The Catholic Defender: St. Charles Borromeo's call for Evangelization
St. Charles Borromeo was a leading figure during the Counter-Reformation period of the Church. In the wake of the Protestant Revolt which lead to the 40,000 plus non-Catholic churches today, Catholic Apologists like St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri and many others held the line bringing back many to the Catholic Faith through Evangelism. For St. Charles, learning was very important to reach the masses. His call for Evangelization is a cry coming straight from the gospel.
“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.” (St. Charles Borromeo)
Evangelization is the call of all Christians who follow Christ in their daily walk.
This is central to our call to follow Christ. This is done primarily in how we live out our lives. Through our passion to follow Christ, we must live our lives accordingly.
We are known through three basic things.
1. We are known by what we say. Our words have impact.
2. We are known by what we do, does our actions speak our words.
3. We are known by the things we love. What is our passion. If following Christ is our passion, then our lives will reflect what we say and do.
“Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.” (St. Charles Borromeo) November 4 is the Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop (1538 – 1584)
St. Peter writes, “Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:13-17).
My Mother converted to the Catholic Faith through the example of a co-worker when I was very young. Mom was raised in an anti-Catholic household and she was raised with great bias against Catholics. She thought of Catholics as like a foreign country. Through the example of a Catholic friend who worked with her, my Mother became open to investigate the Catholic Faith. This would ultimately lead to my being Catholic.
In thinking about this, in researching the virtue of our holy Faith, I consider the Catholic Catechism of the Church, (CCC) 1697:
Catechesis has to reveal in all clarity the joy and the demands of the way of Christ. Catechesis for the “newness of life” in him should be:
– a catechesis of the Holy Spirit, the interior Master of life according to Christ, a gentle guest and friend who inspires, guides, corrects, and strengthens this life;
– a catechesis of grace, for it is by grace that we are saved and again it is by grace that our works can bear fruit for eternal life;
– a catechesis of the beatitudes, for the way of Christ is summed up in the beatitudes, the only path that leads to the eternal beatitude for which the human heart longs;
– a catechesis of sin and forgiveness, for unless man acknowledges that he is a sinner he cannot know the truth about himself, which is a condition for acting justly; and without the offer of forgiveness he would not be able to bear this truth;
– a catechesis of the human virtues which causes one to grasp the beauty andattraction of right dispositions towards goodness;
– a catechesis of the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity, generously inspired by the example of the saints;
- a catechesis of the twofold commandment of charity set forth in the Decalogue;
– an ecclesial catechesis, for it is through the manifold exchanges of “spiritual goods” in the “communion of saints” that Christian life can grow, develop, and be communicated.
In reading this, I became thankful for the witness my Mother received by the example of a faithful Catholic. That is the heart of Evangelization, we must have a heart for God. To be his representative in the trenches. At home, at the workplace, on the ball field, where ever we find ourselves. Our example is central to our faith.
Romans 6:4 states, “We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life”. Our new life is not to be buried in the back yard, but it is to be given away that others might find this new life through your witness.
Galatians 5:22-23 states, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Against such there is no law.” When someone is living such a way of life, people are drawn by the authentic way of faith. There is a wholesomeness, there is a virtue that inspires people to reach towards.
“If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out… Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter… Do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself.” (St. Charles Borromeo)
From the CCC, 25, it states, “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.” Through our love for the truth, others will see the love within you.
I love Galatians 6:9 which states, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.” The Catholic Faith is the family of faith that St. Paul is addressing here. This is a great example of scripture that calls us to do good works for the glory of God.
This is the heart of Evangelization.
Consider Psalms 1:1-3, “Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers. Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.”
The fruit is speaking of good works that help others, that bring others to the Lord. Remember, we are known for the things we love. Let us not sit in the company of those who love evil. Evil company destroys good morals. That destroys your witness.
The cardinal virtues are lasting virtues if we center ourselves on the teaching of Christ. The CCC, 1805 states, “Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude,, and temperance. ‘If anyone loves righteousness, wisdom labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.’ (Wisdom 8:7) These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture”.
The cardinal virtues are important to evangelization because they keep us centered to always doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
We need to train ourselves to strengthen ourselves. It is a discipline we place on ourselves to ensure that everyone is given respect, compassion, endurance with dedication and commitment.
In my experience, the light bulb might turn on in an instant, or the light bulb might take a long time. Some people seem to take forever, a work in progress.
The CCC speaks a lot on the Theological Virtues stating, 1822 states, “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”
1842 states, “By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church proposes for our belief.”
1843 states, “By hope we desire, and with steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it.”
Faith, hope, and love are the three theological virtues that if we apply this in our life, you will be a great witness for the faith. This requires continued growth, prayer, and commitment. St Paul addresses this best:
1 Corinthians 13 states, “Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing. Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever. Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with. For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways. Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known. As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.”
In 1576, St. Charles Borromeo showed great courage helping the starving people of Milan using his own assets feeding 70,000 per day. In 1583, St. Charles traveled to Switzerland to feed those who were spiritually hungry who were under the heavy threat of terrible heresies (Protestantism), witchcraft, and sorcery.
Like St. Charles Borromeo, let is put on the whole armor God in our lives so that we might be able to evangelize to others using the virtues given us by the grace of God.