Encountering St. Camillus

Five years ago, I was attending a cool Thomistic seminar in Norcia after which there was an optional trip to Rome.

Flashback to earlier that summer when I had been in America at the Hildebrand Project learning from and conversing with Italian statesman and professor Rocco Buttiglione.

As we sat outdoors, he memorably told me the story of St. Camillus de Lellis about whom I don’t remember having ever heard before.

Professor Buttiglione and I had been discussing end-of-life care when he began to speak to me about this saint who, almost 500 years ago, founded the Servants of the Sick.

Given my interest in these topics, I was happy to encounter the story of this saint in conversation.

Then, when I was in Italy, I had the inspiration to look up the saint’s feast day and where he was buried. To my delight, I discovered that his feast is in July (he died on July 14, 1614) and that he was buried in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Rome.

As the day of the optional Rome trip happened to be on St. Magdalene’s feast day (July 22nd), a friend and I set off on a quest to visit the church and the place in which St. Camillus was buried.

There I continued to discover bits and pieces of his story through the art in that impressive church and through a prayer card upon which I came that said:

A Prayer for the Sick and Those Who Serve Them:

Lord, in Your love for the sick you filled St. Camillus with your gifts of love and care for the sick. Assist us now even more generously with your power and protection. Grant us physical, emotional, and spiritual healing along with a spirit of patience and acceptance of what can not be changed. Make us holy and, through the intercession of St. Camillus, comfort us.

Born in Bucchianico, Italy in 1550. He was converted at the age of 25 and consecrated his life to the care of the sick and the reform of healthcare. He founded the Order of the Minister of the Sick (Camillians) in 1582 to continue his work. He died in Rome in 1614 and is the patron of the sick and those who serve them.

There was also a prayer card commemorating Venerable Nicola D’Onofrio, a twentieth-century seminarian who died at age 21 living out the same faithful spirit of St. Camillus.

How striking to encounter the continuity and the urgency of this charism throughout the centuries.

It was a marvelous day in Rome and that was largely because of God’s providence alerting me to the saints and dates that make life all the richer and more interesting.

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