11th Anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus
On this day in 2009, the Feast of S Charles Borromeo, Benedict XVIth signed the Apostolic Consitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which gave (and gives) life and purpose to the Personal Ordinariates.
The timing of the document is significant for a number of reasons. St Charles Borromeo may seem an unlikely patron for English Catholics, but was in fact unusually cognizant of the parlous state of the Faith in England during his own lifetime; he kept on his person (or, according to other sources, in his private study) a portrait of the martyr S John Fisher, bishop of Rochester, murdered by Henry Tudor. Both men, Bishops and Cardinals, were models of the true reform for which the church was crying out in the 16th Century: only S Charles would live to see it carried out in any great measure. Borromeo also met, before their deaths, Ss Edmund Campion, Luke Kirby, and Ralph Sherwin, along with Robert Person, SJ, a future Rector of the Venerable English College in Rome, which preserves a letter from the saintly Archbishop.
In his quest to implement the reforms of Trent, S Charles Borromeo showed himself similar to another great English prelate, Reginald, Cardinal Pole, the Marian Archbishop of Canterbury who reconciled (all too briefly) this country to Holy Church after the disastrous schism of Henry and Edward. The two men moved in similar circles, and even employed the same men in their retinues.
Unsurprisingly, then, English Catholics have long treasured a devotion to S Charles (and one which in our age, with its desperate need of a reformed episcopacy, might profitably be resumed). Henry, Cardinal Manning, founded in 1857 the Oblates of S Charles Borromeo, an association of secular clergy modelled after the Oblates of Ss Ambrose and Charles at Milan, to assist the Archbishop in ministering to Catholics in the Capital.
More topically, S Charles is also remembered for his heroic ministering to the sick during the plague which swept Milan in 1576, during which, in a situation both like and unlike our own, the churches were closed to prevent the spread of the infection, but the clergy were exhorted to be assiduous in visiting the sick and administering the sacraments, and the saintly bishop himself remained in his city, ministering to his flock, a very model of the Good Shepherd.
May S Charles, the Holy Archbishop of Milan, friend to English Catholics and model of reform, pray for us!