SAN GAETANO
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Starting afresh in Venice
During his previous three year stay In Venice, Don Gaetano had spread 'light and fragrance' there, so when he arrived with his friends, the Venetians remembered and so welcomed him and his flock back with joy and respect, and not in words only but in deed.

The Venetians knew the Theatines were poor by vocation, but they appreciated them more after they heard what they had gone through in Rome. They had reached Venice on the 17th June 1527. Like a band of refugees, they could not find a place to settle right away. First it was at San Clemente, then at Santa Euphemia then San Gregorio and by the Grand Canal at Santa Maria della Salute. At San Gregorio they had their Chapter meeting on the 14th September to elect a new superior in place of Carafa whose three year term had passed. Don Gaetano was elected on the 29th November, then they started building a small oratory right away with the alms they were given. They also succeeded in buying the adjacent land for a new church and convent which they dedicated to San Nicola di Tolentino. They left the design in the hands of Vincenzo Scamozzi. This became the order's definite residence in Venice.

Here one could see that if their private life was ruled by the vow of total poverty, the Theatines thought otherwise about the house of God. "Let the house be meager, poor the cell, scarce the food and torn the clothes, but rich and ornate the church" - these were the precise words of Don Gaetano. They also hadn't even entered their new home and prepared it when they were already taking care of the sick in hospital which they rebuilt and renamed 'The New Hospital'. At the same time Gaetano was working spiritually to counter the heresies which were rampant around them. When the plague hit the city during 1527 - 1528, Gaetano and his band did great work with the sick. It was here at this time that people started calling him 'The Saint of Divine Providence'.
Following the war against Charles V, a terrible famine fell on Veneto. In the city, the Venetians suffered but it was worse in the rural areas where people were dying of hunger. The government of the Republic of Venice took all the necessary steps but could not hold the hungry rural masses from invading the city of Venice asking for food. This situation made the Theatine charity not only shine as usual but brought their organizational skills to the forefront. Money came from Girolamo Emiliani. He was not actually a Theatine as such because he did not take the vows of poverty but allowed himself to be formed by the norms of Don Gaetano. In fact Girolamo Emiliani branched out from the Theatine order and later specialized in the education of orphans and children in general starting another order of the Somaschi and like Don Gaetano become a Saint.

The Theatine example of life attracted more recruits and the way Don Gaetano accepted members can be seen from the denial of entry into the order of the Veronese senator Flaminio who asked for relaxation of the rules in his case because he suffered from ill health. Instead of him, Don Gaetano accepted a certain ascetic Bernardo of Todi nicknamed Bernardone because of his huge stature. This character used to roam the streets of Veneto armed with a huge cross and preaching the gospel in the squares in his own rough way because he did not have either culture or a precise rule of life. He had stopped in Venice and wanted to meet Don Gaetano who at once noticed that the intentions of this person were genuine. He told him to stop moving around and do something more constructive. At first he did not obey, but after coming back a few times, at last he said "Don Gaetano, take me in with you and teach me how to carry the real cross not this useless wooden load." Don Gaetano accepted him whole heartedly and Bernardone became so humble, ready to serve and untiring, that when Carafa became Pope Paul IV, he took him to the Vatican to serve as his personal chamber man. In this position he was supposed to wear a silk alb but he asked for and was permitted to wear his old discoloured Theatine habit. When the Pope died, he went back to the convent and resumed with joy and simplicity, the old rigorous life of the Theatine order.

It is obvious that not all those who entered the order, as years went by, had the same education and culture of the first four members, but the institution placed subjects like Theology at the top of the curriculum, so it is safe to say that ample time was allotted for study. The Theatines appreciated culture and justly taught it. It was Carafa himself who wanted those who aspired for Holy Orders to be at least well versed in a course of grammar, and those on their way to become Bishops, to have passed through a series of exams adequate to the importance of the position.

On top of these general norms was added a specific fact, the daily use of the breviary. With the wish for reform came the revision, revamping and modification of this important book, a task given by the Pope and willingly accepted by the Theatines. The breviary was considered by the laity as the priests' prayer book, but it also contains lessons, homilies and commemorations which help in the work of preaching. After a number of modifications it was submitted to the Pope, but it took till after the conclusion of the Council of Trent for it to be implemented in the whole universal church. Don Gaetano was all the time working behind the scenes in projects such as this, and many of his ideas were developed afterwards by others.

Don Gaetano remained in Veneto until 1533, founding, assisting and consolidating all the houses of his new order together with the connected hospitals, churches and works of charity.