OPTIONAL MEMORIAL OF ST. ROBERT BELLARMINE, SEPTEMBER 17, 2020


MASS READINGS


A Reading from the book of Matthew 7:21-29


Jesus said to his disciples:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'

will enter the Kingdom of heaven,

but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day,

'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?

Did we not drive out demons in your name?

Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?'

Then I will declare to them solemnly,

'I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.'


"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them

will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain fell, the floods came,

and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

And everyone who listens to these words of mine

but does not act on them

will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

The rain fell, the floods came,

and the winds blew and buffeted the house.

And it collapsed and was completely ruined."


When Jesus finished these words,

the crowds were astonished at his teaching,

for he taught them as one having authority,

and not as their scribes.


REFLECTION: "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock."


Well, this memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) is very interesting to me. Why? You'll see...


In the last few weeks, I have learned that saints are people. They commit errors. They are not infallible.


Today's saint is one of those cases.


St. Robert was an extraordinary man. He was ordained a Jesuit priest in the times when the Reformation was in full range. Europe and the Catholic Church experienced great tumult and disarray.


The 16th century was also a time of great saints: St. Charles Borromeo, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas More, St. Aloysus Gonzaga, St. Francis of Sales, etc.


St. Robert defended the Church against different attacks, especially anti-clerical edicts in Venice, and the opposition of James I of England.


As a Cardinal he could have lived in a splendid court; however, he decided to live a simple ascetic life.


St. Robert's writings are considered classic spiritual writings in the Catholic Church. Even some of his writings might be considered as the first step in the development of rights.


In the court of James I of England, his theologian, Robert Filmer, argued that the rights of kings were of Divine nature (Patriarcha). St. Robert thought differently. He contended that political authority is vested in the people and that kings do not rule by divine right, but through the consent of the governed. Pretty forward thinking, and very unpopular in the 16th century I might add.


Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, was influenced by St. Robert Bellarmine's writings.


So far, all seems good with St. Robert. He was a scholar, defender of the Church, of the people. He loved God above all things...


The Galileo affair.


Many things have been said about the Galileo affair. For this we might need a whole semester course to explain, which at the present moment we lack. Let's just review things without sentimentalism for one side or another.


Galileo (1564-1642) was a Catholic, and a scientist. Both he and St. Robert tried to find a way to explain the universe with fidelity to the scripture. Both were searchers of the truth.


However, Galileo's Copernican heliocentric physics (the sun was motionless with Earth and other planets orbiting around it) were in contradiction to Aristotelian/Greek philosophy (Earth was in the center and spheres around it). Many theologians of those centuries explained "natural philosophy" or practice of studying nature, or what we now call physics. Maybe people thought that if natural philosophy crumbled, the whole system of theology could crumble as well.


Galileo was admonished in 1616 and formally tried in 1633, being forced to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun..


Now I should ask, do you think it was because of his views on Copernican physics being contrary to Scripture? Many of his notes were based on writings from Jesuit scientists from the Roman College. Many priests were (and still are) scientists.


So what happened?


At that time, private biblical interpretation was forbidden by the Church. He also had a falling with his Jesuit colleagues. The important thing here is that the Copernican systems was presented as a philosophical description of the universe, not as a mathematical system.


St. Robert Bellarmine was the one that admonished Galileo.


We know that in the mid 18th century the stricture against him was lifted. And the heliocentric model is taught in every Catholic school. Pope John Paul II named a commission to investigate the Galileo affair, and formally apologized about the Church's actions against him.


So you see, the saints are not infallible. Mistakes were made. Are made. So what makes them different?


In a society that doesn't seem to forgive the errors of the past, it is good to look at the lives of saints that might have been wrong in something, but they had their sight in God, and their foundation on the rock.


Can you think of other saints that might not have been perfect, but at the end persevered in their faith?

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