Saint Charbel Makhlouf
Feast Day: December 24
Saint Charbel Makhlouf
Son of a mule driver. Raised by an
uncle who opposed the boy's youthful piety. The boy's favorite book was Thomas
Kempis's The Imitation of Christ. At age 23 he snuck away to join the
Baladite monastery of Saint Maron at Annaya where he took the name Charbel in
memory of a 2nd century martyr. Professed his solemn vows in 1853. Ordained in
1859, becoming a heiromonk. He lived as a model monk, but dreamed of
living like the ancient desert fathers. Hermit from 1875 until his death 23
years later, living on the bare minimums of everything. Gained a reputation for
holiness, and was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal
devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and was known to levitate during his prayers.
Briefly paralyzed for unknown reasons just before his death. Several
miracles attributed him, including periods in 1927 and 1950 when a bloody
"sweat" flowed from his corpse. His tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for
Lebanese and non-Lebanese, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Prayer to Saint Charbel
O God of Silence, in stillness Your adorable and mysterious Trinity lives, loves and acts. In the silence of time, Your great Mysteries have been accomplished. Blessed is the one who quiets everything within himself and listens to the impelling voice which leads to You. Charbel heard this voice and closed himself in solitude. He separated himself from a self-seeking world and spoke with You. You taught him to deny himself and to die, like the grain of wheat. You asked him to bind himself to You in a life of poverty, chastity and obedience. Freed from himself, he discovered You, 0 Lord, embraced the way of the Cross and filled his spirit with the memory of Your Sonís passion and death. The holy Mysteries became his life, the Eucharist his real food and the Mother of God his consolation. Day and night he sought You in the Scriptures and in the lives of the saints. Through unending prayer his whole life became a living hymn of praise to You and ended in a sacrifice of love that continues to proclaim Your glory. We beseech You, through his intercession, to inspire us to a life of prayer and sacrifice. Help us to live lives of quiet dedication to the service of Your Church, forever.
St. Charles Borromeo
Feast Day: November 4th
Saint Charles Borromeo
St. Charles Borromeo may be said to have incarnated the spirit and ideals of the Counter-Reformation. Sprung from a noble Lombard family, he was born at Arona on October 2nd, 1538, and as a second son was early destined for the church, to which also his youthful piety inclined him. He took a doctorate in Canon Law at Pavia in 1559, but in the following January was summoned to Rome by his maternal uncle who had just become pope as Pius IV. There he was forthwith created a cardinal, heaped with valuable ecclesiastical preferment including the archbishopric of Milan, and despite his youth entrusted with the responsible post of Papal Secretary of State. In this capacity he controlled all the official papal correspondence, including the difficult negotiations concerned with the completion of the council of Trent between 1560 and 1564.
St. Charles' ability amply justified his uncle's trust; but he was content with a subordinate role and except perhaps on a few special occasions probably did not exercise any decisive influence on Pius IV's policy. The council ended, St Charles remained in Rome occupied with the heavy business left over, and was not allowed by the pope to take up residence in his diocese until September, 1565. But hardly had he made his triumphal entry into Milan than he was summoned back to attend his uncle on his deathbed and take part in the election of his successor, St Pius V. He returned to Milan in April, 1566.
From that time up to his death on November 3rd, 1584, St Charles's life was devoted entirely to his duties as archbishop. The much needed restoration of the pastoral episcopate was central in the scheme of reform of the council of Trent and St Charles set out to become the 'new-model' Tridentine bishop. So fully did he succeed that his example became a pattern and an inspiration for the whole church, and he probably did more than any other single man to get the decrees of the council into action throughout the Catholic world. In both the diocese and the province of Milan he effected a renewal and a reorganization of clerical and spiritual life, signalized by the great mass of detailed legislation promulgated in six provincial and eleven diocesan synods.
