Camillus of Lellis (May 25, 1550 – July 14, 1614) was an Italian monk. He was born at Bucchianico (now in Abruzzo, then part of the Kingdom of Naples). Camillus joined the Venetian army while still only a youth. After his regiment was disbanded in 1574, Camillus worked in a hospital and later rejoined the Venetian army and fought in a war against the Turks. After the war he returned to the hospital in Rome, became a nurse and later director of the hospital. Camillus established the Order of Clerks Regular Ministers to the Sick, better known as Camillians. His experience in wars led him to establish a group of health care workers who would assist soldiers on the battlefield. The red cross on their cassock remains a symbol of the order today. Members also devoted themselves to the plague-stricken. Camillus was so distressed at how hopeless plague cases were treated during his time that he formed the “Brothers of the Happy Death” for plague victims. It was for the efforts of the Brothers and his healings that the people of Rome credited Camillus with ridding the city of plague, and for a time, Camillus became known as the “Patron Saint of Rome.” Throughout his life, ailments caused him suffering, but Camillus allowed no one to wait on him and would crawl to visit the sick when unable to stand and walk. It is said that Camillus possessed the gifts of healing and prophecy. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 and four years later canonized by him in 1746. Popularly, Camillus is the patron saint of nurses, and against gambling. His mortal remains are located in the altar in the Church of Mary Magdalene, Rome, Italy, along with several of his relics. Also on display is the cross that allegedly spoke to Camillus, asking, “Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine?” which has become the motto associated with St. Camillus, as well as health care workers who were inspired by him. The Congregation of the Servants of the Sick of St. Camillus, the Daughters of St. Camillus, the Secular Institutes of Missionaries of the Sick Christ Our Hope, of the Kamillianische Schwestern and of the Lay Camillian Family, were born later of the charism and spirituality of St. Camillus. In the United States, his feast day is currently an optional “Memorial” celebrated on July 18.
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