St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)
The name of St. Charles Borromeo is associated with reform. He lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation, and had a hand in the reform of the whole Church during the final years of the Council of Trent. Although he belonged to Milanese nobility and was related to the powerful Medici family, he desired to devote himself to the Church. When his uncle, Cardinal de Medici, was elected pope in 1559 as Pius IV, he made Charles cardinal-deacon and administrator of the Archdiocese of Milan while he was still a layman and a young student. Because of his intellectual qualities he was entrusted with several important offices connected with the Vatican and later appointed secretary of state with responsibility for the papal states. The untimely death of his elder brother brought Charles to a definite decision to be ordained a priest, despite relatives’ insistence that he marry. Soon after he was ordained a priest at the age of 25, he was consecrated bishop of Milan. Because of his work at the Council of Trent, he was not allowed to take up residence in Milan until the Council was over. Charles had encouraged the pope to renew the Council in 1562 after it had been suspended for 10 years. Working behind the scenes, St. Charles deserves the credit for keeping the Council in session when at several points it was on the verge of breaking up. He took upon himself the task of the entire correspondence during the final phase. Eventually Charles was allowed to devote his time to the Archdiocese of Milan, where the religious and moral picture was far from bright. The reform needed in every phase of Catholic life among both clergy and laity was initiated at a provincial council of all the bishops under him. Specific regulations were drawn up for bishops and other clergy: If the people were to be converted to a better life, the had to be the first to give a good example and renew their apostolic spirit. Charles took the initiative in giving good example. He allotted most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury and imposed severe penances upon himself. He sacrificed wealth, high honours, esteem and influence to become poor. During the plague and famine of 1576, he tried to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily. To do this he borrowed large sums of money that required years to repay. Whereas the civil authorities fled at the height of the plague, he stayed in the city, where he ministered to the sick and the dying, helping those in want. Work and the heavy burdens of his high office began to affect his health. He died at the age of 46.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (14.25-33)
Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters— yes, even his own life— he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14: 25-33)
(Homily by Father E. J. Tyler)
Eudemus of Rhodes was one of Aristotle’s pupils. He edited his famous teacher’s work and made it more easily accessible. Living from 370 BC until about 300 BC, he was a philosopher and historian of science. He collaborated so closely with his master that he was regularly called Aristotle's "companion" rather than his "disciple." Discipleship is part of human history, for there have always been masters with their disciples. During the second decade of the nineteenth century in England, John Henry Newman was changing from Evangelicalism to High Church Anglicanism. But a new stage in his life was reached when Hurrell Froude drew him to John Keble. In a sense Newman then became a disciple of Keble’s, while in time outclassing his one-time master in the power and depth of his thought. Newman himself became a master with many ardent disciples, and the driving force of the Oxford Movement. As I say, it is a feature of the history of mankind that there have been numerous masters with their disciples and we see it also in the history of God’s chosen people. The prophet Isaiah (spanning the late eighth and early seventh century B.C) had disciples. We read in Isaiah 8:16-18 the prophet directing: “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.” Some scholars propose that the disciples of Isaiah formed an Isaian school. Presumably most of the prophets had their disciples and those disciples had influence on those around them. John the Baptist had many disciples. Our Lord’s first and most important disciples were drawn from some of John’s, and others of John’s disciples were encountered by the infant Church in its missionary work far and wide. Our Lord had very many disciples. Some were Apostles, many followed him to the end, and some fell away. There is, however, at least one feature of what Christ expected of his disciples that absolutely distinguishes him from other masters. What is this feature to which am I referring?
Aristotle had been a disciple of Plato - though he moved away from his master in his thought. But Plato would never have expected unqualified devotion to his own person from his disciples. Nor did Aristotle expect this of his disciples. Nor, of course, did Keble expect this of Newman - such an expectation would have been preposterous. Isaiah would have expected from his disciples a heart open to the word of God and a readiness to follow his - Isaiah’s - guidance. So would have John the Baptist of his disciples. But neither would have expected an ardent devotion to his own person. This was understood to be reserved for God. The prophet merely pointed to God and announced his word. John described himself as being merely a voice crying in the wilderness. The case is altogether different with Jesus Christ. He expected of his disciples a total devotion both to his word and to his person. In this he claimed a status altogether unique, transcending all other masters before and after him. We read that “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters— yes, even his own life— he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14: 25-33). Our Lord puts his point graphically - his disciple must act as if he were “hating” his closest relatives, which is to say placing devotion to himself far ahead of devotion to any other. His interests are to dwarf in importance the interests of all others, were they to be in conflict. If this is not the case, a person cannot be counted as his disciple. Moreover, “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” This is a remarkable statement, for it alludes to crucifixion. Our Lord did refer to his crucifixion with his close disciples during his public ministry and his allusions were often not understood. In our passage today our Lord alludes to the cross even before the crowds. Anyone who wishes to be his disciple must be prepared to follow him, carrying his cross, even to the point of crucifixion. It is a serious business being a disciple of Christ.
All this is to say that we must enter into the Christian life with a lot of deliberation and be as cognisant as possible of its demands. Our Lord asks for a total love and a full-hearted obedience. He is expecting us to love and serve him as we would God - and for this simple reason that he, our brother and redeemer, is God. Let us deliberate carefully, then. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him.” Let us resolve to give all it takes. It will mean giving our all. Ah! It is worth it!