“Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which no man is saved.”
Today, September 17, we celebrate the feast of Saint Roberto Francesco Romolo Cardinale Bellarmino (1542-1621), Doctor of the Church. Saint Robert preached the truth—a truth that proved to cause him difficulties during his lifetime, bringing many to the Lord, but angering secular leaders. Considered for the papacy, Saint Robert was made a cardinal, and based upon his prolific writing, named a Doctor of the Church following his death. His legacy in writings remain for us to learn from today.
Born at Montepulciano, Italy, to an impoverished noble family, Robert was the third of ten children. His mother, Cinzia Cervini, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification of the body—penitential practices that she instilled in her young son. He followed in her saintly footsteps, placing his life before the Lord at a young age.
“the walls won’t catch cold.”
Saint Robert was the spiritual father of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, helped Saint Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order, and in his prudence opposed severe action in the case of Galileo—whom he had befriended and engaged in a series of friendly correspondence with. Rather than condemn Galileo’s work, Saint Robert demonstrated a keen mind and interest in the science that others had labeled contrary to the Bible. He has left us a host of important writings, including works of devotion and instruction, as well as controversy.
“This is the work that defeated us.” Given the number of conversions for which it was responsible, reading it was forbidden under penalty of death in England by Queen Elizabeth. Only doctors of theology were permitted to read it.
In addition to disputing the heretics, he also wanted to prevent the faithful from falling into their errors. For this purpose he wrote his remarkable little catechism, A Summary of Christian Doctrine, which he used to teach the children and simple lay people, even when he was very busy with other pressing matters. Among his many other works, at the end of his life he wrote his spiritual notes, which form five small ascetic treatises. The last of these works is called The Art of Dying Well.
“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 no 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 of 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.”
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,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Selected Writings of Saint Robert Bellarmino:
"You Will Find Rest for Your Souls"
"The Fifteen Marks of the Catholic Church"
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."