St.Camillus had entered on his appointed mission at last, and the Beatitude—”I was sick and you visited Me”—seemed always shining before his eyes. No one knew better than Camillus how many grievances cried piteously for redress in the hospitals of the day. The poor were treated more like hunted and despised animals than like human beings. Careless,
selfish attendants did as they pleased, day and night. Nourishment was sparingly given. Medicines were administered at random. Christian compassion was scanty. Worst of misfortunes—there were instances of priests who neglected their duty, so that the sick frequently wasted away and died without the consolations of religion and the Sacraments.
“Can I contend against such a crowd of evils?” was the question Camillus put to himself one evening, standing in the principal ward of the hospital. The answer came like a whisper from heaven. A voice seemed to say: “Found a Congregation of pious men, who will tend the sick for the love of God, with the care of a mother for her sick child.”
From that instant we may date the origin of the Clerics Regular—in the year 1582, about the Feast of the Assumption—though Camillus only projected the establishment of a simple Congregation of laymen for the assistance of the hospitals in Rome.
He began by drawing down the blessing of God on his design. He spent whole nights on his knees, imploring light and strength for himself and his future companions. He redoubled his numerous practices of penance. Then, with a very anxious heart, he disclosed his longings to five persons connected with hospital work, in whom he had confidence. Such unction was imparted to his pleading that they declared their readiness to follow him “in life and death, in prosperity and adversity.” And, in spite of the opposition that was raised, even by virtuous men, the little band remained true to their
They needed courage, indeed; for the guardians of the hospital, among them a future Cardinal, Monsignor Cusano,forbade even the little private meetings and devotions which Camillus and his friends had begun. They were most obedient in relinquishing their pious practices, but their charity and zeal continued as warm as ever and merited the signal favours granted to Camillus.
The same night Camillus, worn out with grief, fell asleep while he kept his nightly vigil before the Crucifix. As he slept he grew conscious of the infinite compassion of our Divine Lord. He thought he looked up at the Crucifix, and heard the words: “Fear not, O faint of heart! Go on trustfully! I will be with you, and will help you!”
Moreover, Our Lord deigned to renew and confirm this sublime encouragement: kneeling one day before the Crucifix,Camillus saw the Saviour‟s Hands detach themselves from the Cross, and the whisper reached his ears: “Why are you
troubled? This is My work, not yours. Persevere.”
Little wonder that the Saint grew confident of success, and that he addressed himself to one who could further his plans. This friend was Marc Antonio Coltselli, a penitent of the renowned St. Philip Neri. He entered warmly into Camillus‟s views, and recommended them to the notice of Father Francesco Tarugi, of the Oratory, who exclaimed: “How
useful such a Congregation would be in times of pestilence!”
Camillus could restrain his enthusiasm no longer. He began with a preparation for the priesthood, and humbly applied himself to the rudiments of Latin under private tuition, supplemented by attending the classes at the Jesuit‟s College. “It
cannot be denied,” said his masters, “that this man has come late to school, but he will hasten on, and do great things in the Church.” This opinion was shared by the ecclesiastical authorities, and there was no hesitation in allowing Camillus to
be ordained on Whit Sunday, 1584. Immediately after, the Governors of San Giacomo elected him chaplain of their little church near the Porta del Popolo, called “The Madonna dei Miracoli.”
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 habitstill 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.