Saint Charles Borromeo was related to the powerful Medici family, and desired to devote himself entirely to the Church. When his uncle, Cardinal de Medici, was elected pope in 1559 as Pius IV, he made Charles cardinal-deacon and later Bishop of Milan. The name of Saint Charles Borromeo is associated with reform. He lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation, and had a hand in the reform of the whole Church during the final years of the Council of Trent. He kept the Council in session when at several points it was on the verge of breaking up. If the people were to be converted he wanted to be the first to give a good example. St. Charles gave most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury and imposed severe penances upon himself. He sacrificed wealth, high honors, esteem, and influence to become poor. During the plague and famine of 1576, he tried to feed 60,000 to 70,000 people daily. To do this he borrowed large sums of money that required years to repay. Whereas the civil authorities fled at the height of the plague, he stayed in the city, where he ministered to the sick and the dying, helping those in need. Saint Charles made his own the words of Christ: “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.” Charles saw Christ in his neighbor and knew that charity done for the least of his flock was charity done for Christ.
Excerpts taken from from American Catholic