mercredi 18 juillet 2012

Saint CAMILLO (CAMILLE) de LELLIS, prêtre, fondateur et confesseur

Saint Camillo de Lellis, Chiesa Santa Maria Maddalena


Saint Camille de Lellis

Fondateur des Clercs réguliers pour le service des malades (+1614)
Cet adolescent italien, orphelin et sans fortune, eut une jeunesse dissipée. Il s'engagea dans l'armée espagnole pour combattre les Turcs. Un jour de malchance, il perd au jeu tout ce qu'il possède. On le renvoie de l'armée. Il fait alors tous les métiers pour aboutir comme homme de service dans un couvent de capucins. Et c'est là qu'il se convertit. Comme il ne fait rien à moitié, il y demande son admission. Mais un ulcère incurable à la jambe lui interdit l'état religieux. Camille entre à l'hôpital Saint-Jacques de Rome pour se faire soigner. Il est si frappé par la détresse des autres malades qu'il s'y engage comme infirmier. L'indifférence de ses collègues vis-à-vis des malades le bouleverse. Il entreprend de réformer tout cela. En prenant soin des malades, ce sont les plaies du Christ qu'il soigne. Sa charité rayonnante lui attire de jeunes disciples. Ces volontaires, qui se réunissent pour prier ensemble et rivalisent de tendresse envers les malades, constituent le noyau initial des Clercs Réguliers des Infirmes que l'on appellera familièrement par la suite les "Camilliens". La mission de ces nouveaux religieux, pères et frères, est "l'exercice des œuvres spirituelles et corporelles de miséricorde envers les malades, même atteints de la peste, tant dans les hôpitaux et prisons que dans les maisons privées, partout où il faudra." Pour mieux établir son Institut, Camille devint prêtre. Partout où se déclare une peste, il accourt ou envoie ses frères. Il finit par mourir d'épuisement à Rome.

Toute sa vie, il fut un homme très charitable. L'importance des réformes qu'il entreprit dans l'assistance hospitalière en fait le précurseur de la bienfaisance publique moderne... Canonisé le 29 juin 1746 par Benoît XIV, le titre de Protecteur des hôpitaux et des malades lui fut donné en même temps qu'à St Jean de Dieu, par Léon XIII le 22 juin 1886. En 1930, Pie XI le proclame patron du personnel des hôpitaux ainsi que Saint Jean de Dieu. Il est fêté le 15 juillet dans son ordre et le 18 dans l'Église. (Diocèse aux Armées françaises)

- Un internaute nous signale que St Jean de Dieu, a été déclaré Protecteur des hôpitaux et des malades, en même temps que St Camille de Lellis, par Léon XIII le 22 juin 1886. Pie XI les proclame, tous deux, patrons du personnel des hôpitaux.

Mémoire de saint Camille de Lellis, prêtre. Né près de Thienne dans les Abruzzes, au royaume de Naples, il s'adonna dès sa jeunesse à la vie militaire, avec un penchant pour les vices du monde, mais il se convertit en aidant à soigner les malades à Rome dans l'hôpital Saint-Jacques des Incurables. Il s'efforça dès lors de voir en eux le Christ et, devenu prêtre, il jeta les fondations de la Congrégation des Clercs Réguliers ministres des malades. Il mourut à Rome en 1614.
Martyrologe romain
La musique que je préfère, c'est celle que font les pauvres malades lorsque l'un demande qu'on lui refasse son lit, l'autre qu'on lui rafraîchisse la langue ou qu'on lui réchauffe les pieds.

Saint Camille de Lellis à ses frères

SOURCE : https://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/1504/Saint-Camille-de-Lellis.html





SAINT CAMILLE de LELLIS

Fondateur d'Ordre

(1549-1614)

Saint Camille de Lellis, Napolitain, fut privé de sa mère dès le berceau. Malgré les heureux présages donnés par un songe qu'avait eu sa mère avant sa naissance, il eut une enfance peu vertueuse; sa jeunesse fut même débauchée. Jusque vers l'âge de vingt-cinq ans, on le voit mener une vie d'aventures; il se livre au jeu avec frénésie, et un jour en particulier il joue tout, jusqu'à ses vêtements. Sa misère le fait entrer dans un couvent de Capucins, où il sert de commissionnaire.

Un jour, en revenant d'une course faite à cheval, pour le service du monastère, il est pénétré d'un vif rayon de la lumière divine et se jette à terre, saisi d'un profond repentir, en versant un torrent de larmes: "Ah! Malheureux que je suis, s'écria-t-il, pourquoi ai-je connu si tard mon Dieu? Comment suis-je resté sourd à tant d'appels? Pardon, Seigneur, pardon pour ce misérable pécheur! Je renonce pour jamais au monde!"

Transformé par la pénitence, Camille fut admis au nombre des novices et mérita, par l'édification qu'il donna, le nom de frère Humble. Dieu permit que le frottement de la robe de bure rouvrît une ancienne plaie qu'il avait eue à la jambe, ce qui l'obligea de quitter le couvent des Capucins. Lorsque guéri de son mal, il voulut revenir chez ces religieux, saint Philippe de Néri, consulté par lui, lui dit: "Adieu, Camille, tu retournes chez les Capucins, mais ce ne sera pas pour longtemps." En effet, peu après, la plaie se rouvrit, et Camille, obligé de renoncer à la vie monastique, s'occupa de soigner et d'édifier les malades dans les hôpitaux.

C'est en voyant la négligence des employés salariés de ces établissements que sa vocation définitive de fondateur d'un Ordre d'infirmiers se révéla en lui: "Nous porterons, se dit-il, la Croix sur la poitrine; sa vue nous soutiendra et nous récompensera." Les commencements de cet Institut nouveau furent faibles et biens éprouvés; mais bientôt le nombre des religieux s'étendit au-delà de toute espérance.

Camille, après des études opiniâtres, s'était fait ordonner prêtre, et il était en mesure de soutenir sa tâche. Pendant une peste affreuse, le Saint fit des prodiges de charité; il allait partout à la recherche de la misère, se dépouillait lui-même et donnait jusqu'aux dernières ressources de son monastère. Dieu bénissait le désintéressement de Son serviteur, car des mains généreuses arrivaient toujours à temps pour renouveler les provisions épuisées.

Plein de vertus, épuisé de travaux, Camille mourut à Rome, les bras en croix, la prière sur les lèvres.

Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.



Santuario di San Camillo, Centrale, Milano


Saint Camille de Lellis

Saint Camille de Lellis (mort le 14 juillet 1614) est le fondateur des Clercs réguliers ministres des infirmes, plus connus sous le nom de Camilliens, qu'il institue à Rome, le 8 septembre 1584, que le pape Sixte V approuve le 18 mars 1586 et que le pape Grégoire XIV érige en ordre religieux le 21 septembre 1591. Fortement centralisé sous son préfet général, l'ordre qui comprend déjà trois cents membres répartis en cinq provinces à la mort de son fondateur, connaît au XVII° siècle un essor rapide en Italie, en Espagne, au Portugal et aux Amériques. Les Camilliens portent l'habit clérical ordinaire (soutane noire) surchargée d'une croix latine rouge cousue.

Fils d’un officier au service de Charles-Quint qui avait pris part au sac de Rome (1527), Camille de Lellis naquit à Bocchianico, au sud de Chieti, dans les Abruzzes (royaume de Naples) le 25 mai 1550. Orphelin de mère, à treize ans, et de père, à dix-neuf ans, ce géant, joueur invétéré qui s’était ruiné dans les jeux de hasard, était sans ressource lorsque, atteint d’une plaie au pied, il alla se faire soigner à l’hôpital romain de Saint-Jacques des Incurables où, ne pouvant payer, il fut employé un mois comme infirmier. Comme il avait transformé sa chambre en salle de jeux, on le chassa de l’hôpital et, à la fin de 1569, il s’enrôla dans l’armée vénitienne qui allait combattre le sultan Sélim II, puis il servit sous don Juan d’Autriche mais la dysenterie l’empêcha de participer à la bataille de Lépante (1571). Il embarqua sur les galères napolitaines en route vers Tunis.

Libéré du service, il vécut plus ou moins bien du jeu. Ayant rencontré deux franciscains dans les rues de Zermo, il fit vœu de renoncer aux désordres de sa vie mais il oublia très vite ses bonnes dispositions qui le reprirent, sans plus d’effet, lorsqu’il fut près de périr dans une tempête qui dura trois jours et trois nuits. Ayant perdu au jeu son épée, son arquebuse, son manteau et sa chemise, il fut réduit à la mendicité jusqu’au début de 1575 où il se fit engager comme manœuvre chez un entrepreneur qui construisait le couvent des Capucins de Manfredonia.

Un soir que l’entrepreneur l’avait envoyé faire une course au couvent, le père gardien le prit à part et l’entretint de la nécessité de se donner à Dieu ; le lendemain, alors qu’il revenait à cheval, songeant à la conversation de la veille, il tomba de sa monture et, dans une intense lumière intérieure, il vit ses péchés avec le jugement de Dieu : « Ah ! malheureux, misérable que je suis, pourquoi ai-je connu si tard mon Seigneur et mon Dieu ? Comment suis-je resté sourd à tant d’appels ? Que de crimes ! Ne vaudrait-il pas mieux que je ne fusse jamais né ? Pardon, Seigneur, pardon pour ce misérable pécheur : laissez-lui le temps de faire une vraie pénitence. Je ne veux plus rester dans le monde, j’y renonce à jamais. » Admis par les capucins de Manfredonia, il se montra si bien converti qu’on l’envoya faire son noviciat à Trivento. En chemin, un soir, comme il s’apprêtait à traverser une rivière, il entendit une voix lui crier du haut d’une montagne : « Ne va pas plus loin, ne passe pas ! » Il regarda pour voir qui lui parlait, et, n’apercevant personne, il continua d’avancer ; la même voix l’appela trois fois et parvint enfin à l’arrêter ; il revint sur ses pas et s’endormit sous un arbre : le lendemain, il apprit que la rivière était là si profonde qu’il y eût certainement perdu la vie s’il ne se fût arrêté. Au couvent de Trivento, sa vie fut parfaite mais la plaie de sa jambe s’étant rouverte et envenimée, il dut retourner à l’hôpital romain de Saint-Jacques des Incurables où il se mit sous la direction de saint Philippe Néri. Guéri, il resta, comme infirmier et devint le maître de maison (économe). Bon gestionnaire, il fit passer les revenus annuels de l’hôpital de cent à quatorze cent quatre-vingt-seize écus bien qu’il exigeât la meilleure marchandise et qu’il refusât le blé de mauvaise qualité.

Il envisagea de réformer les soins et, avec le chapelain et quatre infirmiers, de créer une association d’infirmiers (août 1582) mais il échoua devant l’incompréhension des directeurs de l’hôpital ; c’est alors qu’il songea à fonder une congrégation entièrement consacrée au soin des malades. Pour mettre en œuvre son projet, il comprit qu’il lui fallait être prêtre, aussi, tout en continuant son travail d’économe de l’hôpital, alla-t-il suivre les cours du Collège Romain.

Ordonné prêtre, il célébra sa première messe dans la chapelle de l’hôpital Saint-Jacques des Incurables (10 juin 1584) dont les directeurs le nommèrent chapelain de la Madonnina des Miracles. Contre l’avis de saint Philippe Néri, il abandonna sa charge d’économe, quitta l’hôpital et, dans sa chapelle, le 8 septembre 1584, il reçut ses premiers disciples qui furent employés à l’hôpital du Saint-Esprit : « Parfois, il y a jusqu’à deux cents lits occupés, et c’est à qui vomira, toussera, criera, tirera le souffle, rendra l’âme, se démènera frénétiquemenl tant qu’il faut le lier; et c’est à qui gémira et qui se lamentera... Se pourvoir de pain, de viande, d’épices, de draps et de couvertures, c’est à quoi l’argent réussit sans grande fatigue. Mais le service est mauvais superlativement, abominable. Pensez si on tient a venir vider les vases de ces gens-là, à six giuli par mois ; on en donnerait dix que ce serait la même chose. »

Les nouveaux religieux n’ayant pas de chapelle, ils obtinrent le couvent de la Madeleine et les logis adjacents (1586). Approuvé par les papes, Camille de Lellis fut le premier préfet général de son ordre, charge qu’il abandonna en 1607. Après que Grégoire XIV eut fulminé la bulle qui érigeait l’Ordre des Ministres des infirmes sous la règle de Saint-Augustin (21 septembre 1591), le 8 septembre 1591, fête de la Nativité de la Sainte Vierge, en l’église du couvent de la Madeleine, les vingt-cinq premières professions purent être faites où chaque camillien disait à Dieu : « Je vous promets de servir les pauvres malades, vos fils et mes frères, tout le temps de ma vie, avec le plus de charité possible. »

Atteint de graves infirmités, épuisé par de nombreux voyages, Camille de Lellis mourut à Rome, au couvent de la Madeleine, le 14 juillet 1614, un heure après le commencement de la nuit. Quand le cardinal Ginnasio lui porta le viatique, il dit : « Je reconnais, Seigneur, que je suis le plus grand des pécheurs et que je ne mérite pas de recevoir la faveur que vous daignez me faire; mais sauvez-moi par votre infinie miséricorde. Je mets toute ma confiance dans les mérites de votre précieux sang. » Il laissait 15 maisons et 8 hôpitaux à 242 profès, répartis en 5 provinces. Benoît XIV béatifia (2 février 1742) et canonisa (29 juin 1746) Camille de Lellis. Un décret de la congrégation des Rites (15 décembre 1762), signé par Clément XIII le 18 juillet, étend sa fête à toute l’Eglise. Avec saint Jean de Dieu, Léon XIII le proclame patron des malades et des hôpitaux (22 juin 1886), Pie XI le proclame patron du personnel des hôpitau (28 août 1930).

SOURCE : http://missel.free.fr/Sanctoral/07/14.php


La chiesa santuario di San Camillo de Lellis, 

Leçons des Matines avant 1960.

Au deuxième nocturne.

Quatrième leçon. Camille naquit à Bucchianico au diocèse de Chieti, de la noble famille des Lellis et d’une mère sexagénaire qui, tandis qu’elle le portait encore dans son sein, crut voir, durant son sommeil, qu’elle avait donné le jour à un petit enfant, muni du signe de la croix sur la poitrine et précédant une troupe d’enfants qui portaient le même signe. Camille ayant embrassé dans son adolescence la carrière militaire, se laissa pendant quelque temps gagner par les vices du siècle. Mais dans sa vingt-cinquième année, il fut soudain éclairé d’une telle lumière surnaturelle et saisi d’une si profonde douleur d’avoir offensé Dieu, qu’ayant versé des larmes abondantes, il prit la ferme résolution d’effacer sans retard les souillures de sa vie passée et de revêtir l’homme nouveau. Le jour même où ceci arriva, c’est-à-dire en la fête de la Purification de la très sainte Vierge, il s’empressa d’aller trouver les Frères Mineurs, appelés Capucins, et les pria très instamment de l’admettre parmi eux. On lui accorda ce qu’il désirait, une première fois, puis une deuxième, mais un horrible ulcère, dont il avait autrefois souffert à la jambe, s’étant ouvert de nouveau, Camille, humblement soumis à la divine Providence qui le réservait pour de plus grandes choses, et vainqueur de lui-même, quitta deux fois l’habit de cet Ordre, qu’à deux reprises il avait sollicité et reçu.

Cinquième leçon. Il partit pour Rome et fut admis dans l’hôpital dit des incurables, dont on lui confia l’administration, à cause de sa vertu éprouvée. Il s’acquitta de cette charge avec la plus grande intégrité et une sollicitude vraiment paternelle. Se regardant comme le serviteur de tous les malades, il avait coutume de préparer leurs lits, de nettoyer les salles, de panser les ulcères, de secourir les mourants à l’heure du suprême combat, par de pieuses prières et des exhortations, et il donna dans ces fonctions, des exemples d’admirable patience, de force invincible et d’héroïque charité. Mais ayant compris que la connaissance des lettres l’aiderait beaucoup à atteindre son but unique qui était de venir en aide aux âmes des agonisants, il ne rougit pas, à l’âge de trente-deux ans, de se mêler aux enfants pour étudier les premiers éléments de la grammaire. Initié dans la suite au sacerdoce, il jeta, de concert avec quelques amis associés à lui pour cette œuvre, les fondements de la congrégation des Clercs réguliers consacrés au service des infirmes ; et cela, malgré l’opposition et les efforts irrités de l’ennemi du genre humain. Miraculeusement encouragé par une voix céleste partant d’une mage du Christ en croix, qui, par un prodige admirable, tendait vers lui ses mains détachées du bois, Camille obtint du Siège apostolique l’approbation de son Ordre, où, par un quatrième vœu très méritoire, les religieux s’engagent à assister les malades, même atteints de la peste. Il parut que cet institut était singulièrement agréable à Dieu et profitable au salut des âmes ; car saint Philippe de Néri, confesseur de Camille, attesta avoir assez souvent vu les Anges suggérer des paroles aux disciples de ce dernier, lorsqu’ils portaient secours aux mourants.

Sixième leçon. Attaché par des liens si étroits au service des malades, et s’y dévouant jour et nuit jusqu’à son dernier soupir, Camille déploya un zèle admirable à veiller à tous leurs besoins, sans se laisser rebuter par aucune fatigue, sans s’alarmer du péril que courait sa vie. Il se faisait tout à tous et embrassait les fonctions les plus basses d’un cœur joyeux et résolu, avec la plus humble condescendance ; le plus souvent il les remplissait à genoux, considérant Jésus-Christ lui-même dans la personne des infirmes. Afin de se trouver prêt à secourir toutes les misères, il abandonna de lui-même le gouvernement général de son Ordre et renonça aux délices célestes dont il était inondé dans la contemplation. Son amour paternel à l’égard des pauvres éclata surtout pendant que les habitants de Rome eurent à souffrir d’une maladie contagieuse, puis d’une extrême famine, et aussi lorsqu’une peste affreuse ravagea Nole en Campanie. Enfin il brûlait d’une si grande charité pour Dieu et pour le prochain, qu’il mérita d’être appelé un ange et d’être secouru par des Anges au milieu des dangers divers courus dans ses voyages. Il était doué du don de prophétie et de guérison, et découvrait les secrets des cœurs grâce à ses prières, tantôt les vivres se multipliaient, tantôt l’eau se changeait en vin. Épuisé par les veilles, les jeûnes, les fatigues continuelles, et semblant ne plus avoir que la peau et les os, il supporta courageusement cinq maladies longues et fâcheuses, qu’il appelait des miséricordes du Seigneur. A l’âge de soixante cinq ans, au moment où il prononçait les noms si suaves de Jésus et de Marie, et ces paroles : « Que le visage du Christ Jésus t’apparaisse doux et joyeux » il s’endormit dans le Seigneur, muni des sacrements de l’Église, à Rome, à l’heure qu’il avait prédite, la veille des ides de juillet, l’an du salut mil six cent quatorze. De nombreux miracles l’ont rendu illustre, et Benoît XIV l’a inscrit solennellement dans les fastes des Saints. Léon XIII, se rendant au vœu des saints Évêques de l’Univers catholique, après avoir consulté la Congrégation des rites, l’a déclaré le céleste Patron de tous les hospitaliers et des malades du monde entier, et il a ordonné que l’on invoquât son nom dans les Litanies des agonisants.

Au troisième nocturne.

Lecture du saint Évangile selon saint Jean. Cap. 15, 12-16.

En ce temps-là : Jésus dit à ses disciples : Ceci est mon commandement : que vous vous aimiez les uns les autres, comme je vous ai aimés. Et le reste.

Homélie de saint Augustin, Évêque. Tract. 83 in Joannem

Septième leçon. Que pensons-nous, mes frères ? Est-ce que le précepte qui veut qu’on s’entr’aime est le seul ? Et n’y en a-t-il pas un autre plus grand, celui d’aimer Dieu ? Ou plutôt Dieu ne nous a-t-il rien commandé de plus que la dilection, en sorte que nous n’ayons aucun souci du reste ? Évidemment l’Apôtre recommande trois choses, quand il dit : « La foi, l’espérance, la charité demeurent ; elles sont trois, mais la plus grande des trois, c’est la charité » [1]. Et si la charité ou dilection, parce qu’elle renferme ces deux préceptes, est donnée comme étant plus grande, elle n’est pas donnée comme étant seule. Ainsi au sujet de la foi, quel nombre de commandements y a-t-il ? Quel nombre aussi en ce qui touche l’espérance ? Qui peut les rassembler tous ? Qui peut suffire à les énumérer ? Mais étudions cette parole du même Apôtre : « La charité est la plénitude de la loi » [2].

Huitième leçon. Là où se trouve la charité, que peut-il donc manquer ? et où elle n’existe pas, que peut-il y avoir de profitable ? Le démon croit, mais il n’aime pas, l’homme qui ne croit pas, n’aime pas non plus. De même l’homme qui n’aime pas, quoique l’espérance du pardon ne lui soit pas enlevée, l’espère en vain ; mais celui qui aime, ne peut désespérer. Ainsi où est la dilection, se trouvent la foi et l’espérance ; et là où est l’amour du prochain se trouve nécessairement aussi l’amour de Dieu. En effet, comment celui qui n’aime pas Dieu aimerait-il le prochain comme lui-même ; puisqu’il ne s’aime pas soi-même, impie qu’il est et ami de l’iniquité ? Or celui qui aime l’iniquité, celui-là, à coup sûr, n’aime pas son âme, il la hait au contraire [3].

Neuvième leçon. Observons donc le précepte d’aimer le Seigneur afin de nous entr’aimer, et par là nous accomplirons tout le reste, puisque tout le reste y est compris. Car l’amour de Dieu se distingue de l’amour du prochain, et le Sauveur a marqué cette distinction en ajoutant : « Comme je vous ai aimés » [4] ; or à quelle fin le Christ nous aime-t-il, si ce n’est pour que nous puissions régner avec lui ? Aimons-nous donc les uns les autres de manière à nous distinguer du reste des hommes, qui ne peuvent aimer les autres, par la raison qu’ils ne s’aiment pas eux-mêmes. Quant à ceux qui s’aiment en vue de posséder Dieu, ils s’aiment véritablement. Ainsi donc, qu’ils aiment Dieu pour s’aimer. Un tel amour n’existe pas chez tous les hommes ; il en est peu qui s’aiment afin que Dieu soit tout en tous.

[1] I Cor. 13, 13.

[2] Rom. 13, 10.

[3] Ps. 10, 6.

[4] Jn. 15, 12.



Cripta del Santuario di San Camillo de Lellis a Bucchianico


Dom Guéranger, l’Année Liturgique

Ne croyons pas que l’Esprit-Saint, dans son désir d’élever nos âmes au-dessus de la terre, n’ait que mépris pour les corps. C’est l’homme tout entier qu’il a reçu mission de conduire à l’éternité bienheureuse, comme tout entier l’homme est sa créature et son temple [5]. Dans l’ordre de la création matérielle, le corps de l’Homme-Dieu fut son chef d’œuvre ; et la divine complaisance qu’il prend dans ce corps très parfait du chef de notre race, rejaillit sur les nôtres dont ce même corps, formé par lui au sein de la Vierge toute pure, a été dès le commencement le modèle. Dans l’ordre de réhabilitation qui suivit la chute, le corps de l’Homme-Dieu fournit la rançon du monde ; et telle est l’économie du salut, que la vertu du sang rédempteur n’arrive à l’âme de chacun de nous qu’en passant par nos corps avec les divins sacrements, qui tous s’adressent aux sens pour leur demander l’entrée. Admirable harmonie de la nature et de la grâce, qui fait qu’elle-même celle-ci honore l’élément matériel de notre être au point de ne vouloir élever l’âme qu’avec lui vers la lumière et les cieux ! Car dans cet insondable mystère de la sanctification, les sens ne sont point seulement un passage : eux-mêmes éprouvent l’énergie du sacrement, comme les facultés supérieures dont ils sont les avenues ; et l’âme sanctifiée voit dès ce monde l’humble compagnon de son pèlerinage associé à cette dignité de la filiation divine, dont l’éclat de nos corps après la résurrection ne sera que l’épanouissement.

C’est la raison qui élève à la divine noblesse de la sainte chargé les soins donnés au prochain dans son corps ; car, inspirés par ce motif, ils ne sont autres que l’entrée en participation de l’amour dont le Père souverain entoure ces membres, qui sont pour lui les membres d’autant de fils bien-aimés. J’ai été malade et vous m’avez visité [6], dira le Seigneur au dernier des jours, montrant bien qu’en effet, dans les infirmités mêmes de la déchéance et de l’exil, le corps de ceux qu’il daigne appeler ses frères [7] participe de la propre dignité du Fils unique engendré au sein du Père avant tous les âges. Aussi l’Esprit, chargé de rappeler les paroles du Sauveur à l’Église [8], n’a-t-il eu garde d’oublier celle-ci ; tombée dans la bonne terre des âmes d’élite [9] elle a produit cent pour un en fruits de grâce et d’héroïque dévouement. Camille de Lellis l’a recueillie avec amour ; et par ses soins la divine semence est devenue un grand arbre [10] offrant son ombre aux oiseaux fatigués qu’arrête plus ou moins longuement la souffrance, ou pour lesquels l’heure du dernier repos va sonner. L’Ordre des Clercs réguliers Ministres des infirmes, ou du bien mourir, mérite la reconnaissance de la terre ; depuis longtemps celle des cieux lui est acquise, et les Anges sont ses associés, comme on l’a vu plus d’une fois au chevet des mourants.

Ange de la charité, quelles voies ont été les vôtres sous la conduite du divin Esprit ! Il fallut un long temps avant que la vision de votre pieuse mère, quand elle vous portait, se réalisât : avant de paraître orné du signe de la Croix et d’enrôler des compagnons sous cette marque sacrée, vous connûtes la tyrannie du maître odieux qui ne veut que des esclaves sous son étendard, et la passion du jeu faillit vous perdre. O Camille, à la pensée du péril encouru alors, ayez pitié des malheureux que domine l’impérieuse passion, arrachez-les à la fureur funeste qui jette en proie au hasard capricieux leurs biens, leur honneur, leur repos de ce monde et de l’autre. Votre histoire montre qu’il n’est point de liens que la grâce ne brise, point d’habitude invétérée qu’elle ne transforme : puissent-ils comme vous retourner vers Dieu leurs penchants, et oublier pour les hasards de la sainte charité ceux qui plaisent à l’enfer ! Car, elle aussi, la charité a ses risques, périls glorieux qui vont jusqu’à exposer sa vie comme le Seigneur a donné pour nous la sienne : jeu sublime, dans lequel vous fûtes maître, et auquel plus d’une fois applaudirent les Anges. Mais qu’est-ce donc que l’enjeu de cette vie terrestre, auprès du prix réservé au vainqueur ?

Selon la recommandation de l’Évangile que l’Église nous fait lire aujourd’hui en votre honneur, puissions-nous tous à votre exemple aimer nos frères comme le Christ nous a aimés [11] ! Bien peu, dit saint Augustin [12], ont aujourd’hui cet amour qui accomplit toute la loi ; car bien peu s’aiment pour que Dieu soit tout en tous [13]. Vous l’avez eu cet amour, ô Camille ; et de préférence vous l’avez exercé à l’égard des membres souffrants du corps mystique de l’Homme-Dieu, en qui le Seigneur se révélait plus à vous, en qui son règne aussi approchait davantage. A cause de cela, l’Église reconnaissante vous a choisi pour veiller, de concert avec Jean de Dieu, sur ces asiles de la souffrance qu’elle a fondés avec les soins que seule une mère sait déployer pour ses fils malades. Faites honneur à la confiance de la Mère commune. Protégez les Hôtels-Dieu contre l’entreprise d’une laïcisation inepte et odieuse qui sacrifie jusqu’au bien-être des corps à la rage de perdre les âmes des malheureux livrés aux soins d’une philanthropie de l’enfer. Pour satisfaire à nos misères croissantes, multipliez vos fils ; qu’ils soient toujours dignes d’être assistés des Anges. Qu’en quelque lieu de cette vallée d’exil vienne à sonner pour nous l’heure du dernier combat, vous usiez de la précieuse prérogative qu’exalte aujourd’hui la Liturgie sacrée, nous aidant par l’esprit de la sainte dilection à vaincre l’ennemi et à saisir la couronne céleste [14].

[5] I Cor. VI, 19, 20.

[6] Matth. XXV, 36.

[7] Heb. II, 11-17.

[8] Johan. XIV, 26.

[9] Luc. VIII, 8, 15.

[10] Ibid. XIII, 19.

[11] Johan XV, 12.

[12] Homilia diei Aug. In Joh. tract. LXXXIII.

[13] I Cor. XV, 28.

[14] Collecta diei.


Basilica San Camillo de Lellis, 
rione de Sallustiano sur la via Sallustiana, Rome.


Bhx cardinal Schuster, Liber Sacramentorum

La gloire et l’importance historique de saint Camille de Lellis proviennent de ce qu’il appartient à ce groupe choisi d’apôtres doués d’une charité sublime et héroïque, humblement soumis à l’Église, et qui, en son nom, réalisèrent dans son sein cette réforme générale dont, au XVIe siècle, on sentait partout le besoin, et dont on parlait parfois dans un sens fort peu catholique.

Saint Camille, après une vie laborieusement dépensée à assister les malades dans les hôpitaux publics de Saint-Jacques des Incurables et du Saint-Esprit, mourut à Rome le 14 juillet 1614. Saint Philippe Néri, qui fut son confesseur, avait vu les anges eux-mêmes mettre sur les lèvres des religieux institués par saint Camille les paroles les plus aptes à réconforter les mourants, et Léon XIII le proclama céleste Patron des agonisants.

La messe suivante s’inspire de la pensée du sublime mérite de la charité chrétienne, laquelle atteint son sommet le plus héroïque quand on méprise sa propre vie pour venir au secours de son frère en danger, comme cela fut imposé par le Saint à la Congrégation qu’il fonda.

L’antienne d’introït est tirée de l’Évangile selon saint Jean (XV, 13) : « Personne n’aime davantage que celui qui donne sa vie pour ses amis ». — Saint Bernard fait à ce propos une charmante remarque : « Seigneur, on peut concevoir une charité encore plus grande, et c’est la vôtre, vous qui avez donné votre vie pour vos ennemis ». Suit le premier verset du psaume 40 : « Bienheureux celui qui se souvient du pauvre et du misérable ; le Seigneur le sauvera au jour du malheur ». — L’aumône, c’est la compassion qu’on a pour le pauvre (à la vérité, la Vulgate parle ici de l’intelligence de la pauvreté) ; c’est comme un capital qu’on donne à Dieu, et qui produit un intérêt de cent pour un.

Voici la première collecte : « Seigneur, qui avez orné le bienheureux Camille d’une charité spéciale pour assister les malades dans les angoisses de l’agonie ; accordez-nous par ses mérites l’esprit de dilection, afin qu’au moment de notre trépas, nous arrivions à surmonter l’adversaire et à mériter la céleste couronne ».

La première lecture, tirée de saint Jean (I, III, 13-18) est commune au deuxième dimanche après la Pentecôte. La charité est une flamme qui s’éteint, si elle ne consume ; elle vit donc de sacrifice.

Le graduel et le verset alléluiatique sont empruntés à la messe Os iusti.

La lecture évangélique est identique à celle de la vigile de saint Thomas. La charité est le précepte spécial du Christ, en sorte que la foi catholique et l’espérance ne nous serviraient de rien, si ces deux vertus n’agissaient pas ensuite au moyen de l’amour. Præceptum Domini est — répétait à Éphèse le Disciple bien-aimé, quand, à la fin du premier siècle, il était porté à cause de son grand âge par ses disciples dans les synaxes liturgiques — et si hoc solum fiat, sufficit.

Voici la collecte sur les oblations : « Que l’Hostie immaculée qui renouvelle ici sur l’autel l’excès d’amour de notre Seigneur Jésus, par l’intercession de saint Camille nous protège contre tous les maux du corps et de l’esprit et soit aussi pour les agonisants réconfort et salut ».

Le génie chrétien a donné un nom très expressif à la divine Eucharistie reçue parles malades près de mourir : elle s’appelle le viatique, c’est-à-dire la nourriture qui sert pour le voyage du temps à l’éternité. Il existe une mystérieuse relation entre l’Eucharistie et notre passage à l’autre vie. En effet, comme l’agneau pascal et les pains azymes furent mangés pour la première fois par les Hébreux à leur départ d’Égypte ; comme Jésus lui-même, la veille de sa mort, institua le divin Sacrement, et y participa lui-même le premier ; ainsi voulut-il que l’Eucharistie fût aussi pour nous le Sacrement qui consacre notre sacrifice suprême et couronne notre vie chrétienne.

L’antienne pour la Communion est tirée de saint Matthieu (XXV, 36 et 40) : « J’ai été malade et vous m’avez visité. Je vous le dis en vérité : ce que vous avez fait à un seul de mes plus petits frères, vous me l’avez fait à moi ». Le malade reflète d’une manière spéciale l’image de Jésus, parce que celui-ci dans sa charité languores nostros ipse tulit et dolores nostros ipse portavit, comme le dit Isaïe [15].

La collecte d’action de grâces a les mêmes caractères que les précédentes. Elle manque de rythme, ne suit pas les lois du cursus et, pour vouloir dire trop, elle se soutient mal. La piété seule supplée à ces lacunes de style. « Par ce divin Sacrement que nous avons pieusement reçu en la fête de saint Camille votre confesseur ; accordez-nous, Seigneur, qu’au moment de mourir, munis des Sacrements et absous de tout péché, nous soyons heureusement accueillis au sein de votre miséricorde ».

Voilà le dernier réconfort d’une âme chrétienne : la douce espérance dans l’ineffable miséricorde de Dieu ; parce que, comme le dit l’Apôtre : spes autem non confondit [16] ; et Celui qui alimente dans notre cœur la douce espérance est le même qui veut ensuite la réaliser au ciel.

[15] LIII, 4 : Il a porté nos langueurs, et Il s’est chargé Lui-même de nos douleurs.

[16] Rom. 5, 5 : l’espérance n’est point trompeuse.



Dom Pius Parsch, Le guide dans l’année liturgique

J’étais malade et vous m’avez visité.

L’Église célèbre, les 18, 19 et 20 juillet, trois héros de la charité : saint Camille de Lellis, saint Vincent de Paul et saint Jérôme Émilien. Leur fête n’arrive pas le jour de leur mort, et l’intention de l’Église en les rapprochant apparaît manifeste : C’est que le premier pratiqua une charité héroïque envers les malades, le second envers les pauvres, et le troisième envers les orphelins.

1. Saint Camille. — Jour de mort : 14 juillet 1614. Tombeau : à Rome, dans l’église de Sainte-Marie Madeleine (sous un autel latéral du côté de l’Épître). Saint Camille naquit d’une mère déjà sexagénaire. Dans sa jeunesse, il se laissa, quelque temps, aller aux vices du siècle, mais, à vingt-cinq ans, le jour de la Purification, il se convertit. A deux reprises il voulut se faire admettre chez les Frères Mineurs Capucins ; un ulcère à la jambe l’en empêcha. A Rome, on le reçoit à l’hôpital des Incurables. Tel est l’éclat de ses vertus qu’on lui en confie l’administration. De mille manières il prodigue aux malades ses soins spirituels et corporels. A trente-deux ans, il commence ses études, sans rougir d’avoir pour condisciples des enfants. Prêtre, il fonde la Congrégation des Clercs réguliers ministres des infirmes qui, en plus des trois vœux ordinaires, font celui de soigner les pestiférés au péril de leur vie. Les malades le voient, nuit et jour, inlassable à leur service, s’acquittant des plus serviles besognes. Mais c’est surtout aux heures où une épidémie, suivie de la famine, éprouve Rome, et où la peste exerce à Nole ses ravages, que brille sa charité. Il supporte courageusement cinq maladies. Il les appelle des miséricordes du Seigneur, et expire à Rome, âgé de soixante-cinq ans, avec aux lèvres ces paroles de la prière des agonisants : « Que le visage du Christ Jésus t’apparaisse doux et joyeux ! » Léon XIII l’a déclaré le céleste patron des hôpitaux, et a prescrit l’invocation de son nom aux litanies des mourants.

2. Messe (Majórem hac). — Elle est un exemple d’un formulaire nouveau qui retrace la vie et les vertus du saint. L’Introït fournit le titre et le thème de la messe : « Personne ne peut donner une plus grande marque d’amour que de donner sa vie pour ses amis ». Suit le psaume 40, le psaume des malades. Le thème reparaît dans l’Épître et l’Évangile tirés de saint Jean, l’apôtre de la charité.

L’Épître parle de l’amour du prochain : l’amour du prochain est la marque de la vie divine en nous. « Nous savons que nous sommes passés de la mort à la vie parce que nous aimons nos frères... Quiconque hait son frère est un homicide... A ceci nous avons connu l’amour (du Christ), c’est que Lui a donné sa vie pour nous. Nous aussi ; nous devons donner notre vie pour nos frères. Mes petits enfants, n’aimons pas de parole et de langue, mais en action et en vérité ». Ces mots de l’Épître contiennent, dans toute sa profondeur, le précepte de la charité.

