Saints of the Day – Winnoc of Wormhoult, Abbot

photograph of an 18th century painting of Saint Winnoc of Flanders on an old door sign in the Pforzner monastery millArticle

(also known as Winoc)

Died 717. Winnoc was of royal blood and, while probably of British origin, was raised in Brittany. It is likely that, like many others, his family fled to the Continent to escape the Saxons. He became a monk at Sithiu under Saint Bertin, by whom he was eventually sent with three companions to establish a new foundation among the Morini at Wormhoudt near Dunkirk. He became its first abbot and from that center evangelized the whole neighborhood. Winnoc’s name figures in many medieval English calendars; he is apparently titular saint of Saint Winnow near Lostwithiel (Attwater, Benedictines).

Saint Winnoc is depicted as an abbot with a crown and scepter at his feet, turning a hand-mill. There is generally a church and a bridge near him. Sometimes he is shown (1) in ecstasy while grinding corn, or (2) with Saint Bertinus. Abbot of Wormhoult. Venerated at Sithiu (Roeder). He is the patron of millers (Encyclopedia).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Blessed Nonius Alvarez de Pereira

Saint Nuño de Santa Maria Álvares PereiraArticle

(also known as Nuñes, Nuñez)

Born at Bomjardin near Lisbon, Portugal, 1360; died in Lisbon, November 1, 1431; cultus approved for Portugal and the Carmelites in 1918. Nuñes was born to a traditional military family. He married at 17, and was named commander of Portugal’s armies in 1383, when he was only 23, by the grand master of the knights of Aviz, who became King John I. The knights led a revolt against Spanish domination and established Portugal as an independent state when they defeated the Castillan army at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, and John became king. After the death of his wife in 1422, Nuñes became a Carmelite lay brother in a friary he had founded in Lisbon, where he died.

Called the Great Constable, he is one of the premier national heroes of Portugal, celebrated in the 16th century epic Chronica Condestavel (Benedictines, Delaney).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Leonard of Noblac, Abbot

portrait of Saint Leonard of Noblac from the painting 'Saint Laurent between Saint Stephen and Saint Leonard' attributed to Raffaellino del Garbo, early 16th century; basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Lienard, Lithenard)

Born c.466; died c.559. Leonard of Noblac was one of the most popular saints of Western Europe in the late Middle Ages, but the account of his life is unreliable because it was not written until the 11th century. Doubtless his popularity was due to the very large number of miracles and aids attributed to his intercession, and to the enthusiasm of the returning crusaders, who looked on him as the patron saint of prisoners. Tradition has it that, like many young nobles, when Leonard was about six years old he went to live with Saint Remigius, archbishop of Rheims. About 495 he went to the court of his cousin Clovis, King of the Franks, at the summons of Queen Clotilde. After accompanying Clovis in a victorious war against the Germans, Leonard was baptized by Saint Remigius, who had previously baptized Clovis, Leonard’s godfather (some say they were baptized the same day). Clovis offered Leonard a bishopric, but he turned it down. Seeking no earthly rewards, Leonard renounced the life of a Frankish nobleman and withdrew from the court about the year 501. Instead he went to the monastery of Micy in Orleans and became a monk under Saint Mesmin and Saint Lie. Seeking even more solitude he built himself a little hut in a forest of Pauvin near Limoges, Aquitaine, in a place called Nobiliac and lived on vegetables and fruit. His zeal and devotion sometimes carried him to the neighboring churches where his preaching would inflame others to imitate his life.

The legend says that one day the king went hunting in this forest, accompanied by his wife, who was pregnant. The moment of birth arrived, and it was clear that the queen was in difficulties. Leonard fell to prayer on her behalf, and her baby was delivered safely. In gratitude the king said that the saint should be given as much land as he could ride round in one day on his donkey. Leonard rode all day, was granted many acres and there founded the abbey of Noblac around which grew the town of Saint-Léonard. He used this abbey as a base to preach the Gospel throughout the whole region. Leonard was also known for the miracles wrought on his behalf.

