SAN GAETANO
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DEVOTION IN THE AMERICAS
Devotion to San Cayetano spread in the vast territories that the Spanish Crown controlled in the Americas that is from the present state of Colorado in the United States right down to Patagonia. This sounds more like a miracle than history.

We cannot forget that in 1622 the Madrid Court knew the Sanctity of Cayetano, who died in Naples as a subject of Charles V of Spain in 1547. Theatine members of Cayetano's order arrived at the Capital of Spain to take care of the hospital and of the Italian colony established there. After the Canonization of Cayetano in 1672 the devotion to him began to branch out at such a pace from the Madrid of the 17th century, that nearly all the provinces of Spain had their own monasteries and chapels dedicated to the Saint of Divine Providence.

The Spaniards who, in that century traveled to the New world or 'New Spain' as they called it, did so embarking from Seville. They disembarked in Veracruz and spread out passing by Cordoba and Pueblo de los Angeles, from where they arrived in Mexico. From there the news of our Saint traveled down South through central America to South America, right down to the tip of Patagonia.

It is a coincidence that most of the more popular Saints in Latin America are Italian: Saint Anthony of Padova (Portuguese by birth and Italian by adoption), Saint Rita of Cascia, Saint Francis of Assisi and even San Cayetano of Thiene, but it all started with the Viceroys and the Spanish nobility who settled down in the new continent bringing books about Saints' lives with them to the newly found continent. Of course Cayetano's life and the first graphical representations of him arrived in this manner so that even the simple town folk could learn about him and his works. In just a short time he became one of the most popular Saints of Latin America.
Please see the chapter about San Gaetano in Art.


In Mexico:
Mexico was one of the first countries, with parts of the United States, that were conquered by the Conquistadores who brought monks with them to convert the populations. The pictures and 'retablitos' of San Cayetano that they brought with them quickly multiplied. The barroco-colonial architecture of the time reached its peak interpretation and expression in the temple of San Cayetano, constructed at the beginning of the 18th century, on the richest silver mine of all the continent, the 'Valenciana of Guanajuato'. Today the church still exists, together with other gorgeous sculptures and bas-reliefs of San Cayetano in many Mexican Cathedrals, provincial temples and museums. Mexico remembers San Cayetano through paintings in many parts of the land and here too he is considered as the Saint of Divine Providence.

But the cult of San Cayetano was not brought over by the Theatines. It was Eusebio Francisco Kino a Jesuit priest, originally from the area of Trento in Italy who arrived in New Spain in 1681 with other missionaries, on the Santa Cruz River, between 1691 and 1699, and formalized, among other missions, the one of San Cayetano de Tumacacori.

We will never know who the first Spaniard was who arrived with the biography and pictures of San Cayetano in his possession, but from Mexico the devotion to San Cayetano went spreading out; from the present State of Chiapas to Santa Fe of New Mexico and in the North American State of Colorado. From Merida, Campeche and Veracruz to the states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Colima and Sinaloa. In the states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Aguascalientes, Durango, Chihuahua, etc. the presence of San Cayetano is even today, abundant and documentable.

In Peru:
San Cayetano is known and venerated In Lima, Cuzco and Cajamarca of present Peru. Nowadays there are some Baroque images of him still existing, that go back to the time of the Colony. These are still the object of veneration by a multitude of Christian devotees. It is interesting also to remember the attempt of a priest of the 'Oratorio' of Saint Philip Neri, Father Gregorio Casanas, to found a Theatine monastery in Lima: "the Convent existed from 1688 spending 70,000 pesos and holding close to sixteen nuns with the habit and Rules of San Cayetano, but neither the Viceroy, nor the Archbishop nor the Town hall favoured the foundation which led to its closing in 1709". In this country San Cayetano is very popular among retailers and cattle dealers.


In Brazil:
In Brazil the devotion to Sao Caetano from 1631 on is documented. Today the name of the Saint is the name of a great City: 'Sao Caetano do Sul', in greater Sao Paulo. In 1980 the City had 162,758 inhabitants, covering an area of 15,185 square km. Just within the metropolitan area of Sao Paulo there are 12 streets with the name of San Cayetano.


In Nicaragua:
Here his feast is celebrated on the 7th of August every year and here San Cayetano is known as the Father of Divine Providence. In east Nicaragua, without doubt, the reason for devotion towards him is that it suffers from a high index of unemployment.
The intercession of this Saint before God is witnessed according to the miracles attributed to him in the supplying of urgent necessities, like work and food. "San Cayetano has the particularity of being a Saint who intercedes before the Providence of God, to bring to the supplicant what is requested, those who do not have anything to eat, to drink, or who are unemployed", indicated father Oscar Castle, vicar of the church of San Agustˆ‚n, located in Altamira.


