Saint of the Day – 13 May – St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) Defender of the Church

Saint of the Day – 13 May – St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) Archbishop of Capua, Italy, Rector of the Roman College, Confessor, Cardinal, Doctor of the Church, Theologian, Professor, Writer, Preacher, Mediator. Known as – “The Father of the Poor,” “The Hammer of Heretics,” “The Model of Promoters and Defenders of the Catholic religion.”

St Robert Bellarmine
From the Roman Breviary

Robert, a native of Montepulciano, Italy and of the noble family of Bellarmine, had for his mother, the most pious Cynthia Cervini, sister of Pope Marcellus II. From the first, he was conspicuous for exemplary piety and most chaste manners, earnestly desiring this one thing, to please God alone and to win souls to Christ.

He attended the college of the Society of Jesus in his native town where he was highly commended for his intelligence and modesty. At the age of eighteen, he entered the same Society at Rome and was a model of all religious virtues. Having passed through the course of philosophy at the Roman College, he was sent firstly to Florence, then to Monreale, later to Padua to teach Sacred Theology and afterwards, to Louvain where, not yet a Priest, he ably discharged the office of preacher. After Ordination at Louvain, he taught Theology with such success, that he brought back many heretics to the unity of the Church and was regarded throughout Europe, as a most brilliant Theologian, so much so, that St Charles, Bishop of Milan and others, keenly sought after him.

Recalled to Rome at the wish of Pope Gregory XIII, he taught the science of controversial Theology at the Roman College and there, as Spiritual Director, he guided the angelic youth St Aloysius in the paths of holiness. He governed the Roman College and then the Neapolitan Province of the Society of Jesus, in accordance with the spirit of St Ignatius.

Again summoned to Rome, he was employed by Clement VIII in the most important affairs of the Church, with the greatest advantage to the Christian state. Then, against his will and in spite of opposition, he was admitted among the number of the Cardinals because, as the Pontiff publicly declared, he did not have his equal among Theologians in the Church of God, at the time. He was Consecrated Bishop by the same Pope and administered the Archdiocese of Capua in a most saintly manner for three years. Having resigned this office, he lived in Rome until his death, as a most impartial and trusty Counsellor to the Supreme Pontiff. He wrote much and in an admirable manner.

His principal merit lies in his complete victory in the struggle against the new errors, during which he distinguished himself as a strenuous and outstanding vindicator of Catholic tradition and the rights of the Roman See. He gained this victory by following St Thomas as his guide and teacher, by a prudent consideration of the needs of his times, by his irrefragable teaching and by a most abundant wealth of testimony, well-chosen from the Sacred Writings and from the very rich fountain of the Fathers of the Church. He is eminently noted for very numerous short works, for fostering piety and especially for that golden Catechism, winch he never failed to explain to the young and ignorant, both at Capua and at Rome, although preoccupied with other very important affairs.

A contemporary Cardinal declared, that Robert was sent by God for the instruction of Catholics, for the guidance of the good and for the confusion of heretics. St Francis de Sales regarded him as a fountain of learning; the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XIV called him the Hammer of Heretics and Benedict XV proclaimed him the Model of Promoters and Defenders of the Catholic religion.

He was most zealous in the religious life and he maintained that manner of life after having been chosen as one of the empurpled Cardinals. He did not want any wealth beyond what was necessary; he was satisfied with a moderate household and scanty fare and clothing. He did not strive to enrich his relatives and he could scarcely be induced to relieve their poverty, even occasionally. He had the lowest opinion of himself and was of wonderful simplicity of soul. He had an extraordinary love for the Mother of God; he spent many hours daily in prayer. He ate very sparingly and fasted three times a week. Uniformly austere with himself, he burned with charity towards his neighbour and was often called the Father of the poor. He earnestly strove that he might not stain his baptismal innocence by even the slightest fault.

