Today is the feast of St. Charles Borromeo who could be the patron saint of strict disciplinarians. Born in 1538, he was the third child of the Count of Arona, whose castle looked across a lake to Switzerland.
As we have seen with other noble families, this child’s quick mind was seen as an asset that could bring wealth to the family. They had the monastery of Arona in their possession, so the father of Charles, with a view towards later installing Charles as abbot there, had him tonsured at twelve, and sent to Milan to acquire doctorates in church and civil law.
But two things thwarted that plan. For one thing, that father died, and the family chose Charles over his older brother to be head of the family. The other thing was that his mother’s a brother was elected pope as Pius IV. That pope called on his twenty-one year old nephew Charles to serve as Secretary of State and as governor of the Papal States.
Charles was twenty-five in 1583 when the Council of Trent came to an end. Then, when his family was urging him to come home to father an heir and to rule the family, his uncle the pope named him archbishop of Milan.
As the new archbishop took possession of his archdiocese he was so zealous in carrying out the reforms mandated by the Council of Trent that several times he was shot at. When he ordered all convents to install grills to prevent visitors from seeing the faces of the nuns, most nuns complied with his ruling, but his mother’s two sisters who were superiors at convents would not let the grills to be brought in.
At the 1555 Council of Worms Catholics and Protestants reached an agreement by which the people of each Swiss canton would be obliged to adopt the religion of its ruler. Charles Borromeo, with several Catholic cantons in his possession, set up the Inquisition to bring around or to do away with non-Catholics in the cantons where he was in charge.
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