St. Robert Bellarmine

Today, September 17, is the Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, my patron saint!

Bellarmine was born in 1542 in Monte Pulciano, Tuscany, Italy. He entered the Society of Jesus and became a powerful defender of the Catholic faith during the counter-Reformation. He was short, and had to stand on a box in the pulpit so the congregation could see him. He was elected to the College of Cardinals and named bishop of Capua. Universally praised for his holiness and charity, he was known to take the tapestries from the walls in his residence and use them to cloth the poor. Bellarmine was 78 when he died on September 17, 1621. On his deathbed, Pope Gregory XV visited him and Bellarmine promised his prayers that Gregory would enjoy as long a life as the Lord had given him. “I need your sanctity,” Pope Gregory replied, “not your years.” Robert Bellarmine was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and named a Doctor of the Church the next year.

From The Liturgy of the Word, here is a selection from St. Robert’s treatise “On the Ascent of the Mind to God”:

Sweet Lord, you are meek and merciful. Who would not give himself wholeheartedly to your service, if he began to taste even a little of your fatherly rule? What command, Lord, do you give your servants? Take my yoke upon you, you say. And what is this yoke of yours like? My yoke, you say, is easy and my burden light. Who would not be glad to bear a yoke that does not press hard but caresses? Who would not be glad for a burden that does not weigh heavy but refreshes? And so you were right to add: And you will find rest for your souls. And what is this yoke of yours that does not weary, but gives rest? It is, of course, that first and greatest commandment: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. What is easier, sweeter, more pleasant, than to love goodness, beauty and love, the fullness of which you are, O Lord, my God?

Is it not true that you promise those who keep your commandments a reward more desirable than great wealth and sweeter than honey? You promise a most abundant reward, for as your apostle James says: The Lord has prepared a crown of life for those who love him. What is this crown of life? It is surely a greater good than we can conceive or desire, as Saint Paul says, quoting Isaiah: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.

Truly then the recompense is great for those who keep your commandments. That first and greatest commandment helps the man who obeys, not the God who commands. In addition, the other commandments of God perfect the man who obeys them. They provide him with what he needs. They instruct and enlighten him and make him good and blessed. If you are wise, then, know that you have been created for the glory of God and your own eternal salvation. this is your goal; this is the center of your life; this is the treasure of your heart. If you reach this goal, you will find happiness. If you fail to reach it, you will find misery.

May you consider truly good whatever leads to your goal and truly evil whatever makes you fall away from it. Prosperity and adversity, wealth and poverty, health and sickness, honors and humiliations, life and death, in the mind of the wise man, are not to be sought for their own sake, nor avoided for their own sake. But if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, then they are good and should be sought. If they distract from this, they are evil and must be avoided.

God our Father, you gave Robert Bellarmine wisdom and goodness to defend the faith of your Church. By his prayers may we always rejoice in the profession of our faith.

We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Liturgy of the Word, Memorial of Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor)

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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