THE FRANCISCAN SPIRIT FOR ADVENT
EPISODE 2: SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO
Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year. It is a time for prayer, penance, and preparation. It is a time to anticipate the coming of the Lord; and time to open our hearts and minds to the nativity of the Child Jesus at Christmas. Throughout the centuries, bishops, pastors, and lay ministers from every corner of the world have called their flocks to make ready for the coming of the Lord. Among these many voices is Saint Charles Borromeo, who lived from 1538 until 1584.
Born into wealth, privilege, and nobility, Charles Borromeo was a diligent student. He completed advanced degrees in both canon law and civil law before the age of twenty-one. He was just twenty-two years old when his uncle, Pope Pius IV, appointed him Cardinal Archbishop of Milan. Believe it or not, the young cardinal wasn’t even ordained a priest until the following year! For almost a century, Cardinal Borromeo’s predecessors did not live in the archdiocese, but he insisted on living in Milan, which at the time was Italy’s largest diocese with more than 3,000 priests and nearly one million lay disciples.
Almost immediately, Cardinal Borromeo set out to reform the local church by holding the clergy accountable, preaching and practicing the gospel life, and reaching out to the poor, the sick, and the left behind. He became a vowed member of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi. He also undertook a life of prayer, penance, and strict simplicity. Despite the power and prestige of his position, Cardinal Borromeo gave most of his income to charity, shunned all luxury, and imposed severe penances on himself. He also believed in the power of prayer to change the world. He often said: “Souls are won on one’s knees!”
For two years, from 1576 until 1578, a plague killed tens of thousands of people in Milan and throughout Northern Italy. Many merchants, noble families, and even priests fled the city. Markets were closed. Churches were closed. People were dying and starving in the streets. As usual, the poor, the sick, and the elderly suffered most. Although Cardinal Borromeo was unhappy about the closure of his churches, he cooperated with civil authorities and called his people to pray and fast with more fervor than ever before. He also discouraged his priests from second-guessing the good work of doctors and nurses. He said: “Do not neglect human methods, such as preventatives, remedies, medicines, or anything that can be used to fight the infection. These methods are in no way opposed to our sacred duties.”
In the end, Cardinal Borromeo donated his remaining wealth to pay for the care of the sick and dying. He died in 1584 at the age of just forty-six. He was canonized in 1610. Saint Charles Borromeo is venerated as patron of bishops, catechists, and spiritual directors. He is also the patron saint of those who suffer from stomach ulcers, intestinal disorders, and infectious diseases. His relics are enshrined in the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary in Milan, Italy.
During this Second Week of Advent, we pray with a portion of a Pastoral Letter for Advent from Saint Charles Borromeo to the People of the Archdiocese of Milan. In this passage, we reflect on the Church’s role in keeping alive the spirit of this holy season. We recall God’s gift of grace that renews itself each year as we celebrate the mystery of the incarnation. And we remember that God’s gift of love, made manifest by the birth of the Christ Child, embraces anyone and everyone who is willing to accept it, love it, and live it.
A Pastoral Letter for Advent by Saint Charles Borromeo
The present season is very important.
It is a sacred season.
As the Holy Spirit says:
It is the time of the Lord’s favor,
the day of salvation, peace, and reconciliation.
With all their hearts,
the patriarchs and the prophets
prayed, yearned, and longed
for this moment in time.
At long last, Simeon, the just man,
saw this time; and his joy was boundless.
The Church must keep this season in a special way.
We must celebrate it, give it due praise,
and give thanks to God, our Eternal Father,
for the mercy shown to us
in the mystery of the coming of his Beloved Son.
God sent his only Son
because of his immeasurable love for us, sinners.
God sent him to free us
from the tyranny of the devil;
to invite us into heaven;
and to lead us
into its innermost sanctuary.
Jesus was sent
to show us truth itself;
to teach us how we should live it;
to share with us the source of all goodness;
and to enrich us
with the treasures of divine grace.
Jesus was also sent
to make us children of God
and heirs to eternal life.
The Church recalls this mystery each year
to renew our memories
of God’s great love for us.
Our celebrations teach us
that the Savior came
not only for the people of his time,
but for us now, too.
God’s goodness is still here for us,
to share in our time and for all times.
We must hold on to this grace,
which was won for us.
We must live by it in obedience to him.
The Church calls us to understand
that just as Jesus came into the world in flesh,
so now, if we remove every barrier,
he will come to us again
at any minute, at any hour,
to make his home within each one of us
through his divine grace.
