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September 17

Saint_Robert_Bellarmine September 17

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Bishop, Doctor of the Church

(1542 – 1621)

“Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without, which no man is saved.

Saint Robert Bellarmine

Saint’s Life Story

His Early Life 

Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmine was born on October 4, 1542 at Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy to Vincenzo Bellarmine and Cinzia Cervini. His mother, a niece of Pope Marcellus II, was dedicated to almsgiving, prayer, meditation, fasting, and mortification. Robert suffered assorted health problems all his life. Robert was educated by Jesuits as a boy. 

Studied at Worldwide Jesuit Centers

At the age of 17, Robert opposed his father, who wanted him to go into politics, and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) on September 20, 1560. Robert studied at the Collegio Romano from 1560 to 1563, Jesuit centers in Florence, Italy in 1563, then in Mondovi, Piedmont, the University of Padua in 1567 and 1568, and the University of Louvain, Flanders in 1569. He was ordained on Palm Sunday in 1570 in Ghent, Gelguim. 

Theology Professor

Robert was appointed a theology profesor at University of Louvain, the first Jesuit to become a Professor at Louvain. Robert’s tenure as professor lasted there until 1576. He lectured on St Thomas Aquinas’ Summa and gained a reputation for his learning and brilliant preaching.

Taught and Defended Catholicism

A the request of Pope Gregory XIII, Robert taught polemical theology at the Collegio Romano from 1576 to 1587. While there Robert wrote Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei adversus hujus temporis hereticos, the most complete work of the day to defend Catholicism against Protestant attack.

Wrote Children and Adult Catechisms

In 1588, Robert became the spiritual director at the college.  He taught Jesuit students and other children and wrote a children‘s catechism, Dottrina cristiana breve. Robert also wrote a catechism for teachers entitled, Dichiarazione piu copiosa della dottrina cristianaRobert was the Confessor of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga until his death, and then worked for his canonization.

Mission to France

In 1590, Robert was sent on a mission to Paris, France to defend the interests of the Church during a period of turmoil and conflict. He lead a commission for the 1592 revision of the Vulgate Bible for which he wrote an Introduction.

Rector and Provincial

In 1592, Robert was named rector of the Collegio Romano. He held this position until 1594, when he became the Jesuit provincial in Naples, Italy. Robert held this position until 1597, when he became Theologian to Pope Clement VIII. In this position during the next 2 years, he prepared two catechisms that were still in use in modern times. 


In 1599, Robert was made cardinal by Pope Clement VIII. He lived an austere life in Rome, giving most of his money to the poor. At one point, he used the tapestries in his living quarters to clothe the poor, saying that “the walls won’t catch cold.” 

Defended the Pope

Robert defended the Pope against anti–clericals in Venice, Italy, and the political tenets of King James I of England. He wrote exhaustive works against heresies of the day. Robert took a fundamentally democratic position – authority originates with God, is vested in the people, who entrust it to fit rulers, a concept which brought him trouble with the kings of both England and France. Robert helped Saint Francis de Sales obtain formal approval of the Visitation Order.

Archbishop of Padua, Italy

Robert became the Archbishop of Capua, Italy on March 18, 1602. He reamined a leading figure in Rome and a trusted theological adviser to the Pope. In 1605, Robert was named head of the Vatican Library.  He was involved in disputes between the Republic of Venice and the Vatican in 1606 and 1607 concerning clerical discipline and Vatican authority. In 1607, Robert also dealt with the controversy between King James I and the Vatican, which included in 1609, control of the Church in England. Robert wrote Tractatus de potestate Summi Pontificis in rebus temporalibus adversus Gulielmum Barclaeum in opposition to Gallicanism.

Worked with Galileo

 He opposed action against Galileo Galilei in 1615, and established a friendly correspondence with him, but was forced to deliver the order for the scientist to submit to the Church. Robert was part of the conclave of 1621, and was considered for Pope. He was also the theological advisor to Pope Paul V.

His Death

In the last decade of his life, his writings were on spirtual matters and included Art of Dying Well and a commentary on the Psalms. He retired to the St Andrew’s novitiate in Rome, Italy and died there on September 17, 1621 at the age of 78. Robert Bellarmine was canonized in 1930 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931. He is buried in the Jesuit Church of Saint Ignatius in Rome.


Beatified:           May 13, 1923 by Pope Pius XI

Canonized:        June 29, 1930 by Pope Pius XI

Feast Day:         September 17

Patron Saint:    Catechists  



Saint Robert Bellarmine opposed his father when he decided to follow God the Father as a Jesuit. He went on to be the theological adviser to Popes. We may have opposition in our lives that sends us in a direction God wants to help us increase our faith. We may not advise Popes in our lifetime, however all of our actions may guide others by our example in love and kindness shown to those around us.

Have your prayed to God for guidance when you have opposition in your life? Who needs your advice today to help see Jesus’ guiding light through your loving kindness?


Saint Robert Bellarmine, we see in your life a beautiful dedication to theological truth, personal austerity, and openness toward others. We ask your intercession before God to give all the faithful the gift to live so balanced and integrated a life in service to others.

St. Robert Bellarmine, pray for us! Amen.

Source: Saint Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor – My Catholic Life!

Saint Links 

Aleteia – 3 Ways to clean up the Church, from St. Robert Bellarmine

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 13 May – St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) Defender of the Church

Catholic Exchange – St. Robert Bellarmine: Doctor of the Church, and Bishop of Mercy

Catholic Fire – St. Robert Bellarmine: Cardinal, Theologian, and Doctor of the Church

Catholic Ireland – Sep 17 – St Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) Jesuit theologian and bishop

Catholic News Agency – St. Robert Bellarmine – Saint Robert Bellarmine

Franciscan Media – Saint Robert Bellarmine

Independent Catholic News – St Robert Bellarmine

Loyola Press – Saint Robert Bellarmine Feast Day September 17

My Catholic Life – St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor

New Advent – CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Robert Bellarmine

Saint of the Day – St. Robert Bellarmine

uCatholic – Catholic Saint of the Day: St. Robert Bellarmine


Video Link

St. Robert Bellarmine – YouTube (Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA)