Memorial of St. Camillus of Lellis

This was a night of vigil for the LORD, as he led them out of the land of Egypt; so on this same night all the children of Israel must keep a vigil for the LORD throughout their generations. (Ex 12:42)

As the Lord does, so we are to do. That night as the Lord led the children of Israel out of Egypt, He stayed up the whole night doing so. So, in memory of this, the children of Israel were to stay up the whole night in memory of the great gift of the Exodus.

In the life of St. Camillus of Lellis we see a similar pattern. Born in 1550, after his mother died when he was twelve, in his mid teens he joined his father as a soldier of fortune fighting throughout the Mediterranean. When there was no fighting, Camillus and his father began to start up gambling circles and hustle the other soldiers for money. This became a habit that got them both dismissed from even mercenary service and led to Camillus at the age of nineteen wandering homeless from town to town with his father. A couple years later his father died, but on his deathbed repented of the way he had treated his wife and misled his son, made his confession and received Holy Communion. Seeing his father’s repentance had a strong impact on Camillus. He decided to become a Franciscan, but because of a persistent wound on his leg, he was denied entrance. For the next ten years he wavered back and forth between returning to a life of begging and gambling on the one hand, and seeking to become a friar or simple laborer on the other. Finally, after many had shown him great generosity in his homeless years, with the help of St. Philip Neri as his confessor, he began working in a hospital in Rome.

Eventually, he began his own hospital in Rome and sought to meet the bodily and spiritual needs of the poorest people in that city. He and his fellow nurses, who eventually formed the religious order, the Servants of the Sick, looked for those who were abandoned because of the certainty of their approaching death. They provided comfort to the dying in their last hours, visited the sick in other hospitals, begged for food, clothing and money for poor widows in Rome. St. Camillus became famous for his generosity, giving away the food from his hospital even when their was not enough for his brothers. Whenever questioned about his actions, he would respond that he had for a long time lived in sickness and poverty, and knew what it was like. Furthermore, he said that the Lord had had pity on him then, so he must have pity on others now. Through the intercession of St. Camillus, may we too be given the grace to generously treat others with the mercy we have received from the Lord.

July 18th, 2015