Today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, SJ (1542-1621). He was a formidable intellectual–a Doctor of the Church and one of the most important leaders of the Catholic Reformation. He was one of the most powerful men in Rome, but he lived an austere life and gave most of his money to the poor. He once gave the tapestries from his living quarters to the poor, saying that the walls wouldn’t catch cold. He wrote a striking exhortation that ranks among my favorite Ignatian quotes. I’ve quoted it often, and I’ll do it again today:
What various powers lie hidden in plants! What strange powers are found in stones, especially magnetic stones and amber. What strength do we see in animals, such as lions, bears, bulls and elephants. How clever, although tiny, are ants, spiders, bees and flies. How great is human genius, which has invented skills such that we wonder whether nature surpasses art or art surpasses nature! Now lift up your eyes to God, my soul, and reflect on how great is the strength, efficacy, and power of the Lord your God.