St. Charles tried as much as possible to liberate himself from all the material trappings connected with holding a position in the Vatican as a legate of the Pope, and yet he felt he was required to live in a certain way, in keeping with his standing in the Church and also his place in his family. But these were traps to him. He wanted nothing to do with them. He committed himself to having a large household and a magnificent palace, befitting his rank and the type of entertainment he was required to put on. He would rather have lived as a recluse in a monastery, with only Our Lord as his companion. That would have been enough for him. Despite the temptations which came his way as a result of his titles and positions, he became more and more disenchanted with this way of life. He maintained mortification in his behavior; temperance and serenity in his demeanor.
We have to believe that St. Charles Borromeo enjoyed being such an intricate part of the workings of the Church, especially being such a holy young man; but he did have one problem which constantly nagged at him. He had been made Administrator of Milan. They had not had an archbishop living in the archdiocese for eighty years. And yet he could not go to Milan to dispatch his many duties. I mean, he was in effect, Archbishop of the Archdiocese, which is a full time job, but couldn’t be in his archdiocese to do it. He was an extremely conscientious young man. He realized he was doing as much as he could handle, but felt that either he be allowed to administer his office on-site, so to speak, or give it to someone else who would be there working with the Church hands-on.
He may or may not have understood that he was a trusted member of the papal team. That word trusted is key here. There are not many people that can be arbitrarily trusted to do anything. If someone is a trusted employee, or a trusted member of a church community or government, that person is very special. That trust requires an action. In the case of St. Charles Borromeo and the Pope, that action was complete loyalty to the Pope and whatever he needed Charles to do for him. Charles was a yes man. He never gave a thought to not doing whatever was required of him; but he was torn between his obedience to the Pope and his obligation to the souls of Milan, which he judged he was not handling as well as could have been handled by someone there full time.
The Lord knew why He wanted St. Charles to be in this key position during this crucial time. It was the Council of Trent. It had been opened first in 1545 and adjourned in 1547, without ever having completed the task assigned to its members. Then in 1551, it was convened again under a new, determined Pope Julius III, but it was adjourned again after one year. The work had never been completed; it had never been brought to conclusion; the reforms, doctrines, none of these things had been instituted. “The Council of Trent was unquestionably one of the most important Councils the Church had ever convened.” Until and unless all the reforms, dogmas, doctrines and declarations were formalized, the whole Martin Luther controversy was still up in the air. Until the questions raised by him and his fellow heretics were answered definitively, their errors clearly condemned, the dissidents would use this as justification to break away from Mother Church.
In going through the documents of the Council of Trent, it’s interesting to observe the different attitudes of the popes, especially the contrast in the Sixteenth session in 1552, in which Pope Julius III suspended the Council, and the Bull for the Celebration of the Council of Trent, written by Pope Pius IV in 1560 and the subsequent opening of the Seventeenth session in 1562. Pope Julius III was completely defeated. He had tried to rekindle the flame which Pope Paul III ignited when he convened the First Session in 1545. Pope Julius III and his people had been victims of strong pressure by the German princes. Protestants had been invited to the Council in the spirit of reconciliation. But their demands were so ridiculous it was impossible to concede to them. They insisted that resolutions that had already been made by the Council, especially those regarding the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the doctrine of Transubstantiation should be revised so as to be based solely on the Protestant interpretation of Scripture, and that the Pope had to agree to be subordinate to the Council. In addition, war broke out between France and Germany; the German bishops left the Council and never returned.