St. Camillus de Lellis, priest

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1894:
THE early years of Camillus gave no sign of sanctity. At the age of nineteen he took service with his father, an Italian noble, against the Turks, and after four years’ hard campaigning found himself, through his violent temper, reckless habits, and inveterate passion for gambling, a discharged soldier, and in such straitened circumstances that he was obliged to work as a laborer on a Capuchin convent which was then building. A few words from a Capuchin friar brought about his conversion, and he resolved to become a religious. Thrice he entered the Capuchin novitiate, but each time an obstinate wound in his leg forced him to leave. He repaired to Rome for medical treatment, and there took St. Philip as his confessor, and entered the hospital of St. Giacomo, of which he became in time the superintendent. The carelessness of the paid chaplains and nurses towards the suffering patients now inspired him with the thought of founding a congregation to minister to their wants. With this end he was ordained priest, and in 1586 his community of the Servants of the Sick was confirmed by the Pope. Its usefulness was soon felt, not only in hospitals, but in private houses. Summoned at every hour of the day and night, the devotion of Camillus never grew cold. With a woman's tenderness he attended to the needs of his patients. He wept with them, consoled them, and prayed with them. He knew miraculously the state of their souls; and St. Philip saw angels whispering to two Servants of the Sick who were consoling a dying person. One day a sick man said to the Saint, "Father, may I beg you to make up my bed? it is very hard." Camillus replied, "God forgive you, brother! You beg me! Don't you know yet that you are to command me, for I am your servant and slave." "Would to God," he would cry, "that in the hour of my death one sigh or one blessing of these poor creatures might fall upon me!" His prayer was heard. He was granted the same consolations in his last hour which he had so often procured for others. In the year 1614 he died with the full use of his faculties, after two weeks' saintly preparation, as the priest was reciting the words of the ritual, "May Jesus Christ appear to thee with a mild and joyful countenance!"

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1903:
He was born in 1550 at Bacchianico in Abruzzo, in the kingdom of Na-
ples. 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 after-
ward 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 Vene-
tian, and afterward 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, 1 by the
Beverest laws of all Christian or civilized nations, and by the canons of the
Church.* No contract is justifiable in which neither reason nor proportion
is observed. Nor can it be consistent with the natural law of justice for a
man to stake any sum on blind chance, or to expose, without a reasonable
equivalent or necessity, so much of his own or antagonist's money, that the
loss would notably distress himself or any other person. Also many other
sins are inseparable from a spirit of gaming, which springs from avarice, is
so hardened as to rejoice in the loss of others, and is the source and imme-
diate occasion of many other vices. The best remedy for this vice is, that
those who are infected with it be obliged, or at least exhorted, to give what-
ever they have won to the poor.

Camillus was insensible of the evils attending gaming, till necessity com-
pelled him to open his eyes ; for he at length was reduced to such straits,
that for a subsistence he was obliged to drive two asses, and to work at a
building which belonged to the Capuchin friars. The divine mercy haa
not abandoned him through all his wanderings, but had often visited him
with strong interior calls to penance. A moving exhortation which the guar-
dian of the Capuchins one day made him, completed his conversion. Ru-
minating 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 peni-
tential 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 siek 'n St. James's hospital of incurables four 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 re-
ceived 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.

Camillus grieving to see the sloth of hired servants in attending the sick,
formed a project of associating certain pious persons for that office who
3hould be desirous to devote themselves to it out of a motive of fervent
charity. He found proper persons so disposed, but met with great obstacles
in the execution of his design. With a view of rendering himself more
i3eful in spiritually assisting the sick, he took a resolution to prepare him-
self to receive holy orders. For this purpose he went through a course of

studies with incredible alacrity and ardor, and received all his orders from
Thomas GohWell, bishop of St. Asaph's, suffragan to cardinal Savelli, the
bishop vicegerent in Rome, under pope Gregory XIII. A certain gentleman
of Rome named Firmo Calmo, gave the saint six hundred Roman sequines
of gold ^ahout two hundred and fifty pounds sterling), which he put out for
an annuity of thirty-six sequines a year during his life ; this amounting to a
competent patrimony for the title of his ordination, required by the council
of Trent and the laws of the diocess. The same pious gentleman, besides
frequent great benefactions during his life, bequeathed his whole estate real
and personal or Camillus's hospital at his death. The saint was ordained
priest at Whitsuntide in 1584, and being nominated to serve a little chapel
called our Lady's ad miracula, he quitted the direction of the hospital. Be-
fore the close of the same year he laid the foundation of his congregation
for serving the sick, giving to those who were admitted into it a long black
garment with a black cloth for their habit. The saint prescribed them cer-
tain short rules, and they went every day to the great hospital of the Holy
Ghost, where they served the sick with so much affection, piety, and dili-
gence, that it was visible to all who saw them, that they considered Christ
himself as lying sick or wounded in his members.

They made the beds of the patients, paid them every office of charity,
and by their short pathetic exhortations disposed them for the last sacraments,
and a happy death. The founder had powerful adversaries and great diffi-
culties to struggle with ; but by confidence in God he conquered tnem all.
In 1585 his friends hired for him a large house, and the success of his un-
dertaking encouraged him to extend further his pious views ; for he ordained
that the members of his congregation should bind themselves oy trie obliga-
tion of their institute, to serve persons infected with the plague, prisoners,
and those who lie dying in private houses.

Sickness is often the most severe and grievous of all trials, whence the
devil made it his last assault in tempting Job. 2 It is a tirm-. in which a
Christian stands in need of the greatest constancy and fortitude ; yet through
the weakness of nature, is generally the least able to keep his neart united
with God, and usually never stands more in need of spiritual comfort and
assistance. The state of sickness is always a visitation of Gt>d, who by it
knocks at the door of our heart, and puts us in mind of desich ; it is the
touchstone of patience, and the school or rather the harvest of penance,
resignation, divine love, and every virtue. Yet by a most fatai abuse is this
mercy often lost and perverted by sloth, impatience, sensuality, and forward-
ness. Those who in time of health were backward in exercising fervent
acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition, &c, in sickness are still more indis-
posed for practices with which they are unacquainted ; and to their grievous
misfortune sometimes pastors cannot sufficiently attend them, or have not
a suitable address which will give them the key of their hearts, or teach
them the art of insinuating into the souls of penitents the heroic sentiments
and an interior relish of those essential virtues. ...


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