Almost eighty years old, he fell into his last illness at St Andrew’s on the Quirinal hill and in it, he showed his usual radiant virtue. Pope Gregory XV and many Cardinals visited him on his deathbed, lamenting the loss of such a great pillar of the Church. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1621, on the day of the Sacred Stigmata of St Francis, the memory of which, he had been instrumental in having celebrated everywhere. The whole City mourned his death, unanimously proclaiming him a Saint. The Supreme Pontiff Pius XI inscribed his name, firstly, in the number of the Blessed, and then in that of the Saints and shortly afterwards, by a Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, he declared him a Doctor of the Universal Church.

His body is honoured with pious veneration at Rome in the Church of St Ignatius, near the tomb of St Aloysius, as he himself had desired. Blessed be God in His Holy Saints! Amen.

More of St Robert’s Life here:
AND a Podcast here:
St Robert Bellarmine and Galileo

Statue at the Gesu Church in Rome

Quote/s of the Day – 27 April – St Peter Canisius

Quote/s of the Day – 27 April – The Memorial of St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1597) Doctor of the Church

Better that only a few Catholics
should be left,
staunch and sincere in their religion,
than that they should,
remaining many,
desire as it were,
to be in collusion
with the Church’s enemies
and in conformity with the open foes
of our faith.

Prayer of a Catechist
to Jesus, Lover of Children

O Jesus, Friend of children,
Who from Thy most tender years
did grow visibly in wisdom
and in grace before God and men.
Who at the age of twelve,
was seated in the Temple,
in the midst of the doctors,
listening to them attentively,
humbly asking them questions
and exciting their admiration
by the prudence and wisdom
of Thy discourse.
Who didst receive, so willingly,
the children, blessing them
and saying to Thy disciples:
Let them come to Me,
for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Inspire me as Thou did inspire
the blessed Peter Canisius,
model and guide of the perfect Catechist,
with a profound respect
and a holy affection for childhood,
a taste and a marked devotion
for instructing them in Christian doctrine,
a special aptitude, in making them understand
its mysteries and love its beauties.
I ask this of Thee,
through the intercession
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
and Saint Peter Canisius.

St Peter Canisius (1521-1397)
Doctor of the Church



Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1597) The “Second Apostle of Germany” – Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ. (1521-1597) The “Second Apostle of Germany” – Doctor of the Church

Catechesis of Pope Benedict XVI – 9 February 2011saint-peter-canisius glass lg

He was born on 8 May 1521 in Wijmegen, Holland.   His father was Burgomaster of the town.   While he was a student at the University of Cologne he regularly visited the Carthusian monks of St Barbara, a driving force of Catholic life and other devout men who cultivated the spirituality of the so-called devotio moderna [modern devotion].

He entered the Society of Jesus on 8 May 1543 in Mainz (Rhineland — Palatinate), after taking a course of spiritual exercises under the guidance of Bl (now Saint) Pierre Favre, Petrus [Peter] Faber, one of St Ignatius of Loyola’s first companions.   He was ordained a priest in Cologne.   Already the following year, in June 1546, he attended the Council of Trent, as the theologian of Cardinal Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Bishop of Augsberg, where he worked with two confreres, Diego Laínez and Alfonso Salmerón.   In 1548, St Ignatius had him complete his spiritual formation in Rome and then sent him to the College of Messina to carry out humble domestic duties.

He earned a doctorate in theology at Bologna on 4 October 1549 and St Ignatius assigned him to carry out the apostolate in Germany.   On 2 September of that same year he visited Pope Paul III at Castel Gandolfo and then went to St Peter’s Basilica to pray.   Here he implored the great Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for help to make the Apostolic Blessing permanently effective for the future of his important new mission.   He noted several words of this prayer in his spiritual journal.

