This Saturday, July 18th, is the feast day of St. Camillus de Lellis. You may not have heard of him before, but in our current crisis he is a saint that you should certainly know more about. St. Camillus is the patron saint of the sick, nurses, hospitals, and physicians, and his body is buried near a miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Health.
However, for most of his life St. Camillus de Lellis was not a likely candidate for sainthood. He had a hard childhood, as his mother died when he was 13, his father neglected him, and he entered the military at the age of 16. During his time in the Venetian army he was known for his violent temper, reckless behavior, and habitual gambling. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
During his military engagement, St. Camillus was wounded, and the wound became infected. This injury never fully healed during his lifetime, and it altered the course of his entire life. Due to his injury he entered the San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables, but he picked so many fights that he was kicked out of the hospital after just nine months. Having gambled away all his possessions by the age of 24, he took a job as a laborer at a Capuchin friary, where he experienced a conversion to the Lord.
St. Camillus tried to enter the Capuchin novitiate, but was forced to leave due to the wound on his leg. He went back to San Giacomo Hospital, where he met St. Philip Neri, who would become his confessor. Unable to pay for his stay at the hospital St. Camillus de Lellis served as a minister to the sick and the dying, and devoted the rest of his life to this ministry.
St. Camillus was eventually ordained a priest at the age of 34, and founded a congregation of his own, called the Order of the Ministers of the Infirm. In addition to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the “Camillans” (as they are more commonly known) also take a vow of unfailing service to the sick, even at the risk of their own lives.
Despite his own illness, Camillus devoted himself to caring for the sick, and during his final illness he received the Eucharist and said, “O Lord, I confess that I am the most wretched of sinners, most undeserving of thy favor; but save me by thy infinite goodness. My hope is placed in thy divine mercy by thy Precious Blood.”
During this COVID-19 crisis, we can call upon the intercession of St. Camillus de Lellis and Our Lady of Good Health for their intercession in our lives, our country, and in the world.
If you have been listening to Relevant Radio® over the past few months, you have likely heard many references and invocations of Our Lady of Good Health. That’s partly because Rev. Francis Hoffman, “Fr. Rocky”, Executive Director/CEO of Relevant Radio has had a devotion to Our Lady of Good Health for several decades, and it is connected to St. Camillus de Lellis.
Fr. Rocky said, “I discovered this miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Health thirty years ago while studying in Rome. It is found at a side altar in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene where St. Camillius de Lellis is buried. From first hand experience, I know the power of prayers to Our Lady of Good Health. At the time I was praying for a loved one who had a very serious and incurable condition. That person is still living today.”
St. Camillus de Lellis died on July 14, 1614. In honor of the day he received his eternal reward, and in supplication for our country during this COVID-19 crisis, let us ask St. Camillus de Lellis and Our Lady of Good Health to intercede for all the sick, all the nurses and physicians, and all who are experiencing trouble during this time.
Prayer to Our Lady of Good Health
“O Lady of Good Health, our Merciful Father chose you to be a powerful intercessor in times of trouble and woe.
As in past centuries when you have ended contagious diseases, we implore you now to end the Coronavirus which is damaging the health of many and spreading fear in our communities.
Teach us not to be afraid, to be courageous and generous in offering assistance to others, and to live joyfully in the state of grace.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”