St Robert Bellarmine, patron saint of catechists

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St Robert Bellarmine, patron saint of catechists

Feast Day: September 17

St Robert Bellarmine was a learned Jesuit priest and cardinal whose prolific writings defended the Catholic faith in the time of political upheaval following the Protestant Reformation. 

St Robert was born on October 4, 1542 into a noble family in the Italian town of Montepulciano. 

Educated in his hometown by the newly formed Society of Jesus, St Robert displayed a passion for learning at a young age, composing many poems and hymns in his adolescent years. 

He entered the Jesuit order at age 18, and spent his early career teaching theology at the Louvain University in Belgium where he quickly became regarded as one of the most esteemed minds in Europe. 

In 1576, he was sent to lecture at the Jesuit College in Rome. 

Written whilst teaching at the College, his Disputations on the Controversies of the Christian Faith is considered one of the most complete works of Catholic apologetics ever written. 

He is noted for addressing with charity those with whom he was in theological disagreement.

During his time teaching at the Jesuit College, St Robert was the spiritual director and confessor to St Aloysius Gonzaga who died whilst still a student. 

In 1597, he was appointed an advisor to Pope Clement VIII, who later named him a cardinal. 

St Robert preferred to live an austere life despite being a cardinal – once donating the tapestries from his apartment to the poor, commenting that “the walls won’t catch a cold”.

As a cardinal, St Robert wrote several books aimed at assisting the spiritual life of lay people.

His ‘Catechism’, which has been translated into 62 languages, explained complex theological matters in a simple way that the average lay person could understand.

The Art of Dying Well, written towards the end of his life, details how Christians can happily prepare for death by living a faith-filled life. 

St Robert died on September 17, 1621, the feast of the stigmata of St Francis of Assisi, a saint to whom he had a special devotion.

Considered one of the greatest minds in the history of the Catholic Church, he was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1930 and one year later declared a Doctor of the Church. 

His incorrupt body is located in the Church of St Ignatius in Rome next to the tomb of St Aloysius Gonzaga.