He said:  “There I felt that a great consolation and the presence of grace had been granted to me through these intercessors [Peter and Paul].   They confirmed my mission in Germany and seemed to transmit to me, as an apostle of Germany, the support of their benevolence.   You know, Lord, in how many ways and how often on that same day you entrusted Germany to me, which I was later to continue to be concerned about and for which I would have liked to live and die”.Canisius_smlframe

We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the time of the Lutheran Reformation, at the moment when the Catholic faith in the German-speaking countries seemed to be dying out in the face of the fascination of the Reformation.   The task of Canisius — charged with revitalising or renewing the Catholic faith in the Germanic countries — was almost impossible.   It was possible only by virtue of prayer.   It was possible only from the centre, namely, a profound personal friendship with Jesus Christ, a friendship with Christ in His Body, the Church, which must be nourished by the Eucharist, His Real Presence.

In obedience to the mission received from Ignatius and from Pope Paul III, Canisius left for Germany.   He went first to the Duchy of Bavaria, which for several years was the place where he exercised his ministry.   As dean, rector and vice chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, he supervised the academic life of the Institute and the religious and moral reform of the people.   In Vienna, where for a brief time he was diocesan administrator, he carried out his pastoral ministry in hospitals and prisons, both in the city and in the countryside and prepared the publication of his Catechism.   In 1556 he founded the College of Prague and, until 1569, was the first superior of the Jesuit Province of Upper Germany.   In this office he established a dense network of communities of his Order in the Germanic countries, especially colleges, that were starting points for the Catholic Reformation, for the renewal of the Catholic peter canisius engraving

At that time he also took part in the Colloquy of Worms with Protestant divines, including Philip Melanchthon (1557);  He served as Papal Nuncio in Poland (1558);  he took part in the two Diets of Augsberg (1559 and 1565); he accompanied Cardinal Stanislaw Hozjusz, Legate of Pope Pius IV, to Emperor Ferdinand (1560);  and he took part in the last session of the Council of Trent where he spoke on the issue of Communion under both Species and on the Index of Prohibited Books (1562).

In 1580 he withdrew to Fribourg, Switzerland, where he devoted himself entirely to preaching and writing.   He died there on 21 December 1597.   Bl Pius IX Beatified him in 1864 and in 1897 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him the “Second Apostle of Germany”. Pope Pius XI Canonised him and proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church in 1925.

St Peter Canisius spent a large part of his life in touch with the most important people of his time and exercised a special influence with his writings.   He edited the complete works of Cyril of Alexandria and of St Leo the Great, the Letters of St Jerome and the Orations of St Nicholas of Flüe.   He published devotional books in various languages, biographies of several Swiss Saints and numerous homiletic texts.peter-canisius

However, his most widely disseminated writings were the three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558.   The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology;  the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction;  the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels.   He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.

There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone!   And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century.   So it was, that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”.   He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries.   This was a characteristic of St Peter Canisius – his ability to combine harmoniously fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect that is due to every person. St Canisius distinguished between a conscious, blameworthy apostosy from faith and a blameless loss of faith through circumstances.106_Canisius

Moreover, he declared to Rome that the majority of Germans who switched to Protestantism were blameless.   In a historical period of strong confessional differences, Canisius avoided — and this is something quite extraordinary — the harshness and rhetoric of anger — something rare, as I said, in the discussions between Christians in those times — and aimed only at presenting the spiritual roots and at reviving the faith in the Church.   His vast and penetrating knowledge of Sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church served this cause, the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from the Devotio Moderna and Rhenish mysticism.

Characteristic of St Canisius’ spirituality was his profound personal friendship with Jesus.   For example, on 4 September 1549 he wrote in his journal, speaking with the Lord:  “In the end, as if You were opening to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, You commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, as it were, to draw the waters of my salvation from Your founts, O my Saviour”.

Then he saw that the Saviour was giving him a garment with three pieces that were called peace, love and perseverance.   And with this garment, made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewing Catholicism.   His friendship with Jesus — which was the core of his personality — nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Blessed Sacrament and by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united with the awareness of being a perpetuator of the Apostles’ mission in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangeliser is always an instrument united with Jesus and with His Church and is fruitful for this very reason.

