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St Camillus

St Camillus was born in 1550. He was born in Bucchianico in the Abbruzzi region of Italy. His name was Camillus de Lellis. His mother was quite advanced in age when she gave birth to her son. An earlier child, Camillus' elder brother died in childhood.

It is stated that Camillus' mother had a dream whilst pregnant that her child would be a leader of men who would all have crosses on their shirts. She feared she was to give birth to a leader of a band of brigands and this troubled her.

Camillus was born on 25 May 1550. His mother died when he was thirteen. At the age of 17 Camillus decided to follow in his father's footsteps and he became a mercenary soldier. He travelled with his father and fought many battles. His father died early in Camillus' new career and so he was left without any family. He fought against the Turks.

Camillus was an imposing figure. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall and he developed a bad temper. He also became addicted to gambling and was often found in the middle of card games. During one game in Naples he even bet the shirt on his back and lost. Thus leaving the game half-stripped. He lived a dangerous life and was a man of violence. It was during these years that he developed a leg wound that would prove incurable and he had it for the remainder of his life.

st camillus conversion

At the age of 25 he was converted. He was on his way to Manfredonia in Southern Italy riding horseback when he was so overwhelmed by the sins he had committed and the dissolute life he led, that he fell from his horse. He vowed from this moment to live his life only for God. ‘No more the world for me,’ he said. He joined the Capuchins, (Fransciscans) believing this to be God’s will for him. However, despite his best efforts in the Capuchins and the high esteem in which he was held by them, he was released by them as his leg wound was aggravated by the coarse habit they wore. He was encouraged to go to Rome for treatment. He went to Santo Spirito Hospital where the sick were not well cared for.

Eventually Camillus realised that God was calling him to care for the plague ridden sick people here and in the city of Rome and so he dedicated his life to serving the merciful Jesus Christ in the sick and the dying. He realised he could not do this alone and so he called others to follow his example, embracing not only the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but a fourth vow also to care for the sick even with danger to one’s own life. He called on his followers to be dead to the world and dead even to their own life, living only for the merciful Jesus Christ. He referred to the Sick as his Lord and Master and he would ask forgiveness of them for his sins. He would quote to his companions often the words of our Lord. ‘I was sick and you visited me.’(Matthew 25:36)


St Camillus assisting the plague stricken of Rome.

'More love in those hands brother,' he would say in urging and encouraging his fellow Camillians in their care for the sick and the dying. 

St Camillus loved Jesus in the Eucharist and would spend a long time in prayer each day before the Blessed Sacrament. He loved Jesus in the Sick. For him, the Sick were his 'Lord and Master.' He believed his sole role was to alleviate the Sick in their suffering, assured that what he was doing to them he was doing to the Lord Himself. No patient was too dirty, too sick or too malevolent for him not to care for them. Many of the Sick were afflicted with the plague. Thus the Camillians took a fourth vow to serve the Sick, even those who were afflicted with the plague at the risk of being contaminated and losing one's life.

st camillus 3

 St Camillus Patron Saint of the Sick & Those who care for them.

Many Camillians died as a direct result of looking after these sick people. But for Camillus and his followers, this was their call. This was their vocation. This was what Christ wanted them to do. They could think of nothing better than to lay down one's life for Christ and the sick. 'Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do for me.'(Matthew. 25:40) So it would be decreed for all time that the Camillians would take four vows, poverty, chastity, obedience and service to the Sick even with danger to their own life. They would become known as the Fathers and Brothers of a Happy Death, so much was the comfort that they brought to the dying. Indeed, St Philip Neri, another holy man and Confessor of St Camillus said he saw on many occasions, Camillians (as they became known) speaking words of spiritual comfort to the dying and standing beside the Camillians angels of God speaking into the ears of the Camillians the words of comfort they were to offer to the dying.

The Order officially came into being on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1591 when Camillus and his first followers took their vows. The work of Camillus was described by the Pope, Sixtus V as a 'new school of charity'. The first group was truly international. There were 13 men aside from Camillus. Even though our Province, Anglo-Irish, would not come into being until the Second World War 350 years later, we know that amongst his first followers were two English priests, Fathers Roger and Robert and one Irish Brother, John Baudin, - a native of Galway.

St Camillus served the sick tirelessly throughout his life. His greatest joy was to be in the midst of the sick and to be able to alleviating their suffering. He would feed them, wash them, bandage their wounds and he would even confess his sins to them and ask pardon of them. He would also wash their bandages believing this to be complete and total service to the Lord Himself.

Camillus having exhausted himself in the service of the Sick and the dying, died on July 14, 1614 aged 64. He died already proclaimed by those who knew him as a holy man and indeed a saint. He was canonised a saint of the Church in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV.

st camillus in death

St Camillus in death.

One of his most famous counsels he offered to his confreres was the following. ‘Brother, if you commit a sin and take pleasure in it, the pleasure passes but the sin remains. But if you do something virtuous even though you are tired, the tiredness passes but the virtue remains.’

Fr Stephen Foster, MI


Order of St Camillus


Would you like to follow Jesus Christ in the service of the Sick and the dying?

Write for further information to:-


Fr Suresh Babu, MI

St Camillus,

South Hill Ave.


Co. Dublin 

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All enquires treated in confidence.