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.”