Sept 17 Bishop and Doctor 1542-1620
St. Robert Bellarmine, Patron of Canonists, was born at Monte Pulciano, Italy, in 1542. At 18, despite the opposition of his father, he entered the Society of Jesus in Rome. After his ordination, Bellarmine was sent to the University of Louvain, in Belgium, to counteract the Protestant professors. Seven years later, in recognition of his holiness and learning, he was assigned to teach theology in the Roman College. His masterpiece, Disputations on the Controversies, is the most complete defense of the Catholic faith ever published. It showed such deep knowledge of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church that many Protestants could not believe it was the work of one man. The book was an instant best-seller. A London bookseller declared: I have made more money out of this Jesuit than out of all the other writers put together.
Bellarmine also wrote a famous catechism, which was translated more frequently than any other literary work except the Bible and the Imitation of Christ. After his nomination as Cardinal in 1598, Bellarmine implemented the decrees of the Council of Trent and edited the new edition of the Vulgate. Though he was obliged to occupy apartments in the Vatican, he lived on bread and garlic, and used the curtains of his rooms to clothe the poor. Four years later he was appointed Bishop of Capua. The great scholar, who had no pastoral experience, set aside his books and began evangelizing the people with the zeal of a young missionary. Ordered back to Rome by Paul V, he became the head of the Vatican Library and was consulted in all important matters. He died in 1620 at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Andrew.