Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
Born at Montepulciano, Italy, October 4, 1542, St. Robert Bellarmine was the third of ten children. His mother, Cinzia Cervini, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification of the body.
Robert entered the newly formed Society of Jesus in 1560 and after his ordination went on to teach at Louvain (1570-1576) where he became famous for his Latin sermons. In 1576, he was appointed to the chair of controversial theology at the Roman College, becoming Rector in 1592; he went on to become Provincial of Naples in 1594 and Cardinal in 1598. This outstanding scholar and devoted servant of God defended the Apostolic See against the anti-clericals in Venice and against the political tenets of James I of England. He composed an exhaustive apologetic work against the prevailing heretics of his day. In the field of church-state relations, he was also very effective in a time of major upheaval all over Europe. Remember that these were the days of the Protestant Reformation, with various leaders starting their own religion, King Henry VIII and the Anglican/Episcopalian religion, Luther with Lutheranism, Calvin and Zwingli in central Europe, and others. And like other well-know priest saints of this era, Robert was able to defend the church with the likes of St Vincent de Paul, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St Julian Peter Eymard, St Francis De Sales, St John Baptist Vianney, St Charles Borromeo and many others.

Robert Bellarmine was the spiritual father of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, a Jesuit novice, and also helped St. Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, the female order founded by St Jane Frances de Chantal. He has left us a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy. He died in 1621 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930; the following year he was declared a Doctor of the Church. 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.