Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

Robert Bellarmine was the embodiment of the ideal of the Renaissance man: learned, well-spoken, a genuine man of letters. His broad cultivation of talents and knowledge was borne of that Christian humanism of his day which saw all disciplines as forming a coherent body of truth, and all truth as leading to God. It is because of his breadth of learning, rather than in spite of it, that he is the perfect illustration of living out St. Paul’s famed exhortation to love found in the first reading. He did not turn aside from learning, speaking, or any of the other gifts that Paul speaks of today, but knew they were not enough by themselves.

We do not celebrate Robert Bellarmine as a saint for his learning, but for his loving. Throughout his life he had a tender love for God and for the Church. As professor of theology and spiritual father at the Jesuit university in Rome, he watched over St. Aloysius Gonzaga as Aloysius tended to the plague victims. Eventually, he would give St. Aloysius last rites, and requested to be buried near St. Aloysius, a request that was honored. He spoke eloquently in human tongues, but was determined not to be a “clashing cymbal.” His speaking, his understanding, his various talents were all animated by love for God and neighbor, showing clearly the difference between a knowledgeable dilettante and a true saint.

September 17th, 2014