St. Cajetan’s tireless work in the streets of Rome earned him the title ‘hunter of souls’ – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) –– St. Cajetan appeared in all his zeal for the sanctuary at the time when the false reform was spreading rebellion throughout the world. The great cause of the danger had been the incapacity of the guardians of the holy city, or their connivance by complicity of heart or of mind with pagan doctrines and manners introduced by an ill-advised revival. Wasted by the wild boar of the forest, could the vineyard of the Lord recover the fertility of its better days? Cajetan learned from Eternal Wisdom the new method of culture required by an exhausted soil.

The urgent need of those unfortunate times was that the clergy should be raised up again by worthy life, zeal, and knowledge. For this object men were required, who being clerks themselves in the full acceptation of the word, with all the obligations it involves, should be to the members of the holy hierarchy a permanent model of its primitive perfection, a supplement to their shortcomings, and a leaven, little by little raising the whole mass.

But where, save in the life of the counsels with the stability of its three vows, could be found the impulse, the power, and the permanence necessary for such an enterprise? The inexhaustible fecundity of the religious life was no more wanting in the Church in those days of decadence than in the periods of her glory. After the monks, turning to God in their solitudes and drawing down light and love upon the earth seemingly so forgotten by them; after the mendicant orders, keeping up in the midst of the world their claustral habits of life and the austerity of the desert: the regular clerks entered upon the battlefield, whereby their position in the fight, their exterior manner of life, their very dress, they were to mingle with the ranks of the secular clergy; just as a few veterans are sent into the midst of a wavering troop, to act upon the rest by word and example and dash.

Like the initiators of the great ancient forms of religious life, Cajetan was the Patriarch of the Regular Clerks. Under this name Clement VII, by a brief dated the 24th of June, 1524, approved the institute he had founded that very year in concert with the bishop of Theati, from whom the new religious were also called Theatines. Soon the Barnabites, the Society of Jesus, the Somasques of St. Jerome Æmilian, the Regular Clerks Minor of St. Francis Carracciolo, the Regular Clerks ministering to the sick, the Regular Clerks of the Pious Schools, the Regular Clerks of the Mother of God, and others, hastened to follow in the track, and proved that the Church is ever beautiful, ever worthy of her Spouse; while the accusation of barrenness hurled against her by heresy, rebounded upon the thrower.

Cajetan began and carried forward his reform chiefly by means of detachment from riches, the love of which had caused many evils in the Church. The Theatines offered to the world a spectacle unknown since the days of the apostles; pushing their zeal for renouncement so far as not to allow themselves even to beg, but to rely on the spontaneous charity of the faithful. While Luther was denying the very existence of God’s providence, their heroic trust in It was often rewarded by prodigies.

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Let us now read the life of this new patriarch.

Cajetan was born at Cicenza of the noble house of Thienna, and was at once dedicated by his mother to the virgin Mother of God. His innocence appeared so wonderful from his very childhood that everyone called him “the saint.” He took the degree of doctor in canon and civil law at Padua, and then went to Rome where Julius II made him a prelate. When he received the priesthood, such a fire of divine love was enkindled in his soul, that he left the court to devote himself entirely to God. He founded hospitals with his own money and himself served the sick, even those attacked with pestilential maladies. He displayed such unflagging zeal for the salvation of his neighbor that he earned the nickname “hunter of souls.”

His great desire was to restore ecclesiastical discipline, then much relaxed, to the form of the Apostolic life, and to this end he founded the Order of Regular Clerks. They lay aside all care of earthly things, possess no revenues, do not beg even the necessaries of life from the faithful, but live only on alms spontaneously offered.

Clement VII having approved this institution, Cajetan made his solemn vows at the high altar of the Vatican basilica, together with John Peter Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti, who was afterwards Paul IV, and two other men of distinguished piety. During the sack of Rome, he was most cruelly treated by the soldiers, to make him deliver up his money, which the hands of the poor had long ago carried into the heavenly treasures. He endured with the utmost patience stripes, torture, and imprisonment. He persevered unfalteringly in the kind of life he had embraced, relying entirely upon Divine Providence: and God never failed him, as was sometimes proved by miracle.

