Denver, Colo., Jul 15, 2012 / 06:17 am
On July 18 the U.S. Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Camillus de Lellis, who turned from his life as a soldier and gambler to become the founder of an order dedicated to caring for the sick. In some other countries, he is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, July 14.
Camillus was born during 1550 in the Abruzzo region of Naples in present-day Italy. His mother died during his infancy, and he lost his father, a former army officer, six years later. The young man took after his late father professionally, serving in the armies of Venice and Naples until 1574.
During his military service Camillus developed a severe gambling problem. He repented of the habit in 1575, when he found himself impoverished and forced to do menial work for a group of Franciscans. In February of that year he resolved to change his life and soon sought to join the order.
A wound in one of his legs, however, was seen as incurable and kept him from becoming a Franciscan. After this rejection, he traveled to Rome and worked for four years in a hospice. Committed to a life of prayer and penance, he wore a hair shirt and received spiritual direction from St. Philip Neri.