Monday, May 13, 2013
Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine

1955 Calendar (Double): May 13

Today the Holy Church celebrates the feastday of St. Robert Bellarmine (4 October 1542 – 17 September 1621), who was one of the most notable Catholics during the Catholic Counter Reformation.  His saintly example and teachings helped preserve the Church against the heresies of the Protestants.

St. Robert Bellarmine was born the third of ten children of Vincenzo Bellarmine and Cinzia Cervini, a family of nobles, albeit poor ones. His mother, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification.  It was these traits that Robert would be famous for one day.  In this manner, may we see the importance of faith active in the family life.

Robert suffered assorted health problems all his life. Educated by Jesuits as a boy, he later joined the Jesuits on September 20, 1560, despite the opposition of his father who wanted Robert to enter politics.  The young Robert studied at the Collegio Romano from 1560 to 1563, Jesuit centers in Florence, Italy in 1563, then in Mondovi, Piedmont, the University of Padua in 1567 and 1568, and the University of Louvain, Flanders in 1569.

He was ordained to the priesthood on Palm Sunday, 1570 in Ghent, Belgium. He served as a Professor of Theology at the University of Louvain from 1570 to 1576. At the request of Pope Gregory XIII, he taught polemical theology at the Collegio Romano from 1576 to 1587. While there he wrote Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus hujus temporis hereticos, the most complete work of the day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack.

He served as the Spiritual director of the Roman College from 1588, and he taught Jesuit students and other children while he wrote a children‘s catechism, Dottrina cristiana breve.  Shortly thereafter he wrote a catechism for teachers, Dichiarazione piu copiosa della dottrina cristiana.

St. Robert was the confessor of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga until his death, and then St. Robert worked for the boy‘s canonization. In 1590 he worked in France to defend the interests of the Church during a period of turmoil and conflict.  He served as a member of the commission for the 1592 revision of the Vulgate Bible as well as the rector of the Collegio Romano from 1592 to 1594. Thereafter, he was the Jesuit provincial in Naples, Italy from 1594 to 1597, followed by the role of Theologian to Pope Clement VIII from 1597 to 1599.

He is most well known for his role as examiner of bishops and consultor of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition in 1597; he was strongly concerned with discipline among the bishops. Created a Cardinal-priest on March 3, 1598, by Pope Clement VIII, he continued to live an austere life in Rome, giving most of his money to the poor. At one point he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold.”

He helped Saint Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order.  He was graced with the honor of being named Archbishop of Capua, Italy on March 18, 1602. He served in the two conclaves of 1605.

Concerning the controversy over Galileo, St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, as well as Pope Urban VIII, welcomed Galileo’s research; they even presented him with medals and gifts. They wholeheartedly welcomed his hypothesis; however, when Galileo began to promote it as truth without providing concrete evidence, trouble arose with the Catholic Church.  That matter is a separate issue.  He wrote Tractatus de potestate Summi Pontificis in rebus temporalibus adversus Gulielmum Barclaeum in opposition to Gallicanism. He opposed action against Galileo Galilei in 1615, and established a friendly correspondence with him, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church.

He served as an elector in the conclave of 1621 and was considered for Pope. Instead, he would serve as the Theological Advisor to Pope Paul V as well as the Head of the Vatican library and the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Rites.  He also bore the role of Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of the Index.

He died on September 17, 1621.  He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on September 17, 1931.

His remains, in a cardinal's red robes, are displayed behind glass under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius, the chapel of the Roman College, next to the body of his student, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, as he himself had wished.


O God, the source of all good, grant us Your inspiration that we may have proper thoughts, and Your guidance that we may carry them into practice. Through Our Lord . . .

Prayer Source: 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal

2 comment(s):

del_button August 2, 2019 at 4:02 AM
Anonymous said...

Why are you saying the feast of St Robert Bellarmine is May 13th. I grew up with that being so but it was changed to September 17th some time ago.

del_button August 2, 2019 at 6:32 AM
Matthew said...

This blog follows the Traditional Catholic Calendar.

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