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NOTES ON NOTE-WORTHIES,
OF DIVERS ORDERS, EITHER SEX, AND EVERY AGE.
BY SIR NATHANIEL.
And make them men of note (do you note, men?)-Love's Labour's Lost, Act III. Sc. 1.
D. Pedro. Or, if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.
Note this before my notes, There's not a note of mine that's worth the noting. D. Pedro. Why these are very crotchets that he speaks, Notes, notes, forsooth, and noting!
Much Ado About Nothing, Act II. Sc. 3.
IV. ST. CHARLES BORROMEO.
EVERY bullet has its billet. So believes that communis sensus of the world which finds its aptest expression in a proverb. So believed, no doubt, the turbulent monk who billeted a bullet against the person of Carlo Borromeo, with intent to do him the most grievous bodily harm a bullet can, or is designed to, effect. But in this instance the Church Reformer-meaning the real one, San Carlo-wore a charmed life; and the opposition Church Reformer-meaning the monk Farina, for he too set up for one in his way, that way being to rid the perturbed Church of its cardinal troubler, and purge it of his presence by an ite, missa est in leaden type-misdirected his billet, albeit he did send his bullet home. The direction put upon the billet by its unscrupulous sender was -to the heart of hearts of Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop, that troubler of the stagnant peace of monkish malcontents. It miscarried. So far at least as that the bullet, though it found a lodgment in the Archbishop's vesture, as he knelt before the altar at evening prayer,* dropped, a harm
"When from the assassin's arm the bullet sped,
He blench'd not, nor his deep devotions stopt; 'Be not dismay'd in heart!' the anthem said,
He rose-the bullet from his vestment dropt!"
Such is one of the supplementary stanzas appended by Mr. Ainsworth to his "free translation" of the Admirable Crichton's Latin "Elegy on the Cardinal Carlo Borromeo." The following note is added to illustrate the incident in question :
"The ecclesiastical reformation effected by Saint Charles met, as was natural, with considerable opposition on the part of the corrupt and disorderly priesthood, and he became the object of their bitterest animosity. Les plus opposés à la réforme,' writes M. Tabauraud, 'suscitèrent un frère Farina, qui se posta à l'entrée de la chapelle archiepiscopale où le Saint Prélat faisait sa prière avec toute sa maison; et, au moment où l'on chantait cette antienne, Non turbetur cor vestrum neque formidet, l'assassin, éloigné seulement de cinq ou six pas, tire un coup d'arquebuse sur Saint Charles, à genoux devant l'autel. A ce bruit, le chant cessa, le consternation est générale; le Saint, sans s'émouvoir, fait signe de continuer la prière: il se croyait cependant blessé mortellement, et offrait à Dieu le
less thing, to the ground, when he arose-its mission frustrated, its murderous object signally reversed. For in fact that musket-shot was the ruin of the Humiliati brotherhood who authorised it, and what the profane might call a godsend for the prelate it was meant to slay. Man proposes, God disposes. Farina's bullet had its billet, but not as he proposed. It was, in the issue, the making (so to speak) of the obnoxious Reformer, and the ruin of the refractory monks.
For from that time forth the Reformer prospered in his work. Nothing, as the Prussian historian, Von Ranke,* observes, was ever more useful to him than this attack: the people looked on his escape as a miracle, and from that moment began to regard him with absolute veneration.
He is certainly note-worthy among the note-worthiest as a labourer, heart and soul-which is better sometimes than mind and strength-in the task of reforming what was corrupt, so far as his eye could trace the corruption, in the Church to which he belongs, and of which he is, with grounds to show for it too, a canonised Saint. The diocese of Milan was, when he entered "with a will" upon its episcopal functions (volo episcopari), miserably in need of a stringent system of overseership. For fourscore years past, according to M. Tabauraud, the Church of Milan had been practically in a state of anarchy, archbishop after archbishop adopting the too, too dolce far niente habit of-let ill alone, laissez faire. A few years, however, of the new régime sufficed to turn this chaos into a cosmos. From being a by-word for whatever is discreditable in matters ecclesiastical and spiritual, the diocese of Milan became, under the transforming hands of its new shepherd and bishop of souls, a model and a marvel to surrounding episcopates.