A l’Évangile ; nous entendons le Maître lui-même dans son discours d’adieu : « C’est mon commandement que vous vous aimiez les uns les autres comme je vous ai aimés. Personne ne peut avoir de plus grand amour que de donner sa vie pour ses amis ». Paroles à graver profondément en nous, et qui ne doivent pas être de simples formules.

Au Saint-Sacrifice elles deviennent « action et vérité » : nous y « renouvelons cette œuvre de l’immense amour de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ » (Secrète), le sacrifice de la Croix. La Communion est également très expressive : la sainte communion est une anticipation du retour du Sauveur. « J’ai été malade, dit-il, et vous m’avez visité... Ce que vous avez fait au plus petit de mes frères, c’est à moi que vous l’avez fait ».

A la Postcommunion, nous demandons la grâce d’une bonne mort ; que notre communion d’aujourd’hui soit un viatique pour notre trépas !

3. La prière liturgique pour les agonisants. — « Puissions-nous à l’heure de notre mort triompher de l’ennemi et recevoir la couronne céleste ! » Voici le vœu que nous formulons aujourd’hui dans notre prière. Connaît-on bien la prière liturgique pour les agonisants ? En prévision de la mort, avons-nous chez nous un cierge bénit ? Nous devons également tenir prêts, pour l’administration des derniers sacrements, un crucifix, des bougies et une nappe blanche. Sait-on que l’Église a composé pour qu’on les récite à l’approche de la mort des prières spéciales, la « recommandation de l’âme » ? Malheureusement, ce sont des prières que les prêtres ne récitent presque jamais. Dès maintenant demandons donc à l’un ou à l’autre de ceux que nous connaissons de nous rendre ce service, le moment venu. Dès maintenant aussi, pendant que nous jouissons de la santé, familiarisons-nous avec les prières des agonisants. Elles commencent par une litanie spéciale où sont invoqués les patrons de la bonne mort. Vient ensuite l’oraison bien connue : « Quitte ce monde, âme chrétienne, au nom de Dieu, le Père tout-puissant, qui t’a créée ; au nom de Jésus-Christ, le Fils du Dieu vivant, qui a souffert pour toi ; au nom du Saint-Esprit, qui a été répandu en toi... » Puis, c’est encore une prière de forme litanique dans laquelle on rappelle à Dieu les circonstances de l’Ancien et du Nouveau Testament où les justes furent sauvés de la détresse et du danger ; cette évocation, par exemple : « Délivre, Seigneur, l’âme de ton serviteur, comme tu as déchargé Suzanne d’une fausse accusation ». Lorsque le mourant a rendu le dernier soupir, on supplie Dieu aussitôt de lui faire bon accueil : « Venez à son aide, saints de Dieu ; accourez à sa rencontre, anges du Seigneur, Recevez son âme et présentez-la devant la face du Très-Haut. » C’est en nous familiarisant ainsi avec ces prières que notre âme sera prête pour l’heure de la mort.

SOURCE : http://www.introibo.fr/18-07-St-Camille-de-Lellis



Saint Camille de Lellis

Camille de Lellis est un religieux catholique italien, canonisé en 1746. Il est le fondateur des Clercs réguliers ministres des infirmes, plus connus sous le nom de Camilliens, qu’il institue à Rome, le 8 septembre 1584, que le pape Sixte V approuve le 18 mars 1586 et que le pape Grégoire XIV érige en ordre religieux le 21 septembre 1591. Fortement centralisé sous son préfet général, l’ordre qui comprend déjà trois cents membres répartis en cinq provinces à la mort de son fondateur, connaît au XVII° siècle un essor rapide en Italie, en Espagne, au Portugal et aux Amériques. Les Camilliens portent l’habit clérical ordinaire surchargée d’une croix latine rouge cousue. Fils d’un officier au service de Charles-Quint qui avait pris part au sac de Rome (1527), Camille de Lellis naquit à Bocchianico, au sud de Chieti, dans les Abruzzes (royaume de Naples) le 25 mai 1550. Orphelin de mère, à treize ans, et de père, à dix-neuf ans, ce géant, joueur invétéré qui s’était ruiné dans les jeux de hasard, était sans ressource lorsqu’atteint d’une plaie au pied, il alla se faire soigner à l’hôpital romain de Saint-Jacques des Incurables où, ne pouvant payer, il fut employé un mois comme infirmier. Comme il avait transformé sa chambre en salle de jeux, on le chassa de l’hôpital et, à la fin de 1569, il s’enrôla dans l’armée vénitienne qui allait combattre le sultan Sélim II, puis il servit sous don Juan d’Autriche mais la dysenterie l’empêcha de participer à la bataille de Lépante (1571). Il embarqua sur les galères napolitaines en route vers Tunis.

Libéré du service, il vécut plus ou moins bien du jeu. Ayant rencontré deux franciscains dans les rues de Zermo, il fit vœu de renoncer aux désordres de sa vie mais il oublia très vite ses bonnes dispositions qui le reprirent, sans plus d’effet, lorsqu’il fut près de périr dans une tempête qui dura trois jours et trois nuits. Ayant perdu au jeu son épée, son arquebuse, son manteau et sa chemise, il fut réduit à la mendicité jusqu’au début de 1575 où il se fit engager comme manœuvre chez un entrepreneur qui construisait le couvent des Capucins de Manfredonia.
Un soir que l’entrepreneur l’avait envoyé faire une course au couvent, le père gardien le prit à part et l’entretint de la nécessité de se donner à Dieu ; le lendemain, alors qu’il revenait à cheval, songeant à la conversation de la veille, il tomba de sa monture et, dans une intense lumière intérieure, il vit ses péchés avec le jugement de Dieu. Admis par les capucins de Manfredonia, il se montra si bien converti qu’on l’envoya faire son noviciat à Trivento. En chemin, un soir, comme il s’apprêtait à traverser une rivière, il entendit une voix lui crier du haut d’une montagne : « Ne va pas plus loin, ne passe pas ! » Il regarda pour voir qui lui parlait, et, n’apercevant personne, il continua d’avancer ; la même voix l’appela trois fois et parvint enfin à l’arrêter ; il revint sur ses pas et s’endormit sous un arbre : le lendemain, il apprit que la rivière était là si profonde qu’il y eût certainement perdu la vie s’il ne se fût arrêté. Au couvent de Trivento, sa vie fut parfaite mais la plaie de sa jambe s’étant rouverte et envenimée, il dut retourner à l’hôpital romain de Saint-Jacques des Incurables où il se mit sous la direction de saint Philippe Néri. Guéri, il resta, comme infirmier et devint le maître de maison (économe). Bon gestionnaire, il fit passer les revenus annuels de l’hôpital de cent à quatorze cent quatre-vingt-seize écus bien qu’il exigeât la meilleure marchandise et qu’il refusât le blé de mauvaise qualité.

Il envisagea de réformer les soins et, avec le chapelain et quatre infirmiers, de créer une association d’infirmiers (août 1582) mais il échoua devant incompréhension des directeurs de l’hôpital ; c’est alors qu’il songea à fonder une congrégation entièrement consacrée au soin des malades. Pour mettre en œuvre son projet, il comprit qu’il lui fallait être prêtre, aussi, tout en continuant son travail d’économe de l’hôpital, alla-t-il suivre les cours du Collège Romain.

Ordonné prêtre, il célébra sa première messe dans la chapelle de l’hôpital Saint-Jacques des Incurables (10 juin 1584) dont les directeurs le nommèrent chapelain de la Madonnina des Miracles. Contre l’avis de saint Philippe Néri, il abandonna sa charge d’économe, quitta l’hôpital et, dans sa chapelle, le 8 septembre 1584, il reçut ses premiers disciples qui furent employés à l’hôpital du Saint-Esprit : « Parfois, il y a jusqu’à deux cents lits occupés, et c’est à qui vomira, toussera, criera, tirera le souffle, rendra l’âme, se démènera frénétiquement tant qu’il faut le lier ; et c’est à qui gémira et qui se lamentera... Se pourvoir de pain, de viande, d’épices, de draps et de couver-tures, c’est à quoi l’argent réussit sans grande fatigue. Mais le service est mauvais superlativement, abominable. Pensez si on tient a venir vider les vases de ces gens-là, à six giuli par mois ; on en donnerait dix que ce serait la même chose. »

Les nouveaux religieux n’ayant pas de chapelle, ils obtinrent le couvent de la Madeleine et les logis adjacents (1586). Approuvé par les papes, Camille de Lellis fut le premier préfet général de son ordre, charge qu’il abandonna en 1607. Après que Grégoire XIV eut fulminé la bulle qui érigeait l’Ordre des Ministres des infirmes sous la règle de Saint-Augustin (21 septembre 1591), le 8 septembre 1591, fête de la Nativité de la Sainte Vierge, en l’église du couvent de la Madeleine, les vingt-cinq premières professions purent être faites où chaque camillien disait à Dieu : « Je vous promets de servir les pauvres malades, vos fils et mes frères, tout le temps de ma vie, avec le plus de charité possible. »

Atteint de graves infirmités, épuisé par de nombreux voyages, Camille de Lellis mourut à Rome, au couvent de la Madeleine, le 14 juillet 1614, un heure après le commencement de la nuit. Quand le cardinal Ginnasio lui porta le viatique, il dit : « Je reconnais, Seigneur, que je suis le plus grand des pécheurs et que je ne mérite pas de recevoir la faveur que vous daignez me faire ; mais sauvez-moi par votre infinie miséricorde. Je mets toute ma confiance dans les mérites de votre précieux sang. » Il laissait 15 maisons et 8 hôpitaux à 242 profès, répartis en 5 provinces. Benoît XIV béatifia (2 février 1742) et canonisa (29 juin 1746) Camille de Lellis. Un décret de la congrégation des Rites (15 décembre 1762), signé par Clément XIII le 18 juillet, étend sa fête à toute l’Église. Avec saint Jean de Dieu, Léon XIII le proclame patron des malades et des hôpitaux (22 juin 1886), Pie XI le proclame patron du personnel des hôpitaux (28 août 1930).

SOURCE : https://cybercure.fr/grandes-figures/article/saint-camille-de-lellis




SAINT CAMILLE DE LELLIS

« Toute mauvaise action », a dit un grand écrivain, laisse en notre cœur d’immondes racines, qu’il faut arracher avec des tenailles ardentes ».
Que dire donc des habitudes criminelles ?
Ne dévorent-elles pas fatalement tout ce qu’il y a de bon dans l’âme ?
Ne sont-elles pas une chaîne ignoble qu’il faut traîner jusqu’à la tombe ?
On le dirait.
On dirait qu’il n’y a pas d’esclave plus asservi que le pécheur d’habitude.
Pourtant les habitudes mauvaises — même contractées dès l’enfance — n’empêchent pas d’arriver à la sainteté. La vie de Camille de Lellis le prouve, elle prouve aussi que les rechutes ne doivent point décourager.
L’héroïque servant des malades, le fondateur des Frères du bien mourir ne rompit point d’un coup ses honteuses chaînes.
Loin de là. Plusieurs années durant, il lutta faiblement contre lui-même et la force de l’habitude triompha bien des fois de ses résolutions. Cependant ce libertin, ce joueur est devenu saint Camille de Lellis.
Il naquit en 1550, dans une petite ville des Abruzzes. Sa mère mourut quand il était encore au berceau, et son père, qui était officier, négligea fort son éducation. Il envoya pourtant son fils à l’école. L’enfant y apprit à lire et à écrire, mais, abandonné à lui-même, il se lia avec de jeunes vauriens et fit des jeux de dés et de cartes son occupation principale.
À dix-huit ans, Camille de Lellis embrassa la carrière des armes. Passionné pour le jeu au-delà de tout ce qui se peut dire, il ne tarda pas à perdre aux cartes toute sa fortune et, au bout de trois ans, un ulcère à la jambe, suite d’une égratignure négligée, l’obligea de quitter le service.
L’hôpital des Incurables de saint Jacques, à Rome, était alors desservi par les meilleurs chirurgiens. Dans l’espoir de faire guérir plus vite sa jambe, le jeune Napolitain s’y rendit, et sa fierté et son dénuement lui firent demander une place d’infirmier.
Le néant des choses humaines lui apparaissait souvent dans une vive lumière, il aurait voulu se faire capucin.
Mais, malgré les graves pensées qui le travaillaient, malgré les pertes énormes qu’il avait faites au jeu, la vue des cartes et des dés exerçait encore sur lui une fascination irrésistible.
Le futur fondateur des Frères du bien mourir abandonnait le service des malades pour aller jouer. Aussi on ne tarda pas à le renvoyer, non seulement comme joueur, mais encore comme fantasque, emporté et cherchant querelle, sur le moindre prétexte, aux employés de la maison.
Tels furent les débuts du saint dans une carrière où il devait aller jusqu’au bout des forces humaines dans l’abnégation et la charité.
Réduit par ses folies à gagner misérablement sa vie et tourmenté à certaines heures du désir de la perfection, Camille de Lellis fut tour à tour novice franciscain, aide-maçon, infirmier par nécessité et soldat. L’extrême misère et ses essais de vie religieuse ne l’avaient point guéri de son amour du jeu et, à Naples, on le vit, emporté par sa passion, jouer jusqu’à sa chemise — qu’il perdit.
L’infortuné jeune homme semblait condamné à finir ses jours dans quelque misérable querelle. Mais, malgré son naturel emporté, malgré tous ses excès, ce joueur frénétique et malheureux n’avait jamais souillé ses lèvres d’un blasphème. Ce fut là sans doute, dit l’un de ses biographes, ce qui lui fit trouver grâce devant Dieu.
Un jour qu’il cheminait à pied, seul et sans ressource, l’injure faite par ses péchés à la Majesté divine lui apparut tout à coup dans une lumière si terrible qu’il tomba la face contre terre. Il se releva changé, transformé, résolu à ne plus vivre que pour expier ses folies et ses crimes. Il se rendit à Rome et s’offrit, en qualité d’infirmier volontaire et gratuit, à l’hôpital des Incurables d’où on l’avait renvoyé.
Là, Camille de Lellis parut un homme nouveau et, tout en pratiquant des mortifications terribles, il servit nuit et jour les malades, avec un dévouement aussi tendre qu’infatigable.
Il s’attachait surtout aux mourants et, comme un ange du ciel, les préparait à paraître devant Dieu. Son incomparable charité et ses hautes capacités le firent bientôt nommer directeur de l’hôpital. Le saint eut bien des occasions de constater que l’argent seul ne fait pas les bons infirmiers et il souffrait cruellement de se voir si mal secondé par les employés mercenaires.
Afin de porter remède à ce mal, il résolut de fonder une congrégation d’hommes charitables qui serviraient les malades pour le seul amour de Jésus-Christ.
Pendant qu’il méditait ce grand projet, un Christ, détachant ses mains de la croix, les tendit suppliantes vers lui et l’encouragea dans son dessein.
Du cœur du saint, cet appel du Christ fit jaillir les énergies irrésistibles.
Il triompha de tous les obstacles ; il trouva des compagnons tels qu’il en désirait et, afin d’être plus utile aux malades, il résolut, sur l’ordre de saint Philippe de Néri, son directeur et son ami, de se préparer au sacerdoce. Il apprit le latin avec une ardeur incroyable, fit ses études théologiques au collège romain et reçut la prêtrise.
Des amis lui donnèrent une maison ; le pape Sixte V approuva l’institut naissant, et, trois ans plus tard, Grégoire XIV fit de sa congrégation un ordre religieux.
Les fils de saint Camille remplaçaient les infirmiers mercenaires presque toujours insuffisants. Ils transformèrent les hôpitaux et se répandirent bientôt dans les villes d’Italie et dans toute la chrétienté. Leur saint fondateur leur avait donné pour règle de voir dans les malades Jésus-Christ en personne. Aussi ces religieux firent partout des prodiges de charité. Ils s’engageaient par vœu à servir les malades — même pestiférés — et, dans les temps d’épidémie, beaucoup moururent victimes de leur dévouement.
On aimera peut-être à savoir ce que saint Camille recommandait surtout à ceux qui assistent les mourants. Il voulait qu’on les exhortât discrètement et suavement à s’abandonner à Dieu, à accepter la mort en union avec Notre-Seigneur et en esprit d’expiation.
Il voulait qu’on fît demander aux mourants l’application du fruit de cette prière que Jésus-Christ fit sur la croix.
Dans les derniers moments, le saint recommandait instamment qu’on rappelât souvent aux mourants l’invocation des noms de Jésus et de Marie.
Il ordonna aussi de continuer les prières pour les agonisants quelque temps après qu’ils paraîtraient avoir rendu le dernier soupir.
Camille de Lellis parlait toujours aux malades avec une douceur toute céleste. Par ses exhortations pénétrantes, il leur inspirait la patience, la résignation, parfois même la joie de souffrir.
Il appelait les cruelles infirmités dont il souffrait des miséricordes du bon Dieu.
On l’entendait souvent dire comme saint François d’Assise :
« Le bonheur que j’espère est si grand, que toutes les peines et toutes les souffrances deviennent pour moi des sources de joie ».
Austère à lui-même jusqu’à ne se laisser que la peau et les os, il avait pour tous les malades la tendresse d’une mère. Il poussait la bonté jusqu’à faire faire de la musique auprès de ceux qui trouvaient, dans cette harmonie, quelque soulagement à leurs maux.
On le voyait, épuisé de fatigues et de souffrances, se traîner de lit en lit pour voir si rien ne manquait aux malades et pour leur parler de l’amour de Dieu.
Même dans les conversations ordinaires, les discours de saint Camille roulaient toujours sur l’amour de Dieu, et, s’il lui arrivait d’entendre un sermon où il n’en fut point parlé, il disait que c’était un anneau auquel il manquait un diamant.
Lorsqu’on lui annonça que les médecins désespéraient de sa vie, il s’écria, ravi :
« Je me suis réjoui parce qu’on m’a dit : Nous irons dans la maison du Seigneur ».
Quand on lui apporta le viatique, il versa des larmes et dit avec une humilité profonde :
« Je reconnais, Seigneur, que je suis le plus grand des pécheurs et que je ne mérite pas la faveur que vous daignez me faire, mais sauvez-moi par votre infinie miséricorde. Je mets toute ma confiance dans votre précieux Sang ».
Il prononçait avec tant de tendresse les noms de Jésus et de Marie, que l’amour qui le consumait embrasait aussi les assistants. Enfin, les yeux fixés sur une image de Marie et les bras en croix, il expira dans une paix céleste, en invoquant toujours ces doux noms qui furent ses dernières paroles.

Laure Conan. Physionomies de saints. Librairie Beauchemin, Limitée (p. 128-132).



Saint Camillus of Lellis


Also known as
  • Camillus de Lellis
  • Camillo de Lellis
Profile

Son of a military officer who had served both for Naples and France. His mother died when Camillus was very young. He spent his youth as a soldier, fighting for the Venetians against the Turks, and then for Naples. Reported as a large individual, perhaps as tall as 6’6″ (2 metres), and powerfully built, but he suffered all his life from abscesses on his feet. A gambling addict, he lost so much he had to take a job working construction on a building belonging to the Capuchins; they converted him.