A more conservative version says that after saving Clotilde, he left his solitude to preach to the people and to try to pacify warring princes. In 540, after visiting Saint Remy and living for several years in a monastery at Micy, he returned from his mission. The saint appears to have had a remarkable charity towards prisoners for whom he provided both corporal and spiritual help. Some were miraculously delivered from their chains by his prayers; others were released by the king at Leonard’s request out of respect for his sanctity – a frequent privilege of certain holy bishops during that period. Leonard died in solitude in his monastery in the forest of Pauvin in Limousin about 599, aged about 99 years.

Leonard was the first saint of the French royal family. Although he was nearly 100 when he died, he is usually represented in art as a young man of about 30, because he appeared to many people at different times as a handsome young man in the flower of his youth. Today Leonard is regarded as the patron saint of childbirth, prisoners (because King Clovis promised that any prisoner converted by the saint would be released), prisoners of war (Bohemond, the crusader prince of Antioch, was released from a Islamic prison in 1103 and visited Noblac to make an offering in gratitude), and those in danger from brigands, robbers, and thieves (perhaps because the public was in danger from the very prisoners whom Leonard was responsible for releasing ) (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth, White).

He is portrayed in art vested as an abbot holding chains in his hand of a deacon with fetters or locks. Sometimes shown freeing prisoners, with prisoners nearby in stocks, or with a horse or ox near him (Roeder). He is venerated at Orleans (Abbey of Micy) and Noblac, and is the patron of cattle, domestic animals and prisoners (Roeder)

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Illtud, Abbot

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Illtyd; date and artist unknown; Holy Trinity Church, Abergavenny, Wales; photographed on 24 May 2011 by Gwenddwr; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(also known as Illtyd, Iltut, Illtut)

Died c.505 (another source says 450-535); feast day formerly on July 7. Illtud, clearly an outstanding figure and one of the most celebrated Welsh saints, labored chiefly in the southeastern part of the country. His vita written circa 1140 has no historical value; but the Life of Saint Samson, composed about 500 years earlier, has some important references. This author names him as a disciple of Saint Germanus of Auxerre, who ordained him. It calls Illtud ‘the most learned of the Britons in both Testaments and in all kinds of knowledge,’ and speaks of his great monastic school.

This establishment was Llanilltyd Fawr (Llantwit Major in Glamorgan), where other prominent saints besides Samson are said to have been Illtyd’s pupils. The monastery of Llantwit survived in one form or another until the Norman conquest (1066).

The author of Samson’s Life also describes Illtud’s death, in illustration of the saint’s power of prophecy. The passage is an impressive one, but it does not state where or when the death took place.

Nevertheless, most of his life is derived mainly from legend and unreliable sources. According to them, he was the son of a Briton living in Letavia, Brittany (some scholars believe Letavia is an area in central Brednock, England, rather than in Brittany), who came to visit his cousin King Arthur of England about 470.

The later vita says that Illtud married Trynihid and then served in the army of a Glamorgan chieftain. When one of his friends was killed in a hunting accident, Saint Cadoc is said to have counselled him to leave the world behind. This is, of course, improbable because Cadoc would have been a mere lad.

The story continues that Illtud and Trynihid took Cadoc’s advice and lived together as recluses in a hut by the Nadafan River until he was warned by an angel to separate from her. He left his wife to become a monk under Saint Dubricius, but after a time resumed his eremitical life by a stream called the Hodnant. He attracted many disciples and organized them into the Llanwit Major monastery, which, according to the ninth-century Life of Saint Paul Aurelian, was originally “within the borders of Dyfed, called Pyr,” usually identified as Calder (Caldey) Island off Tenby. The monastery soon developed into a great foundation and a center of missionary activity in Wales.

Many extravagant miracles were attributed to him (he was fed by heaven when forced to flee the ire of a local chieftain and take refuge in a cave; he miraculously restored a collapsed seawall), and he is reputed to have sent or taken grain to relieve a famine in Brittany, where the place and church names attest to some connection with Illtud.