The Roman Catholics are naturally proud of their own "Reformer," and somewhat prone to pit him against the more dogmatical, hip-andthigh cut-and-thrust ultras, as they account them, of the Protestant Reformation. Cardinal Wiseman exults in the collation. "Gladly," for instance, says his eminence, "would we institute a comparison between the instruments of our respective reformations. We would put St. Charles Borromeo against Cranmer, or Bartholomew de Martyrilius against Bucer; the first as agents, the latter as auxiliaries. It has often appeared to us, that Divine Providence was graciously pleased to give the lie to those who, under pretence of grievous abuses and errors, caused schism in the Church, by raising from its bosom, at that very moment, and soon after, such men as no Reformed Church can boast of. The tree might have been known by its fruits; an evil tree could not have brought forth such worthy fruits of charity, of pastoral zeal, of penitential spirit, as then came to adorn the Catholic Church. And two things strike us principally in this matter. First, that they flourished exactly after the western continental Church is supposed by these Anglican writers† to have set on itself the seal of reprobation, by sanctioning heresy at the Council of
sacrifice de sa vie. La prière finie, il se relève, et voit tomber à ses pieds la balle qu'on lui avait tirée dans le dos, et qui n'avait fait qu'effleurer son rochet.'—BIOG. UNIVERSELLE. The holy primate endeavoured, ineffectually, to preserve Farina and the instigators of his crime from merited punishment. They were put to death, and Pius VI. dissolved the order (Gli Umili) to which they belonged."
* History of the Popes.
† [Alluding to the authors of Tracts for the Times.]
Trent. Nay, some among them, as St. Charles, were the most active promoters of its decisions. Secondly, that these extraordinary men* were all distinguished for their attachment to this Church, and made it their glory that they belonged to it. We meet in their writings with no regrets at a single step it had taken, no intimation of a thought that it had inadvertently let slip a particle of primitive truth." This is not the place to canvass the polemical preferences of Dr. Wiseman; but, due allowance made for his ex parte partisanship, many are the determined Protestants who may be excused for showing something of his predilection, in the "odious comparison" he is pleased (maliciously pleased) to institute between Archbishop Charles Borromeo and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Mr. Macaulay, at any rate, for one, is surely anti-Cranmerite to the Cardinal's content.
If ever man was in earnest, and worked as under his great Taskmaster's eye, St. Charles may be honoured as earnest workman. He was instant in season, out of season:
Ful swyft and besy ever in good werkynge
He was careful, says one of our own Church historians, "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, we are further told, 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.§ His selfdenial was severe and unaffected. If his table was well-spread, it was for his guests, not himself: his own diet was vegetarian-not of the recherché order aimed at, and realised, by the vegetarianism of to-day, which, by the pains it bestows on pastry perpetrations of every possible and some preternatural kinds, appears to be indifferent alike to
Plain living and high thinking.
"His dress and establishment," says that good Old Traveller, Eustace, "were such as became his rank, but in private he dispensed with the attendance of servants, and wore an under-dress, coarse and common; his bed was of straw; his repose short; and in all the details of life he manifested an utter contempt of personal ease and indulgence." "Cardinal Borromeo," writes Montaigne, "who died lately at Milan, in the midst of all the jollity that the air of Italy, his youth, birth, and great
[Meaning, in common with the two commemorated by Dr. Wiseman in the text, such other fellow-labourers, in varied spheres of labour, but for the one cause, as Francis of Sales, Vincent of Paul, Philip Neri, Ignatius Loyola, Camillus de Lellis, Pascal Baylon, Peter of Alcantara, Joseph Calasanctius, Jerom Emilian, St. John of the Cross, &c.]
"Essays on Various Subjects." By Cardinal Wiseman. Vol. ii.
