- Feast Day: September 17
- Beatified on May 13, 1923
- Canonized on June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI and one year later declared Doctor of the Church.
- Best known as Cardinal and Father of the Counter Reformation.
St. Robert Bellarmine was born October 4, 1542 (Feast day of St. Francis of Assisi) at Montepulciano, Italy. He had a great devotion to St. Francis and providentially he died on September 17, 1621 (Feast day of when St. Francis received the stigmata). St. Robert's parents, Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cynthia Cervini (half sister to Pope Marcellus II), were noble but poor. St. Robert was the third of ten children. His health was very poor throughout his youth and even into adulthood. Many who loved Robert thought that his chance of surviving to manhood was slim.
At the age of 18, St. Robert joined the newly formed Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, and was ordained in 1570 on the Feast of the Annunciation. St. Robert was the spiritual Father and friend of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and he helped St. Francis deSales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order.
In 1576, the Pope asked St. Robert to teach seminarians and priests. He preached the truth using Holy Scripture, the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Magisterium of the Church. St. Robert was a brilliant homilist, writer, and preacher. People would come from all over to hear him speak. He was nicknamed the "Little Cardinal" because he was only 5'3" and he would have to stand on a stool to preach his sermons.
In 1598, St. Robert published a Catechism, which was still being used well into the twentieth century. Hence, he is the Patron Saint of Catechists. In 1599, he was made a Cardinal and in 1602, he was consecrated Bishop of Capua, north of Naples. then in 1605, Pope Paul V called him back to Rome to serve as the defender of faith.
One of St. Robert's most important works was a book titled, Controversies, an apologetic on all the teachings of the Catholic Church. He worked tirelessly to focus the Church of his time on the true teachings of the Catholic faith. St. Robert was one of the most zealous critics of the heresies spread by Martin Luther and John Calvin. He fought valiantly to defend and protect the people of God. St. Robert didn't care in the least to know if his work would make a great noise in the world, but only whether it would bring about good. His brilliant spirituality always defeated his enemies of the faith, and therefore no one was able to give him a rebuttal. St. Robert was a very humble priest and was willing to give up his own life to preserve the Catholic Church. Some other spiritual works of St. Robert are, The Mind's Ascent to God, The Art of Dying Well and The Seven Words on the Cross. His spiritual writings are deep and beautiful and one can feel the Holy Spirit speaking through his words.
St. Robert held many important positions within the Catholic Church, such as the Holy Office, the Congregation of the Holy Rites and Propagation of the Faith. However, he never cared about his rank or position or his reputation.
He lived a very simple and humble life. He lived on the bare essentials and only ate the food available to the poor. St. Robert seemed happiest when he was working with the poorest of the poor to whom he would give his own personal goods and spiritual comfort. Once he helped a soldier by giving him the wall hangings from his room saying, "The walls won't catch cold."
An interesting fact about St. Robert is that he and some associates where asked by the Pope to produce a more accurate Gregorian calendar. Another interesting fact is that St. Robert Bellarmine received (but did not accept) votes in the two 1605 papal conclaves that eventually elected Leo XI and Paul V, and again in 1621 when Gregory XV was elected. If St. Robert didn't refuse to accept his election to the papacy in the seventeenth century, Pope Francis in 2013 would have been the second Jesuit Pope.
St. Robert was a man of action rather than speculation. He was a lover of truth, justice, and wisdom. He was very concrete and practical and he looked upon learning as just one of the ways of serving God. St. Robert possessed great wisdom and courage and is a holy, virtuous example of an amazing Saint for God's children with Down syndrome.
Through this Apostolate, St. Robert is petitioned to help each one of us understand the beautiful truth about God's children with Down syndrome. He's asked once again to defend the most basic fundamental truth of our faith, the dignity of human life and to intercede for us. We need St. Robert more than ever to enlighten our world, to uphold the truth, and to instill courage just like he did during the Counter Reformation. If he were alive today surely he would be one of the biggest defenders of life. St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us!
- Defenders of the Faith, Saints of the Counter-Reformation; Super Saints Book III by Bob and Penny Lord; copyright 1998
- Robert Bellarmine Saint and Scholar by James Brodrick S.J.; copyright 1961
- Robert Bellarmine, Spiritual Writings :The Classics of Western Spirituality; copyright 1989