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Saint Camillus de Lellis

Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine? - Words spoken to Saint Camillus miraculously from a cross.

Saint Camillus was the founder of the Camillians, a religious order dedicated to the care of the sick.

Saint Camillus was born on May 25th, 1550 in the town of Bucchianico (now in Abruzzo, Italy). His father was an officer in the Neapolitan and French royal armies and though he was seldom home to help raise Saint Camillus he passed down a terrible temper to his son. When he his mother died in 1562, Saint Camillus was sent to live with relatives who refused to properly raise him and often outright neglected him completely. At 16 he left their home and joined his father in the Venetian army to fight against the Turks.

In the army Saint Camillus took up gambling and was soon addicted to hit. He also received a terrible leg wound that would plague him for the rest of his life. When the regiment disbanded in 1575, Saint Camillus had gambled away everything he owned and was forced to take up a job as a laborer at the nearby Capuchin friary at Manfredonia. Despite his continued temper and on going issues with gambling he was taken in by the guardian of the friary who saw in Saint Camillus a better man striving to break free. Eventually the friar's love and assistance brought about a religious conversion in Saint Camillus. He initially tried to join his now close friends in the friary but the leg wound that was now declared incurable prevented him from joining the Capuchin friars.

Soon afterwards he departed for Rome and entered the San Giacomo hospital, a hospital known for it's devotion to those who had been diagnosed with incurable cases. He began to serve as a caregiver there and would soon become it's superintendent. While serving others in the hospital he also began to follow a very strict ascetic life, full of penance. The local priest, Saint Philip Neri, served as his confessor and spiritual director. As news of the attention and love he gave to the sick in the hospital spread, he was asked by a group of men to lead them in expressing their faith through caring for patients in the hospital. Saint Philip Neri gave him approval to build together a community and to seek Holy Orders. A donor gave him finances so that he could undertake seminary studies.

On Pentecost of 1584, Lord Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of Saint Asaph ordained Saint Camillus a priest. As soon as he could, Saint Camillus formed the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm which is now better known as the Camillians. He gathered together men who had experience on the battle ground so that they could serve as healthcare workers in future wars. They painted a large red cross on their cassock, a symbol of the Congregation that is still worn today. This original Red Cross came about several hundred years before the International Red Cross was formed. During the Battle of Canizza in 1601, the tent in which they were using to heal soldiers was destroyed and burned down. The only remaining piece that survived the fire was a red cross of a religious habit belonging to one of the members of the Order.

In 1586, Pope Sixtus V granted them formal recognition as a congregation and assigned them the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Rome. They extended the order to Naples in 1588 and Milan in 1594. Pope Gregory XV raised the congregation to that of an Order in 1591. That same year a fourth vow was added that was unique to the order - "To serve the sick, even with danger for one's own life". Saint Camillus resigned as Superior General in 1607 but continued to serve the Order as Vicar General and oversaw the Order's expansion throughout Italy and as far in Europe as Hungary. Saint Camillus died in Rome in 1613 and was entombed at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene.

Pope Benedict XIV beatified him in 1742 before canonizing him four years later in 1746. Saint Camillus is the patron Saint of the sick, hospitals, nurses and physicians and is often reached out to for issues related to Gambling addictions. His feast day is celebrated each year on July 14th.

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