6 - 9 minutes readMay 13 – ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE, BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

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MAY 13

ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE, BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

From the origins of the Church to the present day, Providence has never failed to arouse illustrious men for science and holiness, by means of which the truths of the Catholic faith have been preserved and interpreted, and the attacks of which heretics threatened these same truths were removed .

Among them shines St. Robert Bellarmine, so famous for his teachings and his controversial works; for his zeal in the reform of the Church, for the virtues he exercised in a heroic degree and of which his ascetic treatises are the perfect image.

The Church in the 16th century.

The Church in the sixteenth century was going through an era of trials. Part of Europe had been carried away by Luther’s revolt; religious wars bloodied countries which, over long centuries, had enjoyed the benefit of unity in obedience to the Holy See. Catholic theology seemed to have lost some of its vitality and influence; abuses had gradually penetrated into ecclesiastical discipline, and Luther, declaring impossible the reform of the Church through the Papacy, created a new theology, under the pretext of making the faithful freedom of the children of God.

The defense of the Church.

But Christ promised to be with his Church “every day until the end of the ages”. In the face of the new reformers, he raised a pleiad of Saints and illustrious Doctors who claimed the unknown truth and holiness. With St. Peter Canisius, St. Robert Bellarmine, his brother in religion, appears in the front row in the Society of Jesus.

The Theologian.

In Leuven, located between Germany and Protestant England, he resumes traditional teaching, commenting on the sum of Saint Thomas, who knows how to adapt successfully to the needs of his time. It emerges above all in the dispute. Collecting the testimonies of the Fathers, Councils and Church law, he victoriously defends the dogmas attacked by the Novatori.

In 1586, his admirable Disputes were published for the first time. There, says Pius XI, Bellarmine “decisively refutes the attacks launched by the Centuriators of Magdeburg … which aimed nothing less than to overthrow the authority of the Church by means of a specious use of historical evidence and testimonies of the Fathers”.

Such a teaching caused so much joy among Catholics, how much anger in the opposing camp, where Theodore of Beza will confess, speaking of the Disputes: “Here is a book that has lost us”. In fact many heretics found the light there and returned to true faith; and St. Francis de Sales said he had “preached in the Chiablese for five years, with no other books than the Bible and the works of the great Bellarmine”.

It was not enough for him to convince the heretics of error, but he also wanted to warn the simple faithful against their propaganda. And to this end he composed a well-known catechism, which he himself cared to teach children and the common people, however important his other occupations might be.

In the last years of his life, he wrote some spiritual notes, the fruit of meditation and retreats; they form five small ascetic treatises and reveal the beauty of his soul to us. A century earlier, humanism had turned man away from his Creator, through a paganism in which he had pushed souls.

Some elements of Protestant theology tended to accentuate this separation, giving a false idea of ​​divine justice and supporting the maddening doctrine of predestination in hell. St. Robert Bellarmine, like St. Francis de Sales his friend, worked to make known the tenderness of God. Love is the basis of his spirituality, he gives us confidence in that God, who is the God of joy and goodness, who calls the sinner to penance and wishes infinitely more than us for our salvation. He made virtue lovable and easy, persuading us that holiness simply lies in the fulfillment of the divine will, in the duties of one’s own state, and in filial abandonment. At a time when Calvin’s obscure pessimism dominated, and in which Catholics themselves, out of a need for reform,

The Saint.

With reason it was thought that St. Roberto Bellarmino had received from God the threefold vocation, to teach the faithful, to maintain piety in fervent souls, and to confuse heretics. It is clear how St. Francis de Sales kept him as a teacher, and how Benedict XV made him the model of those who propagate and defend the Catholic religion.

But St. Robert was truly in all the positions he occupied in his long career: simple religious or provincial, professor or director of consciences, archbishop or Cardinal of Curia. It was he who led St. Louis Gonzaga on the path to holiness; he was a highly listened adviser to several Popes. As archbishop he applied the decrees of the Council of Trent to the point of scruple: he was faithful to the residence, zealous for the preaching, of an inexhaustible charity towards the poor, concerned about the formation of young priests, for the dignity of the clergy and for the beauty of the cult divine. His austerity of life never failed. Even when he was elected Cardinal he kept the resolution not to change the kind of life he led in the Society of Jesus in anything. Every day he devoted several hours to prayer, he fasted three times a week and maintained, even in the midst of honors, a very modest kind of life. He never tried to enrich the family and it was with great difficulty that he was persuaded to come to the aid of his relatives, who lived in poverty. He had very humble feelings towards himself and was of an admirable simplicity of soul, always vigilant so as not to obscure, even with the slightest guilt, the innocence of his Baptism. He had a filial, tender and strong love for the Most Holy Virgin Mary. 

All his virtues shone with splendid light during the course of the illness that led him to death. Pope Gregory XV and several cardinals, moved by the thought that such support would be lacking in the Church, took turns around him. When he made his soul to God, the whole city of Rome made solemn funerals and, with one voice, canonized him. His body, laid in the Church of Sant’Agnazio, near the tomb of San Luigi Gonzaga, as he had desidered, it has remained, until our days, surrounded by the veneration of the faithful.

Life. – St. Robert Bellarmine, nephew of Pope Marcello II, was born in Montepulciano, near Florence, in 1542. From his youth he showed great pity and a lively desire for apostolate. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 18 and made his studies in Rome, Florence, Mondovì, Padua and Leuven, where he was consecrated priest and was chosen to hold a chair of theology. He was soon reputed to be one of the first theologians of Christianity, and Pope Gregory XIII called him to Rome to entrust him with a course of controversies at the Roman college, where he had up to 2000 students for auditors. After being Provincial of Naples, he was again requested in Rome by Clement VIII, who appointed him Concultor of the Holy Office, then Cardinal. Consecrated bishop, he reached the Archdiocese of Capua in 1602 which he administered for three years, when,

Prayer.

Like a lighted lamp, placed on the candlestick. to illuminate all the inhabitants of the house, you have illuminated Catholics and those who were lost far from the Church; like a star in the firmament, by means of the rays of your science, as vast as it is profound, and by means of the shining splendor of your talents, you brought to all men of good will the truth that you have always served above all others thing. With your vigorous defense of the Catholic dogma, you were the first apologist of your time, as well as of the following eras, to attract the attention and admiration of all the true servants of Christ “. Pray for us who applaud the honors that Rome has decreed you. The needs of our time are very similar to yours: the love of novelties still seduces many souls, and rationalism, son of Protestantism, he has diminished the truths among us. Support our prayer which asks God, in the Collection of the Mass, for the “love of truth, and for the hearts of wanderers, to return to the unity of the Church”.

Zealous pastor, get to it priests and bishops who “inflamed like you by the fire of charity, strive relentlessly for the good of souls, and make them run, with a dilated heart, in the way of God’s commandments, through their advice and their examples.

It also teaches all the faithful to esteem above all the truths of the catechism. That this little book, to the perfection of which you have worked so much, not only gives us the science necessary to save us, but the venerable Mariano di Rocca Casale, who knew how to bring us into the path of perfection, following that humble converse friar draw his marvelous wisdom in the Franciscan Rule and in your little manual. Above all teach us to practice the first two commandments, in which the whole law is summarized. The love of God dominated your life and gave it all its harmony and dignity. We too, like you, could keep the gaze of the heart on Jesus Crucified without respite and see only Him, in the person of our brothers. Inspire us also those feelings of tenderness that you had for the Immaculate Virgin.