Friendship with Jesus had been inculcated in St Peter Canisius in the spiritual environment of the Charterhouse of Cologne, in which he had been in close contact with two Carthusian mystics – Johannes Lansperger, whose name has been Latinized as “Lanspergius” and Nikolaus van Esche, Latinized as “Eschius”.

He subsequently deepened the experience of this friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, through contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life, which form a large part of St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.   This is the foundation of his intense devotion to the Heart of the Lord, which culminated in his consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica.

The Christocentric spirituality of St Peter Canisius is rooted in a profound conviction – no soul anxious for perfection fails to practice prayer daily, mental prayer, an ordinary means that enables the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Teacher.

For this reason in his writings for the spiritual education of the people, our Saint insists on the importance of the Liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on Feasts, on the Rite of Holy Mass and on the sacraments;  yet, at the same time, he is careful to show the faithful the need for and beauty of personal daily prayer, which should accompany and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church.   This exhortation and method have kept their value intact, especially after being authoritatively proposed anew by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, Christian life does not develop unless it is nourished by participation in the Liturgy — particularly at Sunday Mass — and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God.x20150427_1canisius.jpgqitokakfklhqp.pagespeed.ic.pv_ky19fua

Among the thousands of activities and multiple distractions that surround us, we must find moments for recollection before the Lord every day, in order to listen to Him and speak with Him.

At the same time, the example that St Peter Canisius has bequeathed to us, not only in his works but especially with his life, is ever timely and of lasting value.   He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and an instrument at His disposal, bound to Him closely by faith in His Gospel and in His Church, by a morally consistent life and by prayer as ceaseless as love.   And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity.


Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1597) – Confessor, Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 21 December – St Peter Canisius SJ (1521-1597) – Confessor, Priest, Religious, Doctor of the Church, Reformer, Teacher,  Writer, Apostle of Charity –  (Born as Pieter Kanis on 8 May 1521 at Niemguen, Netherlands – 21 December 1597 at Fribourg, Switzerland of natural causes).   Patronages – Catholic Press, Germany, Catechists.   Known as the Hammer of Protestantism and the Second Apostle of Germany.   St Peter  became known for his strong support for the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia and Switzerland.   The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Protestant Reformation is largely attributed to the work there of the Society of Jesus, which he led.   “Peter Canisius was the first publisher, the first author, the first editor of the Society of Jesus.   By now, Jesuits have followed in his footsteps to the tune of having published in 400 years, thousands of books.   From the time of Canisius, and his name is first in the bibliography of Jesuit writers, from Peter Canisius to the end of the l9th century, that is to 1900, there are about twenty volumes of bibliography, each volume about two inches thick, stands about eighteen inches high, filled just with authors and titles, thousands and thousands and thousands, no other religious institute in the Church publishes as much as members of the Society.   It was all started by Peter Canisius.” (Ven Servan of God Fr John A Hardon S.J.)

canisius - large

St Peter Canisius was born in 1521 in what is now the Netherlands.   His father was the local mayor and his mother died shortly of his birth.  Peter studied at the University of Cologne and earned a Master’s degree in 1540 at the age of 19.   While there, he met St Peter Faber, one of the first Jesuits.   Through him, Canisius became the first Dutchman to join the Society of Jesus in 1543.   St Peter Canisius’ preaching and writings, led him to become one of the most influential Catholics of his time.   He supervised the founding and maintenance of the first German-speaking Jesuit colleges and was known as the Second Apostle of Germany.

