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St Robert Bellarmine
Archbishop of Capua and Cardinal, Doctor of the Church (entered heaven this day in 1621)
I was glad to hear about how well your studies are going. I always knew God had given you intellectual talent, but I have to admit that I didn’t realize how much. As your faithful uncle (and godfather), I feel it my duty to remind you at this critical juncture in your young life that this gift was given you for a purpose. As dour as it may sound, you have a responsibility to make it bear fruit for the Kingdom of Christ – not just for your scrapbook and your bank account. (From whom much has been given, much will be expected, as the Good Book puts it.) Up to now, you have developed your gifts with admirable humility and conscientiousness, but your recent induction into Phi Beta Kappa and the “recruitment” you are facing from graduate schools may start pumping up your ego and polishing up your mirror. I would recommend reading a bit more about today’s saint and asking for his intercession as an antidote to creeping intellectual pride and arrogance.
St Robert Bellarmine was perhaps the most versatile and expansive mind of his age. He mastered (in his free time) all the ancient languages. He taught almost every subject offered in post-Reformation universities. He wrote two catechisms that have been translated into as many languages as the Bible. His Disputations on the Controversies (of the Christian faith) was an intercontinental bestseller throughout his entire lifetime. He was Rector of the Roman College (the foremost institute of theology in the Catholic world), Vatican theologian under two Popes, head of the Vatican Library, a member of almost every Vatican congregation, and prolific pamphleteer, defending the true faith against vociferous detractors from Scotland to Venice and from Paris to Palermo. On the side, he took up various diplomatic missions on behalf of the Church, was a Jesuit Provincial (head of a Province of that energetic religious order), spent three years implementing the reforms of the Council of Trent in the Archdiocese of Capua (where he showed himself to be a model pastor), and served as spiritual director for the Jesuits in Rome. Saints sprang up wherever he tarried (for example, the holy Jesuit novice, St Aloyisius Gonzaga), and he won over many of his intellectual adversaries simply by refraining from personal attacks and petty detraction (Galileo dedicated one of his books to the holy Cardinal). Basically, he stood like an imperturbable pillar supporting the Church of his age, and we still benefit from his tireless work today.
If I can say the same for you at the end of your life (may it be a long one), I will rest in peace. God may not call you to serve the Church so directly (though he may – he is certainly aware of how much we need staunch and intelligent defenders of the Church and the Pope these days), but he’s hoping you will invest your talents fully in the bank of the Kingdom, so that you and all the souls linked to you will rack up plenty of eternal dividends.