Devotional WorksDuring his retirement, he wrote several short books intended to help ordinary people in their spiritual life: The Mind's Ascent to God (1614), The Art of Dying Well (1619) and The Seven Words on the Cross.
DisputationesIn the period 1586 to 1593, Bellarmine produced his most important scholarly work “Disputations about the Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of This Time”. In this work, Bellarmine brought order to the chaos of theological arguments between Catholics and Protestants.
St. Robert Bellarmine ... Pray for us.
The Life of Robert BellarmineRoberto Bellarmino was born into a noble family in Montepulciano in Tuscany. In 1560, he joined the Jesuit order and began his studies at the Collegio Romano, the Jesuit college in Rome. After finishing his course of studies there and studying Thomistic theology at the University of Padua, Bellarmine became the first Jesuit professor at the University of Louvain (in modern Belgium) in 1569 and was ordained as a priest the following year. In the midst of Low Countries where Protestantism was gaining ground, the University of Louvain, was at the same time, becoming a bulwark of Catholic orthodoxy.Bellarmine taught theology from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica and studied the Scriptures and the Church Fathers in preparation for a major work on theology.In 1576 and at the request of Pope Gregory XIII, Bellarmine returned to Rome to teach theology to English and German missionaries at the Collegio Romano. He remained in Rome until 1588 and toward the end of this period, he produced “Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei Adversus Hujus Temporis Haereticos (Disputations about the Controversies of the Christian faith Against the Heretics of this Time) (3 vols, Ingolstadt, 1586-1593)”. Whereas the literature on this subject (the chaos of theological differences between Catholics and Protestants) was marked by heated debates and intemperate statements on both sides, Bellarmine calmly and fairly reviewed the issues. The first volume of the Disputationes treats of the Word of God, of Christ, and of the Pope; the second of the authority of ecumenical councils, and of the Church, whether militant, expectant, or triumphant; the third of the sacraments; and the fourth of Divine grace, free will, justification, and good works.These volumes became a remarkably effective weapon against reform theology, and it has been argued that they were the occasion of many returning to the Catholic Church.In 1588 Bellarmine became the spiritual director of the Collegio Romano. Among his other duties he taught the catechism to students and lay brothers, and his lessons eventually led to a small catechism for children “Dottrina Cristiani Breve (Brief Christian Doctrine) Rome, 1597)” and a catechism for teachers “Dichiarazione pix Copiosa della Dottrina Cristiani (A more copious declaration of the Christian doctrine) (Rome, 1598)”. Approved by Pope Clement XIII, both catechisms became very popular and were translated into many languages, works that lasted well into the twentieth century.Bellarmine served as rector of the Collegio Romano in 1592, as provincial of the Neapolitan province of the Jesuits in 1594, and papal theologian in 1597. In 1599 he was made a cardinal. From this time forward he was a member of the Roman Congregation and served on many commissions. In 1602 he was consecrated an archbishop and sent by Pope Clement VIII to Capua, where he concerned himself mainly with pastoral duties. In 1605 he was recalled to Rome.Bellarmine spent much of his time in theological controversies, mostly involving papal power. He engaged in a public debate, a war of books and pamphlets, concerning the divine right of kings with James I of England. The issue of papal power revolved around the theory of the indirect power of the Pope. His spiritual power is direct and primary; he was not, however, without temporal power because he might have to act with regard to temporal things which affected the spiritual ones. This was the Pope's indirect power, which Bellarmine defended all his adult life.In 1616 Bellarmine became involved in the Copernican controversy, which was brought to a head by the publication of Paolo Antonio Foscarini's book defending the Copernican system from the charge that it clashed with the Scriptures. It was he who administered the controversial admonition to Galileo not to hold or defend the Copernican theory.In a time when cardinals maintained splendid courts, Bellarmine lived a simple and ascetic life, practicing self-sacrifice, poverty, and disinterestedness. Upon the death of Pope Sixtus V in 1590, the Count of Olivares wrote to King Philip III of Spain about possible candidates for the papacy: "Bellarmine is beloved for his great goodness, but he is a scholar who lives only among books and not of much practical ability... He would not do for a Pope, for he is mindful only of the interests of the Church and is unresponsive to the reasons of princes ... He would scruple to accept gifts ... I suggest that we exert no action in his favor." The King agreed.Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. writes of Bellarmine ....“The first mark of Bellarmine's spirituality was his devotion to the Vicar of Christ. He was a great defender of the Holy See, especially of Papal infallibility. At the first Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church mainly used the writings of St. Robert Bellarmine to finally chisel out the definition of papal infallibility.Another characteristic of his spirituality was an all embracing charity. As a contemporary of those who had severed the Mystical Body of Christ and divided Christendom, Bellarmine's attitude towards the Protestant leaders was one of consummate charity. We must hate error with a holy hatred; we must love the people who are in error. That characterizes the spirit of Bellarmine. One thing that Bellarmine teaches us is that the root of evil is error and the root of error is ignorance. If we want to root out evil, we must teach the truth. It is not enough to believe. With God's grace, which means reflection and prayer, you must understand what you believe.”The process of canonization was begun in 1627. In 1931 Pope Pius XI finally declared Bellarmine a Doctor of the Church.
He is buried under a side altar in the Church of Saint Ignatius, in Rome. Feast Day May 13th < 1969 , Sept 17th > 1969