Camillus entered the Capuchin noviate three times, but a nagging leg injury, received while fighting the Turks, each time forced him to give it up. He went to RomeItaly for medical treatment where Saint Philip Neri became his priest and confessor. He moved into San Giacomo Hospital for the incurable, and eventually became its administrator. Lacking education, he began to study with children when he was 32 years old. Priest. Founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick (the Camillians or Fathers of a Good Death) who, naturally, care for the sick both in hospital and home. The Order expanded with houses in several countries. Camillus honoured the sick as living images of Christ, and hoped that the service he gave them did penance for his wayward youth. Reported to have the gifts of miraculous healing and prophecy.

Born
Readings

Think well. Speak well. Do well. These three things, through the mercy of God, will make a man go to Heaven. – Saint Camillus de Lellis

Let me begin with holy charity. It is the root of all the virtues and Camillus’ most characteristic trait. I can attest that he was on fire with this holy virtue – not only toward God, but also toward his fellow men, and especially toward the sick. The mere sight of the sick was enough to soften and melt his heart and make him utterly forget all the pleasures, enticements, and interests of this world. When he was taking care of his parents, he seemed to spend and exhaust himself completely, so great was his devotion and compassion. He would have loved to take upon himself all their illness, their every affliction, could he but ease their pain and relieve their weakness. In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His reverence in their presence was as a great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord. To enkindle the enthusiasm of his religious brothers for this all-important virtue, he used to impress upon them the consoling words of Jesus Christ: “I was sick and you visited me.” He seemed to have these words truly graven on his heart, so often did he say them over and over again. Great and all-embracing was Camillus’ charity. Not only the sick and dying, but every other needy or suffering human being found shelter in his deep and kind concern. – from a biography of Saint Camillus by a contemporary

MLA Citation
  • “Saint Camillus of Lellis“. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 July 2020. Web. 14 July 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/saint-camillus-of-lellis/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/saint-camillus-of-lellis/




Saint Camillus de Lellis

Born at Bucchianico, Abruzzo, 1550; died at Rome, 14 July, 1614.

He was the son of an officer who had served both in the Neapolitan and French armies. His mother died when he was a child, and he grew up absolutely neglected. When still a youth he became a soldier in the service of Venice and afterwards of Naples, until 1574, when his regiment was disbanded. While in the service he became a confirmed gambler, and in consequence of his losses at play was at times reduced to a condition of destitution. The kindness of a Franciscan friar induced him to apply for admission to that order, but he was refused. He then betook himself to Rome, where he obtained employment in the Hospital for Incurables. He was prompted to go there chiefly by the hope of a cure of abscesses in both his feet from which he had been long suffering. He was dismissed from the hospital on account of his quarrelsome disposition and his passion for gambling. He again became a Venetian soldier, and took part in the campaign against the Turks in 1569. After the war he was employed by the Capuchins at Manfredonia on a new building which they were erecting. His old gambling habit still pursued him, until a discourse of the guardian of the convent so startled him that he determined to reform. He was admitted to the order as a lay brother, but was soon dismissed on account of his infirmity. He betook himself again to Rome, where he entered the hospital in which he had previously been, and after a temporary cure of his ailment became a nurse, and winning the admiration of the institution by his piety and prudence, he was appointed director of the hospital.

While in this office, he attempted to found an order of lay infirmarians, but the scheme was opposed, and on the advice of his friends, among whom was his spiritual guide, St. Philip Neri, he determined to become a priest. He was then thirty-two years of age and began the study of Latin at the Jesuit College in Rome. He afterwards established his order, the Fathers of a Good Death (1584), and bound the members by vow to devote themselves to the plague-stricken; their work was not restricted to the hospitals, but included the care of the sick in their homes. Pope Sixtus V confirmed the congregation in 1586, and ordained that there should be an election of a general superior every three years. Camillus was naturally the first, and was succeeded by an Englishman, named Roger. Two years afterwards a house was established in Naples, and there two of the community won the glory of being the first martyrs of charity of the congregation, by dying in the fleet which had been quarantined off the harbour, and which they had visited to nurse the sick. In 1591 Gregory XIV erected the congregation into a religious order, with all the privileges of the mendicants. It was again confirmed as such by Clement VIII, in 1592. The infirmity which had prevented his entrance among the Capuchins continued to afflict Camillus for forty-six years, and his other ailments contributed to make his life one of uninterrupted suffering, but he would permit no one to wait on him, and when scarcely able to stand would crawl out of his bed to visit the sick. He resigned the generalship of the order, in 1607, in order to have more leisure for the sick and poor. Meantime he had established many houses in various cities of Italy. He is said to have had the gift of miracles and prophecy. He died at the age of sixty-four while pronouncing a moving appeal to his religious brethren. He was buried near the high altar of the church of St. Mary Magdalen, at Rome, and, when the miracles which were attributed to him were officially approved, his body was placed under the altar itself. He was beatified in 1742, and in 1746 was canonized by Benedict XIV.

[Note: In 1930, Pope Pius XI named St. Camillus de Lellis, together with St. John of God, principal Co-Patron of nurses and of nurses' associations

Sources


BUTLER, Lives of the Saints (Derby, 1845); Bullar. Roman., XVI, 83; CICATELLO, Life of St. Camillus (Rome, 1749) ; GOSCHLER, Dict. de theol. cath. (Paris, 1869), III.

Campbell, Thomas. "St. Camillus de Lellis." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908.14 Jul. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03217b.htm>.


Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. Fratribus meis omnibus Sancti Camilli sodalitatis.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


Fresque de Saint Camille de Lellis,
salle de conférences de la bibliothèque régionale d'Aoste.


Camillus de Lellis, Priest (RM)

Born at Bucchianico, Abruzzi, Italy, 1550; died 1614; canonized in 1746; feast day formerly July 18. To Saint Camillus de Lellis the only people that mattered were the sick, for in serving them he was serving God. With other people he was hard, brusque and obstinate, but with the sick he was gentle and loving. In his eyes charity was the only thing that made life worth living, the surest way of bringing man closer to God, the only true life-blood of the Church; charity that Saint Paul had said was greater even than faith and hope. What makes the life of Saint Camillus all the more amazing is that he himself suffered from a disease of the feet and legs that forced him to leave the Capuchins.



Once a cardinal asked to see him while he was busy tending the sick. "His Excellency will have to excuse me," said Camillus. "For the moment I am with Our Lord. I will see His Excellency when I have finished." To another cardinal, who was a member of the administrative council for the hospitals in Rome, he said: "Monsignor, if some of my poor people suffer from hunger or die because of this shortage of food, I swear to God that I will accuse you in front of his mighty Judgment Seat."

Camillus made sweeping reforms in the hospitals that were nothing short of revolutionary. His ideas were few and simple, but they were full of common sense and nobility of heart. At a time when medicine was backward, when attendants and orderlies were recruited from among hardened criminals and chaplains and almoners from among priests who had been suspended from their regular duties.

The filth and squalor that had been a standard feature of hospitals were eliminated, and he himself would often get down on his knees and scrub the floor. New arrivals were washed, their beds were made regularly, the dirty linens were changed, wounds were dressed carefully, and for the first time the patients were separated into different wards according to the nature of their maladies.

From the moment of entry, each patient was given personal attention. Day and night, Camillus would go from bed to bed, listening to complaints, watching over the dying, giving Communion and Extreme Unction, making sure that a person was properly cured before being allowed to leave, and seeing to it that the food served was of good quality and properly cooked.

If the administration was slow in giving him the supplies that he needed, he would go out on foot or with a little donkey and beg from door to door. "I do not think," he said, "that in the whole world there is a field of flowers whose scent could be sweeter to me than is the small of these hospitals." "These holy places," as he once called the hospital, were also the best places to convert souls to God.
But his charity was not confined within the walls of the hospitals. He sought out the destitute who lived on the Quirinal or under the arches of the Coliseum. He visited the sick in their homes and organized a soup kitchen on the Piazza Maddalena.

Nor did he confine himself to Rome, for he and his companions, the Camillans, extended their activities to Milan, Genoa, Florence, Mantua, Messina, Palermo, to the battlefields of Hungary where the Austrian and Italian armies were fighting against the Turks (1595- 1601), travelling on foot in shabby and travel-stained clothes, indifferent to the bitter cold of winter the scorching heat of summer. "The sun is one of God's creatures," he said, "and will do me no more harm than God allows him to."

Like many other saints, this man of genius had a wild and reckless youth before discovering his vocation. His mother was nearly 60 when he was born. His father was a minor nobleman who had been a captain in the army of Charles V. At the age of 17, the 6'6" youth went with his father to fight in the service of Venice against the Turks, but at the last moment he was prevented from joining his troops by an ulcerous growth in his right leg, a painful, ugly problem that was to remain with him throughout his life.

After another attempt to serve in the Venetian forces, he went in 1571 to the hospital of Saint James (San Giacomo) in Rome for incurables as a patient and servant, but was soon dismissed. "This young man is incorrigible, and completely unsuited to be an infirmarian," said the report on him; but in fact he returned there several times, for the ulcer in his leg kept opening, and the only way in which he could have it attended to was by working in the hospital.

He entered the service of Spain, but the expedition against Tunis for which he enlisted was called off and the fleet was taken out of commission. Depressed, demoralized, and out of work, Camillus drifted about until he came to Naples where he fell into the habit of compulsive gambling. His few possessions--his sword, his cloak, his shirt--were soon lost, and he was reduced to a state of penury in the fall of 1574.

For a while he lived by begging alms in church doors. Chastened by his penury and remembering a vow he had once made in a fit of remorse to join the Franciscans, Camillus contracted a job as a laborer on some Capuchins buildings in Manfredonia. On Candlemas Day, when he was 25, he entered the novitiate of Capuchins but could not be professed because of his leg. He was also denied by the Franciscan Recollects.

Camillus returned to and was admitted to the hospital of Saint James, where he found his true vocation. Abandoning his attempts to become a Franciscan, at which he had tried and failed four times, he devoted himself to remedying the appalling conditions he found there. Two other members of the staff, Bernardino Norcino, a storeman, and Curtio Lodi, a steward, joined him to form the nucleus of the Camillans. Encouraged by Saint Philip Neri, he resigned from Saint James and in 1584 was ordained a priest by the exiled Thomas Goldwell of Saint Asaph, the last English bishop of the old hierarchy. He was given an annuity by Fermo Calvi, a gentleman of Rome. Camillus decided to leave Saint James, against the advice of his confessor, Philip Neri.

After moving two or three times, he and his companions settled down in an establishment in the street called Botteghe Oscure. The short rules he prescribed for his order required going daily to the hospital of the Holy Ghost to serve.

Gradually the seed that he planted grew into a mighty tree. On March 18, 1586, Pope Sixtus V approved his congregation and in the same year the order received its distinctive habit--a black cloak with a red cross on the right shoulder. Soon afterwards they were given the hospice of the Magdalen near the Pantheon, and on September 21, 1591, Pope Gregory XIV raised them to the rank of an order, that of the "Ministers of the Sick."

In 1588, he was invited to Naples, and with 12 companions founded a new house. Galleys holding plague victims were forbidden to dock, and Camillus and his members would embark to minister to the sick. Two brothers died, becoming the first martyrs of this order.

Camillus himself was the first Prefect General of the order, which spread so rapidly that by 1607, seven years before his death, it had eight hospitals, 15 houses, and over 300 members; and already over 170 members had already died while carrying out their duties. To the three great vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Camillans added a fourth: "O Lord, I promise to serve the sick, who are Your sons and my brothers, all the days of my life, with all possible charity"

By 1591, Camillus was suffering several other painful diseases in addition to his ulcerous leg, but he refused to be waited upon. He resigned as superior in 1607. He assisted at the general chapter in 1613 and visited the houses with the new superior general. In Genoa, he became very ill, but recovered and continued the visitation. Camillus suffered a relapse and received the last sacraments from Cardinal Ginnasi. He had revolutionized nursing, insisting upon fresh air, suitable diets, isolation of infectious patients, and spiritual assistance to the dying, for which reason the order was also called "the Fathers of a Good Dying" or "Agonizantes" (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, White).

In art, Saint Camillus is a layman tending the sick (Roeder). He was declared the patron of the sick and their nurses by Leo XIII (Benedictines). 




St. Camillus de Lellis, Confessor

HE was born in 1550 at Bacchianico, in Abruzzo, in the kingdom of Naples. 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 afterwards 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 Venetian, and afterwards 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 severest laws of all Christian or civilized nations, and by the canons of the church. 2 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 immediate 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 whatever they have won to the poor.

Camillus was insensible of the evils attending gaming, till necessity compelled 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 had not abandoned him through all his wanderings, but had often visited him with strong interior calls to penance. A moving exhortation which the guardian of the Capuchins one day made him, completed his conversion. Ruminating 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 penitential 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 sick in St. James’s hospital of incurables four years with great fervour. He wore a knotty hair shirt, and a rough brass girdle next his skin; watched night and day about the sick, especially those who 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 received 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 should 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 useful in spiritually assisting the sick, he took a resolution to prepare himself to receive holy orders. For this purpose he went through a course of studies with incredible alacrity and ardour, and received all his orders from Thomas Goldwell, 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 (about 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 on 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. Before 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 certain 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 diligence, that it was visible to all who saw them, 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 difficulties to struggle with; but by confidence in God he conquered them all. In 1585 his friends hired for him a large house, and the success of his undertaking encouraged him to extend further his pious views; for he ordained that the members of his congregation should bind themselves by the obligation 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. 3 It is a time 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 heart united with God, and usually never stands more in need of spiritual comfort and assistance. The state of sickness is always a visitation of God, who by it knocks at the door of our heart, and puts us in mind of death; 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 fatal abuse is this mercy often lost and perverted by sloth, impatience, sensuality, and frowardness. Those who in time of health were backward in exercising fervent acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition, &c., in sickness are still more indisposed 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.

This consideration moved Camillus to make it the chief end of his new establishment, to afford or procure the sick all spiritual succour, discreetly to suggest to them short pathetic acts of compunction and other virtues, to read by them, and to pray for them. For this end he furnished his priests with proper books of devotion, especially on penance and on the sufferings of Christ; and he taught them to have always at hand the most suitable ejaculations extracted from the psalms and other devotions. 4 But dying persons were the principal object of our saint’s pious zeal and charity. A man’s last moments are the most precious of his whole life; and are of infinite importance, as on them depends his eternal lot. Then the devil useth his utmost efforts to ruin a soul, and cometh down, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. 5 The saint therefore redoubled his earnestness to afford every spiritual help to persons who seemed in danger of death. He put them early in mind to settle their temporal concerns, that their thoughts might be afterwards employed entirely on the affair of their soul. He advised those friends not to approach them too much, whose sight or immoderate grief could only disturb or afflict them. He disposed them to receive the last sacraments by the most perfect acts of compunction, resignation, faith, hope, and divine love; and he taught them to make death a voluntary sacrifice of themselves to the divine will, and in satisfaction for sin; of which it is the punishment. He instructed them to conjure their blessed Redeemer by the bitter anguish which his divine heart felt in the garden and on the cross, and by his prayer with a loud voice and tears, in which he deserved to be heard for his reverence, that he would show them mercy, and give them the grace to offer up their death in union with his most precious death, and to receive their soul as he with his last breath recommended his own divine soul into the hands of his heavenly Father, and with it those of all his elect to the end of the world. He instituted prayers for all persons in their agony, or who were near their death.

Every one was charmed at so perfect a project of charity, and all admired that such noble views, and so great an undertaking should have been reserved to an obscure, illiterate person.

Pope Sixtus V. confirmed this congregation in 1586, and ordered that it should be governed by a triennial superior. Camillus was the first, and Roger, an Englishman, was one of his first companions. The church of St. Mary Magdalen was bestowed on him for the use of his congregation. In 1588 he was invited to Naples, and with twelve companions founded there a new house. Certain galleys having the plague on board were forbidden to enter the harbour. Wherefore these pious Servants of the sick (for that was the name they took) went on board, and attended them; on which occasion two of their number died of the pestilence, and were the first martyrs of charity in this holy institute. St. Camillus showed a like charity in Rome when a pestilential fever swept off great numbers, and again when that city was visited by a violent famine. In 1591 Gregory XV. erected this congregation into a religious Order, with all the privileges of the mendicant Orders, and under one obligation of the four vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and perpetually serving the sick, even those infected with the plague; he forbade these religious men to pass to any other Order except to that of the Carthusians. Pope Clement VIII. in 1592 and 1600 again confirmed this Order, with additional privileges. Indeed the very end of this institution engaged all men to favour it; especially those who considered how many thousands die, even in the midst of priests, without sufficient help in preparing themselves for that dreadful hour which decides their eternity; what superficial confessions, what neglect in acts of contrition, charity, restitution, and other essential duties, are often to be feared; which grievous evils might be frequently remedied by the assiduity of well qualified ministers.

Among many abuses and dangerous evils which the zeal of St. Camillus prevented, his attention to every circumstance relating to the care of dying persons soon made him discover that in hospitals many are buried alive, of which Cicatello relates several examples, 6 particularly of one buried in a vault, who was found walking about in it when the next corpse was brought to be there interred. Hence the saint ordered his religious to continue the prayers for souls yet in their agony for a quarter of an hour after they seem to have drawn their last breath, and not to suffer their faces to be covered so soon as is usual, by which means those who are not dead are stifled. This precaution is most necessary in cases of drowning, apoplexies, and such accidents and distempers which arise from mere obstructions or some sudden revolution of humours. 7 St. Camillus showed still a far greater solicitude to provide all comfort and assistance for the souls of those who are sick, suggesting frequent short pathetic aspirations, showing them a crucifix, examining their past confessions and present dispositions, and making them exhortations with such unction and fervour that his voice seemed like a shrill trumpet, and pierced the hearts of all who heard him. He encouraged his disciples to these duties with words of fire. He did not love to hear any thing spoken unless divine charity made part of the subject; and if he heard a sermon in which it was not mentioned, he would call the discourse a gold ring without a stone.

