St. Robert Bellarmine was born in Italy in 1542. As a boy, he was not interested in playing games. He liked to spend his time repeating to his younger brothers and sisters the sermons he had heard. He also liked to explain the lessons of the catechism to the little farm children of the neighborhood. Once he had made his first Holy Communion, he used to receive Jesus every Sunday.
It was his great desire to become a Jesuit priest, but his father had different plans for him. Robert’s father hoped to make a famous gentleman out of his son. For this reason, he wanted him to study many subjects and music and art, too. For a whole year, Robert worked to persuade his father. At last, when he was eighteen, he was permitted to join the Jesuits. As a young Jesuit, he did very well in his studies. He was sent to preach even before he became a priest. When one good woman first saw such a young man, not even a priest yet, going up into the pulpit to preach, she knelt down to pray. She asked the Lord to help him not to become frightened and stop in the middle. When he finished his sermon, she stayed kneeling. This time, however, she was thanking God for the magnificent sermon.
St. Robert Bellarmine became a famous writer, preacher, and teacher. He wrote thirty-one important books. He spent three hours every day in prayer. He had a deep knowledge of sacred matters. Yet even when he had become a cardinal, he considered the catechism so important that he himself taught it to his household and to the people.
Cardinal Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. He was proclaimed a saint in 1930 by Pope Pius XI. In 1931, Pius XI declared St. Robert Bellarmine a Doctor of the Church.
We can ask St. Robert to help us realize how important our religious instruction classes are. We should make an effort to be on time for classes, to pay attention and complete our assignments, and to take the study of our faith seriously.