Saint Cajetan was one of the great reformers of the Church during the period of the Reformation, remaining loyal to the Church regardless of the corruptions and excesses that led many others to betray Her.
Like most of us, Cajetan seemed headed for an “ordinary” life—first as a lawyer, then as a priest engaged in the work of the Roman Curia.
Cajetan was born in 1480 in Vincenza, Italy. At the University of Padua, he was an outstanding student in theology and law. Cajetan became a priest and could have had a successful career in the Curia as an advisor to the pope. Instead, he chose to serve those who were poor or the sick. Other men wanted to help him in his work, so he began a religious order called the Theatines. Cajetan trained his priests in the study of the Bible, in the faith, and in restoring prayerful worship in the parishes. His followers always looked after people who needed help in the cities.
In 1527, an army attacked Rome. Cajetan was treated cruelly because he did not have the riches the soldiers were looking for. He escaped to Venice, where he recovered his health. It was there that he began a monte de pieta (a “mountain of compassion”). This name was given to an organization that loaned money to people in need in return for pawned objects. Cajetan developed this plan to help people avoid going to men who charged enormous interest. His plan was the first of what has come to be known as parish credit unions. During the last few years of his life, Cajetan spent many hours each day in prayer. He died in 1547.
Saint Cajetan was canonized by Clement X in 1671.