Feast day: Sept. 17
Born Oct. 4, 1542, in Monepulciano, Italy, St. Robert Bellarmine was one of 10 children of Cinzia Cervini and Vincenzo Bellarmino. He entered the novitiate of the newly formed Society of Jesus (Jesuit order) in September 1560, remaining in Rome for three years to study philosophy before going on to teach humanities in Florence and Mondovi.
He became famous for his Latin sermons, gaining a reputation as a professor and preacher, and drawing to his pulpit both Catholics and Protestants. In 1576, he was appointed to the chair of controversial theology at the Roman College, becoming rector in 1592, going on to become provincial of Naples in 1594 and cardinal in 1598.
Exemplary of his devotion was St. Robert Bellarmine’s defense of the Apostolic See against the anti-clericals in Venice and against the political tenets of James I of England. He composed an exhaustive apologetic work against the prevailing heretics of his day. Regarding the relationship between Church and state, he proposed a democratic ideal: authority originates with God but is vested in the people, who entrust it to fit rulers.
St. Robert Bellarmine was the spiritual father of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, promoting his cause for canonization. He helped
St. Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, opposed severe action in the case of Galileo. He has left a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy. He died in 1621.
St. Robert Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1931. His remains 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 St. Aloysius Gonzaga, as he had wished. St. Robert Bellarmine is the patron saint of catechists.
Sources: www.catholic.org, www.newadvent.org.