Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, at Pretiosa we make a commemoration of the 38th Master General of the Order, Thomas de Vio, Cajetan, who was a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church.
Cajetan is one of the most famous of all the Masters General
in the history of the Dominican Order.
cardinal on 1 July, 1517, by Pope Leo X, he is probably most famous among
secular historians for his meeting with Martin Luther, but he had an
illustrious career as a legate for various Popes to such places as Denmark and
Hungary. He took part in the Diet of Frankfort
(1519), at which Charles V was elected Holy Roman Emperor…a role that
established a lifelong friendship between the Emperor and the Cardinal. He even took part in the consistory, called
by Clement VII, to settle the question of the validity of the marriage of Henry
VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
But his greater fame is as the most eminent Thomist
theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages.
Due to the spread of Protestantism, “the territories lost to Rome in the
sixteenth century were no longer hospitable to Roman Catholic theology of any
variety, and so Thomism retreated to the Catholic countries, especially those
that remained under the political dominion of the Habsburg princes. The results however, were not disappointing. Between 1497 and 1499, a twenty-nine-year-old
Dominican from Gaeta in Italy lectured on the Summa at the University of
Pavia. Trained in the intellectual milieu
of Padua, Thomas de Vi, called Cajetanus after his birthplace, had read
Capreolus and so was informed about the history of Thomism and its opponents
from 1270 to 1420. Cajetan’s own
commentaries on Aquinas’s works, especially on the Summa theologiae first
published at Lyons in 1540-1541, helped to ensure that Thomism would remain an
active power throughout the tumultuous period of the Protestant reform.”
"Cajetan’s place in the history of Thomism is above all
secured by the fact that his commentary on the Summa theologiae enjoys
quasi-official status by reason of its being included in the critical edition
of the Summa theologiae commissioned by Leo XIII. His solicitude as a curial cardinal, his
commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures, and his leadership as Master of the
Dominican Order further contributed to his renown, and indeed merit Cajetan a
place amongst the most significant Thomists of the period." (“A Short History of Thomism”, Romanus Cessario, O.P., CUA Press, 2003)
It has been significantly said of Cajetan that his positive
teaching was regarded as a guide for others and his silence as an implicit
censure. His rectitude,
candor, and moderation were praised even by his enemies. Always obedient, and
submitting his works to ecclesiastical authority, he presented a striking contrast to the leaders
of heresy and revolt, whom he strove to save from their folly. To Clement VII he was the "lamp of the Church",
and everywhere in his career, as the theological light of Italy, he
was heard with respect and pleasure by cardinals, universities, the clergy,
nobility, and people. The works of Cajetan aggregate about
115 titles. The commentaries on the several
parts of the "Summa" exist in many editions.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914).