Saint Cajetan

detail of a statue of Saint Cayetano, date unknown, artist unknown; Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires, Argentina; photographed on 9 March 2013 by Barcex; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Cajetan the Theatine
  • Cajetan of Thiene
  • Cayetano
  • Gaetano
  • Gaetanus
  • Gaetano dei Conti di Tiene
  • Gaetano da Thiene

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Cajetan was born the second son of pious and noble parents, Caspar de Thienna and Maria Porta, who dedicated him as an infant to the Blessed Virgin Mary. From childhood he was known as “the Saint”, and in later years as “the hunter of souls.” A distinguished student, he studied law in Padua, Italy, and was offered positions in the government, but he turned them down and left his native town to seek a religious vocation and obscurity in Rome. Found out, he was forced at age 28 to accept a position at the court of Pope Julius II. He was ordained a priest at age 36.

On the death of Pope Julius, Cajetan returned to Vicenza and disgusted his relatives by joining the Confraternity of Saint Jerome, whose members normally were drawn from the lowest and poorest classes. Cajetan spent his fortune in building hospitals, and devoted himself to nursing the plaguestricken. He founded a bank to help the poor and offer an alternative to loan sharks; it later became the Bank of Naples. He was known for a gentle game he played with parishioners in which he would bet prayers, rosaries or devotional candles on whether he would perform some service for them; he always did, and they always had to “pay” by saying the prayers.

To renew the lives of the clergy, on 3 May 1524 in Rome, with the help of three others, including the future Pope Paul IV, he formed the Congregation of Clerks Regular, known as the Theatines. They devoted themselves to preaching, the administration of the Sacraments, and the careful performance of the Church‘s rites and ceremonies. Saint Cajetan was the first to introduce the Forty Hours’ Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as an antidote to the heresy of Calvinism. When the Germans, under the Constable Bourbon, sacked Rome, Saint Cajetan was scourged to extort money from him; what his attackers did not understand was that he had long before spent his worldly wealth on good works.

Cajetan had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. His piety was rewarded one Christmas eve when she appeared to him and placed the Infant Jesus in his arms. When Saint Cajetan was on his death-bed, resigned to the will of God, she appeared to him again, this time surrounded by ministering angels. He said, “Lady, bless me!” Mary replied, “Cajetan, receive the blessing of my Son, and know that I am here as a reward for the sincerity of your love, and to lead you to Paradise.” She then told him to have patience with the illness that had attacked him, and gave orders to the choirs of angels to escort his soul to heaven. “Cajetan,” she said, “my Son calls you. Let us go in peace.” And so, he did.

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MLA Citation

  • “Saint Cajetan“. CatholicSaints.Info. 7 August 2017. Web. 19 August 2017. <>