St Robert Bellarmine – 17 September

September 14, 2018

Some of the old chestnuts thrown up against the Church include the allegation that we didn’t want people to read the Bible for themselves, that we are anti-science, and that we are more loyal to the Pope than to our own country. The life, work, and writings of the saint we celebrate on Monday give the lie to all those claims.

St Robert Bellarmine was born in 1542 and died in 1621. He was a very able scholar and very subtle thinker, and perhaps it was not a surprise that as a young man he joined the newly founded Jesuit order. As a Professor at the University of Louvain he encouraged the study of the Bible in its original languages. Later in Rome he became a firm friend of Galileo and defended him against unfair attacks. His work on the relationship between Church and state curbed the excesses of those who wanted to make the latter completely subservient to the former. Robert was no ivory tower theologian either, he produced catechisms and spiritual commentaries meant to increase knowledge and devotion.

Robert is a good example to all teachers. He was keen to find out what his opponents thought but also to explain what the Church actually teaches. We need more like Robert today, men and women who can calmly and charitably correct false impressions of the Faith and put it forward in an attractive way. P.D.

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The Birthday of Our Lady – 8th September

September 7, 2018

Tomorrow we celebrate the lovely feast day of the Nativity of Our Lady. We recall Mary’s birth to her humble and pious parents Saints Joachim and Anne. But as well as celebrating her birth we are bringing into focus all the things that formed Our Lady as a young child.

As good and pious Jews Joachim and Anne would have wanted Mary to have knowledge of the scriptures. One of the loveliest depictions of St Anne is her teaching the infant Mary to read. It’s often depicted in paintings and in statues in our churches. Mary in her turn would have taught the infant Jesus, the Word incarnate, how to read.

As educators we are called to open up children’s minds. One of the most wonderful experiences a teacher has is when a child starts to read, either at a young age or perhaps sometimes after a great struggle later on. There is something clearly of God in that enlightenment. Reading opens up the world to us, imagine how lost we would be without that ability.

As we begin a new academic year let’s pause and begin it with Mary, Mother of the Word of God. On this, the feast of her nativity, let us ask her prayers that we may be the best of educators.