Saint Charles Borromeo. The House Built on the Rock
Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) was one of the great masters who have shaped Christianity in modern times: together with other pioneers of a new way to relate the knowledge of faith and the challenges of reality, he is at the beginning of a story that still concerns us. His contemporaries immediately recognized him as an authority who indicated to everybody a path to follow. They leant on the memory of his intense life experience, and already shortly after his death the Church recognized him as a saint, proposing him to the grateful admiration of the whole world.
Four centuries after his solemn canonization in Rome (1610), this exhibition puts us on the path that led Charles Borromeo to give a unique shape to his identity as a man immersed in the turmoil of a society in need of rediscovering its certainties and its authentic destiny. What is striking in him is the strength of a spirit capable of winning the laziness of the habits and the tiredness of the gained comfort; his choice for Christ goes along a courage and a fierce boldness that for four hundred years have been a real challenge to those who meet him and also to us, today. But this dedication to the ideal, pushed to the limit of a love without reserve, didn’t magically start by itself: it was the result of a chain of encounters, of gradual discoveries, of a decision that introduced him to a profoundly new perspective.
St. Charles is usually portrayed as an austere and demanding Church man. Actually — as the exhibition points out — he is a true man: the most important thing regarding him was his “yes” pronounced in reply to a call wide open before him, a safe road to his most authentic good, capable of imposing itself even over those tragic facts — for Borromeo, his brother’s death — that for most people are a sign of Christ’s absence, not of His presence. Adhering to the charm of Jesus who filled his life and revealed the emptiness of power and richness that he well knew, St. Charles identified himself with the real flesh of his reality. He recognized Him as the center of his intelligence and of his heart, letting himself be conquered by the desire of identifying himself with the same logic that had dominated the life of Christ. St. Charles wanted to follow God in His charity towards man, his compassion for his boundless need, and used his freedom to work effectively within the world. From this secret fire of compassion in St. Charles’ heart a certainty has flourished that became dynamism, ability to build, intelligence in leadership, energy to act as a guide and reference point for all. From his unconditional love for Christ a river of humble and passionate charity has sprung that brought him to giving of himself totally for the “reform of the world to true Christian life.”
Curators: Archdiocese of Milan and the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana
Scientific Committee: Grazia Massone, Davide Milani, Marco Navoni, Alberto Rocca, Domenico Sguaitamatti, Danilo Zardin
General Coordinator Giuseppe Bolis