He was himself afflicted with many corporal infirmities, as a sore in his leg for forty-six years; a rupture for thirty-eight years which he got by serving the sick; two callous sores in the sole of one of his feet, which gave him great pain; violent nephritic colics, and for a long time before he died, a loss of appetite. Under this complication of diseases he would not suffer any one to wait on him, but sent all his brethren to serve poor sick persons. When he was not able to stand he would creep out of his bed, even in the night, by the sides of the beds, and crawl from one patient to another to exhort them to acts of virtue, and see if they wanted anything. He slept very little, spending greater part of the night in prayer and in serving the sick. He used often to repeat with St. Francis: “So great is the happiness which I hope for, that all pain and suffering is a pleasure.” His friars are not obliged to recite the church office unless they are in holy Orders; but confess and communicate every Sunday and great holiday, have every day one hour’s meditation, hear mass, and say the litany, beads, and other devotions. The holy founder was most scrupulously exact in every word and ceremony of the holy mass, and of the divine office. He despised himself to a degree that astonished all who knew him. He laid down the generalship in 1607, that he might be more at leisure to serve the poor. He founded religious houses at Bologna, Milan, Genoa, Florence, Ferrara, Messina, Palermo, Mantua, Viterbo, Bocchiano, Theate, Burgonono, Sinuessa, and other places. He had sent several of his friars into Hungary, and to all other places which in his time were afflicted with the plague. When Nola was visited with that calamity in 1600, the bishop constituted Camillus his vicar general, and it is incredible what succours the sick received from him and his companions, of whom five died of that distemper. God testified his approbation of the saint’s zeal by the spirit of prophecy and the gift of miracles, on several occasions, and by many heavenly communications and favours

He assisted at the fifth general chapter of his Order in Rome, in 1613, and after it, with the new general, visited the houses in Lombardy, giving them his last exhortations, which were every where received with tears. At Genoa he was extremely ill, but being a little better, duke Doria Tursi sent him in his rich galley to Civita Vecchia, whence he was conveyed in a litter to Rome. He recovered so as to be able to finish the visitation of his hospitals, but soon relapsed, and his life was despaired of by the physicians. Hearing this he said: I rejoice in what hath been told me: We shall go into the house of the Lord. He received the viaticum from the hands of Cardinal Ginnasio, protector of his Order, and said with many tears: “O Lord, I confess I am the most wretched of sinners, most undeserving of thy favour; but save me by thy infinite goodness. My hope is placed in thy divine mercy through thy precious blood.” Though he had lived in the greatest purity of conscience ever since his conversion, he had been accustomed to go every day to confession with great compunction and many tears. When he received the extreme-unction he made a moving exhortation to his religious brethren, and having foretold that he should die that evening, he expired on the 14th of July, 1614, being sixty-five years, one month, and twenty days old. He was buried near the high altar in St. Mary Magdalen’s church; but upon the miracles which were authentically approved, his remains were taken up and laid under the altar; they were enshrined after he was beatified in 1742, and in 1746 he was solemnly canonized by Benedict XIV. See the life of St. Camillus by Cicatello his disciple, and the acts of his canonization with those of SS. Fidelis of Sigmaringa, Peter Regalati, Joseph of Leonissa, and St. Catharine de Ricci, printed at Rome in 1749, pp. 10, 65, and 529; and Bullar. Rom. t. 16, p. 83. Helyot, Hist. des Orders Relig. t. 4, p. 263.

Note 1. Tit de Aleatoribus tam in Digesto quam in Codice. [back]

Note 2. See St. Bonav. in 4 dist. 14. St. Raymund. St. Antonin. Comitolus, l. 3, 7, 9, p. 348, &c. Aristotle (l. 4, Ethic, c. 1,) places gamesters in the same class with highwaymen and plunderers. St. Bernardin of Sienna (Serm. 33, Domin. 5, Quadrag. t. 4,) says they are worse than robbers, because more treacherous, and covering their rapine under seducing glosses. [back]

Note 3. Job ii. 4. [back]

Note 4. On the methods of varying every day these acts, see Polancus, De modo juvandi morientes; Joan. a S. Thoma. Card. Bona, &c. [back]

Note 5. Apoc. xii. 12. [back]

Note 6. Cicat. l. 2, c. 1, p. 446. [back]

Note 7. This observation of St. Camillus has been since confirmed by many instances of persons who were found to have been buried alive, or to have recovered long after they had appeared to have been dead. Accounts of several such examples are found in many modern medical and philosophical memoirs of literature which have appeared during this century, especially in France and Germany: and experience evinces the case to have been frequent. Boerhaave (Not. in Instit. Medic.) and some other men, whose names stand among the foremost in the list of philosophers, have demonstrated by many undoubted examples, that where the person is not dead, an entire cessation of breathing and of the circulation of the blood may happen for some time, by a total obstruction in the organical movements of the springs and fluids of the whole body, which obstruction may sometimes be afterwards removed, and the vital functions restored. Whence the soul is not to be presumed to leave the body in the act of dying, but at the moment in which some organ or part of the body absolutely essential to life is irreparably decayed or destroyed. Nor can any certain mark be given that a person is dead till some evident symptom of putrefaction commenced appears sensible.

Duran and some other eminent surgeons in France, in memorials addressed, some to the French king, others to the public, complain that two customs call for redress, first, that of burying multitudes in the churches, by which experience shows that the air is often extremely infected; the second is that of which we speak. To prevent the danger of this latter, these authors insist that no corpse should be allowed to be buried, or its face close covered, before some certain proof of putrefaction, for which they assign as usually one of the first marks, if the lower jaw being stirred does not restore itself, the spring of the muscles being lost by putrefaction. See Doctor Bruhier, Mémoire présenté au Roi, sur la Nécessité d’un Règlement Général au Sujet des Enterments et Embaumements, in 1745; also Dissertation sur l’Incertitude des Signes de la Mort, in 1749, 2 vols. in 12mo.; and Dr. Louis, Lettres sur la Certitude des Signes de la Mort, contre Bruhier, in 1752, in 12mo.

The Romans usually kept the bodies of the dead eight days, and practised a ceremony of often calling upon them by their names, of which certain traces remain in many places from the old ceremonial for the burial of kings and princes. Servabantur cadavera octo diebus, et calida abluebantur, et post ultimam conclamationem abluebantur. Servius in Virgilii Æneidon, l. 8, ver. 2, 8. The corpse was washed whilst warm, and again after the last call addressed to the deceased person, which was the close of the ceremony before the corpse was burnt or interred; and to be deprived of it was esteemed a great misfortune. Corpora nondum conclamata jacent, Lucan, l. 2, ver. 22. Jam defletus et conclamatus es. Apulieus, l. 1. Metam, et l. 11, ib. Desine, jam conclamatum est. Terent. Eunuch. 2, 3, ver. 56. St. Zeno of Verona, describing a wife who immoderately laments her deceased husband, says: Cadaver amplectitur conclamatum. St. Zeno, l. 1, Trac. 16, p. 126, nov. ed Veron. This ceremony, trivial in itself, was of importance to ascertain publicly the death of the person. [back]

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.

SOURCE : http://www.bartleby.com/210/7/142.html


Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Camillus of Lellis


Article

On the Festival of the Holy Apostles, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in the year 1746, Benedict XIV, with great solemnity, canonized Camillus, the founder of the congregation of regular priests, who, besides the three usual vows, bound themselves especially to serve the sick. Camillus was born in 1550, in the diocese of Theatie, in the kingdom of Naples. His mother dreamed before he was born, that she had given birth to a boy, who wore upon his breast a cross, and who was followed by a great many other boys, who wore the same emblem. The signification of this dream was not recognized until Saint Camillus had founded an order, whose members, in consequence of a decree of the Pope, wore a dark red cross on the right side of the breast. The first years of his life were spent piously under the eyes of his parents; but later he became so addicted to games of chance, that he not only lost all he possessed, but also visibly injured his health. Obliged by poverty, he hired himself as nurse in a hospital, but soon becoming tired of this, he joined the army. The life of a soldier pleased him still less, and he therefore took service in a Capuchin cloister, not knowing what other course to pursue. God at length had compassion on the lost sheep, and once more led him upon the right road. The cause of this was a sermon which he heard by chance, and even against his will. Pondering on it, he suddenly recognized his iniquities, and the judgment which he had to expect on account of them, and casting himself on the ground, he bitterly bewailed his past life, and resolved most earnestly to change it. From that moment, he appeared a different man, and having made a sorrowful confession, he not only avoided every shadow of sin, but also desired to be admitted into the seraphic order of Saint Francis. He was received, but dismissed again before his probation had ended, in consequence of a sore on one of his feet, from which he had suffered a long time, and which made it impossible for him to perform the work assigned him. Sadly disappointed, Camillus went to Rome, to the hospital of Saint James, where, as mentioned above, he had served for a time. God so directed it, that he was entrusted with the administration of the finances; in which office he consecrated himself entirely to the sick. Perceiving that the hired nurses performed their duties with negligence, he deliberated within himself, how he might obtain nurses, who, to receive an eternal recompense, should, after his example, wait upon the sick. Consulting Saint Philip Neri, who was then living at Rome, he founded a society to which were admitted only those who were willing to serve the sick without any temporal reward. This society at first consisted of only a few secular persons; but these were soon joined by several priests, who bought themselves a house in which they might reside in common.

This society formed itself into a religious order, and it spread as well over Italy and Sicily, as over other parts of Europe. The members of it nursed the sick, day and night, as well in hospitals as in private houses, and gave them every assistance, as well temporal as spiritual. Saint Camillus was an example to all. Exhorted by Saint Philip Neri, he had followed the example of Saint Ignatius, and though already advanced in years, had devoted himself to study and was ordained priest, that he might assist the sick spiritually as well as corporally. The bull of his canonization proves that the most devoted mother could not have nursed her only child with greater love, than Saint Camillus bestowed without exception upon all the sick. Whenever one was found, he went to comfort and to cheer him: he gave medicine, cleansed the bed and room, bandaged wounds, and in one word, did all that charity could think of or the condition of the sick require. Thus he acted uniformly towards all, but especially towards those who awakened in others aversion, on account of many sores, bad odors, or other disgusting circumstances. He often remained whole nights, without food or sleep, with them, although greatly suffering himself from the sore on his foot, to which we have alluded above. More than once he was so exhausted by his labors, that he fainted away by the side of the sick; but he continued in his work of love, while he had any strength left. At the time of a terrible pestilence which ravaged Rome and several other cities, he worked real miracles of Christian charity. He went with his brethren through all the streets, assisting the suffering. He carried many, whom he found lying in the streets, stricken down by the pestilence, into the house where he and his priests resided, and nursed them there most tenderly, without in the least fearing death or infection. The same zeal he manifested at Milan and Nola, whither he went to nurse the sick at the time of the pestilence. He was incited to these great sacrifices by the love of God, which, since his conversion, inflamed his whole heart. He desired to gain numberless souls, to awaken in them an equal love to God and hatred of sin. Hence, his first care was that the sick should reconcile themselves to their Maker, by confession, and bear their sufferings patiently. The whole life of this Saint was, according to the above mentioned bull, truly divine. At the time of prayer they often found him in ecstasy, and surrounded by a heavenly light, or raised high up from the ground. Saint Philip Neri gave evidence that he frequently saw angels standing beside Saint Camillus while they waited upon the sick. God graced him also, with the gift of prophecy, and of miraculously restoring the sick in an instant, of which his life offers many examples. The inhabitants of Rome, therefore, looked upon him as a Saint, and greatly esteemed him; he, however, humbled himself beneath all on account of the sins of his youth, over which he daily wept bitterly; he deemed himself unworthy to live among men. He esteemed and called himself the greatest sinner, who had deserved hell a thousand times. To praise him was only to rouse his indignation or to sadden him. He firmly refused the name of Founder of a religious order, and although for twenty-seven years he discharged the functions of an Abbot, he rested not until he was allowed to resign the office, and live under the obedience of another. Saint Camillus united with profound humility and desire to obey, the virtue of mortification. Notwithstanding the great hardship of nursing the sick, and the pain that for years his foot gave him, he mortified his body by continual fasting, watching, and other penances, in such a manner that the prolongation of his life was regarded as a real miracle. A happy death ended, at last, his holy and useful life, in the year 1614, at the age of 60, after he had endured for 32 months, a most painful malady. The thought of the torments of hell which he had merited by his transgressions, made, according to his own words, all suffering easy to bear. Before his end, he admonished his brethren to continue in their work of love to God and men. The many miracles that have taken place since his death by his intercession, have made the name of Saint Camillus famous over the whole Christian world.

Practical Considerations

1. Saint Camillus was for some time in his youth, addicted to gambling, and on account of it, not only his fortune had suffered, but also his health. This fault he corrected later, and weeping over it as long as he lived, he spent his remaining years iu prayer and constant works of Christian charity. Playing is in itself no sin, if it is honest, not overstepping proper bounds, and is not done with sinful intentions. But it is also sure that by play we can commit not only venial, but mortal sin: first, if the play is dishonest, or such as gives occasion to mortal sin: secondly, if we give too much time to play, like it immoderately, or make a habit of it, neglecting, in consequence of it, the duties of our office, or station in life: or if by it we do considerable damage to our temporal affairs; thirdly when we play only because we do not love to work, or from an unbounded love of money or from any similar cause; fourthly, when we know that play will lead us to cursing, blaspheming, lying, etc; finally, when we tempt others to dishonest or otherwise sinful plays. If you have done wrong in such a manner, correct it earnestly while time is left you: it will otherwise harm you more than you imagine. Saint Francis Borgia used to say that play carried with it a three-fold injury: for we lose by it, first our money, secondly, our time; thirdly, our devotion and recollection. There may be some who do not lose money, but only time, which in itself is more unpardonable and injurious than if we lost all that we possess. This alone should prevent you from play: for, according to the words of Saint Anthony: “As no temporal good is more precious than time, hence no loss can be greater, nor do us more harm.” To this must be added the loss of devotion or recollection. Those who play are not devout. They prefer the game to devotional exercises, as experience teaches; and their conscience is generally soiled with many sins to which play either gives indirect occasion, or which occur during it. How terrible a damage for soul and body! Can the gain which we seek in gaming ever be a recompense for all this?

2. Saint Camillus thought, while afflicted with his painful malady, of the torments of hell and by this eased his suffering. Follow his example. If you have to suffer, think of hell which you have oftener deserved than the Saint, and give thanks to God that He so graciously punishes you in this world, when He in accordance with divine justice, might have punished you so much more terribly. If your trials are hard to bear, say to yourself: “All my suffering is not yet that of hell: my pains are as nothing compared with the pains of hell.” If your afflictions last long, cheer yourself with the thought: “My sorrows do not last as long as those of the damned in hell: my grief will end, but that of the damned never ends. How would those condemned rejoice and give thanks to God if their torments were not greater and lasted not longer than mine!” If you think and speak thus, no impatience will overpower you, much less will you begin to murmur and complain. “One ought to give thanks to the Almighty,” says Saint Jerome, “and say always: “Praised be the Most High! I recognize that I suffer much less than I deserve. My suffering is small in comparison with my sins.”

MLA Citation
  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “Saint Camillus of Lellis”. Lives of the Saints1876CatholicSaints.Info. 14 March 2018. Web. 14 July 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-camillus-of-lellis/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/weningers-lives-of-the-saints-saint-camillus-of-lellis/



Pictorial Lives of the Saints – Saint Camillus of Lellis


Article

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 Saint Philip as his confessor, and entered the hospital of Saint 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 Saint 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!”

Reflection – Saint Camillus venerated the sick as living images of Christ, and by ministering to them in this spirit did penance for the sins of his youth, led a life precious in merit, and from a violent and quarrelsome soldier became a gentle and tender Saint.

MLA Citation
  • John Dawson Gilmary Shea. “Saint Camillus of Lellis”. Pictorial Lives of the Saints1922CatholicSaints.Info. 12 December 2018. Web. 14 July 2020. <https://catholicsaints.info/pictorial-lives-of-the-saints-saint-camillus-of-lellis/>

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/pictorial-lives-of-the-saints-saint-camillus-of-lellis/


Saints for Sinners – Saint Camillus de Lellis, The Ex-Soldier of Fortune


Camillus de Lellis had a good but timid mother; his father seems to have been the very opposite. Both were of respectable, some say of noble, families; and the surname confirms it. But the father, himself the son of a fighting man, had become such a ne’er-do-well that he had long since dragged the family name in the mud. He was a soldier all his life, or rather he was an adventurer; he served in the armies of various monarchs, hiring himself out to whoever would pay him in the manner common at that time, and was actually in the imperial army which sacked Rome in 1527. He appears to have been chiefly conspicuous for having all a soldier’s vices of the period; he was a careless spendthrift and a persistent gambler. The chief consolation he gave to his wife was that he was seldom at home. When Camillus came into the world, he brought only anxiety to his mother.

He was the only child that survived his infancy; even before his birth she had a dream which she could only interpret as portending misfortune. Her husband gave her no help, and she had the burden of bringing up her boy as best she could, with a sorry example before him. As for Camillus, from the first he showed only signs of taking after his father. As a child he was lank and ungainly, unusually tall for his years, in appearance anything but attractive, lazy by nature and hating to be taught. He had a violent temper and an obstinate self-will, which were not improved by the fact that his mother feared him, and for peace’s sake allowed him his own way so far as she was able. He was only twelve years of age when she died; with her reckless husband, and with her wayward son, who had learned thus early to pay no heed to her, life was too much for her, and she was taken away.

For a time after her death Camillus was placed under the care of relatives, who took little interest in him; his character was not such as to win sympathy, and he was allowed to drift very much as he chose. He was sent to school, but he detested it. When he ought to have been learning he did little but dream of his father’s adventures, and longed for the day when he would be grown-up enough to run away and join him; when he was out of school he found low companions for playmates, and very early became addicted to gambling. One only thing could be said for him. In spite of his waywardness he learned from his mother a deep respect for religion. He believed in prayer, though he seldom prayed; in the sacraments, though he seldom received them; in later years we shall see how this pulled him through many a crisis, and in the end was his saving.

At length the day of liberation came. Being so tall, and having early learned to swagger as a full-grown man, he could easily pass as being much older than he was; when he was barely seventeen he shut up his books, joined his father in a foreign camp, and enlisted as a soldier. There he allowed himself to live as he would; before he was nineteen he had learned everything a wicked youth could learn, and made free use of his knowledge. Under his father’s training, in particular, he became an expert gambler; from that time onward the two together, father and son, were the center of gambling wherever they went. In fact they made gambling a profession. There was plenty of fighting in those days, and soldiers of fortune had little difficulty in finding occupation; when their funds had run out, and idling had become a burden, Camillus and his father had only to offer their services to any general who was in need of men, and because of their previous experience they were easily accepted. Thus it was that they found themselves in all sorts of camps, sometimes fighting with friends, sometimes with enemies; an authority seems to say that at one time they were found even on the side of the Turks. Fighting to them was fighting, the cause was no affair of theirs. So long as they were paid their hire, and enjoyed the wild life they desired, the rest mattered little to them. But this kind of existence could not go on for ever. Even among the rough soldiers of their time Camillus and his father were too great a disturbance in the camp, and once at least were turned out. Their gambling, aggravated by their own violent tempers, led to quarrels; gambling and quarreling produced only insubordination. They took to the road, wandering from hamlet to hamlet, earning what they could by their cards. One day, as they were traveling together on foot with a view to joining the army in Venice which was being raised to fight the Turks, both of them fell ill on the road. But the father was the worse of the two; and Camillus had perforce to put up with his own sickness as best he could while he found a place where his father could be cared for. Alas! it was too late. His father’s illness was too far advanced, his worn-out body had no resistance left. Camillus’s only consolation was – for in spite of the life he was leading it was to him a strange and abiding consolation – that on his death-bed the old man broke down in sorrow for his past, received the last sacraments with true fervor, and died an evidently penitent man. Thus for the first time the faith he had inherited from his mother served Camillus in good stead.

