Spirituality for Today – July 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 12

Saint of the Month

St. Camillus de Lellis – July 14

A painting of Saint Camillus de LellisSt. Camillus de Lellis

Camillus de Lellis was the son of a soldier of fortune. A large, burly youngster, he joined the army of Venice at age 17. But his violent temper caused him to be expelled, and his addiction to gambling left him penniless and begging in the streets of Naples. He was even ejected from the San Giacomo Hospital in Rome where he went for treatment of leg ulcers caused by living on the streets.

Camillus finally found a job as a laborer in a friary. He began to turn his thoughts to God and even tried to join the brotherhood, but was rejected because of his illness. So, he went to work at the hospital for the incurably sick that had turned him away. He was shocked by the wretched conditions and treatment of patients, who were beaten, starved and often taken to morgues before they were dead.

Inspired by Philip Neri (a future saint), Camillus was determined to reform the hospital. He replaced the staff with people who treated the sick with compassion and he vastly improved conditions. Eventually, he was ordained, and with San Giacomo Hospital in order, he left it to found the congregation of the Ministers of the Sick.

Over the next 20 years, the congregation built eight hospitals. It ministered to prisoners held on ships in the Naples harbor. Members went to care for the wounded in wars in Croatia and Hungary, establishing the world's first field hospitals. Several brothers died because of their efforts, making them the first martyrs to charity. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV made the congregation into an Order. Camillus served humbly for 38 years, despite great pain from his continuing ailments. His innovations changed hospital care for future generations.

Most wonderful Saint,
your compassion for the sick and the dying
led you to found the Ministers of the Sick.
As the Patron of nurses and hospitals workers,
infuse in them your compassionate spirt.
Make hospitals resemble the inn in Christ's Parable
to which the Good Samaritan brought the wounded man saying:
"Take care of him and I will repay you for it."

From Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives