This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14 -- Feast of Saint Camillus de Lellis

Camillus was six-foot-six, but since the NBA wasn't around in the sixteenth century, he wound up in the Venetian Army fighting the Turk. His mom must have been a little disappointed that he was a hard-drinking, heavy-gambling brawler since she had hauled herself out to the barn when she went into labor, wanting to give him as holy a start in life as Jesus himself. Of course, at a miraculous sixty herself at the time of delivery, she might have thought about Isaac or John the Baptist more than Jesus, since Mary Theotokos is mostly pictured on the young side. In any event, having a manger for his first crib didn't help in the short-run -- Camillus was a hard-driving, high-living son-of-a-gun-for-a-beer (wine).

He hit rock-bottom somewhere outside Vegas. Far outside Vegas, like a tavern in Venice. Busted flat and hung over, he went to work at a Capuchin friary and then applied to become a Franciscan brother. Nothing doing -- with persistent leg ulcers from his army days, he was deemed more liability than asset. But they had also put him in a hospital for the incurables for a while, and during his stay, it occurred to him that improvements in patient care were overdue. He and two like-minded fellows opened a small hospital for incurables in which everyone, no matter how hopeless, would be treated as if they could recover. Soon, more men joined the staff, which was good because more sick people joined the patients. Camillus' instructions were to feed them well, keep them comfortable, presume recovery, and see the face of Jesus in every patient. He was all about that "least of my brothers" thing.

He started his own religious order with its own rule. Members wore red crosses on their garments, a badge later adopted by other nurses. His order was variously known as the Agonizants, Camillians, Clerks Regular Ministers of the Infirm, Fathers of a Good Death, and Order of the Servants of the Sick. He died in the Order's Motherhouse in Rome in 1614, but the work continues worldwide -- in the 19th century women were welcomed into the ranks as well.

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