This saint performed one of the most important tasks for the Church in hundreds of years: he served as the editor of the first universal Catholic Catechism, The Roman Catechism: The Catechism of the Council of Trent; which set the foundation of the current Catechism.
It is very worthwhile to study the first Catechism to see how the essential truths of the faith remain. Though the language becomes more nuanced, the center holds.
It is also available online.
There is an excellent article about St. Borromeo in This Rock magazine.
“In the bestselling interview with Vittorio Messori, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger expressed his great admiration for a 16th-century cardinal and archbishop of Milan as a model of authentic reform and renewal in the Church. The future pope declared:
“For me, Charles Borromeo is the classic expression of a real reform, that is to say, of a renewal that leads forward precisely because it teaches how to live the permanent values in a new way, bearing in mind the totality of the Christian faith and the totality of man . . . he was totally centered on Christ. (The Ratzinger Report, 38-39)
“A saint, reformer, cardinal, apologist, archbishop, and tireless pastor, St. Charles Borromeo rebuilt the Church in Milan during the 16th century and was one of the greatest figures of the Catholic Reformation. For Catholics laboring to renew the Church today in the face of a hostile culture, Borromeo stands as a champion of authentic renewal, as a gentle but determined saint, and as a powerful spokesman for the reinvigoration of the priesthood through zeal, commitment to the truth, and attracting solid, faithful seminarians. Above all, he is a reason for Catholics today to embrace the Catholic Reformation and the heroic men and women who led it.
“Born into Italian nobility on October 2, 1538, Charles Borromeo was the son of Giberto II Borromeo and Margherita de’ Medici. Thus, through his mother, young Carlo was related to the powerful de’ Medici family that was ascendant in Renaissance Italy. This connection proved a significant one, both for Charles and for the Church.
“Entering into Church service at the age of 12, young Charles was sent away from home to study Latin and then began the long task of mastering Scholastic theology. Overcoming an early stutter, he went to Pavia in 1558 and met his uncle, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo de’ Medici, who was impressed with the young man. A few weeks later Charles’ father died at Milan. Despite his age, Charles was asked by the family to assume direction over all of its many responsibilities and interests. Incredibly, even in the midst of the ceaseless demands on his time, he finished in 1559 the double doctorate (utroque iure (doctorates in both civil and canon law).
“That same summer, the death of Pope Paul IV brought the cardinals to Rome for a conclave. Cardinal de’ Medici was elected pope in December, taking the name Pius IV. Shortly after the start of the new year, Charles was summoned to Rome, appointed administrator of the Papal States, and in short order a cardinal-deacon. This was, of course, a case of nepotism, but the pontiff was not engaging in corruption or favoritism. He had recognized Charles’ talent and wanted him in the papal court. One other appointment proved significant—Charles was named administrator of the vacant Archdiocese of Milan, and on February 8, 1560, Pius asked him to serve officially as its archbishop.”