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Lives of the Saints:

How They Changed the World

Saint Charles Borromeo (1538–1584)

Saint Charles Borromeo (1538–1584)

Patron saint of catechists, catechumens, and seminarians

Feast day: November 4

Saint Charles was a bishop in Milan, Italy. His appointment as bishop was delayed because the Council of Trent needed his skill as a behind-the-scenes leader when serious disagreements occurred—something he could not offer if he had been a bishop attending the council. Charles believed that if the people were to live a good life they needed the good example of the clergy and bishops. He set a powerful example himself during the plague—which in many ways was like our Covid-19 pandemic today—by borrowing huge sums of money to feed those who were starving and minister to those who were dying. The plague, often called "the black death," was a deadly disease for which there was no vaccine (the concept was unheard of in the 16th century) and no cure. About one-third of the population of Europe died from the plague, and it reappeared every few generations for hundreds of years. With Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo was a leading figure in counteracting the Protestant Reformation, especially through the establishment of seminaries for the education of priests. (Adapted from Take Ten: Daily Bible Reflections for Teens [Saint Mary’s Press]) (Image in public domain-100)