Thursday, July 14, 2005

Camillus de Lellis, lover of Christ, lover of the sick

Today is also the memorial day of St. Camillus de Lellis, founder of the Servants of the Sick [who still thrive today, and have a motherhouse in Milwaukee].



Camillus was the son of a military officer, born in 1550. His mother died when he was still a toddler. Following his father's trade, Camillus became a mercenary soldier while still very young, fighting first for Venice and then for Naples.

Camillus also has an addiction to gambling, and lost so much that he had to take a second job working construction to repay his gambling debts. He was working on a building belonging to the Capuchin Franciscans when they brought him to conversion.

He left the military and entered the Capuchin novitiate three separate times, but injuries from his fighting days forced him to leave each time. He went to Rome seeking medical treatment, and there became a protege of St. Philip Neri (that God-bitten character!). Camillus moved into San Giacomo hospital for incurables to live, and, eventually, became its administrator.

Aware of his total lack of education, he began elementary school at the age of 32, studying with the local children, and after long study was ordianed a priest. He formed the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick, now commonly called the Camillans, dedicated entirely to the care of the sick. Camillus honored the sick as living images of Christ.

As it says in today's Office of Readings passage, a citation from a biography written by one of his companions:

.....The mere sight of the sick was enough to soften and melt his heart and make him utterly forget all the pleasures, enticements, and interests of this world. When he was taking care of his patients, he seemed to spend and exhaust himself completely, so great was his devotion and compassion. He would have loved to take upon himself all their illness, their every affliction, could he but ease their pain and relieve their weakness.

In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His imagination was so vivid that, while feeding them, he perceived his patients as other Christs. He would even beg of them the grace of forgiveness for his sins. His reverence in their presence was as great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord. In his conversations he talked of nothing more often or with greater feeling than of holy charity. He would have liked to plant this virtue in every human heart. .....


After many years of selfless service, he died on this day in 1614.
.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He might be more relevant today than ever in light of how much gambling is going on with so many casinos. I personally developed a problem gambling with my love for slot machines (it's like a real drug) and I have read enough to know many people could use a devotion to him to help with this insidious gambling addiction.