Tuesday, July 14, 2015

July 14 - Camillus de Lellis, Neglected Child, Converted by Love, Caretaker of the Sick


Camillus de Lellis' father was a soldier and an officer in not only the army of Naples but, also, at one time the army of France. It wasn't unusual for a boy's father to serve in the military in the sixteenth century but it set Camillus up for a series of circumstances that would change the nature of his life. When Camillus was only a boy his mother became ill from some disease that swept through the countryside where they lived while Camillus' father and her husband was away at war. Camillus watched as his mother's life slowly faded and knew that he was abandoned when she finally passed from this world into what he only knew as the dark and irrevocable fog of death. With his father far away and seemingly uninterested in him, young Camillus joined the army of Venice in their fight against the Turks. Though he was young he was exceptionally tall and strong being nearly six feet and six inches tall and so he made an excellent soldier in the eyes of the Venetian officers and commanders. Though he must have resented his father, he followed in his footsteps as he sought both direction and understanding.

After his military service he ended up serving in a hospital with patients deemed hopeless and incurable. He must have been able to see the face of his mother in the face of many of the ones he cared for in that hospital--people who had been labeled by the world as the walking dead and utterly without hope.He tried to care for them but he was no more able to pull them out of their despair and illness than one panicked and drowning shipwreck victim is able to save another flailing in the water beside him. Camillus had become a heavy drinker to deal with his own dark thoughts and fears and had taken up gambling as he traveled to and fro with the soldiers of his regiment.Somebody who had experienced so much "bad luck" must have thought that his luck would soon turn but it didn't. His compulsive gambling began to consume more and more of his life as any addiction will do if given the chance. Eventually, he was dismissed from his job at the hospital because he had become more and more aggressive and unreliable as the hooks of his addiction sank more deeply into his flesh. Shortly after losing his job he had incurred so many gambling debts that he had to find a job--any job--so that he might try to dig his way out of the hole he had dug for himself. He found a Capuchin monastery.

Camillus ended up at the monastery because he had taken a job in construction and the monastery was adding on to its buildings. He began listening to the monks when he took a break from his work and soon he found himself looking forward more and more to their prayers and readings and less and less to the games that had once consumed and ruled him. Camillus was soon converted to the Christian faith through the teaching and love of the monks and tried to take their vows upon himself as a monk, but he could not forget the time he had spent with those labeled hopeless and incurable. Furthermore, Camillus could not escape a leg injury he had incurred while serving in the military and this persistent pain prevented him from taking the Capuchin habit as his own. Instead, he returned to the hospital of years ago and began spending time with the sick and dying. Camillus prayed over their wounds and held out hope when everyone else said it was foolishness. Having found the dry land of the Faith, Camillus was able to help those still adrift in the shipwreck that he had once known and in the waters of addiction and sin in which he had once nearly drowned.After he was ordained to the priesthood, Camillus established an order of Christians devoted to the sick and dying known as the "Congregation of the Servants of the Sick." Their charge and goal was to treat each sick and dying person as they would treat Jesus himself and to do so with hopeful confidence in their recovery from sickness. In the end, the boy who had been abandoned by indifference and illness found his way through to redemption and a life of healing and service.

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