Rome, Italy, Sep 17, 2019 / 14:18 pm
St. Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 17 on the General Roman Calendar, was a Jesuit and a cardinal who used his incredible intellect to defend Catholic teaching, largely through responses to the Church’s opponents in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation.
In all his writings, St. Bellarmine “maintained a charitable disputation that kept the focus on the theological issues,” according to Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
After the reformation, “for the most part, the Catholics and the Protestants responded to each other with vitriol,” he said. “They threatened each other, ridicule was typical of the debate.”
“And in that context, St. Robert Bellarmine never used ridicule or anger or opprobrium or reviling or any such thing. He always treated his opponents with great respect and charity. He was convinced that charity with the opponents of the Church would win them over much more readily.”
This is one of the things that made him a saint, Pacwa stated.
Fr. Mark Lewis, a professor of Church history and academic vice rector at the Pontifical Gregorian University, told CNA Bellarmine lived simply, in accord with his vow of poverty.
Several religious congregations founded in the 16th century, including the Society of Jesus, were trying to present a model of a reformed priest, “one who took his vows seriously, that lived simply, followed poverty, that was willing to go on apostolic missions,” he said.
Because Jesuits, as a general rule, do not take the honor of cardinal, in his early life Bellarmine avoided being named a cardinal or bishop, Lewis said. “But when he was named one, he insisted that he would be a model of a reformed prelate.”