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Saint Robert Bellarmine

Saint Robert Bellarmine
  • Century: 16th & 17th Century
  • Patronage: Canonists, Canon Lawyers, Catechists, Catechumens
  • Feast Day: September 17th

St. Robert Bellarmine was born in Montepulciano, and was the son of noble parents Vincenzo and Cinzia (Cervini) Bellarmine.  His mom was a sister to Pope Marcellus II.  He was a learned boy, and composed a number of poems in Italian and Latin, one of his hymns on Mary Magdalene is included in the Breviary.  He entered the Roman Novitiate in 1560, and then went to a Jesuit house in Mondovi, where he learned Greek.  While in Mondovi he impressed the Provincial Superior, and was sent to the University of Padua.  In 1569 he was sent to finish his Theology studies at Flanders, and was Ordained.  He earned a reputation both as a Professor and a Preacher.  He remained in Flanders for seven years, and due to poor health was sent to Italy and commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to lecture on Theology in the new Roman College.  

Pope Clement VIII seen his brilliant teachings, and made him Rector of the Roman College in 1592, Examiner of Bishops in 1598, and Cardinal in 1599.  In 1602 he was made Archbishop of Capua.  Bellarmine is noted for his books of the period, for there literary elegance.  He had a desire to pile as much material as possible to embrace the whole field of Human knowledge, and incorporate it into Theology.  His worked incorporated many controversial replies and were discussed for decades after his death.  

In his old age, after being Bishop and Cardinal for years, he retired to the Jesuit College at St. Andrew in Rome, where he died on September 17th, 1621 at the age of 78.  Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1930, and 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 St. Ignatius, the Chapel of the Roman College, next to the body of his student St. Aloysius Gonzaga, as he himself had wished.  

Practical Take Away 

St. Robert Bellarmine was gifted as a young boy, writing poetry and hymns.  He went on to study the faith, and was ordained a Priest.  He went on to become a Bishop and then Cardinal, and eventually was named a Doctor of the Church for his great insight into bringing all of life’s situations and struggles into Theology.  His eloquence in writing was noted by the Popes of his time, and for decades afterward.  Much can be learned from his writings, and some of his work is in the Breviary that is used by Priests today.