Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Patron of the sick, nurses, hospitals and physicians.

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.
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.

 A woman of the world in Rome resolved to turn to God and desired to make a general confession; but she was much embarrassed with the difficulties and doubts with which her mind was obscured; she was advisd to have recourse to F. Camillus; she went to him in the hospital of St. Spirito and began by telling him the aversion she felt against confession, as she did not know where to begin and as the difficulty of remembering everything seemed insurmountable. Camillus heard her with great kindness and told her to return the following day, when he would teach her how to make a good confession. The woman returned, and Camillus took from his bosom a paper where all her sins were registered so distinctly and clearly that it was impossible to doubt that he had learned them by revelation. The woman read them with astonishment and bitter regret, after which he sent her to one of his religious to be helped to complete her confession. The penitent was so well satisfied and so ravished with the spirit of Camillus that she never afterwards left him; she began to lead a very holy life, to frequent the sacraments, and to perform other pious works; after the example of her master she went almost every day to the hospital and served the sick women with maternal affection, often supplying them with refreshments.

When this woman related the means of her conversion, another miracle of Camillus came to light; for she said that one day she went finely dressed into the church of St. Giovanni, when she met two religious, one of whom, immediately he saw her, made the sign of the cross on his forehead and fled away at a good pace; on which her heart was touched with grace, and she cried out with bitter grief, "Ah me, this Father has seen my evil conscience, devil that I am!" She corresponded to this wonderful grace, turned her back upon the world, and detested her former bad life. Then when she was directed to F. Camillus to make a general confession, directly she saw him, she recognized him as the very person who had thus fled from her; she had no doubt of his identity, for she had noticed his height, his dark complexion, and the lameness in one leg. The woman persevered in holy works, always giving herself up to reclaiming other women from sin; and she was called the penitent of F. Camillus, because of her going so frequently to confession to him.

There was staying at Rome one Pietro Anagni, who was thinking of becoming a religious in our order; he had never told his vocation to any one, not even to his own confessor, when he received a letter from Naples from F. Camillus, in which were these words: "Brother, stand firm in your purpose of becoming a religious in our congregation, and if the devil suggests to you any sinister thought, pay no attention to him." Camillus wrote at the same time to the Fathers of the Maddalena, telling them to receive the said Pietro into the order. Wondering at this, and clearly perceiving that the Saint had, by revelation, penetrated his thoughts, he became a religious and persevered till death as a lay brother of the Servants of the Sick.

Camillus de Lellis was canonized in 1746 and later declared patron saint of the sick, nurses and of hospitals.