If you have too much to do, with God’s help you will find time to do it all – St Peter Canisius

For a half-century he led the Catholic Reformation in Austria, Bavaria and Bohemia.   For that reason he is reckoned an apostle to Germany, second only to St. Boniface.   With stupendous energy he preached and taught in parishes, reformed and founded universities, wrote many books including popular catechisms, restored lapsed Catholics, converted Protestants, preached retreats and found time to care for the sick.   In his last 30 years travelling more than 20,000 miles on foot or horseback, St Peter Canisius spearheaded the renewal of the Catholic faith in southern Germany.Saint_Petrus_Canisius

Peter Canisius revitalised Catholic life and teaching at universities in Ingolstadt and Augsburg.   He founded new ones at Prague and Fribourg.   In all four cities his preaching and catechising won the hearts of Catholics and attracted nominal Protestants to the church.   In Vienna his personal care for plague victims made him a most popular figure.  Thus, when appointed diocesan administrator, he was in a position to revive the city’s long decadent Catholic community.

After 1555, Peter Canisius published his famous Summary of Christian Doctrine and two smaller catechisms.   These books generated the Catholic Reformation as Luther’s catechism had spread Protestantism.   Canisius’s catechisms also helped launch the Catholic press.    The Three Catechisms he compiled between 1555 and 1558.   The first Catechism was addressed to students who could grasp the elementary notions of theology;  the second, to young people of the populace for an initial religious instruction;  the third, to youth with a scholastic formation of middle and high school levels.   He explained Catholic doctrine with questions and answers, concisely, in biblical terms, with great clarity and with no polemical overtones.   “There were at least 200 editions of this Catechism in his lifetime alone, translated into 15 languages!   And hundreds of editions succeeded one another until the 20th century.   So it was that still in my father’s generation people in Germany were calling the Catechism simply “the Canisius”.   He really was the Catechist of Germany for centuries, he formed people’s faith for centuries.” (Pope Benedict XVI).

He was offered the post of Bishop of Vienna in 1554 but declined in to continue his travelling and teachings.


In the late 16th century, when open hostility typified relations between Catholics and Protestants, Peter Canisius advised charity and moderation. He opposed theological debates with Protestant leaders and in general, discouraged discussion of Catholic distinctives such as indulgences, purgatory and monastic vows with Protestants.   He believed such efforts only heightened division and embittered relations.   He articulated his views in this letter to his Jesuit superior:

“It is plainly wrong to meet non-Catholics with bitterness or to treat them with discourtesy.   For this is nothing else than the reverse of Christ’s example because it breaks the bruised reed and quenches the smoking flax.   We ought to instruct with meekness those whom heresy has made bitter and suspicious and has estranged from orthodox Catholics, especially from our fellow Jesuits.   Thus, by whole-hearted charity and good will we may win them over to us in the Lord.

Again, it is a mistaken policy to behave in a contentious fashion and to start disputes about matters of belief with argumentative people who are disposed by their very natures to wrangling.   Indeed, the fact of their being so constituted is a reason the more why such people should be attracted and won to the simplicity of the faith as much by example as by argument.”

In 1591, Peter Canisius suffered a stroke that nearly killed him.   But he recovered and devoted himself to writing for six more years until his death in 1597.   His body was interred before the high altar of the Church of Saint Nicholas in Fribourg and his relics were translated to the Church of Saint Michael at the Jesuit College in Fribourg in 1625. He was Canonised 21 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI and was added to the now 36 Doctors of the Church, by Pope Pius XI in 1925.SOD-1221-SaintPeterCanisius-790x480Petrus Canisius / Gemaelde - Petrus Canisius / Painting -


Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal, Doctor of Theology, Civil and Canon Law, Reformer, Founder of Seminaries.  He is known as the “Father of the Clergy”   Born Count Carlo Borromeo on the morning of Wednesday 2 October 1538 in the Castle at Aron, Diocese of Novara, Italy and he died at  8:30pm on 3 November 1584 of a fever at Milan, Italy.  His will named the Hospital Maggiore of Milan as his heir.  He is buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Milan – the famous and breath-taking “Duomo Milan.    His Relics were transferred to a Chapel built by Count Renato Borromeo in piazza San Maria Podone, Milan on 21 September 1751.   St Charles was Beatified in 1602 by Pope Clement VIII and Canonised on 1 November 1610 by Pope Paul V.   Patronages – • against abdominal pain • against intestinal disorders • against ulcers• apple orchards• Bishops, Priests, Seminarians • Catechists• Catechumens• spiritual directors• spiritual leaders• starch makers• 3 Dioceses• 3 Italian Cities.   Attributes – • cardinal wearing a cord around his neck; it symbolises the cord or halter worn around his neck during the plague of Milan, Italy in 1575 • bishop wearing a cord around his neck • cleric curing the sick • Holy Communion  • one hand raised in blessing, thus recalling his work during the plague • coat of arms bearing the word Humilitas (Humility) his emblem.