He was a great promoter of assiduity at the divine worship, of the beauty of the house of God, of exactness in holy ceremonies, and of the frequentation of the most Holy Eucharist. More than once he detected and foiled the wicked subterfuges of heresy. He would prolong his prayers for eight hours, without ceasing to shed tears; he was often rapt in ecstasy and was famous for the gift of prophecy.

At Rome, one Christmas night, while he was praying at our Lord’s crib, the Mother of God was pleased to lay the Infant Jesus in his arms. He would spend whole nights in chastising his body with disciplines, and could never be induced to relax anything of the austerity of his life; for he would say, he wished to die in sackcloth and ashes. At length he fell into an illness caused by the intense sorrow he felt, at seeing the people offend God by a sedition; and at Naples, after being refreshed by a heavenly vision, he passed to heaven. His body is honored with great devotion in the church of St. Paul in that town. As many miracles worked by him both living and dead made his name illustrious, Pope Clement X enrolled him amongst the saints.

Who has ever obeyed so well as thou, O great saint, that word of the Gospel: Be not solicitous therefore saying: What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewith shall we be clothed? (Matthew 6:31) Thou didst understand, too, that other divine word: The workman is worthy of his meat, (Matthew 10:10) and thou knewest that it applied principally to those who labor in word and doctrine. (1 Timothy 5:17) Thou didst not ignore the fact that other sowers of the word had before thee founded on that saying the right of their poverty, embraced for God’s sake, to claim at least the bread of alms.

Sublime right of souls eager for opprobrium in order to follow Jesus and to satiate their love! But Wisdom, who gives to the desires of the saints the bent suitable to their times, caused the thirst for humiliation to be overruled in thee by the ambition to exalt in thy poverty the holy Providence of God; this was needed in an age of renewed paganism which, even before listening to heresy, seemed to have ceased to trust in God. Alas! even of those to whom the Lord had given himself for their possession in the midst of the children of Israel, it could be truly said that they sought the goods of this world like the heathen. It was thy earnest desire, O Cajetan, to justify our Heavenly Father and to prove that He is ever ready to fulfill the promise made by His adorable Son: Seek ye therefore the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

Circumstances obliged thee to begin in this way the reformation of the sanctuary, whereunto thou wert resolved to devote thy life. It was necessary, first, to bring back the members of the holy militia to the spirit of the sacred formula of the ordination of clerks, when, laying aside the spirit of the world together with its livery, they say in the joy of their hearts: “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: it is thou, O Lord, that wilt restore my inheritance to me.” (Pontificale Romanum. De clerico faciendo, ex. Ps. xv. 5)

The Lord, O Cajetan, acknowledged thy zeal and blessed thine efforts. Preserve in us the fruit of thy labor. The science of sacred rites owes much to thy sons; may they prosper in renewed fidelity to the traditions of their father. May thy patriarchal blessing ever rest upon the numerous families of the Regular Clerks which walk in the footsteps of thine own. May all the ministers of holy Church experience the power thou still hast, of maintaining them in the right path of their holy state, or if necessary, of bringing them back to it. May the example of thy sublime confidence in God teach all Christians that they have a Father in heaven whose Providence will never fail his children.

Let us honor the holy memory of the Bishop of Arezzo whom the persecution of Julian the Apostate sent on this day to heaven. The following prayer, wherein the Church expresses her unchanging confidence in his powerful intercession, is found so far back as in the Gelasian Sacramentary; though the title of confessor is there used instead of martyr, it is beyond all question that Donatus died for Christ.


O God, the glory of thy priests, grant, we beseech thee, that we may experience the succor of thy holy martyr and bishop, Donatus, whose festival we celebrate. Through our Lord, etc.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.

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