This weekend St. Charles Borromeo Parish is celebrating our patronal feast day, transferred to Sunday from November 4. This is permitted during the season of Ordinary Time so that more parishioners may participate in its observance.
Saint Charles Borromeo was born at Arona, in Lombardy, in northern Italy, on October 2, 1538, the second of two sons in a family of six. He had a lifelong speech impediment, perhaps stuttering. He received clerical tonsure at age 12. After having earned degrees in both civil and canon law in 1559, his uncle was elected Pope Pius IV. The next year the pope made him a cardinal and appointed him the administrator of the Diocese of Milan, even though he was not yet a priest. However because of a number of other papal appointments, he had to remain in Rome. When the pope decided to reconvene the Council of Trent, Charles worked hard to make this happen. The council reopened in 1562 and completed its work over the next two years. Charles was particularly active in drafting the Catechism, and in the reform of the liturgical books and church music. In 1563 he was ordained a priest and two months later, a bishop. Only after the death of Pius IV and the election of Saint Pius V could he actually reside in his diocese of Milan.
As a true pastor of his flock Charles tirelessly promoted Christian life by the reform of his diocese, the convocation of synods, and the promulgation of regulations intended to foster the Church’s mission. Concerned for the proper instruction of children, he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. In 1570, during a famine, he procured supplies for the poor and himself fed about 3,000 people daily for three months. In 1576, when Milan was struck by the plague, he organized care for the sick, burial for the dead and daily food supplies for up to 70,000 people for almost two years. Weakened by frequent travel, lack of sleep, and the strain of work and worry, Charles fell ill while on his annual retreat in October 1584. He returned to Milan, received the last sacraments and died on November 3, 1584, at age 46.
At St. Peter’s we are celebrating the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel story of Zacchaeus was the traditional gospel for the Mass for the dedication of a church. When a church is dedicated it becomes a house of God. When the eucharist is first celebrated in a church and when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle, the Savior himself comes to stay in that house, just as he once came to stay in the house of Zacchaeus.
Even before the Lord entered the house of Zacchaeus, he had already touched his soul. It is the conversion of Zacchaeus that is the most important result of his encounter with Jesus. This becomes evident when we hear these passages from today’s First Reading: “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.…Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!” Although criticized for associating with those deemed to be sinners, Jesus says: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
The passage from the Book of Wisdom quoted above sees God’s mercy not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign of his greatness. Why? Because God does not have to answer to anyone else who forces him to be merciful. In his greatness, freedom and love for his creatures, God is merciful because that is his nature and he spares all things because they are his. Perhaps the author was inspired by the reflection in Psalm 8: “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” If we think about that long enough, we should come to the same conclusion as the psalmist: “O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!”
Pray the rosary again this week for the souls in purgatory. Pray for Pope Francis and the needs of the Church throughout the world. Pray for the return of those who no longer practice their faith and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.