Count Carlo/Charles was born into the highest echelons of Renaissance life.   The nephew of Pius IV, he was destined for great things in the Church.   His successful career demonstrates the positive possibilities of Renaissance political life.   Given every chance at success by his lineage and connections, he seized each opportunity and turned it to the service of God, the Church and his people.   While many with similar chances squandered their advantages, Charles showed that such assets should not be guiltily eschewed or be a cause of embarrassment, so long as they are put to the service of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

st charles borromeo - as a child.

Charles was prepared for his later career by his aristocratic responsibilities, becoming a skilled administrator and diplomat at a very young age.   At the same time he tirelessly pursued his studies, becoming a Doctor utriusque Iuris (a Doctor of both Civil and Canon Law) at 21 years old.   With the accession of his uncle to the throne of Peter, he was called to Rome and immediately was created a cardinal-deacon.   Such a position was advantageous because he became one of the closest associates of the pope, with all the dignity of a cardinal but without the responsibility for care of souls.   He reformed the city of Rome and the Papal States thoroughly and was given increasing responsibilities. The papal curia was purified by his example of holiness and sobriety.   He cultivated the friendship of other saints, such as Philip Neri and together they provided the pattern for a renewed curia.   He gathered a circle of learned friends around him and sponsored literary, academic and musical activity, being in particular a patron of Palestrina.YOUNG st charles borromeo - my snip

For his handling of the delicate negotiations needed for keeping the Council of Trent from falling apart, Charles was awarded with the see of Milan.   He began to shift his focus as well, for he had experienced a deep spiritual conversion as the result of the untimely death of his elder brother and dedicated the rest of his life entirely to the good of his people and his Church.   Being one of the most famous and largest sees in Christendom, Milan was a microcosm that displayed both the grandeur and the corruption of Renaissance Catholicism.

Charles set about immediately implementing the reforming decrees of Trent.   Had other bishops swiftly implemented the decrees, as Charles had, the damage from the Reformation may have been mightily checked.   In any case, he found a diocese filled to the brim with time-servers, beneficed layabouts and outright corrupt and vile clergy.   He set out for a purification.  He set the tone with his mighty motto Humilitas and he began to demonstrate one of the most powerful roles in all of Church history:  that of a holy bishop.    Charles knew that the mission of the Church to convert the nations and to win back the Protestants must begin at home.   The Church must be reformed from within, before she could bear effective testimony without.

He was convinced that the heart of the problem was the abuses caused, intentionally or not, by ignorant clergy.   Corruption was comparatively easy to root up but the wholesale re-education of the clergy was a project for generations.   To this end he set up the massive seminary of San Pietro Martire on the site of that saint’s murder in Seveso.   It was to be the prototype of the professionalisation of the clergy that would set a pattern for the rest of the Catholic world, one of the most significant developments in the last 500 years of Catholicism.   He knew that care of priests was essential before the laity could be properly educated and cultivated.   Here is a link to Pope Francis’s visit to the St Charles Borromeo Seminary  –

Doctrine was at the heart of his pastoral ministry.   Trent had codified dogma and made it the basis of its reforming decrees.    Charles carried this message that the truth itself was the best foundation of pastoral ministry.   He reformed recalcitrant monks and nuns, calling them back to fidelity to their oaths and vows, rather than tolerating their laxity. Indeed one decadent member of the order of the Humiliati even tried to assassinate him at prayer, firing a point blank shot that miraculously left him nearly unharmed.   He himself was one of the saints in charge of the Roman Catechism and the founder of the concept of Sunday school for lay children, educating them in the rudiments of the Catholic faith.   He brought to the streets of Milan, Truth incarnated as a person, both in the Blessed Sacrament and in his life of imitating Christ.   There was no divorce between his pastoral and doctrinal responsibilities, such a novel idea would have been treated by him as the worst form of heresy.   For Charles, Christ the Merciful was Incarnate Truth itself.

