During the 1576 plague that menaced the northern Italian city of Milan and eventually took 25,000 lives, the civil government fled the city out of fear. The archbishop of Milan, St. Charles Borromeo, took over, assured the people he would not abandon them and, together with priests from the parishes and religious orders, began to care for their material and spiritual needs.

He organized hospitals, cared for orphans and brought the sacraments to those who were quarantined in their homes. He got priests to offer Masses in public squares and the middle of streets so that people could participate from their houses. He sold his personal goods and much of the diocesan treasury to feed the hungry and had the tapestries of his residence converted into blankets to warm the poor.

As a good shepherd, he was willing to risk his life to care for both the souls and the bodies of those entrusted to him and was able to persuade so many of his brother priests to join him. Recalling how Christ died for them first, he declared that Christ “does not even request this pathetic life of ours, but only that we put it at risk.”  ….

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