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Who is Saint Robert Bellarmine?

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Feast day - September 17

Cardinal, Doctor of the Church,

Father of the Counter-Reformation

Saint Robert Bellarmine, brilliant follower of St. Ignatius of Loyola, has been credited with being one of the most outspoken critics of the heresies of Martin Luther and John Calvin. He focused the Church of his time on the true teachings of the Catholic Faith, which were contradicted by the Protestant Reformation. He is one of the powerful men in this book which the Lord sent to construct a suit of Spiritual Armor to defend His Church in this crucial time of crisis. He was so brilliant that the Pope would not, could not allow him to retire to a small Jesuit novitiate of Sant’Andrea towards the end of his life. He was too needed. The Holy See was not ready yet for him to back off from his defense of the Church. He was put in our midst in our great hour of need, and he fought valiantly to defend and protect the people of God.

St. Robert was born in the picturesque mountain town of Montepulciano of noble parents, Vincenzo Bellarmino and Cynthia Cervini, who was Pope Marcellus II’s half sister. He was sent down from Heaven on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, 1542. The family was noble, but they were poor all their lives. The Lord had great plans for Roberto. He would not allow his mind to be cluttered up with desires for material possessions, so from the verybeginning of his life, He kept these temptations away from our future powerful man in the Church.

His parents knew he was specially gifted by the Lord from the time he was an infant. There was a feeling teachers could tell as soon as he entered into school that this boy had the makings of a brilliant man. They watched his progress, as he grew up in the Lord and in his studies. His preferences always leaned towards the religious life; so it was not a great surprise to his parents when he expressed a desire to join the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, when they opened a school in Montepulciano. Remember, the Society of Jesus was only officially canonically accepted by Rome two years before he was born. So this was a new order in the Church. They were exciting. Ignatius, the founder, was active in the Society of Jesus until Roberto was fourteen years old. So when he asked to transfer to the Jesuit school in his town, everyone believed he wanted to be part of the excitement Jesus was creating with this new community of men.

For their part, his professors and parish priests could see the potential of Robert. At an early age, he had mastered the masters - he knew Virgil by heart; he could play instruments; he held his own in public debate. When he reached seventeen years old, the Jesuits wanted him; they could see how great an asset he would be to the Society of Jesus. They said of him: “He is the best of our school, and not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Robert was so in love with all he was a part of at the school, he wanted to join the Jesuit order as a brother. His father was dead against it. But he had a friend and ally in his mother. Who can refuse a mother, especially when she is as persuasive as Cynthia Cervini. Plus she had some influence with the Pope, who had influence with Vincenzo and so his father gave in and wrote to the general of the order, Fr. James Laynez, asking him to consider his son for their order in Rome. Fr. Laynez was one of the original members of the Society of Jesus. In 1537, on July 25, with St. Ignatius and Fr. Faber, he went to the ruins of an old abandoned monastery in Vicenza, and together they officially formed the Society of Jesus.

For more about Saint Robert Bellarmine and other Roman Catholic Saints click here


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