council of Trent into the real world, so Paul VI did for the renewal called for by the Vatican II Council. He carried the cross of his Pontificate with grace and humility. May he intercede for our bishops, and our Pope Francis.  

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