His death is reported at Dol, Brittany, where he had retired in his old age, at Llanwit, and at Defynock. One Welsh tradition has him as one of the three knights put in charge of the Holy Grail by Arthur, and another one even identifies him as Galahad (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney, Doble, Walsh).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Blessed Christina Bruzo (Bruso)

Blessed Christina of StommelnArticle

(also known as Christina of Stommeln)

Born at Stommeln (near Cologne), Germany, in 1242; died 1312; cultus confirmed in 1908.

Christina Bruzo (Bruso), like her namesake in Belgium, could be styled ‘the Astonishing,’ since her life is a continuous record of most extraordinary phenomenon which indeed would tax our credulity, but they were recorded by a contemporary Dominican, her parish priest.

In 1268, Christina received stigmatic wounds in her hands, feet, on her forehead and in her side, which bled every Easter. She unsuccessfully tried to keep them secret. She was harassed by terrifying demons: Others saw her hurled against a wall by an unseen power and, according to one report ‘spattered and polluted with deluges of indescribable filth.’

She experienced religious raptures and divine ecstasies on Whitsunday 1268, after communion. Christina is said to have viewed the Eucharist as a perpetual commemoration of her marriage to Christ. Her preserved skull shows markings and indentations supposedly corresponding to a crown of thorns (Benedictines, Harrison).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Blessed Gomidas Keumurjian


(also known as Gomides)

Born in Constantinople in 1656; died at Parmark-Kapu (near Constantinople) in 1707; beatified in 1929. Gomidas was the son of a dissident Armenian priest, he married Huru (who deserves a place in the calendar) at 20, was ordained, had seven children, and was assigned to Saint George Armenian Church.

He became known for his eloquence and religious fervor, and in 1696, when he was 40, with his wife, made his submission and was reconciled to Rome. He stayed on at Saint George’s, and his success in reuniting five of the twelve priests there to Rome caused much opposition from the dissidents, who complained to the Turkish authorities. He then went to Jerusalem, where his activities at Saint James Armenian Monastery incurred the opposition of a John of Smyrna.

When Gomidas returned to Constantinople in 1702, John was vicar of Patriarch Avedik. Avedik was exiled for a time to Cyprus, and while there was kidnapped by the French ambassador. This angered the dissidents and they persuaded the Turkish authorities to move against the Catholics.

Gomidas was arrested in 1707 and condemned to the galleys, but was ransomed by friends. He continued to preach reunion with Rome and was again arrested later in the same year at the instigation of dissident Armenian priests.

By now John of Smyrna had become patriarch of the Armenians. Gomidas was accused of being a Frank (which meant being either a foreigner or a Latin Catholic), though he had been born in Constantinople, and of fomenting trouble among the Armenians in the city.

Though the judge, Mustafa Kamal, the chief kadi, knew Gomidas was an Armenian priest, Kamal was unable to do anything in the case when a stream of perjured witnesses testified that Gomidas was a troublemaker, a Frank, and an agent of hostile Western powers, and Gomidas was found guilty.

He was offered his freedom if he would apostatize to Islam, and was beheaded at Parmark-Kapu, on the outskirts of Constantinople, when he refused. He is sometimes mistakenly called Cosimo di Carbognano, but this was his son’s name (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Elizabeth, Widow, and Zachary, Prophet

stained glass depiction of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, artist unknown; used with permission of Father Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

1st century. Elizabeth and Zachary were the parents of John the Baptist, forerunner of Jesus. All we know about them is found in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. “Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:6, NAB). Zachary was a priest of the Old Covenant and Elizabeth was of the family of Aaron. Having reached middle age without the blessing of children, Zachary, while officiating in the temple, had a vision of an angel who told him that his prayers for a son would be answered. Zachary was incredulous. Perhaps to prevent Zachary from sinning against hope, he was struck dumb until the birth of his son who was to be called John, “who shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb and who should bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.”

Elizabeth was visited by Mary, the Mother of God, at which time Mary spoke the hymn of praise now known as the Magnificat, although a few manuscripts indicated it was Elizabeth who sang it.

Generally a child is named after a dead relative. This is what Elizabeth and Zachary’s friends and neighbors expected. Yet his mother insisted that he was to be named John, and his father wrote that he agreed.

