SAN GAETANO
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The last tumultuous days
The battle in Naples had been won, a little at a time, the initial hostilities gave way to openness towards the Theatines of Don Gaetano. Many were already regarding him as a Saint, something that made him suffer because of his great humility.

It was with joy that he heard about his exoneration from head of the order, which job passed over to the capable Giovanni Marinoni. This way Gaetano could dedicate most of his time to religious activities inside the Temple but keep other menial tasks like sweeping and doing the laundry. Now that the Theatines were being accepted at the hospital, he increased his efforts there with the sick, again doing the lowest of jobs. This way, in the latter part of his life, he returned to his original ideals, caring for and serving the sick and needy in the utmost simplicity as if it were an honour bestowed upon him by God. The end was not too far off but he still had to taste the bitter cup one last time.

In Spain, with the intention of defending the Catholic faith from heretical deviations, the king and queen asked the Pope permission to act. Thus the Sacred Spanish Inquisition was instituted, affecting Naples too because it was under Spanish rule. With Don Pedro di Toledo as Viceroy, the Inquisition started taking on political overtones, hitting political adversaries all around Don Gaetano. It was Cardinal Carafa himself who had conceded to the Viceroy the institution of the Inquisition in Naples. The clergy felt that the privileges they previously enjoyed were at risk, and the population, excited, complained with a loud voice against injustices, famines and other suffering. In a situation this tense only a little spark was needed to light the fire of civil upheaval.

A common delinquent was being escorted on his way to jail when seeing a group of well dressed young men, called for their help stating he was an innocent victim of the Inquisitor's tribunal. The young, generous and impulsive men jumped on the jailers and made them release the prisoner. The population applauded the act but the Viceroy was of a different opinion ordering them traced and when caught the three of them were hanged as an example. This resulted in chaos amongst Neapolitan society and day by day violent incidents became more numerous and bloody. The Viceroy had armed troops at the ready but the masses were full of suppressed anger and had the advantage of mobility. They also knew their way around the city and the organizational skills of when and where to build barricades. Neither side took it lightly and soon the streets were full of corpses.

This was too much for Don Gaetano, seeing the state of his beloved Naples and the broken souls of the people previously so disposed to religious practices. Old before his time, in bad health with a very painful leg, the saintly priest tried to mix with the people, raising his crucifix high and saying words of peace, tolerance and acceptance. In his prayers he invoked the mercy of God and went as far as asking God to take his life but send peace to the city. In practice he even tried to beg the Viceroy for a sign of mercy for the poor souls under his care. But everything seemed useless. If the battle subsided where he was present it broke out in other areas. The Spaniards fired their muskets on the people and these in turn escaped, showing up in another part of the city ready to fight anew.

Broken hearted, Don Gaetano felt his health ebb away. He lay down on his bed, which was just two bare planks of wood, and submitted himself to the doctors well knowing that his end was near. He had told his closest friends beforehand when he was to die. Now more than ever, he prayed that the slaughter in the city might cease. One of the doctors could not bear to see him die on bare wood and ordered a mattress brought in. On seeing it, Don Gaetano said he would not suffer penance on a soft mattress because "even Christ himself died on a piece of wood!" One of his last admonishments was the fact that no one can expect to go to Heaven without suffering.

At the point of death, in the middle of great physical pain, Don Gaetano saw the Sacred Virgin once more, this time speaking to him and saying: 'Gaetano, My Son calls you, let us go in peace'. He gave up his spirit in the evening of the 7th August of 1547.

Before he breathed his last, our humble Saint expressed the wish to be buried in a common grave in the church of San Paolo Maggiore.

The Church proclaimed him Saint in 1671, but the people for whom he was a Saint when still alive, started venerating him as soon as he died because they were witnesses to what had happened to them personally. As soon as the news about his death went out, all hostilities ceased, God had heard his plea. The people who brought about his demise and death now flocked around his corpse full of repentance.

Naples paid homage to the Saint by making peace, returning to believe in the immortal truth always preached by San Gaetano: 'Love one another as I (Christ) have loved you'.

At first his body was buried in the Theatine cemetery near the Church of St.Paul, but afterwards it was disinterred and moved to the crypt of the Church, where it now lies and is held in great reverence. On his grave this epitaph is written: 'Here lies the one who prays so much for his people'.

The Neapolitan population never forgot this Theatine of Vicenza who gave them his all to the end, dying of worry and exhaustion in a life of continuous service without rest. The square in front of the Basilica of San Paolo Maggiore is dedicated to him, but the basilica itself, for centuries seat of the Theatine order, though dedicated to St.Paul, is commonly called San Gaetano. His remains, together with those of Blessed Marinoni, Blessed Paolo Burali and other Venerable Theatines, is kept in the monumental crypt which is in itself another church and which has direct access from the square and is the centre of continuous devotion of the people. In the square, like in other areas of Naples, there is a large statue of the Saint who for ages has been co-patron of Naples. His name is among the most common among the children of the Neapolitan and provincial population.

* He was Beatified by Urban VIII in 1629, and Canonized by Clement X in 1671. His feast is kept on the 7th of August and in many places celebrated the first Sunday after that date.

* San Gaetano is the patron Saint of Divine Providence, of blood donors, of bread, of job seekers and of unemployed workers.