In Argentina:
The devotion to San Cayetano probably spread through Latin America, by the action of the Society of Jesus, who had a habit of putting his image on church altars along with that of St.Ignatius of Loyola. In Argentina, Sor Maria Antonia de la Paz y Figueroa continued the spiritual work of the Jesuits after their expulsion, and brought to Buenos Aires devotion to their images which in 1795 were placed in the Retreat House on Independence Avenue in a distant chapel of a suburb which later became the district of Liniers. The Saint is now the object of much devotion by the Argentinian people all over. This phenomenon of devotion to San Cayetano in Argentina is always impressive, more than anywhere else in Latin America. This makes us wonder how the image of San Cayetano came to the chapel in the first place. When the zone of Liniers was converted to an extensive 'barrio' of working people the chapel built by the monks was installed as the Parish Church of San Cayetano. This was the 13th January of 1913. It is probable that this happened because there was an influx of devotees to San Cayetano from other 'barrios'. From then on, month after month, year after year, the number of faithful devoted to the Saint increased. The image of the Saint began to diffuse, with the devotion to him as Saint of Bread and Work, in the houses of Buenos Aires, and from there extending to all the Republic.
From the year 1970, the devotees of the Saint who used to flock to the Sanctuaries of Liniers and Belgrano, in the Federal Capital, stopped bringing flowers and paper money and switched to imperishable food and other goods which are sent to the more needy regions in the interior of the country. Below in part are the impressions of a reporter present at this scene a couple of decades ago.

Popular Religiosity Forms New Social Conscience in Latin America. by Penny Lernoux

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - The first man in the line gave noodles; the woman behind him, a pair of used shoes. Others brought cans of meat and powdered milk, sacks of flour, soup and clothes.
Strange offerings, perhaps, in a traditional Latin American Catholic shrine where candles, flowers and coins usually surround the statue of the patron saint instead of cardboard boxes full of food and clothing. Yet at San Cayetano's sanctuary in the working-class outskirts of Buenos Aires, most of the worshippers have found greater spiritual meaning in a gift of noodles than a votive candle or money, for all these offerings are sent to the poorest Argentines in rural areas and slums.
One of a growing number of shrines reflecting the "new look" in the Latin American Catholic Church, San Cayetano emphasizes solidarity among Christians and poverty among its religious. It also is one of several pilot projects in the development of "popular religiosity" which Church leaders believe is the key to both a religious and political reformation in Latin America.
Second in importance only to the sanctuary at Lujan, San Cayetano is visited by a thousand people daily and some 20,000 on weekends who patiently wait for hours to give thanks to or ask help from the Italian immigrants' saint. Until 1970 when a team of priests led by Father Angel Sallaberremborde assumed the shrine's administration, the statue was so inundated by peso notes, flowers and candles that no one ever saw it. Through an education program that includes a monthly magazine, Father Angel's team gradually convinced the people that "they should thank San Cayetano by helping their brothers. Previously it was a closed relationship between the saint and the worshipper. By giving food and clothes, the people are learning that charity is an integral part of faith."
While most of the people who visit San Cayetano are workers and often poor themselves, their charity produces 15,000 tons of food and 250 bags of clothes each and every month to be sent to the interior provinces. They also finance an employment bureau for peasant girls who come to the city in search of work, a school for housewives and a local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous. Like the eight priests and nuns working with him, Father Angel is desperately poor - and happy to be so. "Every penny given to San Cayetano by the people must be returned to them in food, clothing or services," he said.
The change in offerings is only one part of Father Angel's program to get to the roots of a popular religiosity that leads Argentines to San Cayetano but not to Sunday Mass. As the Argentine priest points out, Latin America's Catholic Church has been "too European, too elitist," ignoring the rich vein of religiosity in the Latin American cultures. In denigrating such popular cults as San Cayetano, as ignorant or unimportant, the institutional Church alienated vast sectors of the population. Only now with the loss of the youth of the upper classes to Marxism or materialism has the Church harkened back to the mass of the people - the urban and rural poor. To communicate with and evangelize this mass, however, the Church has had to learn the language and symbols of the people, hence the new interest in Latin America's highly varied expressions of popular religiosity. The first commandment in religious circles today is to listen and observe instead of "imposing foreign ideas on the people," said Father Angel.


Again in the English Catholic newspaper "The Tablet": Colin Harding

Argentine pilgrimage highlights rise in poverty. Thousands of pilgrims filled more than 20 blocks of Avenida Juan B Justo in the Buenos Aires suburb of Liniers on Sunday, queuing for hours, on a cold winter's day, to offer a prayer at the shrine of San Cayetano, the patron saint of work and bread.
Teams of priests and lay volunteers, including hundreds of Boy Scouts, handed out bread, soup and tea to the faithful, many carrying ears of wheat, as they waited patiently for their turn to file past the image of the saint and pray for a job or just enough to eat. It is a shocking commentary on the current state of this rich, proud country, where a financial collapse four years ago plunged millions into a poverty from which many of them have been unable to escape, despite a recent economic upturn. More than 14 million Argentines, or 40 per cent of the urban population, are officially classified as poor, and five million as destitute.
Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, used the occasion to point the finger of blame for Argentina's ills at politicians in general, and the Government of President Nestor Kirchner in particular. He denounced all those who seek power for its own sake, instead of serving the community, as Jesus taught. Deeds, not speeches, were what were needed, he said. 'Throwing ourselves at the feet of San Cayetano is a religious gesture, and for that very reason is also a political gesture, in the highest meaning of the word,' the cardinal said.