St. Camillus de Lellis

Saint Camillus de Lellis (1550–1614) started off, as many saints do, as a sinner, far from God and concerned with his own desires.

His father was a
soldier, a mercenary who hired his services to whatever army would pay him the most, and part of the imperial army that sacked Rome in 1527. He took part in gambling and the common vices of soldiers of his day. He spent little time at home and left the upbringing of Camillus to his mother.

Camillus, tall and thin as a youth, was attracted by the warrior model of his father. With his quick temper and unwillingness to be taught, he gave his mother much grief. She died when he was 12, but in spite of his flaws, thanks to her, he had developed a deep-rooted love for the Faith. He believed in prayer and the sacraments, but prayed sporadically, and received the sacraments without consistency.

He was put under the care of relatives while dreaming of growing old enough to join his father on the road of war. When the time came, he did just that. They fought and adventured together, living for the moment.

One day they found themselves fatigued and ill from battle. Camillus put his father first and helped find them care. But his father would not make it. On his deathbed, he regretted the rugged, frivolous life he led, and with true fervor, he confessed and received the last rites.

Camillus continued down the same path but began to reflect on his ways. After falling into more gambling and wayward living, he felt the need to seek God and decided to go to a Capuchin friary at Manfredonia. The Capuchins saw the good in him, but a running wound he had somehow acquired above his ankle would not heal. The Franciscans would not keep him.

Camillus went to the hospital of St. James in Rome, which took in incurable cases. He received temporary relief for his ankle and met St. Philip Neri, who became his spiritual director and confessor. 

He became a caregiver for the sick and injured and enjoyed his work. He noticed how the regular staff gave poor attention to the patients, and he strived to do better. Under the guidance of St. Philip and the grace of God, he grew daily in holiness and would wear a hair shirt in penance for his past sins.

Speaking with other pious men, they began to make plans to establish a religious order dedicated to caring for the sick. He struggled to learn Latin, but persevered and was ordained on Pentecost of 1584 by the bishop of St. Asaph, Wales — the last surviving Catholic bishop of Great Britain since King Henry VIII revolted against the Church and established the Church of England.

Camillus was then able to found the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm (M.I.), better known as the Camillians. They bravely assisted soldiers on the battlefield and in house and vowed to care for the sick, injured or diseased, despite any harms that might come to them.

Camillus received permission for them to have a large, red cross on their cassock. On a particular occasion, a fire engulfed one of their tents and the only item to remain was the red cross emblem. It remains a symbol of the Congregation to this day — a symbol universally recognized today as the sign of charity and service. This was the original Red Cross, hundreds of years before the secular International Red Cross would be formed.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V formally recognized the Camillians as a Congregation, and assigned them the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Rome, which they still maintain.

Pope Gregory XV raised the Congregation to the status of an Order in 1591. Camillus then established a fourth religious vow unique to their Order: "to serve the sick, even with danger to one's own life."

Even though the wound on his ankle persisted and worsened, Camillus would continue to attend to the sick by crawling to them. In 1607, he resigned as the Superior General of the Order but continued to serve as Vicar General.

Communities of his Order spread throughout Italy, as far as Hungary. In 1614, he fell ill and died in Rome, and was entombed at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, where his remains rest within the altar.

On his deathbed, he wrote to several communities and people who had helped him throughout his life and his own brethren, encouraging them to continue the good they had so heroically accomplished by the grace of God.

Even at his end, he did not forget his past. "I beseech you on my knees to pray for me," he said to the General of the Carmelites, who visited him on his death bed, "for I have been a great sinner, a gambler, and a man of bad life."

Camillus was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 and canonized by him four years later in 1746.

The Congregation of the Servants of the Sick of St. Camillus, the Daughters of St. Camillus, the Lay Camillian Family and more Catholic apostolates were founded on the virtues and spirituality of Camillus.

St. Camillus de Lellis is the patron saint of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians. His intercession is also sought to combat gambling.

Exodus 3:13-20

13 Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'"
15 God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt;
17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, a land flowing with milk and honey."'
18 And they will hearken to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, we pray you, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'
19 I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.
20 So I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the wonders which I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Psalms 105:1, 5, 8-9, 24-27

1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples!
5 Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
8 He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant which he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen.
27 They wrought his signs among them, and miracles in the land of Ham.

Lord, refresh my soul and give me strength

Thursday 18th July 2019
15th Week in Ordinary Time
Ex. 3:13-20; Ps. 105(104):1,5,8-9,24-25,26-27;
Mt. 11:28-30 (Ps Wk III)

The call of Moses came in the midst of his ordinary life, as it does for most of us. The voice from the burning bush refused to be named or labelled. ‘I am who am!’ was the only answer Moses would get. Too many questions about God can be just idle curiosity.

When God calls, God wants to be obeyed! And that is what Moses finally did. God was concerned with justice for his people, and he had selected Moses to be his instrument.

The yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden light. Sometimes life seems otherwise! But he never promised an easy life or one free of pain or struggle. He merely promised to share our burden — to pull at the yoke along with us — so that we will not be overwhelmed.

He will never burden us with more than we can bear. And while we journey through life, he will continue refresh us and give us hope, courage, and energy. In this sense, his yoke is indeed easy and light.

Lord, refresh my soul and give me strength.