Feast Day: September 17
Canonized: June 29, 1930
Beatified: May 13, 1923
Robert was a brilliant student who put his gifts at the service of the Church. He was born in Italy in 1542, one of 10 children. His uncle was Pope Marcellus II, and Robert decided to become a Jesuit priest at a very young age.
After ordination, he was assigned to teach Greek at a boys’ school. A legend about Robert tells us that since he could not speak or read Greek, the only way he could teach it to his students was to stay a lesson ahead of them. Later, he wrote a book to teach Hebrew to college students. This, too, was a language Robert did not know. The only way he could teach it was to first learn Hebrew himself.
Robert quickly became a respected theologian, a person who studies and explains the truths of our faith. He devoted himself to three areas of study: Scripture, Church history, and the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, whose sermons and writings are the basis of our Catholic beliefs.
Robert also wrote important books on Church teachings. He taught at a university in Rome and advised five popes. He always taught that the most important truth of our faith is our belief in the real person of Jesus, God’s only Son, who died and rose from the dead to save us from sin and death.
Although Robert was named a cardinal in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII, he always led a humble and caring life. He once gave the curtains in his room to a poor man to use as blankets. He showed his sense of humor when he explained this act of kindness by saying, “The walls won’t get cold.”
He died in 1621 and was canonized in 1930. The Church honors Cardinal Bellarmine as both a saint and a Doctor, or great teacher, of the Church. When we pray the Creed at Mass, we can thank St. Robert for helping us to understand what we mean when we proclaim, “We believe in God.”
Connecting to Blest Are We® Parish and School
The Story of Our Church, unit 4