The Canticle of Zachariah or Benedictus is prayed daily by Christians in Morning Prayer. It is a song of high praise:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.
He has come to His people to set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of His servant David.

Through His holy prophets He promised of old
that He would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember His holy covenant.

This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship Him without fear,
holy and righteous in His sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
to give His people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1::68- 79).

Tradition, supported by Saint Basil and Cyril of Alexandria, asserts that Zachary died a martyr, killed in the Temple “between the porch and the altar” by command of Herod, because he refused to disclose the whereabouts of his son. The Roman Martyrology does not report this incident (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, White).

In art, Elizabeth is shown clad as an elderly lady, holding the infant John the Baptist (anonymous Russian icon); or pregnant and greeting the Virgin Mary (Piero di Cosimo; Marx Reichlich). Zacharias (anonymous Russian icon) is generally pictured as an old priest with a censer and Saint Elizabeth nearby. Sometimes he is shown in scenes of the birth and childhood of Saint John the Baptist (Roeder), or holding a lighted taper (White).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Bertila of Chelles

Pictorial Lives of the Saints: Saint Bertille, AbbessArticle

(also known as Bertilla)
Born in Soissons; died c.705. With the encouragement of Saint Oüen, Bertila convinced her parents to allow her to enter the convent at Jouarre, near Meaux, in Brie, France. There she was trained in sanctity at the school of Saint Columbanus and later was received as a professed nun by Saint Thelchildes. Bertila was convinced that she could never deserve to be the spouse of Jesus Christ, unless she endeavored to follow him in the path of humiliation and self-denial. By her perfect submission to all her sisters, she seemed everyone’s servant. Her whole conduct was a model of humility, obedience, regularity, and devotion.

She held the offices of infirmarian, headmistress of the convent school, and prioress. When Saint Bathildis, the English wife of Clovis II, restored the convent of Chelles, she asked the abbess to send to it her most experienced and virtuous sisters. Saint Bertila was made its first abbess and she governed it for half a century. Many placed themselves under her direction, including Queen Bathildis herself, when Clotaire reached his majority.

The Venerable Bede writes that many Anglo-Saxon girls, including Saint Hereswitha, wife of King Anna of the East Angles, sister of Saint Hilda, and mother of Saints, Sexburga, Withburga, and Ethelburga, were also attracted to Chelles under her governance. Thus, two holy queens vied with Bertila to outdo one another in submission, charity, and humility (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Husenbeth, Walsh).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Joannicius of Mount Olympus, Hermit

detail of a Greek Orthodox icon of Saint Joannicus of Mount Olympus; date unknown, author unknown; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born at Bithynia, c.754; died at Antidium, 846; feast day formerly on February 4.

For 20 years Joannicius was a soldier in the Byzantine army, seeing active service against the Bulgars. Repenting of his disorderly ways, he left the service at 40 and became a monk and then a hermit on the Bithynian Olympus. Popular veneration, however, drove him from solitude to solitude.

While at the monastery near Brusa the second iconoclast controversy began in 818; Joannicius, who had formerly favored the iconoclasts, now showed himself a vigorous opponent of them.

He was greatly respected among the prophetical figures of his time, and both Saint Theodore the Studite and Saint Methodius of Constantinople consulted him. He counselled moderation in their treatment of iconoclasts – unusual enough advice from a monk in that struggle.

Saint Joannicius was over 90 when he died at the monastery of Antidium (Attwater). He is highly venerated among the Greeks (Attwater, Benedictines).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>

Saints of the Day – Charles Borromeo, Cardinal

detail of a painting of Saint Charles Borromeo by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, c.1768; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Born Arona, Italy, October 2, 1538; died night of November 3-4, 1584; canonized in 1610; feast day formerly on November 5.

More than saints working great miracles, it is harder to believe that a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth during an age of decadence that defined nepotism should become a saint. Nevertheless, Charles Borromeo was a man of great humility though he had received many worldly benefits very early in life. The patrician with fairy godmothers galore had the spirit of a hardened ascetic. He gives us hope that we, who also live in a corrupt age, can successfully run the race like Saint Paul and reach for the crown of glory God has waiting for each of us.

