Summary: St Robert Bellarmine would be an excellent candidate for the patron of the Church in defense of religious liberty, as we face a determined political system who would destroy us.

17 September 2012

St. Robert Bellarmine

Verbum Domini

Today’s saint is one who is not quoted in Verbum Domini by our Holy Father. Perhaps the reason is that Robert Bellarmine, who lived in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, was a controversial theologian in his time. We might say that he was considered too liberal by the conservatives and too conservative by the liberals. That’s not to claim that he was wishy-washy on matters of faith and morals. Far from it. His problem was that he was a scholar in a time of passion and insanity throughout Europe. There was persecution by Elizabeth and James in England, the usual heresies raging throughout Central Europe and France, and internecine quarrels in Italy, his home. He was a Jesuit, and therefore a papalist, in an age when kings were in contention with popes, and popes seemed to have a life expectancy measured in days rather than years. Moreover, he was a controversialist who didn’t want to live a life of controversy.

How did he manage? We might learn from his example and our Holy Father’s words. If we live a life of action, and sometimes feel caught in a secular whirlwind, there is always the possibility of contact with the center of our being, that still, calm voice of God speaking in our heart.

The great writer Fr. John Hardon says of Bellarmine: “St. Robert Bellarmine had a great devotion to St. Francis of Assisi, and was especially devoted to honoring Francis' stigmata. Bellarmine urged that there be a special feast in honor of the five stigmata of St. Francis. Bellarmine had an important position in the Vatican and he made sure that the feast was introduced in the Church, despite strong opposition. As Providence arranged, Robert Bellarmine died on the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis, September 17. And in the revised liturgical calendar St. Bellarmine's feast, which used to be celebrated on May 13, has been moved to September 17. Among Franciscans September 17 is the feast of the stigmata of St. Francis. In the Universal Church it is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine.

“Bellarmine's name should be held in benediction by every American. The concept of our form of government was first developed by the Jesuit philosophers in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially Robert Bellarmine. Our founding fathers relied heavily on Bellarmine in forming their idea of our constitutional government.”

What Bellarmine fought as the “divine right of kings” is today trying to re-establish itself as a kind of absolute right of the President to act without the consent of Congress. It is ironic that this Republic has been allowed to degenerate into at least a plutocracy, in which a small number of unelected people, through a compliant President and his minions, issue edicts that would even supercede the Bill of Rights. James I of England fought his contemporary Popes, and the blood of Jesuit and lay English martyrs was spilled in defense of the truth. Today this same drama is being played out between the President and the bishops over the mandate to be complicit in the sterilization of employees and the murder of innocent babies just a few days from conception. St. Robert Bellarmine, true defender of religious liberty, pray for us.

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