He retained a simple devotion to Our Lady of Loreto and ministered personally to the plague victims of the city, spending his personal fortune for their relief and walking barefoot in sackcloth and ashes in penance for them before God.   Yet at the same time he never forgot his office as a prince of the Church and the Successor of the Apostles.   He repeatedly challenged the secular authorities who sought to circumscribe the liberties of the Church.   He personally went to Santa Maria della Scala, to receive their obedience after they had appealed to the secular authority over him.   He came in full pontifical regalia, bearing the crucifix, and pronounced a public excommunication at their door.   A supporter of the disobedient church fired a shot at him, which was blocked only by the Cross of Christ he bore.   He tirelessly traveled to the rural areas of his diocese, especially the Alpine valleys that suffered under heresy.   To the peripheries he went—areas ignored by his noble predecessors—but Charles did not go there to confirm the people in their error, he came to bring the freedom of Truth.   He took his duty of visitation seriously, removing the corrupt, correcting the erring and ensuring the proper celebration of his beloved Ambrosian rite.St Charles Borromeo giving Communion to plague victims.2by caspar franz sambachSt Charles Borromeo giving Communion to plague victimsst charles Borromeo - Pierre Mignard - holy comm to plague victims

He was a friend and confrere to many of the saints of the Catholic Reform, St Francis Borgia, St Philip Neri, Bl Bartholomew of Braga and many others, having a special predilection for the English priests who would later be martyred.   His solicitude for the liturgy was exceptional, knowing it to be the key to the spirituality and doctrinal fidelity of the laity.   Indeed, once he wanted to bless a cemetery but abandoned the idea when he discovered he did not have the requisite pontifical vestments.   The service of God demanded the very best at all times.   On his deathbed, he forbade the saying of Holy Mass in his room, considering it unfit for the sacrifice of the Mass and insisted on being vested in Rochet and Stole for the reception of his Viaticum.   This was no violation of Humilitasbut rather its highest expression:  utter, complete and humble service to his position as the successor of St Ambrose.   He lived simply, devoutly and penitently but when he executed his office he bore the weight of tradition, history and doctrine.Meeting between Saint Charles Borromeo and Saint Philip Neri

Charles was beloved by his people of Milan and was respected by all throughout Europe, being rapidly canonised in the year 1610.   His life demonstrates the fallacy implied by the words of a contemporary cardinal, who declared that mercy and doctrine were equal parts of revelation.  Charles would have known that such a statement was nonsensical and opposed to the definitions of Trent (and Vatican II for that matter).   He would gently correct his colleague.   Mercy is part of the doctrine of the Church but, more to the point, the whole and complete doctrine of the Church is mercy for a fallen humanity. Truth is mercy; error is slavery.    St Charles demonstrates for us that the Church needs reform in every age but it must be a reform that results in a re-conformation to the Face of her Founder.    May the example of the holy bishop of the Counter Reform (who kept an image of Sts Thomas More and John Fisher on his person) animate those who would make novel arguments contrary to the faith of Christ.

