Thursday, November 03, 2011

What Christ Has Accomplished Through Me

November 4, 2011

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop

By Melanie Rigney

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have finished preaching the Gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:17-19)

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; break into song; sing praise. (Psalms 98:3-4)

Jesus told the story of the dishonest steward, who when he was being discharged reduced the promissory notes of others, then said:) “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”(Luke 16:8)


Lord, I open myself up to serve as your instrument, so that you may use me to accomplish good.


St. Charles Borromeo, whose feast day we celebrate today, became the bishop of Milan in 1563 when he was just twenty-five years old. A key leader in the Counter-Reformation, he’s sometimes called “the priest’s priest.” His reforms, according to CatholicOnline, included:

  • Implementing measures to improve the morals and manners of the clergy and laity alike
  • Raising the effectiveness of diocesan operations
  • Establishing seminaries
  • Founding the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (or CCD) for children

He’s also known for his tireless work during Milan’s 1576 plague… for his zeal in seeking the return of non-practicing Catholics… and for putting close to a dozen people to death when they refused to renounce their Protestant faith.

In short, a man who did good, while occasionally giving into the darker side of zealotry.

How can a saint be both bad and good, someone we desire to emulate and someone all too human at the same time? How can we pray for assistance from someone who wasn’t perfect while on earth? Do we simply push aside any thought of the saint’s life lived here and blindly pray for his or her help in our own lives?

I recently read a piece in America by the Rev. James Martin, the author of the popular My Life with the Saints. He’s spent much of the past several years since the book came out talking with people about saints, and says he’s found two “perilous” extremes of Catholic devotion.

One involves viewing saints only as our patrons, people who must have been without flaws, without struggle or conflict as pertains to the Church. This, Martin writes, “destroys the saint’s humanity, renders their earthly lives almost meaningless and negates their roles as models, examples and companions as Christian disciples.”

The second overemphasizes the companion aspect of the saint, of his or her value as an earthly role model, however flawed, and prefers to ignore any possibility of assistance that seems to be of the supernatural kind.

“A healthier (and more accurate) model,” Martin writes, “is to see the saint as both patron and companion: the manifestly human being whose earthly life shows that being a saint means being who you are, but who now enjoys life in heaven and intercedes for us.”

Borromeo was canonized just twenty-six years after his death, and it’s difficult to find out much about the miracles he performed that led to his sainthood. But if you use Martin’s model, it’s not difficult to see where priests and other religious today would turn to him in prayer for the faith, courage, and strength to work some miracles in their parishes.


Consider spending some time researching both the life on earth and the miracles and other heavenly assistance ascribed to your favorite saint.