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 Cinciza Cervini, a familiy 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 in the family life.
Robert suffered assorted health problems all hi 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 Protetants 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 for teachers, “Dichiarazione piu copiosa della dottrina chritana.”
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 being name 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 adversis 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 served as the Theological Advisor to Pope Paul V as well as the Head of the Vatican library and the Prefect of the Sared 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, 1031.
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.
Saint Robert Bellarmine
Feast Day: September 3
Robert was born in Italy in 1542. He joined the Society of Jesus. Although ill health was his cross all during his life, he became the great defender of the Church against the followers of the Protestant Reformation.
Robert wrote many books that were read by Catholics and Protestants. He wrote two famous catechisms which were much used in the Church. Having become a cardinal, he laid aside his books and began preaching to the people, teaching catechism to the children, visiting the sick, and helping the poor.
But three years later Pope Paul V always had Cardinal Bellarmine at his side. As a member of almost every Congregation at the Vatican, he took an important part in the affairs of the Holy See.
He died at the age of seventy-nine in 1621. He is honored as a Doctor of the Church because of his great learning.
(Book of Saints, Vol 5, Father Lovasik, S.V.D.,
St. Robert Catholic Church
4659 Niles-Cortland Rd.
Cortland, OH 44410
Parish Office Hours:
Monday – Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Saturday: 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 8:30 a.m.
Daily Mass: 8:30 a.m. ~ Mon, Wed, & Fri
Holy Days: see bulletin