His mother had placed her little son under the special patronage of the Blessed Virgin, and Cajetan grew up with a tender love for the Mother of God, and a great devotion to the Passion of Christ. He was also accustomed to set Our Blessed Lord before him as a constant example in his own daily life, and
thus learned to be meek, pure, humble, and filled with charity towards all men. While giving much of his time to study, Cajetan found opportunity for daily prayer and devotion; and as he grew older he resolved to become a priest, and built a parochial chapel at Rampazzo, which those might frequent who were some distance from the parish church.
At twenty-eight years of age he went to Rome, and was made protonotary by Julius II, on account of his high rank. There was at that time in Rome a confraternity called "Of the Love of God," which Cajetan joined, for his whole heart sympathised with the object—the promotion of the Divine glory by the labours of those zealous men and women who were enrolled in it.
It was not then the custom to communicate more than four or five times in the year; but St. Cajetan urged that the soul stood in need of more frequent nourishment, and by his entreaty and example many pious persons became monthly communicants, while some even received the Holy Eucharist weekly. When about to offer up the Holy Sacrifice, the Saint could scarcely conceal his transports of love, and on one occasion it seemed to him that the Virgin Mother placed in his arms her Divine Son. Being compelled by the death of his mother to return to Vicenza, he there joined a confraternity somewhat resembling that Of the Love of God and his earnestness and zeal acted as a stimulus to many other souls, and so much did the confraternity increase, that its members were able to undertake the charge of a hospital of incurables.
In the very midst of all this work for God, the confessor of St. Cajetan commanded him to leave Vicenza and go to Venice, giving no reason for so doing but his own will, though his motive in thus acting was to secure a wider sphere of usefulness to his holy penitent. Without remonstrance or delay Cajetan left his native place, and soon became as valuable at Venice as Father Creno had expected; but when he had been there awhile, this wise director ordered him to Borne. The state of the Church in those days filled the heart of Cajetan with deep sorrow, and in order to reform the clergy he—in concert with other holy ecclesiastics— instituted an Order of regular clergy, who should take for a model the lives of the Apostles.
This Order was approved by Pope Clement VII in 1524, and Caralfa, the Archbishop of Theate (now called Chieti), was chosen as first general, and thus the priests were called by the name of Theatins. Their principal work was the preaching of the Gospel, the opposition
of error, the help of the sick, and the effort to bring people to a more frequent reception of the Sacraments. At first they dwelt in a house in Borne, but their number increased so rapidly that they had to take a larger house on Monte Pincio. Great suffering fell on the new Order at the time when the Constable Bourbon led an army against Borne, committing there the most horrible outrages. The Lutherans and other enemies of the Church composed this army, and were guilty of greater cruelties than even Goths or Yandals had been known to perpetrate.
The Pope and Cardinals were forced to retreat to the Castle of St. Angelo, and the house of the Theatins was almost destroyed, for these robbers had supposed that Cajetan had great treasures there; and when they were not found, he was scourged and tortured, in the hope of making him reveal where this wealth was concealed. He bore this cruel treatment without a murmur; but when the soldiers retired he made his escape with his companions and took refuge in Venice where a house and church were given them. The Bishop of Theate having fulfilled the term of his superiority, Cajetan was elected in his place for three years.
Being sent to found a house of the Order at Naples, the Count of Oppido wished to endow it with lands, but Cajetan refused.
"What security have you, good Father, that you will be able to obtain daily sustenance?"
asked the Count.
"But what security have you, my lord?" replied Cajetan.
"Oh, as for me, I trust that my farmers will pay their rent."
"But if the crops fail they will not be able to pay it . "
"We must trust God to give us the seasons," said the Count; whereat Cajetan smiled and exclaimed,
"So, so. It comes to trust in God as the root of all security." Still the Count hesitated, reminding Cajetan that though Venice was a large and wealthy city, Naples was poor; but the Saint had an answer ready for him.
"The God of Venice is the God also of Naples," he said. The zeal of Cajetan for souls was such that he was called in Naples "The soul-hunter." This zeal, this intense desire to bring men to know the love of God, made his sorrow at the sight of sin most keen, and especially did he grieve over the laxity of the clergy. One day, as he thought of these scandals, he had a vision of Christ bowed beneath the weight of His Cross, with tears and blood disfiguring His face, and as he gazed, he saw that Divine Master beckon him to approach, and He then laid the edge of the Cross on the shoulder of His servant. Cajetan felt as if its weight crushed him, and he understood how the evil in the Church was falling heavily and painfully upon the Saviour, (what must our dear Saviour be suffering today?) as one more of His many sufferings. Being worn out with trials, labour, and austerities, Cajetan knew that his end was approaching; but he could not be persuaded to lie upon a bed during his last sickness.
"My Saviour died on a cross, suffer me at least to die upon ashes," he said; his will was granted him, and lying on sackcloth strewn with ashes, he received the last Sacraments of the Church, and expired on the 7th August, 1547. His remains were laid in the church of St. Paul at Naples, and are there to the present day.
Source: Stories of the Saints, 1878
A coloring picture of St. Cajetan can be found below.