St. Cejetan, God’s Champion Against the Lutheran Heresy
After a brilliant course of study and taking the title of doctor at the university of Padua, St. Cajetan went to Rome: when he was twenty-five years of age. His intention was to lead a hidden life. But his virtues and talents were not slow to raise the veil under which he wished to lie concealed. Pope Julius II. desired to see him. Observing in him the marks of an eminent sanctity, he kept him at his court; and, in order to attach him thereto, appointed him protonotary–an important post. But the Lord had other views over His servant: these views were indicated by the very date of Cajetan’s birth. As we have said, it took place in 1480, three years before that of Luther. To the champion of error, the Lord had opposed a defender of truth.
That such was the mission of St. Cajetan, we find authentic testimony in the decree of his canonization. “His birth demonstrates the sovereign goodness of God, who prepares a remedy for evils, even before they appear. Thus, to check the unbridled fury of Luther, He sent to the Church a powerful auxiliary in the Order of Regular Clerks, founded by St. Cajetan at the very moment when the German monk was laying aside his habit and renouncing the practices of his state.” As a matter of fact, it was in the year 1524, the same in which Luther threw off his habit, that St. Cajetan founded his institute. Such a coincidence, and many others besides, made St. Cajetan be regarded, not only by Pope Innocent XII., but by the various princes of Europe and by all the historians of his life, as a providential antagonist to the apostate of Wittemberg. St. Cajetan, says the learned Boverio, a Capuchin, was the scourge of the Lutheran heresy, and the Jesuit Father, Rallestieri, declares him born to make war on Luther.
His French historian, Mgr. Carpy, a counsellor of state, bears the same testimony of him. “Scarcely had Luther raised the standard of rebellion in Germany, when the blessed Cajetan founded his Order in Rome, chiefly with a view to combat the heresiarch by a reformation of the clergy, whose conduct was in Luther’s eyes a rock of scandal. “Whence it follows that the other orders of regular clerks, established after his example, were so many auxiliary forces to the grand army raised by St Cajetan, without any other heads than Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Hence, the Tribunal of the Rota delivered this beautiful panegyric in regard to him: Zeal in defence of the Faith made him institute, for the confusion of heretics, the Order of Regular Clerks, which the all-good and all-powerful God has favoured with such happy increase, even to our own days.
This increase was not confined solely to the Order of St. Cajetan: it also and more particularly extended to Orders of the same kind, the offshoots of this fruitful tree. Sixteen years after St. Cajetan, behold St. Ignatius with his Clerks of the Society of Jesus–religio clericorum societatis Jesu, as the Council of Trent says; St. John of God, with his Good Brothers; St. Camillus of Lellis, with his Clerks to attend the Sick; St. Jerome Emiliani, with his Somasco Fathers; St. Joseph Calasanctius, with his Fathers of the Pious Schools; Antony, with the Barnabites; Adorno, with his Minor Clerks! As it is meet to attribute to the founder of an Order the glory of the good done by the different congregations born thereof, or formed on its model and animated by its spirit, we ought to say that all the good done during the last three centuries by the different congregations of Regular Clerks is referable to St. Cajetan, justly called the father of these congregations.
A proof, still more evident if possible, of the Providential mission of this great Saint, is found in his life, which was an appropriate counterpart to Luther’s, and in his works, which were the bulwark of the Faith against heresy. We have seen that pride and a spirit of rebellion in regard to the Holy See, a love of riches, and a passion for pleasure were the beginnings of Protestantism. To these diabolical evils, St. Cajetan opposed in his congregation a filial obedience towards the Holy See, chastity, absolute poverty, and the most exemplary regularity.