Left alone in the world, and with this last scene stamped indelibly upon his memory, Camillus began to reflect. He was reduced by his gambling habit to utter destitution of both body and soul; death might overtake him at any time, as it had overtaken his father, and there might be no one to help him in his need. He would mend his ways; he would escape from all further temptation by hiding himself in a monastery, if a monastery could be induced to accept him; there and then he took a vow to become a Franciscan. He remembered that he had a Franciscan uncle somewhere in Aquila; he would begin with him. As soon as he was well enough he tramped off, came to his uncle’s door, told him his tale, and asked that he might be admitted into the Order. His uncle received him kindly and listened to his story, but was not easily convinced. Vocations did not come so easily as that; Camillus would need further trial that his constancy might be proved. Besides, at the moment he was in no fit state to enter on religious life. Not only was he worn in body, but he had a running wound above his ankle, which had started long ago with a mere nothing, but had obstinately refused to be healed. The Franciscans were kind, but they could not think of receiving Camillus as a postulant, and he was once more sent adrift.

And he did drift; first to old boon companions, with whom he took up again his gambling habits; then, since the running sore in his leg became a nuisance to others, he began to wander alone from place to place, scarcely knowing how he lived. It was indeed a long and trying probation for one who was to become the apostle of the derelict and dying. At length he found his way to Rome; and here the thought occurred to him that if he could gain admission to some hospital the wound in his leg might be tended and cured. He applied at the hospital of San Giacomo; as he had no money with which to pay for a bed, he offered himself as a servant in the place, asking in return that his running sore might be treated. It is well to remember that at this time, since the Franciscans had rejected him, his chief ambition was to be cured that he might once more return to the life of a soldier.

On the conditions he proposed he was received and given a trial. At first all seemed to go well. Camillus was in earnest, and meant to do his best; away from his old surroundings the better side of Camillus appeared. He went about his work with a will, sweeping corridors, cleaning bandages, performing all the most menial duties of the place, for he was fit for nothing else. The doctors on their part did theirs, attending to his wound, and giving him hope of a permanent cure; under this regime one might have trusted that a change had come in his life at last. But unfortunately for him, in spite of the work allotted to him, he had many idle hours on his hands; and there were never wanting other idle servants about him with whom he was able to spend them. In spite of all his good intentions his old passion for gambling returned and he could not resist. He secured a pack of cards, and to wile away the time he taught his games to his companions. But soon the authorities began to notice that something was going wrong in the servants’ quarters. The men were less ready at their work; they were dissatisfied among themselves; quarreling became more common, for with the return of the gambling habit Camillus’s ill-temper returned in its wake. A search was made of his room; the telltale cards were found hidden in Camillus’s bed. Without more ado he was pushed into the street, his leg still unhealed, and without a coin in his pocket.

So for a second time Camillus’s efforts to mend his ways came to nothing. He became despondent; his evil habits had the better of him and he seemed unable to control them; he would go back to soldiering again and take his chance. Hence the next we hear of him is once more in the armies of Venice; he fought in those ranks against the Turks, while he was still only nineteen years of age. He continued there for two years, fighting by land and sea. Still even here his evil genius pursued him. He distinguished himself, it is said, on the battle-field, but in camp once more got himself into trouble. On one occasion, at Zara, a gambling quarrel led to a challenge; a duel was arranged between himself and another soldier, and only the interference of the sergeant of his company prevented it. In the end, good enough soldier as he was, his seniors seem to have grown tired of him and he was dismissed.

But dismissal did not cool Camillus’s fighting spirit. Since Venice would not have him any longer, he went and joined the army of Spain. Later on, in 1574, he is found in a company of adventurers, under one Fabio; its chief attraction for Camillus was that every man in it was addicted to gambling. In this company he fought in North Africa and elsewhere; at last, on their way to Naples from Palermo, their galleys were so tossed about by a storm that they were given up for lost, and they finally landed with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their weapons of war. The company had to be disbanded, and once again Camillus was a homeless tramp. He went straight to the gambling dens which he knew well. There he staked all he had – his sword, his gun, his powder flasks, his soldier’s coat, and he lost them all; he was thankful that at least he had his shirt on his back, for even that, on a former occasion in that same place, he had staked and lost, and had been forced to part with in public.

He now sank lower than ever; what was worse, he found a companion in his misery. The two formed a sort of partnership. Gambling from town to town became their trade, with begging to make up when they had lost everything. Worst of all, Camillus in a kind of hopeless despair seemed to have no will left; he went wherever and did whatever his evil comrade directed him to go and to do. They had a vague idea that they would travel about and see the world; if fighting came their way, they would join up again as they had done before, this was Camillus’s condition in 1574, when he was twenty-four years of age. Just then, if one had searched all the dens of Italy, it might have been difficult to find a more hopeless case than that of Camillus de Lellis.

And yet just then the change came. The two tramps had come to Manfredonia. One morning they were begging, with others of their kind, standing on the steps outside a church. It chanced that among the passersby was a man of wealth, well known for his charitable works. He noticed the tall, soldier-like youth among the beggars. He spoke to him, expressed his surprise that one such as he should be begging his bread among cripples and other helpless creatures, and told him that he ought to work. Camillus made the usual excuses; he said that he was a disbanded soldier and that now no one would employ him. The rich man took him at his word. At the time he was building a monastery outside the town; he gave Camillus no money, but sent him with a note of instruction that he should be given employment on the building.

Camillus accepted the offer, and made up his mind to try, but first he must take leave of his old companion and dissolve their partnership. His comrade, when he heard his announcement, could not but burst into laughter at this sudden conversion. He mocked at Camillus, so quickly turned pious; he showed him the liberty he was throwing away. He sneered at the idea that Camillus would ever persevere, he warned him that the old craving would come back again and he would give way. He would gamble with the other workmen, many of whom would not need to be taught, he would quarrel as he had done before; he would again be dismissed, and would be left more destitute than ever. Besides, the work offered him was only a trap. Under such management he would be watched everywhere; he would be always under restraint; he might as well go to prison. How much better would it be for them both to get out of Manfredonia and look for work elsewhere! Then they could do as much or as little as they liked, and when they were tired of it could go out once more on the road.

At first Camillus listened to his tempter and yielded. It was true he could not trust himself; it was also true that he could not easily surrender the free life he had been living. He turned aside, and went down the street with his companion, following him blindly as he had done before. They left Manfredonia and made for the next town, more than twelve miles away. But on the road there came to Camillus a great grace. He had felt the goodwill of the man who had offered him work; thought of the Franciscan monastery brought back to him memories of his early efforts to amend, five or six years before; it seemed to him that here was an opportunity which should not be missed, and which might never occur again. With a mighty effort, the greatest he ever made in all his life, he shook himself free. To the surprise of his companion he suddenly turned round, and began to run back to Manfredonia as fast as his legs would carry him. Next morning he found himself enrolled among the laborers on the monastery building.

Still it was no easy task. As might have been expected from one with a past like that of Camillus, he found hard work anything but a trifle. He hated the drudgery; moreover there came upon him the consciousness that he was born for something better. There followed dreams of the life he had lived. With all its squalor and misery at least it had been free; however low he had sunk he had not starved; and there had come occasions when he had had a good time. Then his old companion discovered his whereabouts, and would come around the place. He would taunt Camillus with his slave’s life, would contrast his own freedom as he went to and fro at his pleasure, would provoke in him the temptation to gamble which Camillus could scarcely resist. And last there was the wound in his leg. The more he labored the worse it troubled him; the particular task that was assigned to him only tended to aggravate the pain.

Nevertheless Camillus labored on. The skilled work of the builder was beyond him, but there were other employments to keep him always occupied. He drove the donkeys that carried the stones for the building in panniers on their backs; he took the messages into the town; he brought the other laborers their food and drink. Curious neighbors could not but observe this tall youth in rags with that about him which showed that he had seen better days, but he took no heed. The only remaining sign of his former life was the soldier’s belt he still wore; the children in the street were quick to notice this and made fun of the trooper turned donkey-driver. Camillus was stung by these trifles; he could endure many things, but could not endure to be ridiculed. Still he held on; whatever happened he must keep to his post; that was almost all his ambition for the present, and his many past failures had taught him where he must be on his guard if he would succeed. If he would check his gambling propensity he must keep to himself and away from danger; if he would conquer his habit of idle dreaming he must be always occupied; if he would subdue his temper he must submit to whatever was put upon him; if he would suppress the multitudinous temptations that surged within him, he must make himself work and work. He could look back afterwards and recognize that those months spent as a driver of donkeys were the turning point of his life. It was a humble beginning, solitary, drab, without sensation of any kind; it had not even the dramatic climax of a sudden great conversion like that of Augustine and others. Nevertheless it was the beginning of a saint. Camillus worked on, and soon two things followed. He began to have more confidence in himself, and he began to win the good opinion of others; with the first came an aspiration to rise to better things, with the latter the means to attain them. We are explicitly told that when first he undertook the work at the building his only ambition was to get through the winter, and to earn a few crowns with which to start life again in the spring; after all, even that was something when we consider what he had been immediately before. But he had no intention, and even feared, to go further. When some Capuchins, for whom the monastery was being built, offered him some of their cloth to replace his rags he refused it; he was afraid lest to accept it might lead to other things, perhaps to his becoming a friar. But before the winter was over all this had changed. One day, as he was driving his donkeys back from the town, he received the reward of his perseverance. He seemed to see himself, and all the life he had hitherto lived, in an entirely new light. The memory of the vow he had made long ago came back to him, and he began to ask himself whether his present occupation was not an opportunity given to him to fulfill it. The thought sank deeper; he remembered how once he had hoped that this might be an escape from his miserable life. He spoke of it to one of the friars, and he was encouraged. Encouragement revived desire, and soon he was at the superior’s feet, asking that he might be received.

In this way Camillus gained admission into a Franciscan monastery. But his stay did not last long. No sooner had he begun his novitiate than the wound above his ankle began to grow worse. He was told that he must go; with this impediment upon him he could not be received, but for his consolation he was given the assurance that so soon as ever his running sore was healed he would be taken back. Armed with this promise Camillus set to work in earnest; he would begin again where he had begun before and failed, but he would not fail again. He would go to Rome, to the hospital of San Giacomo, where he had received so much benefit before both for body and for soul but from which he had been so ignominiously, and so deservedly, expelled. He would ask to be given another chance, to be taken in on the same terms as formerly. For almost a year he had kept away from gambling; he had learned to work as he had never worked in all his life; the Franciscan fathers would give him a good character; he himself would let the authorities see that they might trust him; perhaps they would let him try again.

Camillus came to Rome, and all seemed to go well; it was in 1575, a holy year. He was given another trial at San Giacomo, and this time there were no complaints. Camillus had heard of Saint Philip Neri, of his wonderful power in supporting sinners; he made himself known to him, and Saint Philip took him in charge. Under his wise guidance Camillus kept steady; he worked at the hospital for four years as a menial servant, after which it appeared that the wound in his leg was healed. Then once more he wished to return to the Capuchins. Saint Philip tried to dissuade him, but he would not listen. He had made a vow; the Capuchins had promised that when his leg was healed they would have him back and he would go. But scarcely had he entered than the trouble began again; the wound broke out afresh and he was told to depart, this time with the emphatic injunction that he must not hope to try any more. Thus for the third occasion Camillus’s ambition to become a friar was frustrated. He tried again the next year, with the Observantines of Ara Coeli, and was again refused; only then did he give up all hope altogether.

“God bless you, Camillus,” was Saint Philip Neri’s welcome when he returned, “did I not tell you?”

Camillus was thirty years of age when he made his Franciscan experiment. For the last five years he had served faithfully at San Giacomo; therefore, when he had failed at the monastery he was gladly taken back. More than that, he was appointed superintendent of the servants, and that in those days included the nurses, who were all men. Now it was that the real Camillus began to appear. Whether it was his Franciscan experience which had given him new ideals, or whether it was Saint Philip who was training him to better things, from this moment Camillus became a new man. He had already learned the value of unceasing work as a cure for his many temptations; now he discovered that the more he gave himself to helping others the happier man he became. He began to love the patients in the hospital, not merely to serve them; and the more he loved them the more he was troubled by the treatment they received, even in so comparatively well-regulated a hospital as San Giacomo. One evening, as he stood in the middle of a ward, the thought occurred to him that good nursing depended on love that the more it was independent of mere wages the better it would be; that if he could gather men about him who would nurse for love, and would leave the wages to look after themselves, then he might hope to raise nursing to the standard he desired.

With this object in his mind Camillus carefully selected five men from among his fellow-servants in the hospital. He told them of his ideal, and of the way he hoped to attain it; the men rose to his suggestion, and agreed to throw in their lot with Camillus, pooling all their earnings, and living as much as possible together. But soon it was found this did not work; living in a public hospital, part of a general staff, they could not keep separate from the rest. If they wished to carry out their intention to the full they must have a home of their own.

Meanwhile another thought had come to Camillus. He had noticed that not only the servants often failed in their duty to the sick, but the priests failed as well, if he would have his company of nurses equal to his ambition, then it must include priests also. He would become one himself; illiterate as he was he set to work. First he found a chaplain of the hospital who undertook to teach him Latin during his leisure hours; later, since by this means he made slow progress, he entered himself as a student at the Roman College, taught by the Jesuit fathers; and, at the age of thirty-two this lank figure of over six feet was henceforth to be seen among the little boys learning the elements of grammar. Naturally the boys were amused; they nicknamed Camillus the “Late Arrival,” and would offer him their services to help him in his lessons. But Camillus persevered, and in 1584, when he was thirty-four years of age, he had the consolation of being ordained.

Now at last it may be said that the life of Camillus really began. He took a house by the Tiber, in the lowest and most pestilential part of the city, and there set about the service of the sick wherever he might find them. One incident here is worthy of mention; it is said to be the only occasion when Saint Philip Neri made a mistake in the diagnosis of anyone entrusted to his spiritual care. So long as Camillus was safe at his work in the hospital of San Giacomo, Saint Philip was happy about him; when he heard that he had left the place, and had taken up his abode in the lowest quarters of the town, he was not a little distressed. Knowing Camillus’s past, and his propensity for gambling, he was much afraid that his new surroundings would only revive the old temptation. Moreover he was convinced that this new departure was only another mark of that restless and obstinate nature which had already made his penitent seek in vain for admission among the Franciscans. He spoke sharply to Camillus; he advised him, for his own security, not to give up the work he was doing at San Giacomo; if he disobeyed, Philip would be compelled to give him up. But Camillus held firm to his project; he knew he had found his true vocation and he would not yield, even though he loved Saint Philip as more than a father, and from that moment, for a period at least, Philip Neri and Camillus de Lellis parted company. It is one more instance of the difference that can come even between the most charitable, and the most understanding, of saints.

It is not our object to speak of the wonderful Order, the Brothers of a Happy Death, which grew out of these humble beginnings; it is more to our purpose to watch how the mind of Camillus himself seemed steadily to expand, and how to each new light he responded without any reserve. At first he had the idea of founding an institution of hospital nurses; soon he realized that the sick outside hospitals were in far more need of good nursing than those within, and at once he made them the object of his special care. Next, in a time of pestilence, he saw how the stricken were, almost of necessity, neglected and allowed to die as they might; he bound himself and his followers by vow to visit pestilential areas whenever there was need, and in fulfillment of that vow numbers of his disciples gave their lives. Following on this was his care of those actually dying. When the end was certain, many, especially among the poor, were left to their fate and nothing more was done for them; Camillus made the comfort and help of the dying so much his special object of charity that from that work alone his Order ultimately took its name.

So did his charity expand, and the memory of his own early days spurred him on, some would say, even to extravagance. No case was too abandoned for him to help; none too wicked for Camillus to put it away. Once, in 1590, in a time of famine and distress in the city, when, besides, the winter was exceptionally severe, Camillus was distributing clothes to the poor in his courtyard. Two of the recipients, as soon as they had the clothes in their hands, immediately gambled them away or sold them, and then ran off lest Camillus might discover what they had done. But Camillus was too quick for them; his old days told him why they had run away, and he sympathized. He followed after them and caught them up; then he brought them back and clothed them again as if nothing had happened. Naturally his friends remonstrated. They thought Camillus had not noticed what the rascals had done, and told him, bidding him leave them to their fate. But Camillus did not change.

“What, my brothers,” he replied, “do you see nothing but the rags of these poor creatures? And do you see nothing beneath the rags but the poor creatures themselves? Saint Gregory gave to a man in rags, but the man was Jesus Christ Himself.”

This story is only one of many. Of all the great apostles of charity perhaps there is none of whom so many stories are told of extreme generosity to the poorest of the poor. And we in modern times have reason to preserve the memory of Camillus, for we owe him two great debts. In the first place he may be said to be the founder of the modern nursing spirit; in the second place, without any doubt, we are indebted to him for the institution of the Red Cross. When the Order which he founded was formally approved by the Pope, that its members might be distinguished from other regulars, Camillus asked that they might be permitted to wear a red cross on their cassock and mantle. By an apostolic brief, dated 26th June, 1586, the permission was granted; and three days later, on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Camillus with a few of his followers came to Saint Peter’s, each wearing the red cross, and there dedicated themselves and their work to God for all time.

But the charity of Camillus was not confined only to the sick and dying; it spread out to every phase of wretched humanity, no matter where he found it. As he grew older he seemed to recall with greater vividness the miseries of his early days; often enough, when his companions or others ventured to protest against what seemed to them excess, he would only answer that he himself had once been in the same or greater need, and would go on as before. When he traveled, he invariably filled his purse with small coins, to be given to beggars on the way; sometimes, for the same purpose, he would have bags of bread tied to his saddle. He would imitate literally the Samaritan in the Gospel; if he found a sufferer on the road, he would take him to the nearest inn, have him cared for, and leave behind money for his maintenance while he stayed. Indeed, this constant habit of paying for the needs of others whom he met anywhere, and who seemed in any way poorer than himself, was often a source of no small embarrassment to those who traveled with him. Camillus never seemed to care; he was always giving; when his stock ran out he would keep an account of the needs of others and would send them shoes, and clothes, and the like as soon as he was able. Not even the poverty of his own house would stop him; once when a father-prefect had forbidden the distribution of bread at the gate, because there was not enough for the community, Camillus bade him revoke his order.

