I've seen this meme running around from some Catholic folks responding to Reformation Day

Catholic Reformation Meme

Who are these people, and what did they do that (in the minds of Catholics) reformed the Catholic Church more than Martin Luther did? (Luther is that middle square, if it wasn't obvious)

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    – Ken Graham
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 15:30
  • For a note from an Orthodox, see cjshayward.com/luther. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 18:35
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    The meme is not suggesting that all these people reformed the Catholic Church more than Martin Luther did. It is saying that all these people deserve thanks for their efforts to reform the Church while Luther does not.
    – David42
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


Who are these people in this Catholic Reformation meme that are considered more influential than Martin Luther?

They are as follows:

Giovanni Bernini St. Ignatius of Loyola St. Francis De Sales
St. John of the Cross Martin Luther St. Theresa of Avila
Pope Paul III St. Philip Neri St. Charles Borromeo
  1. Giovanni Bernini

    Gian Lorenzo (or Gianlorenzo) Bernini (December 1598 – 28 November 1680) was an Italian sculptor and architect. While a major figure in the world of architecture, he was more prominently the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, "What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful ..." In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theater: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), for which he designed stage sets and theatrical machinery. He produced designs as well for a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches.

    As an architect and city planner, he designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and public squares, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals. His broad technical versatility, boundless compositional inventiveness and sheer skill in manipulating marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation. His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the late art historian Irving Lavin the "unity of the visual arts".

  2. St. Ignatius of Loyola

    Ignatius of Loyola (c. 23 October 1491–31 July 1556) — venerated as Saint Ignatius of Loyola — was a Spanish Catholic priest and theologian, who, with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier, founded the religious order of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits), and became the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus, at Paris, in 1541. Teaching and missionary work are the purposes of the Society of Jesus, who, as priests, are bound by a fourth (special) vow of obedience to the sovereign pontiff, to be ever-ready to fulfill the special missions of the papacy; thus the Jesuits were instrumental in realizing the Counter-Reformation.

  3. St. Francis De Sales

    Francis de Sales (21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva and is revered as a saint in the Catholic Church. He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.

    In 1602, Bishop Granier died, and Sales was consecrated Bishop of Geneva by Vespasien Gribaldi, assisted by Thomas Pobel and Jacques Maistret, O.Carm. as co-consecrators. He resided in Annecy (now part of modern-day France) because Geneva remained under Calvinist control and therefore closed to him. His diocese became famous throughout Europe for its efficient organization, zealous clergy and well-instructed laity, an achievement in those days.

    He worked closely with the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, which was very active in preaching the Catholic faith in his diocese. They appreciated his cooperation so much that in 1617 they made him an official associate of the Order, the highest honor possible for a non-member. It is said that at Evian, on the south shore of Lake Geneva, St. Francis of Assisi appeared to him and said: "You desire martyrdom, just as I once longed for it. But, like me, you will not obtain it. You will have to become an instrument of your own martyrdom." During his years as bishop, de Sales acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and something of an ascetic. His motto was, "He who preaches with love, preaches effectively." His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial.

  4. St. John of the Cross

    John of the Cross (24 June 1542 – 14 December 1591), venerated as Saint John of the Cross, was a Spanish Catholic priest, mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin. He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and he is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

    John of the Cross is known especially for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and among the greatest works of all Spanish literature. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. In 1926 he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI, and is commonly known as the "Mystical Doctor".

  5. Martin Luther

  6. St. Theresa of Avila

    St. Theresa of Ávila died on the now famous night of October 4/15, 1582, the calendar reform date of Pope Gregory XIII.

    Teresa of Ávila (28 March 1515 – 4 or 15 October 1582), also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who was called to convent life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church, but not until over four centuries after her death. Active during the Catholic Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.

    In 1576, unreformed members of the Carmelite order began to persecute Teresa, her supporters and her reforms. Following a number of resolutions adopted at the general chapter at Piacenza, the governing body of the order forbade all further founding of reformed convents. The general chapter instructed her to go into "voluntary" retirement at one of her institutions. She obeyed and chose St. Joseph's at Toledo. Meanwhile, her friends and associates were subjected to further attacks.

    Several years later, her appeals by letter to King Philip II of Spain secured relief. As a result, in 1579, the cases before the inquisition against her, Father Gracian and others, were dropped. This allowed the reform to resume. An edict from Pope Gregory XIII allowed the appointment of a special provincial for the newer branch of the Carmelite religious, and a royal decree created a "protective" board of four assessors for the reform.

