st.Camillus de Lellis-Founder of the Order of Ministers of the Sick, or the Camillians

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  st.Camillus de Lellis

Feast Day : July 14


Patronage: hospitals; infirmarians; nurses; the sick



Also known as: The Father of a Good Death



Camillus de Lellis was born in 1550 in Bocchianico, Italy, the son of a military officer. His mother died when he was an infant, and he was neglected as a child. As a youth he became a soldier and fought against the Turks. His gambling left him penniless, and he was ill from abscesses in his feet. He subsisted by begging. He tried to join the Franciscan order but was rejected. In Rome, Camillus went to the Hospital for Incurables seeking help for his feet, and took a job there caring for the sick, only to be dismissed on account of his gambling and unruly behavior. He returned to soldiering and fought the Turks again in 1569. After the war, the Capuchins in Manfredonia hired him for a construction project. They admitted him to the order as a lay brother, but then dismissed him because of his diseased legs. Camillus went back to the hospital in Rome, where he was temporarily cured. He became a nurse and then director of the hospital. Camillus had an idea to found an order of lay infirmarians, but his confessor St. Philip Neri advised him to become a priest. He entered the Jesuit College in Rome and in 1584 founded the Order of the Ministers of the Sick, which became known also as the Camillians. They devoted themselves to caring for plague victims. The congregation was confirmed by Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585–90) in 1586, and Camillus served as the first general superior. The order adopted a red cross to wear on the front of their habits. Tradition holds that the saint’s mother had had a vision of a child with a red cross on his chest and holding a standard, leading other children who wore the same symbol. The red cross preceded by nearly 200 years the red cross adopted as the symbol for the Red Cross volunteer organization established by Swiss businessman Henri Dunant. In 1588 Camillus’s order expanded to Naples. At that time, Rome’s harbor was full of quarantined ships with plague victims aboard. Two members of the community died caring for them. The congregation was made a religious order in 1591 by Pope Gregory XIV (r. 1590–91). Camillus established more houses throughout Italy. Though often seriously ill and debilitated himself from chronic conditions, he devoted most of his time to visiting and caring for the sick and the poor. He resigned as general superior in 1607 to make more time available for his caregiving work. Camillus died in Rome on July 14, 1614. In art he is often shown in the robes of his order. He shares his patronage with St. John of God. Eleven years after his death, Camillus was exhumed and his body was found to be in excellent condition. Large crowds came to view it and witnessed the flow of a pure, fragrant liquid from an incision made by one of the examining doctors. The liquid was collected in cloths and claimed to have remarkable healing properties. The Camillians still wear red crosses on the front of their habits

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