When Charles Borromeo was created a cardinal at the age of 21 who would have thought that he would become one of the foremost reformers in the history of the Church? This is an example of how the Holy Spirit can work even in unusual circumstances. Charles Borromeo was a prime mover during the Council of Trent and after his election as Archbishop of Milan he was one of the first bishops to open a seminary for the training of priests. His dedication to Church reform brought about much opposition and several attempts were made on his life. St. Charles has had a tremendous influence and impact on Catholic life for the past 400 years. He was canonised in 1610.
More than a century ago a university student was travelling by train in France and he found himself sitting next to a man who was praying the rosary. The student asked him, “Do you still believe in such old-fashioned things?” The man replied “Yes I do, don’t you?” The student laughed and advised the man to throw his beads away and learn about something important like science. The student offered to send the man literature if he gave him his name and address. The man handed the boy his visiting card. Looking at it the boy was speechless as he read, “Louis Pasteur. Director of the Institute of Scientific Research, Paris.” We don’t know what happened to the student. We can only guess that this chance meeting with one of the world’s greatest scientists, who also valued the spiritual life, changed the young man’s view of religion. Perhaps he chose to imitate Pasteur both as a scientist and as a man of prayer.
What does Saint Paul tell us today? He says “Be imitators of me.” He offers to be our guide and our mentor on the spiritual journey. Saint Paul was well aware of the many hazards and pit-falls a Christian would encounter in trying to follow Christ, and so he offered to help others to prevent their journeys from ending in disaster.
Louis Pasteur led someone by quietly praying his rosary on the train. We all look up to someone and try to imitate them in some way. Someone may even be imitating us whether we realise it or not. The question is where will we lead them?