Constantly traveling on visitation throughout his vast diocese, preaching and administering the sacraments, he exercised a direct personal ministry even in the remotest villages and Alpine valleys. The revival of Catholicism in Switzerland, parts of which lay within his jurisdiction, was decisively influenced by him. He founded a number of colleges and seminaries. He was a friend to the Jesuits, the Barnabites and other new pastoral orders of the age, and he founded a company of special helpers of his own, the Oblates of St Ambrose (now of St Charles). He was also actively concerned with the reform of the older orders. It was a group of discontented members of the order of the Umiliati, which he tried to reform, and which was soon afterwards suppressed, that made the dramatic attempt at his assassination during evening prayers in his Palace in 1569. He encouraged all sorts of pious associations, reorganizing the valuable Company of the Christian Schools to which he attributed the greatest importance. He preserved for Milan the Ambrosian Rite when this was threatened, and in all ways sought to model himself on St Ambrose. But the firmness and uncompromising logic with which St Charles sought to vindicate to the uttermost what he conceived to be the duties and rights of his office, and the severity of his moral principles, inevitably provoked opposition. This came not only from some clerical quarters but also from the lay power represented by the Spanish governors of Milan and by the city's Senate. A running conflict concerning the archbishop's rights of coercive jurisdiction over the laity and the validity of his decrees against dancing, the theatre, tournaments, and public spectacles of all kinds, as well as other controverted matters, marked the course of his episcopate, during which accusations of clerical tyranny on the one hand were met by excommunications and threats of excommunications on the other.
A saint, however, as well as a reformer, St Charles asked nothing of others that he did not perform himself. His private charity was immense and he stripped himself and his household for the needy. He attained to sainthood only gradually, and by the exercise of sheer will-power and progress in prayer. In 1562 the death of his elder brother, so far from causing him to resign his Cardinalate and take up the headship of his family, as was generally expected, only moved him to seek immediate ordination, and to adopt an ascetic mode of life unusual at that time in Rome. In Milan his life of prayer and self-denial was intensified side by side with his pastoral labours. His heroic behaviour during the great plague of 1576-8 was another turning point, leading him to the extremes of detachment and mortification which marked his later years. Though he ate practically nothing at all and slept only for a very few hours on the hardest pallet, his energy seemed boundless. Endless visitations, audiences and pilgrimages, a vast correspondence, regular reading, careful preparation for constant preaching-an art that did not come naturally to him, but for which he schooled himself relentlessly-all still left him time to pass many hours wrapped in continuous prayer. He literally wore himself away; yet he outlived his four sisters whose affairs he attended to with such careful prudence. He left no revelations of his own spiritual life nor, apparently, was he a contemplative in the exact theological sense, yet he cultivated the spirit of Camaldoli and other remote places of recollection. He also greatly valued the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and took a Jesuit for his confessor. He had a special devotion to the Holy Shroud of Turin, to Loretto, and to the early saints of the Milanese church, whose relics he delighted to honor and translate.
In St Charles Borromeo, with his well-known ascetic but deeply reflective features, the energy and efficiency of the true Lombard were turned with overwhelming- indeed frightening-will-power to the service of God, and to the interests of the people of Milan, of the papacy and of the full canonical rights of the church. Yet this selfless life of devotion was not achieved without effort, nor without the sacrifice of personal interests which he had cultivated in earlier life, when he had hunted freely, played the cello, and taken part in philosophic discussions in Rome. He remained a man of culture and taste. His requirements in church architecture and music were always exact, and the contents of his private library impressive. He was canonized by Paul V on November 1st, 1610.
Prayer to Saint Charles Borromeo
O Saintly reformer, animator of spiritual renewal of priests and religious, you organized true seminaries and wrote a standard catechism. Inspire all religious teachers and authors of catechetical books. Move them to love and transmit only that which can form true followers of the Teacher who was divine. Amen.
Readings of St. Charles Borromeo
- If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.
- Saint Charles Borromeo
I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God's love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.
If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.
We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: "I will pray, and then I will understand."
This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work. In meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.
- Saint Charles Borromeo