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Friday, 12 August 2022
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St Camillus de Lellis


It was a story of dramatic conversion. Camillus de Lellis lived in the late 1500's, and became founder of the religious order known then as "Ministers of the Sick", later called the "Hospitallers".

He was the son of a military officer who had served both for Naples and France. His mother died when he was very young. Camillus spent his own youth as a soldier, fighting for the Venetians against the Turks, and then for Naples. The story is one of drama, military battles, sickness and disease, conversion to God, and great love for and care of countless suffering people, dying soldiers, prisoners or patients in the hospitals that he founded.

Camillus was a very worldly man, 6 foot 6 inches in height by all accounts, and with an addiction to gambling that continually reduced him to poverty and shame. He lost so much he had to take a job working on the construction of a building for the Capuchins; they converted him. He entered the Capuchin novitiate three times, but a nagging leg injury, received while fighting the Turks, each time forced him to give up. He suffered much: the crippling leg disease for 46 years, a rupture for 38 years, chronically painful feet problems, and a distaste for food that caused him an inability to retain it. Yet he thought of others first, and sought to serve the sick and dying people under his care.

He went to Rome for medical treatment where Saint Philip Neri became his priest and confessor. After a long struggle he eventually conquered his personal weaknesses like gambling. He moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator. Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old.

Many joined his order to serve the sick and dying, The order expanded with houses in several countries. Camillus honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth, and God gave him great spiritual gifts including prophecy and miracles.

St. Camillus was a forerunner of the work of the International Red Cross, and he used that same symbol for his own religious order. Pope Leo XIII canonised him in 1746 and declared Camillus the Patron of the Sick.

Relics in Ireland