Saint of the Day
St. Camillus de Lellis
Feast Day: July 18
Patronage: sick; hospitals; nurses; physicians
Birth: May 25, 1550 Bucchianico, Chieti, Kingdom of Naples
Death: July 14, 1614 (aged 64) Rome, Papal States
Beatified: 1742, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Benedict XIV
Canonized: 1746, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Benedict XIV
Attributes: A Catholic priest holding a sick person
Life: Saint Camillus de Lellis, M.I., (25 May 1550 – 14 July 1614) was a Roman Catholic priest from Italy who founded a religious order dedicated to the care of the sick.
Camillus de Lellis was born on May 25, 1550, at Bucchianico (now in Abruzzo, then part of the Kingdom of Naples). His mother, Camilla Compelli de Laureto, was nearly fifty when she gave birth to him. His father was an officer in both the Neapolitan and French royal armies and was seldom home. De Lellis had his father’s temper and, due to her age and retiring nature, his mother felt unable to control him as he grew up. She died in 1562. As a consequence he grew up neglected by the family members who took him in after her death. Tall for his age, at 16 De Lellis joined his father in the Venetian army and fought in a war against the Turks.
After a number of years of military service, his regiment was disbanded in 1575. Having gambled away all his possessions, De Lellis took work as a laborer at the Capuchin friary at Manfredonia; he was constantly plagued, however, by a leg wound he received while in the army, which would not heal. Despite his aggressive nature and excessive gambling, the guardian of the friary saw a better side to his nature, and continually tried to bring that out in him. Eventually the friar’s exhortations penetrated his heart and he had a religious conversion in 1575. He then entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars. His leg wound, however, had continued to plague him and was declared incurable by the physicians, thus he was denied admission to that Order.
He then moved to Rome where he entered the San Giacomo Hospital (possibly founded by the Hospitaller Knights of St. James), which cared for incurable cases. He himself became a caregiver at the hospital, and later its Superintendent. In the meantime, he continued to follow a strict ascetic life, performing many penances, such as constant wearing of a hairshirt. He took as his spiritual director and confessor, the popular local priest, Philip Neri, who was himself to found a religious congregation and be declared a saint.
De Lellis began to observe the poor attention the sick received from the staff of the hospital. He was led to invite a group of pious men to express their faith through the care of the patients at the hospital. Eventually he felt called to establish a religious community for this purpose, and that he should seek Holy Orders for this task. Neri, his confessor, gave him approval for this endeavor, and a wealthy donor provided him with the income necessary to undertake his seminary studies.
He was ordained on Pentecost of 1584 by Lord Thomas Goldwell, Bishop of St Asaph, Wales, and the last surviving Catholic bishop of Great Britain. Camillus then retired from his service at the hospital, and he and his companions moved to the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, where they assumed responsibility for the care of the patients there.
– Christi Simus Non Nostri