July 17, 2016

Optional Memorial of Saint Camillus de Lellis, Founder

St. Camillus de Lellis
July 18th, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Camillus de Lellis  (1550-1614). He was born in Bocchianico, Italy to parents from noble families. His father, a mercenary soldier who served in the armies of various monarchs, ignored him. His mother was no match for Camillus' strong will and vitriolic temperament. For a time, he followed in his father's footsteps. Camillus fought for the Venetians against the Turks as a soldier of fortune, and began gambling recklessly. Dismissed by the Venetians for his quarrelsome ways, Camillus briefly joined a band of Spanish adventurers. By the age of 24. he was broken in mind and spirit and completely destitute.

Accounts vary as to how and when Camillus acquired a diseased leg. As a Capuchin novice, he could not profess because of it. He immersed himself in caring for the sick, eventually serving as director of St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. From his confessor St. Philip Neri, Camillus received permission to be ordained after which he established the Ministers of the Sick (the Camellians) to care for the sick. They ministered at Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome as well as tending plague-stricken Romans aboard harbored ships and throughout the city. Camillus resigned as superior of the Order due to illness in 1607. He died in Rome on July 14, the year after attending a General Chapter there. He was canonized in 1746. Pope Leo XIII declared him patron of the sick, with St. John of God. Pope Pius XI named Camillus patron of nurses and nursing groups.

The Life of St. Camillus de Lellis: From Soldier of Fortune to Saint

St. Camillus' mother was nearly sixty years old when he was born (1550). As a youth he gave himself to the sinful pleasures of this world. His conversion dates from the feast of the Purification, 1575. Two attempts to enter the Capuchin Order were frustrated by an incurable sore on his leg. In Rome St. Camillus was received in a hospital for incurables; before long he was put in charge because of his ability and zeal for virtue. He brought to the sick every imaginable kind of spiritual and bodily aid.

At the age of thirty-two he began studying for Holy Orders and was not ashamed of being numbered with children. After ordination to the holy priesthood he founded a congregation of Regular Clerics, the "Ministers to the Sick." As a fourth vow the community assumed the duty of caring for the plague-ridden at the risk of their lives. With invincible patience Camillus persevered day and night in the service of the sick, performing the meanest of duties. His love shone forth most brightly when the city of Rome was stricken by epidemic and famine, and when the plague raged at Nola. Having suffered five different maladies, which he called God's mercy, he died in Rome at the age of sixty-five. On his lips was the prayer for the dying: "May the face of Christ Jesus shine gloriously upon you." Leo XIII declared him the heavenly patron of hospitals and added his name in the litany for the dying.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

Patron: Bodily ills; hospitals; hospital workers; illness; nurses; sick people; sickness.

Symbols: red cross.

Often Portrayed As: Man with Guardian Angel

Collect Prayer

O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Camillus with a singular grace of charity towards the sick, pour out upon us, by his merits, a spirit of love for you, so that, serving you in our neighbor, we may, at the hour of our death, pass safely over to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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