St. Cajetan of Thiene (1480,1547), founder of the Theatine
monks, was educated in the law at the University of Padua, and
after a brief political career as senator in Vicenza, accepted a post
in the papal curia in 1506. After seven years he decided to
become a priest and was ordained at age 36. He had already
associated himself with a fraternity of devout priests, and took
great interest in the needs of the poor, the sick and the elderly
in need in Verona and Venice.
Several years later in Rome he founded his religious commu-
nity which was interested in needed reforms in the Church
through preaching and improving the state of the clergy. Cajetan
and his companions saw these as pressing needs and addressing
them would lead to true and lasting reforms. In many respects he
anticipated the reformation mandated by the Council of Trent.
His writings are mostly exhortatory. To Elizabeth Porto he
wrote expressing his own inner spirit:
"If you want Christ to love you and help you, you must
love him and always make an effort to please him. Do not
waver in your purpose ... he will always be near you,
whatever your needs. You know, of course, that we are
pilgrims in this world, on a journey to our true home in
heaven ... While living here we should strive to gain eternal
life." (2nd Reading, Uturgy of the Hours).
Cajetan had a deep appreciation of the Holy Eucharist. He
expresses that in the same letter:
Jesus "has offered himself to be our food. How wretched is
the man who knows nothing of such a gift! To us has been
given the opportunity to receive Christ, son of the Virgin
Mary, and we refuse him ... My daughter, I want what is
good for myself; I beg the same for you."
At another time he wrote: "I will not rest until I see Christians
rush like starving people to priests in order to let themselves be
filled with the Eucharist." He was distressed that so many people
of good will in his day were ashamed to be seen at Confession or
One final interesting note regarding Cajetan' s concern for the
poor. He established in Naples the first christian pawn shop, a
"fund of piety," to protect the poor from the abuses of money
lenders. The poor could leave items as security for a money loan.
He and his followers wanted to be poor with the poor. To his
relatives he wrote: "I see Christ poor and me rich, him despised
and me honored. I want to come a step closer to him and have
decided to give up all that I still possess of earthly good."
St. Cajetan and his followers earned the respect of ecclesias-
tical and civil authorities and the love of the poor they served.
The Responsory to the Second Reading in the Office of
Readings calls us to "praise the fame of this holy man and his
boundless love. Turning aside worldly pleasures, he gained
eternal life. For to him life was Christ, and death was gain".