Sept. 17: ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE,
Bishop and Doctor of the Church [Optional Memorial]
Born in Italy, St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) entered the Society of Jesus in 1560 and taught theology in Louvain and Rome. He was ordained Bishop and appointed cardinal. He is better known for having summoned Galileo Galilei in 1616. He was one of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation and became one of the ablest and most effective theologians of the Church against
St Robert Bellarmine,
‘On the Ascent of the Soul to God’
Turn my heart to your decrees
O Lord, good and forgiving and abounding in steadfast love, who would not serve you with all his heart, when he has begun at least to taste the sweetness of your fatherly rule? What do you order your servants to do, Lord? ‘Take my yoke upon you,’ you say. What is your yoke? — ‘My yoke is easy,’ you say, ‘and my burden is light.’ Who would not willingly carry a yoke which does not press down but gives strength, and a burden which does not weigh heavily but refreshes? With justification, then, you also say, ‘and you will find rest for your souls’. What is this yoke of yours that does not tire but brings rest? It is that ‘great and first commandment: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart’. For what is easier, better and more agreeable than to love goodness, beauty and love, all of which you are, O Lord my God?
Do you not offer a reward to those who keep the commandments, which are more desirable than a heap of gold and sweeter than honey from the comb? So in every way you offer a very ample reward, as James the apostle says: ‘The Lord has prepared the crown of life for those who love him.’ What is the crown of life? It is a good greater than all we can think of or desire: Paul quotes these words from Isaiah: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.’
There is much reward in keeping your commandments. That first and great commandment is not only profitable for the man who keeps it or for God who commands it: the other commandments of God also make perfect him who obeys them, improve him, instruct him and make him illustrious; in a word, they make him good and holy. If you understand this, realise that you have been created for the glory of God and for your own eternal salvation; this is your end, this is the object of your soul and the treasure of your heart. You will be blessed if you reach this goal, but miserable if you are cut off from it.
Therefore consider that to be for your real good which brings you to your goal, and that to be really bad which cuts you off from this goal. Prosperity and adversity, riches and poverty, health and sickness, honour and ignominy, life and death should not be sought after for themselves by the wise man nor are they to be avoided for themselves: if they contribute to the glory of God and your eternal happiness, they are good and to be sought after; if they are obstacles to this, they are evil and to be avoided.
O God, who adorned the Bishop Saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and virtue to vindicate the faith of your Church, grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith, your people may always find joy. Through our Lord.
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