    During the last three years of her life, Teresa founded convents at Villanueva de la Jara in northern Andalusia (1580), Palencia (1580), Soria (1581), Burgos, and Granada (1582). In total, seventeen convents, all but one founded by her, and as many men's monasteries, were owed to her reforms over twenty years.

  7. Pope Paul III

    Pope Paul III (29 February 1468 – 10 November 1549), born Alessandro Farnese, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 13 October 1534 to his death in 1549.

    He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation. His pontificate initiated the Counter-Reformation with the Council of Trent in 1545, as well as the Wars of religion with Emperor Charles V's military campaigns against the Protestants in Germany. He recognized new Catholic religious orders and societies such as the Jesuits, the Barnabites, and the Congregation of the Oratory. His efforts were distracted by nepotism to advance the power and fortunes of his family, including his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese.

    Paul III was a significant patron of artists including Michelangelo, and it is to him that Nicolaus Copernicus dedicated his heliocentric treatise.

  8. St. Philip Neri

    Philip Romolo Neri (22 July 1515 – 26 May 1595), known as the Second Apostle of Rome, after Saint Peter, was an Italian priest noted for founding a society of secular clergy called the Congregation of the Oratory.

    Although Philip refrained from becoming involved in political matters, he broke this rule in 1593–1595 when he persuaded Pope Clement VIII to revoke the excommunication and anathema pronounced against Henry IV of France and the refusal to receive his ambassador, even though the king had formally renounced Calvinism. Philip saw that the pope's attitude was more than likely to drive Henry to a relapse and to rekindle the civil war in France, and directed the future Cardinal Caesar Baronius, a member of the Oratory who was then the pope's confessor, to refuse the pope absolution and to resign his office of confessor unless the pope withdrew the anathema. Clement yielded at once, though the whole college of cardinals had supported his policy; and Henry, who did not learn the facts until several years afterwards, testified lively gratitude for the timely and politic intervention. Philip continued in the government of the Oratory until his death. He was succeeded by Baronius.

  9. St. Charles Borromeo

    Charles Borromeo (2 October 1538 – 3 November 1584) was the Archbishop of Milan from 1564 to 1584 and a cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was a leading figure of the Counter-Reformation combat against the Protestant Reformation together with Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri. In that role he was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. He is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church, with a feast day on November 4.

Bernini (Counter-reformation painter) St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of Jesuits, counter-reformation order) St. Francis De Sales (Counter-reformation preacher)
St. John of the Cross (Reformed Carmelite order with St. Theresa) Martin Luther St. Theresa of Avila (Reformed Carmelite order with St. John)
Pope Paul III (Presided over the opening of the Council of Trent - starting counter-reformation) St. Phillip Neri (all around great Saint and example during the Reformation) St. Charles Borremeo (Big Kahuna at the Council of Trent)

Luther didn't reform the Catholic church, he got all uptight about simony (which was already a grave sin) and took pot shots at the pope for laughs. If anything, he did inspire these fine people in one way or another to be better Christians so I think Catholics can thank him for that. But, to Catholics, it's probably more appropriate to thank God for that because it's God who brings goodness out of evil.

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    Do catholics believe Luther to be “evil”?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 22:47
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    Why do you call Luther "uptight" for bolding opposing sin that was permitted by the church? Shouldn't all church leaders have done the same as him, at least on that point? And what are you referring to when you said he took pot shots at the pope for laughs? Yes Luther used comedy, but he was also very serious, even in his flaws.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 23:33
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    You are vastly oversimplifying. You perhaps need to study these, and learn what Martin Luther opposed. Hint: It was more than just Simony. that's why there are 95 of them, not one. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninety-five_Theses Also worth noting, The Church kicked Martin Luther out for trying to reform it from the inside. He considered himself a catholic to the day of his death. Finally, How many of the problems addressed in the 95 thesis are still practiced by the church today? That will tell you pretty quickly who was right in that argument.(Hint, not many) Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 17:43
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    I'm undecided: should I upvote this for the concise chart in the first half, or downvote for the cheap shots at Luther in the second half?
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 23:55
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    @Mark The unconscious irony in the answer is amusing.
    – camden_kid
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 10:21

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