Chaucer: The Secounde Nonnes Tale."
riches invited him to, kept himself in so austere a way of living that the same robe he wore in summer served him for winter too: he had only straw for his bed, and his hours of vacation from the affairs of his charge he continually spent in study upon his knees, having a little bread and water set by his book, which was all the provision for his repast, and all the time he spent in eating." A sufficient contrast to the epicurean and essay-writing man of the Mountain himself, Michael de Montaigne.
There are those to whom it will seem incompatible with the moral earnestness and the practical religion so justly ascribed to St. Charles, that he should have spent the time and pains he did on ceremonial observances. But if he was a Christian of the really working class, so was he, at the same time, it must be remembered, a conscientiously devoted Churchman. The consecrating of altars was an office of particular importance, both in his faith and practice. The ceremony was one of eight hours' duration; which, according to the Scripture reckoning, "Are there not twelve in the day?" leaves but a small fraction for other employments. This ceremony, however, the archbishop performed on three hundred occasions-a significant illustration of the amount as well as the kind of labour in which so willingly he spent and was spent. Many of his measures, indeed, says Ranke, "chiefly concerned externals, relating more particularly to the renovatings of buildings, the harmonising of rituals, and the elevation and adoration of the host."+ But at any rate, if he acted on the conviction that these things ought to be done, he did not leave the others undone-the weightier matters of the law, the distinctive virtues of the gospel.
On coming 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." And we are further told, that when the list which the almoners showed 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 that the whole was accordingly distributed in one day.§ Upon the duty and privilege of "bestowing one's goods to feed the poor" he laid the utmost stress; reminding us, in this respect, of Pascal, whose charity to the poor, his sister tells us, had always been great, and was vastly increased in his latter days,-and who loved to converse with her on this subject better than on any other— horting her, to use her own words, "avec grand soin depuis quatre ans à me consacrer au service des pauvres, et à y porter mes enfans." "Il disait," among other arguments and importunities to this effect, "que c'était la vocation générale des chrétiens, et qu'il ne fallait point de
* Montaigne's Essays. XL.
† Ranke's "Hist. of the Popes." Book III.
"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.”—Ibid.
marque particulière pour savoir si on y était appelé, parce que cela était certain; que c'est sur cela que Jésus Christ jugera le monde; et que quand on considérait que la seule omission de cette vertu est cause de la damnation, cette seule pensée serait capable de nous porter de nous dépouiller de tout, si nous avions de la foi."* And truly cette seule pensée, not the least weighty of the immortal pensées of Pascal, had its weight with the Italian prelate of the previous century.
Borromeo's exertions during the plague at Milan are known and read of all men. He built a lazaretto, and tended the poor stricken pariahs, whom the pestilence had brought to pariah pass, with his own kind and unwearied hands. Walter Savage Landor, no eulogist of churchmen in general, still less of Italian churchmen in particular, is enthusiastic in homage to Saint Charles Borromeo:
Saint, beyond all in glory who surround
Thy placid brow no thorn blood-dropping crown'd,
Save what they suffer'd whom the Plague's dull fire
Or those whom Heaven at last let worse Desire
"Since his zeal," says Ranke, "was as pure and unsullied by worldly motives as it was persistent, since even in the hour of peril when the plague was raging, he was unwearied in his solicitude for the bodily and spiritual health of those committed to his care, since every act of his bespoke nothing but disinterestedness and piety, his influence grew day by day, and Milan assumed a totally altered aspect. How shall I sufficiently praise thee, fairest of cities!' exclaims Gabriel Paleotto, towards the close of Borromeo's administration; I admire thy sanctity and religion; I see thee a second Jerusalem.' "§ It was good for corrupt Milan that she had been afflicted-and afflicted while her chief pastor was a Saint Charles-no hireling shepherd, that would flee when the wolf came, because he was an hireling; but one who remembered that the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Such a pastor they best can rate at his true worth who feel what Keble expresses, in one of his sweetest strains, that
The world's a room of sickness; where each heart
Vie de Pascal, par Mde. Perier." † Landor's "Last Fruit off an old Tree."
"When o'er his desolated city fell
The livid plague's inexorable breath,
Fervent, he prayed beside the couch of death.
His life, for them, a willing sacrifice."
W. H. AINSWORTH: Translations.