St Charles Borromeo, Father of the Clergy, pray for us all!St-Charles-BorromeoSt Charels Borromeo2TheVisionOfSt.CharlesBorromeo


Saint of the Day – 17 September – St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) Confessor, Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 17 September – St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) Priest of the Society of Jesus, Bishop, Confessor, Cardinal, Theologian, Professor, Writer, Preacher, Mediator, Doctor of the Church.   Born as Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino on 4 October 1542 at Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy and died on the morning of 17 September 1621 at Rome, Italy of natural causes.      He was buried in Rome and his relics were translated to the Church of Saint Ignatius, Rome on 21 June 1923.    Patronages – Canon lawyer, Catechists, Catechumens, Cincinnati, Ohio Archdiocese of,  Bellarmine University, Fairfield University, Bellarmine College and School.  He was Beatified on 13 May 1923, Rome by Pope Pius XI and Canonised 29 June 1930, Rome by Pope Pius XI – he was named a Doctor of the Church by the same Pope a year later.  He is remembered as one of the most important Cardinals of the Catholic Counter robert bellarmine infoThis is his relic, lying enshrined beneath an altar in the church of Sant' Ignazio in Rome.

Robert Bellarmine was born to an impoverished noble Italian family.   His early intellectual accomplishments gave his father hope that Bellarmine would restore the family’s fortunes through a political career.   His mother’s wish that he enter the Society of Jesus prevailed.   The young Bellarmine, a very small, frail but lively fellow excelled in his studies, especially Latin and Italian poetry.   It didn’t take long for it to become obvious that he wished to join the Society of Jesus.   The rector of the college described him as “the best of our school and not far from the kingdom of heaven.”   On completion of his studies, Bellarmine taught first at the University of Louvain in Belgium.   In 1576 he accepted the invitation of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) to teach polemical theology at the new Roman College.   When he was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect.  He devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematise Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers.   He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain.

Robert Bellarmine spent the next 11 years teaching and writing his monumental Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith., a three-volume defence of the Catholic faith against the arguments of the Protestant reformers.  Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity.   To this day, it is considered one of the most important texts of Catholic theology ever written.   Three hundred years after its publication, it was called “the most complete defence of the Catholic teaching”.  A confidant to the Popes, Bellarmine held a number of positions, including rector of the Roman College, examiner of bishops, Cardinal Inquisitor, Archbishop of Capua, and Bishop of robert bellarmine - young

Through his writings Bellarmine was involved in the political, religious and social issues of the time.  Bellarmine incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable.   He developed the theory of the indirect power of the Pope in temporal affairs;  although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V.  He argued with King James I of England and was a judge at the trial of Giordano Bruno.   Bellarmine also communicated the decree of condemning the Copernican doctrine of the movements of the earth and sun, issued by Congregation of the Index to Galileo Galilei in 1616.   Among many activities, Bellarmine became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church.

Much to the amazement of all, at the height of his career, at the age of 60, Pope Clement VIII appointed Robert Bellarmine the Archbishop of Capua.   Bellarmine had never been in pastoral ministry.   Nevertheless, he began a new dimension of his Priesthood with his usual enthusiasm.   He would spend the next three years introducing the reforms of the Council of Trent in his Archdiocese.   He travelled everywhere, preaching to the people.  He visited his clergy as well as religious men and women to encourage them to renew the Church.   He won the love of everyone.

The last major controversy of Bellarmine’s life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired.   He delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus was contrary to Scripture.   The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proven.

Although he was one of the most powerful men in Rome and was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that “he had not his equal for learning.”   While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities.  He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor.   He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and gave most of his money to the poor.   Once he gave the tapestries from his living quarters to the poor, saying that the walls wouldn’t catch cold.   While he took little regard for his own comforts, he always saw to it that his servants and aides had everything they needed.

Robert Bellarmine died at Rome on 17 September 1621 at the age of 79.   If his early career featured brilliant polemics and his middle years gentle, loving, pastoral life, his final years brought him transcendent peace.   His writings turned spiritual.   He wrote several works, the classics being “The Ascent of the Mind to God” and “The Art of Dying.”   He wrote that this was his way of preparing for death and to move closer to his God.   The process for his Canonisation was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings.   In 1930, Pope Pius XI Canonised him and the next year declared him a Doctor of the Church.