“Did you sow and reap this bread?” he asked him. “I tell you, that if you will not do good to the poor, God will not do good to you; in the hour of your death it shall be measured out to you with the same measure with which you have measured out to such as these.”

And again, when his disciples were afraid of his seemingly reckless giving, he said to them:

“Trust in God, cowards, and cast your bread into the river of life; soon you shall find it in the ocean of eternity.”

Or when at least they suggested that it was enough to help those who came to them, he said:

“If no poor could be found in the world, men ought to go in search of them, and dig them up from underground to do them good, and to be merciful to them.”

Indeed, if one may distinguish the charity of Camillus from that of any hero of his class it was specially this: he was for ever “digging out the poor from underground to do them good.” No one knew the slums or the ghetto of Rome better than Camillus; and all whom he found there. Christians or Jews or Turks, were all the same to him. He frequented the prisons; he would shave and wash the wretched convicts, and bade his companions do the same; he had special care of those condemned to death. Even the undiscovered poor did not escape him; he would inquire from neighbors whether they knew of widows or children in straitened circumstances, and when he found them those widows and children would find parcels of money and clothes coming to them from they knew not where. Lastly we must mention his care of the very animals. He once found a newborn lamb lying in a ditch, apparently forgotten by the shepherds. He got off his horse, picked up the lamb and carried it in his cloak to the nearest sheepfold, where he gave it to those who would look after it. Another time he came across a dog with a broken leg. He cared for it and fed it regularly; when he had to leave the place he asked others to continue to look after it.

“I, too, have had a bad leg,” he said; “and I know the misery of not being able to walk. This is a creature of God, and a faithful creature, too. If I am as faithful to my master as a dog is to his, I shall do very well.” As we read incidents and sayings like these we seem to see the secret of the sanctity of Camillus; a depth of human sympathy, and virility, and love of life itself, which was at once the cause of his early wanderings and of his later heroism. In all greatness there is a certain disregard of consequences, be it in good or in evil; we say that the greatest mountains cast the deepest shadows. So was it with Camillus. In his early years this disregard led him to choose the life he did; later it would almost seem that it left him without any power to choose for himself at all. But one day, on a sudden, he seemed to awake. He saw something he had not seen before; he felt within himself a power to be and do which was not his own. Up to that time he had often tried and failed; from that moment he failed no more. He made many mistakes; for years he was compelled to grope about; feeling his way, not knowing where he would end, perhaps not altogether caring. Still, during those years of groping it is clear that his willpower was being strengthened every day. It is not a little significant that whereas at the age of twenty-three he had not the will to resist a fellow-tramp, when he was thirty he could hold his own conviction against even a Saint Philip Neri.

Once this willpower had been gained the rest of the growth of Camillus is comparatively easy to explain. He was a soldier by profession, for whom life had no surprises, to whom no degree of degradation came as a shock; he had gone through the worst and he knew. But he also knew that however low a man may fall he remains still a man; when he himself had been at his lowest he had never quite lost the memory of better things, nor the vague desire that he might be other than he was. From his own experience he was sure that the most wretched of men was more to be pitied than to be condemned; and if to be pitied, then to be helped if that was possible. With this knowledge, burnt into his soul during ten bitter years, and with the will now developed to act, the hero latent in Camillus began to appear. Nothing could stop him; not the anxious warning of a saint, not the discouragement of religious superiors, not the appeals of seculars who bade him be content with the good he was doing, not his own want of education, which seemed to exclude all possibility of the priesthood, not his naturally passionate nature, signs of which are manifest in him to the end. Like other saints, he began with nothing; as with them, the bread he gave multiplied within his hands; even more than has been the case with most saints, the stream he has set flowing has not been confined within the limits of a religious Order, but has overflowed its banks, and has materially affected the whole of our civilization.

Such has been the working of the grace of God in and through Camillus de Lellis, the trooper, the tramp. He founded his Congregation, and it was approved, in 1586, when he was thirty-six years of age. It was raised to the rank of an Order in 1591 , and Camillus was appointed its first General. He held that office till 1607, when he persuaded his brethren, and the ecclesiastical authorities, to allow him to resign. He lived for seven years more, a humble subject in the Order which he himself had founded and, as is not uncommon in the lives of saints, if we may judge from certain signs, they were not the happiest years of his life. In 1613 it became evident to himself and to his brethren that he could not live much longer, and at his own request he was taken to Rome, that he might die in the Holy City. But his preparation for death was characteristic of his life; so long as he could drag himself about he could not be kept from visiting the hospitals. When he could no longer go out, he still continued to visit the sick in his own house; and when that became impossible, then he set himself to writing many letters, to the many in the world who had helped him with their alms, and to his own brethren, that they might continue the good work. For himself, he did not forget what he had been. “I beseech you on my knees to pray for me,” he said to the General of the Carmelites, who visited him on his death-bed, “for I have been a great sinner, a gambler, and a man of bad life.”

As his mind began to wander it always went in the direction of God’s mercy; he seemed never to tire of thanking Him for all He had done, through the merits of the Precious Blood of Christ. At length the end came. He stretched out his arms in the form of a cross, pronounced again his thanksgiving for the Blood of Christ, and died. It was in the evening of July 14th, 1614.

SOURCE : https://catholicsaints.info/saints-for-sinners-saint-camillus-de-lellis-the-ex-soldier-of-fortune/




San Camillo de Lellis Sacerdote


 - Memoria Facoltativa

Bucchianico (Chieti), 25 maggio 1550 - Roma, 14 luglio 1614

Di nobile famiglia, nato a Bucchianico, nelle vicinanze di Chieti, il 25 maggio 1550, Camillo de Lellis fu soldato di ventura. Persi i suoi averi al gioco, si mise al servizio dei Cappuccini di Manfredonia. Convertitosi ed entrato nell'Ordine, per curare una piaga riapertasi tornò a Roma nell'ospedale di San Giacomo degli Incurabili, dove si dedicò soprattutto ai malati. Si consacrò a Cristo Crocifisso, riprese gli studi al Collegio Romano e, divenuto sacerdote nel 1584, fondò la «Compagnia dei ministri degli infermi». L'ordine dei Camilliani si distinse da altri per lo spirito della sua opera legata alla carità misericordiosa e per l'abito caratterizzato dalla croce rossa di stoffa sul petto. De Lellis pose attenzione unicamente ai malati, ponendo le basi per la figura dell'infermiere e del cappellano quali li vediamo oggi. Morì a Roma il 14 luglio 1614 e venne canonizzato nel 1746.

Patronato: Infermieri, Malati, Ospedali, Abruzzo

Etimologia: Camillo = aiutante nei sacrifici, fenicio

Martirologio Romano: San Camillo de Lellis, sacerdote, che, nato vicino a Chieti in Abruzzo, dopo aver seguito fin dall’adolescenza la vita militare ed essersi mostrato incline ai vizi del mondo, maturò la conversione e si adoperò con zelo nel servire i malati nell’ospedale degli incurabili come fossero Cristo stesso; ordinato sacerdote, fondò a Roma la Congregazione dei Chierici regolari Ministri degli Infermi.

Era il secondo figlio, atteso per molto tempo, dei nobili Giovanni de Lellis e Camilla de Compellis: Camillo, un gigante di forza, di coraggio, di carità, di dolcezza.

  In effetti tutta la vita di Camillo fu straordinaria. Egli nacque il 25 maggio 1550 a Bucchianico di Chieti nell’Abruzzo; nel mese dì marzo di quello stesso anno moriva a Granada Giovanni di Dio, un altro grande santo della sanità. Fu battezzato col nome di Camillo in ossequio alla madre, nome che significa “ministro del sacrificio”.

  Camillo fu un fanciullo vivace e irrequieto, imparò a leggere ed a scrivere e poi via, allorché a tredici anni gli morì la madre, nei tumulti di una vita vagabonda. Al seguito del padre, militare di carriera negli eserciti spagnoli, cominciò a frequentare le compagnie dei soldati, imparandone linguaggio e passatempi, fra i quali il gioco delle carte e dei dadi. Preparatosi anche nel mestiere, mentre si stava arruolando nell’esercito della “Lega santa”, improvvisamente gli morì il padre Giovanni, col quale doveva imbarcarsi. All’evento luttuoso seguì la comparsa di una dolorosa ulcera purulenta, forse da osteomielite, alla caviglia destra. Ciò costrinse Camillo a recarsi a Roma per il suo trattamento all’ospedale San Giacomo degli Incurabili.

  Parzialmente guarito, Camillo pensò che gli conveniva proprio fare il militare mercenario e con la seconda Lega fu mandato, al soldo della Spagna, prima in Dalmazia e poi a Tunisi. Fu congedato nel 1574, perse ogni suo avere al gioco e fu accolto dai Cappuccini di San Giovanni Rotondo non lontano da Manfredonia a fare il manovale, dopo avere girato qua e là in cerca di elemosina. Le buone parole di un frate di quel convento e la grazia del Signore trasformavano il cuore e la vita di quello sbandato ormai quasi venticinquenne e nel febbraio 1575 avvenne la conversione. La piaga, che intanto si andava estendendo alla gamba, lo riportò al San Giacomo di Roma, dove, con ben altro spirito rispetto al primo ricovero, cominciò, più che a pensare a se stesso, a rendersi conto dello stato di abbandono e di miseria in cui si trovavano i malati, alla mercé di un personale indifferente ed insufficiente. Si mise a servire i suoi compagni sofferenti e lo faceva in maniera così delicata e diligente che gli amministratori lo promossero responsabile del personale e dei servizi dell’ospedale.

  Ma non riuscendo a cambiare la situazione generale, Camillo ebbe l’ispirazione, una volta dimesso, di convocare un gruppo di amici che, consacratisi a Cristo Crocifisso, si dedicassero totalmente alle prestazioni verso gli ammalati. Essi formeranno più avanti la Compagnia dei Ministri degli Infermi che Sisto V, papa dal 1585 al 1590, approvava nel 1586, con il permesso ad ognuno di portare l’abito nero come i Chierici Regolari, ma con il privilegio di una croce di panno rosso sul petto, come espressione della Redenzione operata dal dono del Preziosissimo Sangue di Cristo.

   Intanto Camillo trovava il tempo per studiare e nel 1584 veniva ordinato sacerdote a S. Giovanni in Laterano.

  In quel tempo esisteva a Roma il grande ospedale o arcispedale di Santo Spirito, che Innocenzo III, papa dal 1198 al 1216, aveva fondato nel 1204 come Hospitium Apostolorum e che proprio Sisto V aveva provveduto a rinnovare ed a ingrandire. Qui prese ben presto servizio Camillo coi suoi compagni e per ventotto anni egli ebbe ogni attenzione per quei malati, nei quali spesso contemplava misticamente Gesù Cristo stesso. Egli riuscì anche ad esigere che le corsie fossero ben arieggiate, che ordine e pulizia fossero costanti, che i pazienti ricevessero pasti salutari e che i malati affetti da malattie contagiose fossero posti in quarantena.

  Nel frattempo papa Gregorio XIV elevava la Compagnia ad Ordine religioso e l’8 dicembre 1591 il sacerdote, con venticinque compagni, fece la prima professione dei voti, aggiungendo ai tre abituali di povertà, castità e obbedienza, il quarto voto, vale a dire quello di “perpetua assistenza corporale e spirituale ai malati, ancorché appestati”. Nella pratica della carità i Ministri degli Infermi, che diventeranno poi i Camilliani, stabilirono il seguente paradigma: il corpo prima dell’anima, il corpo per l’anima, l’uno e l’altra per Iddio.

  Per un certo tempo il sacerdote Camillo governò personalmente l’Ordine, fondando Case in parecchie città d’Italia, ma nel 1607 vi rinunciò per qualche dissenso sorto tra i confratelli e riprese a tempo pieno l’assistenza ai malati, ai poveri, ai diseredati. L’ulcera della caviglia non l’abbandonò mai e, dopo la comparsa di patologia renale e gastrica, egli moriva il 14 luglio 1614. I suoi resti mortali restano sepolti nella piccola chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena a Roma.

  Don Camillo de Lellis da Bucchianico venne beatificato nel 1742 e proclamato santo quattro anni dopo da Papa Benedetto XIV. Leone XIII lo dichiarò, nel 1886, patrono degli infermi e degli ospedali, Pio XI lo proclamò patrono degli infermieri nel 1930 e Paolo VI, qualche decennio più tardi, protettore particolare della sanità militare italiana. La sua festa liturgica ricorre il 14 luglio.

  L’Ordine dei Camilliani ha avuto un progressivo sviluppo lungo gli abbondanti quattro secoli che costituiscono la sua storia, fatti salvi alcuni momenti difficili nel Settecento e nell’Ottocento. Nel tempo si sono formate comunità di religiose e poi le Ministre degli Infermi ed ancora sono sorti in varie parti del mondo gruppi di laici, uomini e donne, che hanno fatto proprio il carisma e la missione di San Camillo: tutti insieme, Ordine in testa, costituiscono “La Famiglia Camilliana”.


Autore: Mario Benatti

SOURCE : http://www.santiebeati.it/dettaglio/28250



CAMILLO De Lellis, san

di Lorenzo Benzi - Enciclopedia Italiana (1930)

CAMILLO DLellis, san. - Nacque a Bucchianico (Chieti) il 25 maggio 1550 dai nobili Giovanni e Camilla De Compellis. Seguendo le tradizioni di famiglia, si arruolò diciottenne sotto le bandiere di Venezia in guerra contro i Turchi, al fianco del padre suo. Si distinse per valore in parecchi fatti d'arme, ma riportò una ferita al piede che lo costrinse a farsi curare all'ospedale di S. Giacomo in Roma. Impaziente e avido d'avventure militari, sebbene non ancora del tutto guarito, tornò al soldo d) Venezia a Cipro, alle isole Curzolari, e in Dalmazia. Passò poi al soldo della Spagna, e più tardi ancora s'unì con una compagnia di ventura militando in Africa. All'estro militare s'accoppiò nel giovane C. la passione del giuoco, che gli fu fonte d'amarezze e di miseria. Tuttavia anche in siffatta vita egli non ripudiò del tutto i principî religiosi appresi dalla madre; anzi di tratto in tratto era colto da impulsi di vita ascetica, tanto che pensò anche a farsi francescano. Il 2 febbraio 1575, dopo un'ammonizione d'un cappuccino, cavalcando sulla via di Manfredonia, ebbe una violenta crisi spirituale, che sboccò nel proponimento di lasciare il mondo. Entrato fra i cappuccini, non poté rimanervi per l'asprezza dell'abito che gli rendeva più acerba la piaga del piede che seguitò a tormentarlo tutta la vita. Si recò di nuovo a Roma per curarsi nell'ospedale di S. Giacomo dove, dimostratosi ottimo infermiere, fu eletto maestro di casa. Ivi egli raccolse (1582) i primi seguaci del nuovo ordine da lui fondato, dei Ministri degl'infermi (comunemente detti camillini), destinato all'assistenza corporale e spirituale dei malati e, benché contasse già 32 anni, intraprese gli studî di latino nel Collegio romano, e li continuò fino alla sua ordinazione sacerdotale (1584). Sisto V approvò la nuova congregazione (1586) e permise che i religiosi avessero sull'abito, come distintivo, una croce rossa. Gregorio XIV nel 1591 elevò la congregazione alla dignità di ordine, e da allora i Ministri degli infermi, oltre ai tre voti comuni a tutti i religiosi, emettono anche quello di assistere gl'infermi di qualunque malattia, anche contagiosa.
Eletto prefetto generale dell'ordine a vita, C. fu modello agli altri, stabilendo anche una forte disciplina di governo. Sopra un fondo di rude semplicità, spiccarono in lui risolutezza d'azione e magnanimità di cuore. Roma vide il prodigarsi della carità sua e dei Suoi religiosi, durante le carestie e le mortalità che frequentemente la colpirono alla fine del sec. XVI. Anche fuori di Roma, C. propagò la sua caritatevole istituzione, come a Palermo, Messina, Napoli, Milano, Mantova, Ferrara, Genova; già durante la sua vita non pochi dei suoi religiosi morirono nell'esercizio del loro ministero assistendo gli appestati a Napoli e Nola. Oltre alla piaga antica, C. sopportò negli ultimi anni della sua vita altre infermità che egli chiamava "misericordie di Dio". Consumato dalle fatiche, C. mori il 14 luglio 1614 in Roma, nella casa madre del suo ordine, la Maddalena, sua ordinaria residenza, e ivi fu sepolto. Benedetto XIV lo canonizzò nel 1746; e Leone XIII nel 1886 lo proclamò patrono di tutti gl'infermi e ospedali dell'orbe cattolico, e ne prescrisse l'invocazione nelle litanie degli agonizzanti.
Bibl.: S. Cicatelli, Vita del P. C. de L., Viterbo 1615 (Napoli 1620, Roma 1624); G. B. Rossi, Vita ven. P. C. De L., Roma 1651; Th. Blanc, Vie de St.-C. De L., Lione-Parigi 1860; A. Zimmerman, Der heilige C. De L., ecc., Friburgo in B. 1897; G. M. Monti, Il testamento di S. C. De L., in Rivista trimestrale di studî filosofici e religiosi, I (1920), p. 346 segg.; C. Oldmeadow, The First Red Cross, C. De L., Londra 1923; M. Vanti, S. C. De L., Roma 1929.

