WHILE N. [St. Robert refers to himself with the letter “N”] was still a boy, I think of five or six years, he used to speak publicly, and, on a footstool turned upside down, clothed with a string, he began to speak on the Lord’s passion. He had no subtle and lofty genius, but was accommodated to all things that he should be equally adept to take on all disciplines. In youth, he began to love poetry, and consumed a great part of the night in reading Vergil, with whom he has such familiarity that he used no word in his poems that was not Vergilian.
The first poem he wrote was on virginity, and the capital letters rendered it, Virginitas. When he was only a youth of 16, he wrote an eclogue on the death of Cardinal De Nobili, which was recited publicly. He wrote at the same time many poems in Latin and in Italian, and especially books which he did not bring to completion because they were obstacles which were strewn before him to prevent him from entering the Society of Jesus. He not only left these books, written in Vergilian style, unfinished but he even burned them because he was ashamed to have written on such matters.…Before he left Mondovì, or Mons Regalis, a humorous incident happened to him. He was a companion of Fr. Rector to visit the Dominicans. The Prior of the Dominicans invited the Rector to drink, and when he agreed, the Prior said about N., whom he did not know: “Well, your companion, this little brother here, will be glad of a drink.The next day, that Prior came to the college and found N. carrying out the duty of the porter at the gate, and asked him to call the preacher. N. responded that the preacher could not come, but he would faithfully relate what message his Paternity would entrust. “No,” said the Prior, “I cannot tell you what I want, but take me to the preacher, or call him to me.” “I already said,” N. replied, “The preacher will not come,” and when the Prior insisted, N. was compelled to say, “I am whom you seek, and I cannot come, because I am here.” Then the prior blushed to remember the impertinent joke of the previous day, and humbly begged forgiveness, and asked if N. would preach on Christmas, when he would publish a Papal Bull containing indulgences for almsgiving, made for the support of the general chapter of the Dominicans that was going to be held, which N. promised he would do, and did.
The Autobiography of St. Robert Bellarmine!
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Bellarmine never set out to compose any writings, but always did so out of obedience. He wrote his autobiography for 2 of his brother Jesuits out of courtesy for their request to have an account of his life. Though he never intended it for any eyes but theirs, it was discovered and published in the 18th century, and became a great success. It is a brief and simple account of the life and travails of a great soul that loved Jesus Christ above all things.
During another chaotic time in the Church, St Philip Neri used to tell his directees that he didn’t care what they read, as long as the author’s name began with the letters ST. That advice is just as helpful today as it was then, and with his Bellarmine Project, Ryan Grant is making the writings of one such author, the great Doctor of the Church St Robert Bellarmine, available to the English speaking public. -Fr. Philip Wolfe, from the Foreword