St. Robert Bellarmine's life and spirituality was the focus of Pope Benedict XVI's teaching during his weekly general audience Feb. 23.
This Jesuit cardinal was remembered by the Pope for his great legacy of writings and teachings and for his capacity to maintain sanctity amid a great deal of work.
He was born in 1542 near Siena, Italy. He studied as a theologian, was ordained priest and became a professor. Later in life, he dedicated much of his time to the important questions of reform, doctrine and stabilizing the Church in divisive times.
His most famous work was a brief catechism written in the last decade of the 16th century, but he had many other works besides. Some of his writings examining how to approach revelation, the nature of the Church and the sacraments are still valid today, said the Pope.
In other works he fought the reformation with reason and Church tradition. He proposed Catholic doctrine in a "clear and effective" way.
But, the Pope said that the "true heritage" of this saint was in his conception of work. He always made time for God between his many duties he had as a teacher and later as archbishop and cardinal member of a number of Vatican departments.
"His burden of office did not, in fact, prevent him from striving daily after sanctity through faithfulness to the requirements of his condition as religious, priest and bishop," said Benedict XVI.
St. Bellarmine was a product of the Jesuit school, which was "entirely focused on concentrating the power of his soul on the Lord Jesus, intensely known, loved and imitated," he explained.
Still today, he offers a "model of prayer and enthusiasm in every activity," said Pope Benedict.
"A distinctive sign of the spirituality of Bellarmine is the strong and personal perception of the immense goodness of God, for which our saint felt truly a son loved by God and meditating with serenity and simplicity, in prayer, in contemplation of God was a source of great joy."
In one of his works, St. Bellarmine spoke of meditation as a way for one to give an account of his life to God. He also spoke of living and dying well by not seeking material wealth, but "living simply and with charity so as to accumulate 'goods' in Heaven."
In another work he extended on this teaching. He said that "if you are wise, then understand that you were created for the glory of God and for your eternal salvation.
Both "favorable and diverse circumstances" are a part of living, he said. All conditions "are good and desirable only if they contribute to the glory of God and to your eternal happiness, they are bad and to be avoided if they hinder this."
In conclusion, the Pope said that these words "have not gone out of fashion, but should be meditated upon at length in order to guide our journey on this earth.
"They remind us that the goal of our life is the Lord," he said. "They remind us that the end of our lives is in the Lord, the God who was revealed in Jesus Christ, in which He continues to call us and promise us communion with Him.
"They remind us of the importance of trusting in God, of living a life faithful to the Gospel, and of accepting all the circumstances and all actions of our lives, illuminating them with faith and prayer."
St. Bellarmine died in 1721 and was canonized by Pius XI in 1930. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by the same pontiff a year later.