|“The poor and sick are the heart of God; in serving them, we serve Jesus Christ.”|
Saint Camillus de Lellis’ early life was characterized as a life as a sinner instead of a saint. After his mother died when he was just a child, his life was punctuated with fighting, gambling and truancy. He quit school to join the army but was ejected from one army camp after another for excessive gambling and fighting. When he was 17, he was afflicted with a lifelong disease on his leg that left an open wound that would not heal.
In Rome, he entered San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables as both a patient and servant, but he was dismissed for quarrelsome behavior. After gambling away everything he owned, he accepted work at a friary. One day he was so moved by a sermon of the superior, he began a conversion that changed his whole life.
Camillus returned to San Giacomo and devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. He studied for the priesthood and was ordained when he was 34 years old. He then left San Giacomo to begin a congregation. The members of his congregation performed countless merciful acts by serving prisoners and people inflicted by the plague as well as those dying in private homes. Both priests and laymen went out into the streets to care for the homeless who were sick and dying. They distinguished themselves by wearing red crosses on their clothing. The red cross is now a symbol we associate with compassionate service for those in need.
Patron Saint of:
Feast Day: July 18