Saint Cajetan

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Saint Cajetan, oil on canvas by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770); from the Angelo Antonio Rosea collection; entered the collection of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1862.

Saint Cajetan was born into high nobility as Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene on October 6, 1480, in Vicenza, a city in the Veneto Region of northeastern Italy, to Gaspar the Lord or Thiene and Mary Porta. He is the patron saint of those unemployed and seeking jobs, gamblers, document controllers, bankers, workers, and good fortune, and of the nation of Argentina. He was an Italian Catholic priest, the co-founder of the Order of Theatines, and became a prominent religious figure during the Catholic Counter-Reformation, in stark contrast to his quiet and reserved nature. He was predisposed to piety by his mother and aspired to lead a spiritual life like that of Saint Francis of Assisi, giving up his noble birthright and money in favor of a life of Christian devotion. Saint Cajetan's feast day is celebrated annually on August 7th.

Cajetan studied law in Padua and received his degree in 1504 in civil and canon law – a subset of laws made by Christian churches for the governance of the church -- at the age of 24, soon after accepting employment as an appointed prothonotary, or clerk, for Pope Julius II with the Church in Rome. In 1506 he took on a diplomatic role in support of the Pope with whom he helped reconcile territorial disputes surrounding the Republic of Venice. With the death of Pope Julius II in 1513, Cajetan departed the papal court. Soon thereafter he became associated with the Oratory of Divine Love in Rome – and organization where both church dignitaries and laymen met to discuss Church reform – with which he was ordained a priest in 1516. Cajetan was called back to Vicenza upon the death of his mother. While there he founded a hospital for those with incurable diseases in 1522 and in 1523 established a hospital in Venice, as well. Cajetan’s interests and pursuits were as much, or more, given to providing spiritual healing than physical healing. He utilized his dedication to and membership in the Oratory of Divine Love confraternity to further his intentions to form a group combining the spirit of monastic life with the practices of active ministry. Upon returning to Rome in 1523, he soon met Archbishop Gian Pietro Carafa -- the future Pope Paul IV – with whom he collaborated on matters of Church reformation. Together, and with the assistance of Paolo Consiglieri and Bonifacio da Colle, and established the Theatine congregation which was canonized by then-Pope Clement VII. On September 14, 1524, this congregation became officially known as the Congregation of Clerics Regular, to advance the principles of the Oratory of Divine Love among priests and to promote ecclesiastical reform through self-discipline and a return to the apostolic work of the early followers of Jesus. The order grew at a slow pace, gaining few members from the time of its inception through the attacks on Rome in 1527 led by Spanish soldiers of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V who had mutinied. There were only twelve members of the Theatine congregation when this onslaught occurred, during which Cajetan was captured and tortured by the invading forces before the Theatines managed to escape to Venice. While there, Cajetan met Jerome Emiliani, and assisted in the establishment of a house of the Congregation of Clerks Regular, followed in 1533 by the founding of a house in Naples. Returning to Venice in 1540 Cajetan founded a third house, and from there he extended his work to Verona where he also founded a bank to help the poor and protect them from predatory lending by other banking establishments.

Cajetan died in Naples on 7 August 1547. His remains are in the church of San Paolo Maggiore in Naples. Outside the church, in Piazza San Gaetano, is a statue commemorating him. He received beatification on October 8, 1629, by Pope Urban VIII and was fully canonized on April 12, 1671. The order he co-created continued after his death. In 1648 the King of Portugal gifted the Theatines a college for the education of noble youth. They founded many churches, among them the Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome in 1650, the Church of Saint Anne la Royale in Paris in 1670, and the Theatine Church Saint Kajetan in Bavaria in 1690 and were the first Order to embark upon papal missions in Golconda, Ava, Peru, Mingrelia, the East Indies, Arabia, and Armenia, and Persia.


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