"He placed his hand on his breast and would bless none of them"

Johann Michael Rottmayr - Apotheosis of St Charles Borromeo - WGA20155Saint Charles Borromeo is one of my favourite saints. A great reformer in the true sense, he was austere in his personal life, but generous in his use of all the outward signs which would emphasise the sacredness of his office. He was a stickler for the proper observance of liturgical ceremonial, but kindly towards those who made unintentional mistakes. He was much loved by the poor, not least because of his heroic ministration of the sacraments during the plague, but also because of his generosity.

Ecclesiastical censures were a part of his daily ministry, used by him for their salutary purpose, regardless of the dangers with which he was sometimes threatened by the powerful who resented his integrity. He was also adamantine in using them to draw people to genuine conversion, without succumbing to the weakness of a false mercy that would leave them in their sin. One episode, which the biographer describes as remarkable, occurred when Saint Charles was making a visitation of the Diocese of Brescia and travelled through the valley of Camonica which was influenced by the Calvinists. In Plano, the people were under interdict for failing to pay their tithes, but they were enthusiastic to see the Saint:
"As the cardinal passed through, they all ran out to see him, wishing to get his blessing; but he placed his hand on his breast and would bless none of them. Deeming they were deprived of a great treasure, they ran after him, weeping and crying for pity, begging him not to leave them without granting the boon. As he wished them to acknowledge their fault, he paid no attention to them, telling them to obey their Bishop and pay their tithes."
He later sent a trusted colleague to preach to them, and promise the blessing of the Cardinal if they would do their duty. They accordingly repented, received absolution (from the sin and the censure) and were able to welcome Saint Charles on his return, when he said Mass for them, and gave them his blessing.

I have just finished Giussano's monumental Life of St Charles, which is available free at the Internet Archive. I paid 99p on Amazon for a nicely made-up copy for my kindle. It was one of those books I felt sad to reach the end of, so yesterday I was looking around for something good to read. For the sum of £0.00 I found Pius IX and His Time by ├ćneas MacDonell Dawson. Enjoying it so far.

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