Page images

sailed on a mission to Japan, where he arrived in 1549, and was received favourably by the king, who allowed him to preach the Gospel; and he applied himself with such extreme diligence to the study of the language, that in a few weeks he was able to translate the creed, and an exposition of it, together with a life of our Saviour compiled from the Gospels, and to preach in public. He made many converts, amongst whom he distributed the translations he had made. He continued to preach amongst the islands with various success: at Fuceo vast multitudes of people desired to be instructed and baptised; and the king himself was convinced of the truth of the Gospel. Having laid the foundations of the Christian Church throughout Japan, he again embarked for India in 1551; and after a short stay there, was once more on his way to preach the Gospel in China, when, in 1552, it pleased God to away this great missionary, after ten years of labours and successes almost unparalleled since the days of the apostles.

CHARLES BORROMEO, archbishop of Milan, and cardinal of the Roman Church, was born of a noble family in 1538, at Arona, in the duchy of Milan. His father, a man of exemplary piety, gave him an education proportioned to the great prospects of promotion which his family connexions presented; and he gave early signs of a strong attachment to literary pursuits. His uncle, Pope Pius IV., on his election to the Roman see, invited him to Rome, and created him cardinal, and archbishop of Milan, when he was only twenty-two years of age. The pope entrusted to him the chief management of ecclesiastical affairs, in which he evinced an ability and discretion which would have done credit to the most experienced ecclesiastic. The Romans were remarkable for indolence and ignorance: to induce

them to aspire to a more honourable character, Borromeo instituted an academy, consisting of ecclesiastics and laymen, whom his munificence and example incited to study and animated to virtue. But in the midst of a luxurious court, the young cardinal was carried away by the torrent: his palace, furniture, equipage, and table, were splendid and sumptuous; and his uncle, in order to enable him to support such expenses, heaped on him a number of high and lucrative appointments, in addition to several rich abbeys and other benefices, of which he was possessed. In 1562 Borromeo's eldest brother died and notwithstanding his high station in the Church, he was now urged by the pope, and by all his friends, to resign his ecclesiastical dignities, and marry, in order to support his family name; but he refused their solicitations, and was ordained priest the same year.

The council of Trent re-assembled about this time, and the reformation of the clergy became the subject of much discussion. Cardinal Borromeo was not content to urge that reformation on others; he adopted it himself. He dismissed at once above eighty officers of his household; laid aside his robes of silk; and submitted once in every week to a day of voluntary fasting on bread and water. In 1566, on the death of his uncle, he retired to Milan, and engaged earnestly in the reformation of his diocese. He began by the regulation of his own family, which consisted of about a hundred persons, chiefly clergy; considering that his task would be easier, when all he wished to prescribe to others was exemplified in his own house. He soon brought all his household to a most regular, orderly, and religious life. His own habits of piety and self-denial were very remarkable. He removed from his palace all the fine sculpture, paintings, hangings, and even

the armorial bearings of his family; wore the coarsest vestments under his robes; and avoided, as much as possible, being served or attended on by others. In order to inspire his clergy with a contempt for earthly possessions, he would severely reprove those who discovered an interested or covetous spirit; even bishops were not exempt from his reproofs. He himself exemplified most remarkably the virtues of charity and disinterestedness. When he came to reside at Milan, he voluntarily resigned benefices and estates to the value of 80,000 crowns per annum, reserving only an income of 20,000 crowns. The principality of Oria, which had become his property by the death of his brother, he sold for 40,000 crowns, which he commanded his almoners to distribute among the poor and the hospitals. When the list which the almoners shewed him for the distribution amounted, by mistake, to 2000 crowns more, Borromeo said the mistake was too much to the advantage of the poor to be corrected, and the whole was accordingly distributed in one day. When his brother died, he also caused all the rich furniture and jewels of the family to be sold, and gave the price, which amounted to 30,000 crowns, to the poor. Several other cases of charity, on an equally large scale, might be added. His chief almoner was ordered to distribute among the poor of Milan, of whom he kept an exact list, 200 crowns every month. Borromeo would never permit any beggar to be dismissed without some alms, whatever he was. He was exceedingly hospitable and liberal in entertaining princes, prelates, and strangers of all ranks, but always without dainties or luxury; and he endeavoured as much as possible to conceal his own abstemiousness. His religious foundations, repairs of churches, of the dwellings of the clergy, and of the seminaries of learning, not only at Milan,

but at Bologna, Rome, and many other places, were on the most magnificent scale of liberality.


Borromeo found his diocese in the greatest disorder. The great truths of salvation were little known or understood; and religious practices were profaned by the grossest abuses, and disfigured by superstitions. The sacraments were neglected; the clergy seem scarcely to have known how to administer them, and were slothful, ignorant, and depraved the monasteries were full of disorders. Borromeo instituted seminaries for the instruction of the clergy; appointed a number of vicars, or rural deans, who exercised a vigilant superintendence over every part of his diocese; and held many provincial and diocesan synods, in which the most excellent and judicious regulations were made, and enforced with inflexible firmness. In the course of his proceedings, he frequently encountered the most violent opposition from those who were unwilling to be corrected. The order of monks called Humiliati were particularly irritated by his labours for their reform, and excited against him one of their members, who actually fired a musket at the archbishop, as he was one evening at prayers with his family. Borromeo calmly finished his prayer, though the ball had struck his robe (happily without wounding him), and then, with truly Christian charity, forgave the assassin, and even solicited his pardon. But justice took its course, and the order was suppressed by the pope.

Borromeo divided the revenue of his see into three parts; one of which was appropriated to his household, another to the poor, and a third to the repairs of churches: and it was his custom to lay before the provincial councils the accounts of his revenues to the last farthing, saying that he was no more than an administrator or steward.

He em

ployed no clergy of his own kindred in the government of his diocese; nor did he resign to them any of the benefices which had been conferred on him.

It was one of his greatest pleasures to converse with and catechise the poor; and he would often visit them in the wildest and most mountainous parts of his diocese. On one occasion, while he was engaged in his visitation, the bishop of Ferrara coming to meet him, found him lying under a fit of the ague on a coarse bed, and in a very poor cottage. Borromeo, observing his surprise, remarked "that he was treated very well, and much better than he deserved." During the dreadful ravages of a pestilence, this excellent man encouraged his clergy to administer the consolations of religion to the sick and dying, and he was himself assiduous in the performance of this dangerous duty. On this occasion he sold all his furniture to procure medicine and nourishment for the unhappy sufferers. He was careful not to lose a moment of his time: even at table he listened to some pious book, or dictated letters or instructions. When he fasted on bread and water, and dined in private, he read at the same time, and on his knees when the Bible was before him. After dinner, instead of conversing, he gave audience to his rural deans and clergy. He allowed himself no time for recreation; finding in the different employments of his office both corporal exercise and relaxation of mind sufficient for maintaining the vigour of his mind and health of his body.

When he was put in mind of any fault, he expressed the most sincere gratitude; and he gave a commission to two prudent and religious clergy of his household to remind him of any thing they saw amiss in his actions; and he frequently requested the same favour of strangers. He was remarkable for


« EelmineJätka »