Charles (Carlo), the second son of Count Gilbert Borromeo, a talented and pious man, and Margaret de Medici, was born in the family castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore. As a boy he was sent to Milan, for his father was determined the his son should receive the education fitting his station in life even though everyone believed that Charles was retarded because he had a speech impediment.

Charles showed signs of a vocation early. He received the tonsure of minor orders at age 12 and was allowed to wear the cassock. He had an unusual gravity of manner and loved to study. One of his masters said of him: “You do not know the young man; one day he will be a reformer of the Church and do wonderful things.” This prediction was fulfilled to the letter.

His uncle, Julius Caesar Borromeo, had the young cleric assigned the rich Benedictine Abbey of Saints Gratian and Felinus, at Arona, which had long been enjoyed by his family in commendam. Here he studied for three years. The abbey provided him with some income and his father made him subsist on this limited allowance. Charles, it appears, was always short of money to pay his household expenses for he set a fine table and liked to entertain.

After studying Latin at Milan, at the age of 15, Charles was sent to the University of Pavia to study civil and canon law under Francis Alciati, who was later made a cardinal. By age 22 Charles had earned his doctorate and both his parents were dead.

In 1559 his mother’s younger brother, the Cardinal de Medici, was elected pope and took the name Pius IV. In 1560, Pius IV called his nephew Charles to Rome, where the hat of cardinal-deacon awaited him. In his enthusiasm His Holiness appointed Charles in 1561 to administer the vacant see of Milan, but refused to allow him to go there. In his avuncular zeal his also appointed his beloved nephew as the papal legate of Bologna, Romagna, March of Ancona, and Protector of Portugal, the Low Countries, the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, and the Orders of Saint Francis, the Carmelites, Knights of Malta, and others.

Only two years after his arrival in Rome at the age of 22 and still in minor orders, Charles had among his other responsibilities, duties similar to those of the present-day Secretary of State of the Vatican. The pope clearly found it easy to make appointments and had a strong sense of family. Anyone else in this position would have felt that he was one of Saint Peter’s seven gold keys. But Borromeo was made of stronger stuff. Perhaps he bowed his head under the weight of so many honors, but he certainly didn’t bend his knee. More importantly, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.

Nevertheless, he led a balanced life. Charles still managed to find the time to play music and engage in sports; to attend to family responsibilities, such as finding husbands for his four sisters.

To the consternation of many, Charles soon was attacking the Roman court. It his eyes it was worthless, with its display of luxury, its low morals, and its stink of treacherous scheming. Loudly he declared his contempt for the practices that defiled it, condemning lechery, praising charity and humility, denouncing abuses and extolling the virtues of a good example. His daring action earned the hostility of many clerics and the reputation as a kill-joy.

As a patron of learning, Charles promoted it among the clergy and laity by instituting a literary academy at the Vatican. The record of its many conferences and studies can be found in Borromeo’s Noctes Vaticanae.

In 1562, Pope Pius IV reconvened the Council of Trent, which had opened in 1545 but had been suspended between 1552 and 1562. Charles is credited with keeping the council going for the next two years and hastening it to the completion of its work by reconciling opponents.

During the council Charles’s older brother, Count Frederick Borromeo, died, leaving Charles as head of the family. Everyone assumed he would resign his clerical state and marry. But Charles opted to name his uncle Julius as successor, and instead was ordained a priest in 1563 and consecrated archbishop of Milan the following year.

Charles was anxious to travel to Milan and begin implementing the reforms of Trent in his see, but was forced by the growing frailty of his uncle to remain in Rome. He supervised writing of the new catechism, missal, and breviary, and the reform of the liturgy and church music called for by the council. He even commissioned Palestrina’s Mass Papae Marcelli.

At last he received permission to travel to Milan and convene a provincial synod (the first of six during his administration) because his see was in great disorder. But in 1565 he was called to the pope’s deathbed, where Saint Philip Neri was also present. The new pope Saint Pius V asked him to continue his duties in Rome for a time, but Charles resisted because he wanted to attend to his diocese.