SOURCE : http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/camillo-de-lellis-san_(Enciclopedia-Italiana)/




CAMILLO DE LELLIS, santo

di Adriano Prosperi - Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 17 (1974)

CAMILLO DE LELLIS, santo. - Nacque a Bucchianico (Chieti), il 25 maggio 1550, figlio di Giovanni e di Camilla de Compellis.
Il padre, uomo d'arme, prese parte alle campagne militari che si ebbero in Italia a partire dal 1525, combattendo al servizio imperiale prima, poi spagnolo; intorno alla metà del secolo ebbe il comando di una guarnigione per la difesa delle coste adriatiche dalle incursioni dei Turchi. Il giovane C. si avviò ben presto a seguire l'esempio paterno; nel 1567 si recò a Francavilla al Mare per arruolarsi al soldo dei Veneziani, ma il tentativo andò a vuoto. Fu ripetuto a distanza di pochi anni, questa volta in compagnia del padre il quale però, ammalatosi, morì nei pressi di Loreto. Trovandosi in miseria e in cattive condizioni di salute, C. pensò, sia pure per breve tempo, alla possibilità di farsi frate. Ospite per alcuni giorni del convento francescano di S. Bernardino a L'Aquila, dov'era guardiano lo zio materno fra' Paolo, abbandonò senza difficoltà il progetto e si recò a Roma. Qui egli si ricoverò all'Ospedale di S. Giacomo per farsi curare una piaga ulcerosa alla caviglia destra da cui fu afflitto per tutta la vita. Rimase in ospedale dal 7 marzo al 31 dic. 1571, prima come malato, poi - dal 1º aprile - come membro del personale salariato. Di questo periodo C. conservò ricordi, poi raccolti dal suo confratello e biografa S. Cicatelli, di continui litigi dovuti al suo carattere "molto terribile" e dalla sua tendenza a sottrarsi agli obblighi di assistenza agli altri infermi "per essere lui così al gioco delle carte inclinato che spesso... se ne andava sopra le rive del Tevere a giuocare con i barcaroli di Ripetta" (Scritti..., p. 2).
Fu licenziato e, arruolatosi al soldo di Venezia, partecipò alla campagna contro i Turchi fino alla sua conclusione; dal 1573 al 1575 fu soldato nelle armate spagnole. I ricordi che C. nell'età matura conservava di questi anni documentano le asprezze e la ferocia del mestiere delle armi al livello umilissimo a cui egli lo sperimentò: epidemie, stragi, miseria, perfino episodi di cannibalismo, e una divorante passione per il gioco che ingoiava periodicamente tutto il danaro accumulato. Non v'è traccia di una qualunque giustificazione religiosa (o d'altro genere) della guerra contro i Turchi. L'esperienza religiosa sembra essere stata solo quella, elementare, del ricorso a Dio per scampare dalla morte, nella forma del voto di diventare frate, come avvenne il 28 ott. 1574 durante una burrasca di mare mentre C. si trovava in viaggio tra Palermo e Napoli. La miseria più nera, di cui un residuo orgoglio nobiliare lo faceva arrossire quando gli accadeva di incontrare un compaesano, lo spinse fino a chieder l'elemosina sulla porta delle chiese di Manfredonia alla fine del 1574, e fu qui che gli venne offerto di lavorare come manovale per conto dei cappuccini della città. Nel contatto quotidiano coi religiosi si maturò la conversione di C., ch'egli stesso datò al 2 febbr. 1575, sulla via di Manfredonia, e di cui attribuì il merito al padre Angelo, guardiano del convento di S. Giovanni: questi lo convinse, con espressioni adatte alla mentalità ed al linguaggio dell'ex soldato, a porsi al servizio di Dio "sputando in faccia al demonio" (Cicatelli, p. 27). Così l'impulso ricorrente a vestire l'abito di religioso sembrò concretarsi definitivamente per C. con l'ingresso come novizio nell'Ordine cappuccino. Ma, dopo un breve periodo di noviziato, venne dimesso con la promessa di riaccoglierlo se fossero migliorate le sue condizioni di salute, minacciate dall'aggravarsi della piaga alla caviglia destra.
C. si recò a Roma e, il 23 ott. 1575, si fece ricoverare di nuovo all'Ospedale di S. Giacomo degli Incurabili dove restò ininterrottamente fino al 20 giugno 1579. Durante quegli anni, la guarigione della piaga non fu ottenuta se non parzialmente, ma si verificarono altri fatti ben più decisivi per la sua successiva attività: l'esperienza della vita dell'ospedale da un lato, che fu anche esperienza di responsabilità crescenti (da garzone a infermiere, a maestro di casa), e dall'altro il maturare e prender corpo della sua scelta a favore della vita religiosa nel contatto con un confessore e direttore spirituale come s. Filippo Neri. Nel 1579, fra il giugno e l'ottobre, si verificò il secondo tentativo di C. di entrare nell'Ordine dei cappuccini; ma, ancora una volta, dopo quattro mesi di noviziato trascorsi a Tagliacozzo col nome di fra' Cristoforo, gli si riaprì la piaga e dovette tornarsene all'Ospedale di S. Giacomo. Qui, col titolo di maestro di casa, restò fino al 1584, occupandosi dell'amministrazione dell'ospedale e dei rapporti col personale salariato. Fattosi sciogliere dai voti (quelli cioè di entrare, prima, nei minori osservanti, poi nei cappuccini), C. si dedicò ai problemi interni dell'ospedale. Fu nel contatto quotidiano con tali problemi e nell'esercizio della carità al servizio di malati e poveri, raccolti e racchiusi in numero sempre crescente nelle istituzioni ospedaliere, che C. concepì il piano di una congregazione totalmente dedita alla cura fisica e spirituale degli infermi: cioè "una compagnia d'huomini pii e da bene, che non per mercede, ma volontariamente e per amor d'Iddio servissero gli infermi con quella charità et amorevolezza che sogliono far le madri verso i lor proprii figliuoli infermi" (Scritti..., p. 52). Il progetto, condiviso da altri fra i quali don Francesco Profeta, cappellano dell'ospedale, si realizzò dapprima in un oratorio all'interno di S. Giacomo, dove il piccolo gruppo (si ricordano cinque nomi) si raccoglieva nelle ore libere per meditare e pregare. Ma l'ostilità di una parte del personale verso l'attività particolarmente fervida e spontanea di questo gruppo, condivisa dalle autorità ecclesiastiche che temevano in quella conventicola un qualche segreto progetto di impadronirsi della direzione dell'ospedale, concluse questo episodio. La forma della confraternita laicale non era attuabile per C., al quale restava aperta solo l'altra strada, quella del vero e proprio ordine religioso. Un primo passo su questa via fu la decisione di diventare sacerdote; se all'ex soldato, che si indovinava ancora nell'irruenza dei modi e nella vigorosa e imponente taglia fisica, non si riconoscevano doti e capacità di direzione spirituale, una tale scelta era in qualche modo obbligata. Nel 1582 C. fu ammesso, presso il Collegio romano della Compagnia di Gesù, alla prima classe di grammatica, dove, con grande sforzo, raggiunse una preparazione sufficiente per ottenere gli ordini sacri.
Il suo incontro con le lettere non fu agevole, come venne rilevato costantemente sia dai contemporanei sia dalla tradizione del suo Ordine. Non si trattava però solo di indifferenza o estraneità alla cultura delle scuole; come si espresse la Congregazione dei Riti a proposito degli scritti di C., da un lato essi appaiono "scorretti e pieni di falsa grammatica, di sconcordanze, improprietà di elocuzione e cattiva ortografia", dall'altro, si aggiunge, "Iddio non gli accordò talento da profittare nell'humana letteratura e nel comporre opere e trattati" (Scritti..., p. IX). In effetti tali scritti, se sul piano formale non sono particolarmente corretti o limati, dal punto di vista dei problemi a cui sono dedicati rivelano una meticolosa attenzione ai modi e alle forme dell'esercizio dell'assistenza agli infermi ma all'interno di una religiosità tutta calata nella pratica delle opere, in cui si risolvono inquietudini e problemi religiosi di fondo (come, ad esempio, il problema della giustificazione, accennato in pochi ma significativi passi). Parlare quindi di carattere "popolare" della figura e dell'opera di C. ha senso solo se si intende far riferimento a un popolo in cui i fermenti e i dibattiti religiosi, così diffusi in età pretridentina, tendono ormai a venir cancellati e sostituiti dall'esercizio di determinate pratiche nell'ambito delle istituzioni ecclesiastiche della Controriforma. Alla pietà e alle idee religiose del primo Cinquecento italiano si collega quello che è il tema dominante dell'opera di C.: la contemplazione e l'imitazione del Cristo sofferente e povero.
Il 26 maggio 1584 C. fu ordinato sacerdote e il 10 giugno celebrò la sua prima messa. Dopo la breve parentesi di un viaggio a Bucchianico tornò a Roma, dove dette inizio alla sua Compagnia dei servi degli infermi (nome più tardi cambiato in "ministri degli infermi"). Il centro spirituale della compagnia fa stabilito presso la chiesa della Madonna dei Miracoli, di cui C. era cappellano, ma la vera sede della sua attività fu l'Ospedale di S. Spirito. Non furono inizi facili: le difficoltà vennero sia dal camerlengo dell'ospedale di S. Giacomo, monsignor Cusano sia da s. Filippo Neri che, ritenendo C. incapace di governare una congregazione, per essere appunto "idiota e senza lettere", venne a contrasto con lui e ne abbandonò la direzione spirituale. Tra la fine del 1584 e l'inizio del 1585 furono redatte le regole della Compagnia: in esse particolare rilievo veniva dato all'obbligo della povertà con l'impegno a non accettare nessuna donazione ereditaria dagli infermi.
Le regole non si soffermano tanto, però, sulla regolamentazione della vita religiosa dei confratelli quanto piuttosto sulla descrizione degli "ordini et modi che si hanno da tenere nelli hospitali in servire li poveri infermi" (Scritti..., pp. 67-71). Qui, attraverso una precisa e minuta descrizione dei modi e delle forme del rapporto coi malati, si afferma il principio del servizio agl'infermi: come rifare i letti, servire i pasti, fare le pulizie. Lo spirito di servizio implica anche il rifiuto di interessarsi dei "maneggi delle cose temporali" (cioè amministrazione dell'ospedale) e, soprattutto, l'obbligo di non coartare la volontà del malato, nemmeno quando si tratta di farlo accostare alla confessione. Quest'ultimo punto, come pure il fatto che non ci si proponesse di esercitare il ministero della confessione, sollevarono le obbiezioni della Congregazione dei vescovi e regolari, alla quale le regole furono sottoposte nel 1585. La nuova Congregazione ottenne l'approvazione papale con breve del 18 marzo 1586 e, con breve del 18 giugno, l'assenso alla richiesta di portare una croce di panno rosso sopra la veste come segno distintivo dei "ministri degli infermi".
Il 20 aprile C. fu eletto superiore. Dietro richiesta dei preti dell'Oratorio, fu disposta anche la creazione di un nuovo centro di attività a Napoli, dove C. accompagnò il primo gruppo nell'ottobre 1588, lasciandovelo sotto la direzione del padre Biagio Oppertis. Iniziava intanto l'azione per trasformare la Congregazione in ordine vero e proprio, con l'appoggio dei cardinali Vincenzo Laureo e Gabriele Paleotti. Per ottenere questo, che C. considerava un "perfezionamento" della sua "povera pianticiola" (Scritti..., p. 84), fu però necessaria la grande prova fornita dalla Congregazione a Roma durante l'epidemia degli anni 1590-91. In questo periodo l'attività assistenziale ebbe uno sviluppo straordinario, tanto da far temere a taluni, come al padre Oppertis, che ciò avvenisse a discapito del "profitto nello spirito" e da costringere lo stesso C. a regolare meglio i turni di lavoro. Il 21 sett. 1591 la bolla Illius qui pro gregis di Gregorio XIV riconosceva il nuovo Ordine, caratterizzato dai tre voti consueti e da un quarto voto, quello di servire gli infermi anche se colpiti da peste. La bolla fu pubblicata da Innocenzo IX e C. poté annunziare per l'8 dicembre la solenne professione, sottolineando con orgoglio che "non è poco haverla criata una nova Riligione" (Scritti..., p. 93). Seguirono alcuni anni di grande espansione durante i quali C., eletto generale il 7 dic. 1591, cominciò a spostarsi, con viaggi che si fecero sempre più frequenti, da Roma a Napoli, a Bucchianico e poi, via via, verso altre città, dove portava consigli e incoraggiamenti alle nuove sedi o studiava la possibilità di impiantarle; nel corso dei viaggi C. svolgeva anche un suo particolare tipo di predicazione, ispirato probabilmente a modelli cappuccini, e distribuiva o faceva distribuire immagini sacre, corone o altri tipi di veicoli materiali di devozione, con annesse indulgenze (alle quali attribuì sempre molta importanza). Il costante ricorso all'autorità e al consiglio di eminenti figure della Compagnia di Gesù, come il padre Vincenzo Bruni, non sembra aver sollecitato C. a indirizzare maggiormente se stesso e il proprio Ordine sulla via della formazione teologica; al contrario, proprio il fatto che i "ministri degli infermi" non avessero, fra i loro compiti specifici quello di predicare e confessare (e, in questo senso, egli fu sempre attento nell'evitare che singoli religiosi si assumessero sia pure eccezionalmente compiti del genere) lo portava a insistere sull'obbligo del non stare oziosi, dell'esercitare indefessamente l'assistenza ai malati, ponendo quindi in primo piano l'impegno ad una attività fisica incessante. Questo atteggiamento, unito all'aumento della consistenzanumericae delle zone di attività dell'Ordine, gli suscitò contro le critiche di chi desiderava invece maggiore spazio per la preparazione teologica e spirituale. Il padre Oppertis si fece portatore di queste esigenze, trovando, a quanto afferma il Cicatelli, buona disposizione in C., allora (1594) impegnato fra Milano e Genova per impiantarvi nuove fondazioni. Ma in realtà la sua concezione degli scopi dell'Ordine divergeva sostanzialmente da quella dell'Oppertis e il conflitto tra le loro posizioni divenne ben presto esplicito, configurandosi non tanto come un contrasto personale, quanto come fase culminantediun dibattito generale sulle linee di sviluppo dell'Ordine stesso, per il quale si prospettò addirittura la possibilità di una scissione. Il dibattito ebbe luogo nei capitoli generali del 1596 e del 1599, dove venne posta quella che nella storia dell'Ordine fu chiamata la questione degli ospedali, originata dalla decisione presa da C. a Milano nel 1594 di fare assumere ai religiosi il carico completo del servizio materiale, con l'obbligo di risiedere all'interno dell'ospedale.
Il nome di "servi degli infermi" veniva cioè preso alla lettera dal fondatore, per il quale le cure fisiche erano inscindibili dall'opera di conforto spirituale e prendevano un rilievo quasi esclusivo; si doveva, come C. fece mettere agli atti della Congregazione del 20 maggio 1599, "servire negl'hospedali all'infermi nella cura et bisogni corporali, cioè nettargli le lingue, dargli da mangiare, da sciacquare, far letti, et scaldarli, ... et fare altre cose simili" (Scritti.., p. 195). Dall'altra parte si desiderava invece privilegiare l'assistenza spirituale o aiuto al "ben morire" che, in quanto tale, poteva essere - e di fatto fu - amministrato non solo negli ospedali ma nelle prigioni, nelle case private; questa seconda via comportava anche una maggiore importanza della preparazione teorica, in quanto studio dei casi di coscienza e delle tecniche del "confortare".
Dopo una serie di conflitti che rischiarono di paralizzare l'Ordine, minacciato perfino di estinzione nel 1600 col divieto di ammettere novizi, C., pur ostacolato dai consultori che gli furono associati nel governo per controllarlo, riuscì, con notevole abilità e dispiegando un'energia straordinaria, a far trionfare nella sostanza la sua posizione: il 28 dic. 1600 la bolla Superna dispositione di Clemente VIII concedeva ai religiosi di abitare negli ospedali. Partendo da questa base e dopo essersi liberato dal controllo della Consulta (1602), recuperando così i pieni e assoluti poteri di governo, C. percorse tutta l'Italia moltiplicando il numero degli ospedali nei quali i "ministri degli infermi" dovevano assicurare la loro opera disimpegnando ogni genere di servizi, con la sola esclusione delle fatiche "grosse". Alla carenza di uomini provvide rendendo più elastiche le norme che regolavano i periodi di prova e di noviziato. Ma le resistenze, mai scomparse, alla linea che egli rappresentava trovarono un valido motivo nelle difficoltà finanziarie dell'Ordine per imporre un cambiamento di direzione; convocato dal cardinal protettore Ginnasi pervolontà di Paolo V nel settembre 1607, C. fu posto di fronte alla situazione in termini tali da non lasciargli altra via d'uscita che la rinuncia al generalato. Già altre volte egli aveva usato la minaccia di dimissioni come mezzo di pressione per ottenere i suoi scopi, ma stavolta le dimissioni furono accettate. Sotto la direzione dell'Oppertis, che gli successe nella carica, C. assunse una posizione particolarmente riservata, non partecipando al capitolo generale che si tenne nel 1608 ed esercitando piuttosto una funzione di stimolo e di modello vivente. A tal fine chiese e ottenne di poter fissare la sua residenza nell'Ospedale di S. Spirito, dove si dedicò al servizio totale e senza limitazioni degli infermi. Quando però, nel 1609, l'Oppertis nel corso di una visita alle case dell'Ordine tentò di realizzare il suo programma di ridurre alla sola assistenza spirituale i compiti dei "ministri degli infermi", C. reagì prontamente. Senza tener conto dell'ordine del generale che lo inviava a Bucchianico, sostenne davanti alla Consulta, al cardinal Ginnasi e allo stesso Oppertis le sue posizioni, costringendo quest'ultimo a ritrattarsi.
Negli ultimi anni della sua vita C. abitò, con brevi interruzioni, presso l'Ospedale di S. Spirito; si recò nel 1610 ancora una volta nel suo paese natale, dove la fama della sua santità era ormai diffusa, e di questo ultimo soggiorno rimase memoria come di un periodo di miracoli - moltiplicazione di pani e di cibi, trasformazione dell'acqua in vino - non insoliti né strani per un personaggio la cui esperienza era così strettamente legata ai problemi della fame e delle carestie. Nel 1613 accompagnò il nuovo generale padre Nigli nella visita alle case dell'Ordine ma, giunto a Milano, fu costretto dall'aggravarsi delle sue condizioni di salute a tornarsene a Roma. Qui, tra il 14 giugno e il 10 luglio 1614, sentendo prossima la morte, redasse e inviò a diverse comunità una sua lettera testamento, nella quale ribadiva la sua concezione della natura e dei fini dell'Ordine, ricordando ad esempio "che non si pigli mai cura dello spirituale assoluta, senza il corporale" (Scritti…, p. 461). Il 12 luglio dettò il suo testamento spirituale e il 14 dello stesso mese morì.
Il C. venne beatificato il 7 aprile 1742 e canonizzato quattro anni dopo, il 29 giugno 1746.
Fonti e Bibl.: I suoi scritti sono editi da M. Vanti, Scritti di s. C. de L., Milano-Roma 1965. Gli atti dei processi di beatificazione sono conservati in Arch. Segr. Vat., Riti 2613-2637;le "posizioni" ed i sommari a stampa alla Bibl. naz. di Parigi, H. 773-780. Si veda inoltre, S. Cicatelli, VitadelpC. de L., Viterbo 1615; C. Lenzo, Annal. relig. cler. reg. ministrantium infirmis..., Neapoli 1641; M. Endrizzi, Bibliografia Camilliana, Verona 1910; M. Vanti, S. Cde L. Roma 1929, Id., SGiacomo degli Incurabili di Roma nel Cinquecento..., Roma 1938; Id., S. C. de L. e i suoi ministri degli infermi, Roma 1957; B. Croce, S. C. de L., in La Critica, XXIX (1931), pp. 310 ss.; Il primo processo per s. Filippo Neri..., a cura di G. Incisa Della Rocchetta-N. Vian, Città del Vaticano 1957-1963, ad nomen; Bibliotheca Sanctorum, III, coll707-722.

SOURCE : http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/camillo-de-lellis-santo_(Dizionario-Biografico)/



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