St. Robert Bellarmine

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St. Robert Bellarmine

St. Robert, a native of Montepulciano and of the noble family of Bellarmine, had for his mother the most pious Cynthia Cervini, sister of Pope Marcellus II. From the first he was conspicuous for exemplary piety and most chaste manners, earnestly desiring this one thing, to please God alone and to win souls to Christ. He attended the college of the Society of Jesus in his native town where he was highly commended for his intelligence and modesty. At the age of eighteen, he entered the same Society at Rome, and was a model of all religious virtues. Having passed through the course of philosophy at the Roman College, he was sent first to Florence, then to Monreale, later to Padua to teach sacred theology, and afterwards, to Louvain where, not yet a priest, he ably discharged the office of preacher. After ordination at Louvain, he taught theology with such success that he brought back many heretics to the unity of the Church, and was regarded throughout Europe as a most brilliant theologian; and St. Charles, bishop of Milan, and others keenly sought after him.

Recalled to Rome at the wish of Pope Gregory XIII, he taught the science of controversial theology at the Roman College, and there, as spiritual director he guided the angelic youth Aloysius in the paths of holiness. He governed the Roman College and then the Neapolitan province of the Society of Jesus, in accordance with the spirit of St. Ignatius. Again summoned to Rome, he was employed by Clement VIII in the most important affairs of the Church, with the greatest advantage to the Christian state; then against his will and in spite of opposition, he was admitted among the number of the cardinals, because, as the Pontiff publicly declared, he did not have his equal among theologians in the Church of God at the time. He was consecrated bishop by the same Pope, and administered the archdiocese of Capua in a most saintly manner for three years: having resigned this office, he lived in Rome until his death, as a most impartial and trusty couseller to the Supreme Pontiff. He wrote much, and in an admirable manner. His principal merit lies in his complete victory in the struggle against the new errors, during which he distinguished himself as a strenuous and outstanding vindicator of Catholic tradition and the rights of the Roman See. He gained this victory by following St. Thomas as his guide and teacher, by a prudent consideration of the needs of his times, by his irrefragable teaching, and by a most abundant wealth of testimony well-chosen from the sacred writings and from the very rich fountain of the Fathers of the Church. He is eminently noted for very numerous short works, for fostering piety, and especially for that golden Catechism, winch he never failed to explain to the young and ignorant both at Capua and a Rome, although preoccupied with other very important affairs. A contemporary cardinal declared that Robert was sent by God for the instruction of Catholics, for the guidance of the good, and for the confusion of heretics; St. Francis de Sales regarded him as a fountain of learning; the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XIV called him the hammer of heretics; and Benedict XV proclaimed him the model of promoters and defenders of the Catholic religion.

He was most zealous in the religious life and he maintained that manner of life after having been chosen as one of the empurpled cardinals. He did not want any wealth beyond what was necessary; he was satisfied with a moderate household, and scanty fare and clothing. He did not strive to enrich his relatives, and he could scarcely be induced to relieve their poverty even occasionally. He had the lowest opinion of himself, and was of wonderful simplicity of soul. He had an extraordinary love for the Mother of God; he spent many hours daily in prayer. He ate very sparingly, and fasted three times a week. Uniformly austere with himself, he burned with charity towards his neighbor, and was often called the father of the poor. He earnestly strove that he might not stain his baptismal innocence by even the slightest fault. Almost eighty years old, he fell into his last illness at St. Andrew’s on the Quirinal hill, and in it he showed his usual radiant virtue. Pope Gregory XV and many cardinals visited him on his deathbed, lamenting the loss of such a great pillar of the Church. He fell sleep in the Lord in the year 1621, on the day of the sacred Stigmata of St. Francis, the memory of which he had been instrumental in having celebrated everywhere. The whole city mourned his death, unanimously proclaiming him a Saint. The Supreme Pontiff Pius XI inscribed his name, first, in the number of the Blessed, and then in that of the Saints, and shortly afterwards, by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, he declared him a Doctor of the universal Church. His body is honored with pious veneration at Rome in the church of St. Ignatius, near the tomb of St. Aloysius, as he himself had desired.

Sermon from St. Robert Bellarmine
On the uprightness of the Doctors of the Church

Just as in God, whom we venerate as one in the Trinity and three in the Unity, there are three things in particular which are specially clear: power, wisdom, and goodness; so also God, beloved hearers, that he might make His special friends and children, our fathers and teachers, very like to Himself and to be esteemed and admired by all nations, wished them to be in the highest degree powerful, wise, excellent, and holy. First, He furnished them with that power, by which they might do many evidently wonderful and extraordinary things, out of the usual course and order of nature, in regard to the elements, trees, brute beasts, and even to mankind. Then, he gave them such wisdom, that they saw not only the past and present, but they even foresaw the future long before, and predicted it. Finally, he enlarged their hearts with very great and burning charity, enabling them not only to enter whole-heartedly on their labors, but also to influence those whom they were about to convert, as well by their example and holy life, as by their preaching and miracles.

And so, the whole world knew how pious, how just, how religious were the preachers of our law, both those who first brought to us the faith and the Gospel, and those whom God thereafter stirred up in every age to confirm or propagate that same faith. And first, consider the Apostles. What could be better or more sublime than the Apostles’ way of life? Next, consider those holy men whom we call Fathers and Doctors, those really shining lights which God ordained should shine in the firmament of the Church, that all the darkness of heresy might be dispersed, such as Irenseus, Cyprian, Hilary, Athanasius, Basil, the two Gregories, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Cyril. Do not their lives and conduct shine forth in the records, which they have left us, as in a special kind of mirror? For out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Consider, I ask you, humility, together with the most profound learning, which appears in the books of the holy fathers. What moderation! Nothing offensive there, nothing unseemly, no cunning, nothing assuming, nothing pompous. How the manifold working of the Holy Spirit, who dwelt in their hearts, reveals itself in their pages! Who can read Cyprian attentively without immediately longing for martyrdom? Who can assiduously turn over the pages of Augustine without learning the most profound humility? Who can open Jerome frequently without beginning to love virginity and fasting? The writings of the saints breathe religion, chastity, integrity, and charity. Such then are our bishops and pastors (to use the words of the heavenly Augustine), learned men, eminent, holy, intelligent defenders of the truth, who have taken in the Catholic faith as their milk, and have consumed it as food: and this milk and food they have ministered to great and small. Since the Apostles, holy Church has flourished by such planters, waterers, builders, shepherds, and nurses.

Roman Breviary in English:.Reformed by Order of Pope Pius X. According to the Vatican Typical Edition, with New Psalter of Pope Pius XII. [Volume II]: Spring. Published by Benziger Brothers

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