Finally taking over his see in 1566, the 28-year-old Charles modified the luxurious life style he had in Rome, and set himself to apply the principles of the Council of Trent in the reformation of a large, disordered diocese that had been without a resident archbishop for 80 years. At this time the archdiocese of Milan stretched from Venice to Geneva. It comprised 3,000 clergy and 600,000 lay men and women in over 2,000 churches, 100 communities of men, and 70 of women – about the size of the Roman Church in England today.

Born an aristocrat, Charles Borromeo decided he ought to identify himself with the poor of his diocese. He regulated his household and sold household plate and other treasures to raise 30,000 crowns. The whole sum was used to relief the distress of the poor. His almoner was ordered to give poor families 200 crowns monthly. He confessed himself each morning before celebrating Mass (generally to Griffith (Gruffydd) Roberts, author of the well-known Welsh grammar). Borromeo set his clergy an example of virtuous and selfless living, of caring for the needy and sick, of making Christ a reality to society.

Charles is described as having a robust and dignified carriage. His nose was large and aquiline, his color pale, his hair brown, and his eyes blue. He sported a short, unkempt reddish-brown beard until 1574 when he ordered his clergy to shave and, as in everything, set the example himself.

He travelled the length and breadth of his huge diocese. Eventually, Charles overcame his early speech impediment, but his was never able to preach with ease. Nevertheless, he always spoke convincingly, and constantly preached and catechized on his visitations.

To help remedy the people’s religious ignorance he established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) and instituted ‘Sunday schools’; seminaries were opened for the training of clergy (he was a great benefactor of the English College at Douai that Cardinal Allen called him its founder); the dignity of public worship was insisted upon. It is said he had 3,000 catechists and 40,000 pupils enrolled in the CCD programs of Milan. He arranged retreats for the clergy and encouraged the Jesuits in their educational work. His influence was felt even outside his own diocese and time.

Charles Borromeo was an outstanding figure among Catholic reformers after the Council of Trent, and has been called a second Saint Ambrose. His rigorism in some directions and his imperiousness have not escaped criticism, but such work of his as the religious education of children has been very widely appreciated.

Charles’s uncompromising reforms were not carried out without opposition, not least from highly-placed laity whose disorderly lives he curbed with stringent measures. Efforts were made to get him removed from office. In 1567, he aroused the enmity of the Milan Senate over episcopal jurisdiction when he imprisoned several laypersons for their evil lives; when the episcopal sheriff was driven from the city by civil officials, he excommunicated them and was eventually upheld by King Philip II and the pope.

Again his episcopal rights were challenged. Backed by governor Arburquerque, the canons of Santa Maria della Scala in Milan one day refused to allow Borromeo to enter their church. You might imagine the scene: the clergy all gathered together like commandos opposing a rampart of pot-bellied prebendaries against their sworn enemy, fulminating and raising their hands against this godly man. Borromeo pardoned the offense but the pope and king upheld his rights again.

On October 26, 1569, Archbishop Charles Borromeo of Milan, was at evening prayer. He had been attempting to bring order to a corrupt religious group known as the Humiliati, which had no more than 70 members but which possessed the wealth of 90 monasteries. One of the Humiliati, a priest named Jerome Donati Farina, was hired by three friars with the proceeds from selling church decorations to assassinate Borromeo.

He shot at the archbishop as he knelt before the altar during evening prayer. Farina escaped. Charles, thinking himself mortally wounded, commended himself to God. The bullet, however, only struck his clothes in the back, bruising him. He calmly ordered the service to continue. Not long afterwards he obtained a papal bull which dissolved the congregation permanently. After thanksgiving, Charles retired for a few days to a Carthusian monastery to consecrate his life anew to God. When it turned out that the wound was not mortal, Charles Borromeo rededicated himself to the reform of the Church.

He then travelled to the next three valleys of the diocese in the Alps, visiting each of the Catholic cantons, removing ignorant and unworthy clergy, and converting a number of Zwinglians. It is said the Charles possessed the extraordinary gift of being able to instantaneously recognize the gifts and capabilities of those around him. He wished to have an efficient body of priests as auxiliaries to help him in his many works, so gathered together men of exemplary lives known for the sanctity and learning. Anyone showing ambition for place or office would not be tolerated by him.

