Today is the Feast Day of Camillus de Lellis, devoted to the care of the sick and dying.
A lesser known saint, his story is one of conversion and divine mercy.
Born of a noble family of Chieti in Italy, Camillus was a young soldier of fortune and had become penniless because of an addiction to gambling when he decided to consecrate his life to the service of the sick. He improved the treatment and care of hospital patients, and founded the order of Ministers of the sick (now known as the Camellians).
He was born in 1550 at Bacchianico in Abruzzo, in the kingdom of Naples. He lost his mother in his infancy, and six years after his father, who was a gentleman, and had been an officer first in the Neapolitan and afterwards in the French troops in Italy. Camillus having learned only to read and write, entered himself young in the army and served first in the Venetian and afterwards in the Neapolitan troops till, in 1574, his company was disbanded. He had contracted so violent a passion for cards and gaming that he sometimes lost even necessaries. All playing at lawful games for exorbitant sums, and absolutely all games of hazard for considerable sums, are forbidden by the law of nature, by the imperial or civil law, by the severest laws of all Christian or civilized nations, and by the canons of the church. No contract is justifiable in which neither reason nor proportion is observed. The best remedy for this vice is, that those who are infected with it be obliged, or at least exhorted, to give whatever they have won to the poor.
Camillus was insensible of the evils attending gaming till necessity compelled him to open his eyes; for he at length was reduced to such straits that for subsistence he was obliged to drive two asses and to work at a building which belonged to the Capuchin friars. The divine mercy had not abandoned him through all his wanderings, but had often visited him with strong interior calls to penance. A moving exhortation which the guardian of the Capuchins one day made him completed his conversion. Ruminating on it as he rode from him upon his business, he at length alighted, fell on his knees, and vehemently striking his breast, with many tears and loud groans deplored his past unthinking sinful life, and cried to heaven for mercy. This happened in February in the year 1575, the twenty-fifth of his age; and from that time to his last breath he never interrupted his penitential course. He made an essay of a novitiate both among the Capuchins and the Grey Friars, but could not be admitted to his religious profession among either on account of a running sore in one of his legs, which was judged incurable. Therefore, leaving his own country he went to Rome, and there served the sick in St. James's hospital of incurables for years with great fervor. He wore a knotty hair shirt, and a rough brass girdle next his skin; watched night and day about the sick, especially those that were dying, with the most scrupulous attention. He was most zealous to suggest to them devout acts of virtue, and to procure them every spiritual help. Fervent humble prayer was the assiduous exercise of his soul, and he received the Holy Communion every Sunday and holiday, making use of St. Philip Neri for his confessarius. The provisors or administrators having been witnesses to his charity, prudence, and piety, after some time appointed him director of the hospital. From Butler's Lives of the Saints — read more
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.