Like a dedicated mother,
ever connected for our salvation,
the Church uses the traditions of the season,
hymns, songs, and the work of the Holy Spirit,
to teach us these sacred lessons:
how to receive the Gift of God with gratitude;
and how to be enriched by it.
The Church teaches us
that our hearts should be prepared,
now and always,
for the coming of the Christ Child,
as if he had not yet ever come into the world!
Daytime Prayers for the Second Week of Advent
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.
For our families & friends: Hail Mary…
For our parish communities: Hail Mary…
For our Holy Father, Pope Francis: Hail Mary…
For our departed brothers & sisters: Hail Mary…
For the poor, the sick, and the left behind: Hail Mary…
For all who have asked us to pray for them: Hail Mary…
For an increase in faith, hope & love in the world: Hail Mary…
For an increase in peace, justice & solidarity in the world: Hail Mary…
For our divided country, wounded church & suffering world: Hail Mary…
Glory to the Father,
to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
A Prayer of Saint Charles Borromeo
you have made known to us
the mysteries of your life
through Jesus Christ, your Son,
in the Holy Spirit.
Enlighten our minds
to know these mysteries
that your Church treasures and teaches.
Move our hearts to love them,
and our wills to live in accord with them.
Give us the ability to teach the faith
without pride, without pretension,
and without personal gain.
Help us to realize
that we are mere instruments
for bringing others to the true knowledge
of the wonderful things
you have done for all of your children.
Help us to be faithful to the work
that you have entrusted to us. Amen.
A Prayer for the Advent Season
Good and gracious God,
may the powerful intercession
of Saint Charles Borromeo,
Saint Francis, and Saint Clare of Assisi
bring us closer to Christ,
closer to the Church,
and closer to each other.
May their prayers comfort us,
empower us, and protect us
as we strive to live the Gospel,
share God’s love,
and rebuild the Church
during Advent, at Christmas, and always.
We make this prayer
through the Poor Christ,
our merciful Lord and savior. Amen.
Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Charles Borromeo, pray for us!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
The Franciscan Spirit for Advent & Christmas
- Episode 1: Saint Clare of Assisi: Pray and Be Vigilant!
- Episode 2: Saint Charles Borromeo: Live the Gift!
- Episode 3: Blessed Jacopone of Todi: Come & See!
- Episode 4: Thomas of Celano: I Wish to See!
- Episode 5: The Christmas Season: God with Us!
A Franciscan Night Prayer
Saint Paul writes: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16).” For centuries, Christians have puzzled over what it means to pray without ceasing. But one ancient practice provides an answer: the Liturgy of the Hours. Since the middle ages, the Church has used a daily practice of prayer called the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours to mark and sanctify the various hours of the day: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. It is a four week cycle of psalms, canticles, and scripture readings that call us together into a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church by bringing us together through prayers of praise, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving.
At ordination, our deacons and priests make solemn promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day, using a book called the Breviary. But the Divine Office is not just for the clergy and those consecrated to religious life. Countless lay people around the world make the Liturgy of the Hours part of their daily prayer and worship. Indeed, when we pray these prayers, whether alone or in community, we are united in a powerful spiritual communion that helps to heal, redeem, and consecrate our sick and suffering world.
Unlike the other hours of the Divine Office, Compline (or Night Prayer) works on a seven day cycle. Every Sunday, the prayers are the same. Every Monday, the prayers are the same. And so on. According to the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours: “Night Prayer is the last prayer of the day, said before retiring, even if that is after midnight.” About this form of prayer, Pope Francis says: “I am very attached to the Breviary…It is the first thing I open in the morning and the last thing I close before going to sleep.”
In this spirit, in solidarity with Pope Francis, and in communion with Christian disciples all around the world, all are invited to join us in offering the Assisi Project’s Franciscan Night Prayer. This version includes the traditional psalm, reading, and canticle of the day. It also includes antiphons, readings, and a Marian devotion from the Franciscan Spiritual Tradition. Our Franciscan Night Prayer can be prayed by listening to our podcast, following along with the print version, or praying silently with the print version (see links below). Each recording is less than ten minutes in length. Come, let’s pray together!
Click Links Below
Podcasts & Printable Versions
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Sunday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Monday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Tuesday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Wednesday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Thursday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Friday
- A Franciscan Night Prayer for Saturday
About the Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation. Thank you for listening to the Franciscan Spirit for Advent & Christmas and Franciscan Night Prayer. These audio recordings are produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project and our ministries and programs for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with friends and followers throughout the world. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or AmazonSmile (links below); or by sending a tax-deductible donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. May the Lord give you peace!
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In Memory of Karen Whitcomb