During the famine of 1570 he managed to find food for 3,000 people a day for three months.

Lombardy was under the civil authority of Philip II of Spain at this time. Tired of the jurisdictional struggles and the political games being played, in 1573 Charles excommunicated the governor Luis de Requesens, who was then removed by Philip. The last two governors learned from this not to mess with the cardinal- archbishop.

In 1575 he went to Rome to gain a jubilee indulgence, and the following year it was published in Milan. Huge crowds of penitents came to Milan. Unfortunately, they brought the plague with them. The governor and other officials fled the city; Charles Borromeo refused, remaining to care for the stricken.

He assembled the superiors of the religious communities and begged them for their help. Many religious lodged in his house. The hospital of Saint Gregory was inadequate and overflowed with the sick and dead, with too few to care for them. He sent for help from priests and lay helpers in the Alpine valleys, because the Milanese clergy would not go near the sick.

As plague choked off commerce, want began. Daily food had to be found for 60,000 to 70,000 people. Borromeo first sold off his large estate at Oria, Naples, to raise money to relieve suffering. Having exhausted his own resources and he began piling up debt to get supplies. Clothes were made from the flags that had been hung from his house to the cathedral during processions. Empty houses were used, and shelters were built for the sick. Altars were set up in the streets so that the sick could attend public worship from their windows. He himself ministered to the sick, in addition to supervising care in the city. The plague lasted from 1576-78.

Even during this period, resentful magistrates tried to make trouble between Charles and the pope. When the plague was over, Charles wanted to establish anew his cathedral chapter on the basis of a common life, but the canons refused. This led him to originate his Oblates of Ambrose (who was also bishop of Milan) (now the Oblates of Saint Charles).

In addition to his connection to the English College at Douai and his Welsh confessor Father Roberts, Borromeo appointed another Welshman , Dr. Owen Lewis (later bishop of Calabria), to be his vicar general, and he always had with him a little picture of Saint John Fisher. In 1580, he met, aided, and entertained for a week twelve young priests going on a mission to England. Two preached before him – Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion, English martyrs.

A little later the same year, Charles met the 12-year-old Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom he gave his first Communion.

Charles was a martyr in his own way. He travelled under much strain and without enough sleep. In 1584, his health declined. After arranging for the establishment of a convalescents’ home in Milan, he went to Monte Varallo to make his annual retreat, accompanied by the Jesuit Father Adorno. He told several people that he was not long for this world, took ill on October 24, and arrived back in Milan on All Souls’ Day (November 2), having celebrated Mass for the last time the day before in his hometowm of Arona.

He went to bed, requested the last rites, received them, and died quietly during the early hours of November 4 in the arms of his Welsh confessor, Father Roberts, in 1584, aged only 46, with the words, “Behold, I come. Your will be done.”

He was buried in Milan Cathedral. A spontaneous cultus arose immediately. Soon after his death the people agreed to build a monument to him – a 28-meter statue set upon a 14-meter pedestal. The statue was called “Carlone” or “Big Charles.”

Among Walter Savage Landor’s poems is one addressed to Saint Charles, invoking his pity on Milan at the time of the troubles in 1848.

Another of Charles’s confessors, Saint Alexander Sauli, a Barnabite clerk regular, followed Charles’s example and carried out similar necessary, but unwelcome, religious reforms in Corsica (Attwater, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Guissiano, Murray, Orsenigo, Walsh, White, Yeo).

In art his emblem is a cardinal’s hat and crozier. Normally he is shown as a cardinal praying before a crucifix, generally barefoot and often with a rope around his neck. Sometimes he is shown (1) kissing the hand of the Blessed Virgin and blessed by the Christ Child; (2) weeping over a book with untouched bread and water nearby; or (3) bringing the Blessed Sacrament to plague victims (Roeder, White).

He is the patron of Roman clergy, seminaries, spiritual directors, catechists, catechumens, and starch makers. Invoked against the plague (Roeder, White).

MLA Citation

  • Katherine I Rabenstein. Saints of the Day, 1998. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 August 2020. Web. 10 August 2020. <>