St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
Feast Day: September 17
Canonized: June 29, 1930
Patron of Canon Lawyers, Catechists, And Catechumens
St. Robert Bellarmine, a crucial Counter-Reformation figure, was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal who wrote two catechisms and advised five popes.
At 18, he entered the Society of Jesus. After ordination, he became the first Jesuit professor at Belgium’s University of Louvain, teaching the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was here he first encountered the intensifying tide of Protestantism – among his colleagues was Jansenius (of the famed Jansenism heresy).
A gifted theologian, Bellarmine wrote strong defenses of Catholic truth against popularized attacks. He opposed John Calvin by defending the Real Presence, refuted England’s King James I by defending the papacy, and exposed the manifest heresies of Martin Luther.
When Bellarmine was sent to the Roman College (now Gregorian University), he established the first Department of Controversial Theology, to refute Protestant “reforms” to the faith. He became archbishop of Capua in 1602, and was theological adviser to Popes Sixtus V, Innocent IX, Clement VIII, Paul V, and Gregory XV.
He died in 1621, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1931.