A Novena to Saint Charles Borromeo

Saint Charles Borromeo with Saints Anthony of Padua and Francis of Paola
Saint Charles Borromeo with Saints Anthony of Padua (l) and Francis of Paola (r). Mondadori Portfolio/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images

St. Charles Borromeo (born October 2, 1538, died November 3, 1584) was the cardinal-archbishop of Milan during the Counter-Reformation, during which he developed a reputation as a zealous defender of the Catholic faith and arch foe of corruption within the church--a reputation that earned him many enemies within the church. Among his accomplishments was ending the practice of selling of indulgences, and championing education for priests.

In 1576, when famine, then plague, struck Milan, Charles Borromeo, by now Archbishop of the city, bravely remained in Milan while other rich and powerful families fled. During the plague years, Borromeo used his personal fortune to feed and tend to the poor and sick. 

In 1584 Archbishop Borromeo, weakened by a lifetime of labor for the church, fell sick with fever and returned to Milan from Switzerland, where he died on November 3, at the relatively young age of 46. 

Charles Borromeo was beatified on May 12, 1602, by Pope Paul V, and was canonized as a saint by Paul V on November 1, 1610. 

St. Charles Borromeo's feast day is held on November 4. He is the official patron saint of bishops and other spiritual leaders, as well as the patron saint of geographic locations including Italy, Monterey, California, and Sao Carlos in Brazi. A beautiful shrine in Milan Cathedral is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo.

In the following novena to St. Charles Borromeo, Catholics recall his zeal, the virtues of his life, and his support for Christian education. In the novena, supplicants ask the saint to pray for them, that they may imitate his virtues. 

O glorious St. Charles, the father of the clergy, and the perfect model of holy prelates! You are that good pastor, who, like your divine Master, gave up your life for your flock, if not by death, at least by the numerous sacrifices of your painful mission. Your sanctified life on earth was a spur to the most fervent, your exemplary penance was a reproach to the slothful, and your untiring zeal was the support of the Church.

O great Prelate, since the glory of God and the salvation of souls are the only objects of solicitude to the blessed in heaven, vouchsafe to intercede for me now, and to offer up for the intention of this novena, those fervent prayers which were so successful while you were on earth.

[Mention your request]

You are, O great St. Charles, among all the Saints of God, one in whose intercession I should most confide, because you were chosen by God to promote the interests of religion, by promoting the Christian education of youth. You were, like Jesus Christ himself, always accessible to little ones; for whom you broke the bread of the word of God, and procured for them also the blessings of a Christian Education. To you, then, I have recourse with confidence, beseeching you to obtain for me the grace to profit of the advantages I enjoy, and for which I am so considerably indebted to your zeal. Preserve me by your prayers from the dangers of the world; obtain that my heart may be impressed with a lively horror of sin; a deep sense of my duty as a Christian; a sincere contempt for the opinion and false maxims of the world; an ardent love for God, and that holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy. Christ have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ hear us. Christ graciously hear us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

St. Charles, pray for us.

St. Charles, imitator of Christ,

St. Charles, faithful follower of Christ crucified,

St. Charles, replenished with the spirit of the Apostles,

St. Charles, consumed with zeal for the glory of God,

St. Charles, the light and support of the Church,

St. Charles, Father and Guide of the Clergy,

St. Charles, most desirous of the salvation of souls,

St. Charles, a model of humility and penance,

St. Charles, most zealous, for the instruction of youth, pray for us.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, ​
graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us, O Lord.

V. Pray for us, O glorious St. Charles.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Preserve Your Church, O Lord, under the continual protection of Your glorious Confessor and Bishop, St. Charles, that as he was eminent for the discharge of his pastoral duties, so his prayers may make us zealous in the love of Your holy name: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.