(LifeSiteNews) –– The Holy Spirit, who desires to raise our souls above this earth, does not therefore despise our bodies. The whole man is His creature and His temple, and it is the whole man He must lead to eternal happiness. The Body of the Man-God was his masterpiece in material creation; the divine delight he takes in that perfect body he extends in a measure to ours; for that same body, framed by Him in the womb of the most pure Virgin, was from the very beginning the model on which ours are formed.
In the re-creation which followed the fall, the body of the Man-God was the means of the world’s redemption; and the economy of our salvation requires that the virtue of His saving blood should not reach the soul except through the body, the divine sacraments being all applied to the soul through the medium of the senses. Admirable is the harmony of nature and grace; the latter so honors the material part of our being, that she will not draw the soul without it to the light and to heaven.
For in the unfathomable mystery of sanctification, the senses do not merely serve as a passage; they themselves experience the power of the sacraments, like the higher faculties of which they are the channels; and the sanctified soul finds the humble companion of her pilgrimage already associated with her in the dignity of Divine adoption, which will cause the glorification of our bodies after the resurrection.
Hence the care given to the very body of our neighbor is raised to the nobleness of holy charity; for being inspired by this charity, such acts partake of the love wherewith our heavenly Father surrounds even the members of his beloved children. I was sick, and ye visited me, (Matthew 25:36) our Lord will say on the last day, showing that even the infirmities of our fallen state in this land of exile, the bodies of those whom He deigns to call His brethren, share in the dignity belonging by right to the eternal, only-begotten Son of the Father.
The Holy Spirit, too, whose office it is to recall to the Church all the words of our Savior, has certainly not forgotten this one; the seed, falling into the good earth of chosen souls, has produced a hundredfold the fruits of grace and heroic self-devotion. Camillus of Lellis received it lovingly, and the mustard-seed became a great tree offering its shade to the birds of the air. The Order of Clerks Regular, ministering to the sick, or of happy death, deserves the gratitude of mankind; as a sign of heaven’s approbation, angels have more than once been seen assisting its members at the bedside of the dying.
The liturgical account of St. Camillus’ life is so full that we need add nothing to it.
Camillus was born at Bachianico, a town of the diocese of Chieti. He was descended from the noble family of the Lellis, and his mother was sixty years old at the time of his birth. While she was with child with him, she dreamt that she gave birth to a little boy, who was signed on the breast with the cross, and was the leader of a band of children, wearing the same sign.
As a young man he followed the career of arms, and gave himself up for a time to worldly vices, but in his twenty-sixth year he was so enlightened by heavenly grace, and seized with so great a sorrow for having offended God, that on the spot, shedding a flood of tears, he firmly resolved unceasingly to wash away the stains of his past life, and to put on the new man. Therefore on the very day of his conversion, which happened to be the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, he hastened to the Friars Minors, who are called Capuchins, and begged most earnestly to be admitted into their number.
His request was granted on this and on a subsequent occasion, but each time a horrible ulcer, from which he had suffered before, broke out again upon his leg; wherefore he humbly submitted himself to the designs of divine providence, which was preparing him for greater things, and conquering himself he twice laid aside the Franciscan habit, which he had twice asked for and obtained.
He set out for Rome and was received into the hospital called “Of Incurables.” His virtues became so well known that the management of the institution was entrusted to him and he discharged it with the greatest integrity and a truly paternal solicitude. He esteemed himself the servant of all the sick, and was accustomed to make their beds, to wash them, to heal their sores, and to aid them in their last agony with his prayers and pious exhortations. In discharging these offices he gave striking proofs of his wonderful patience, unconquered fortitude, and heroic charity.
But when he perceived how great an advantage the knowledge of letters would be to him in assisting those in danger of death, to whose service he had devoted his life, he was not ashamed at the age of thirty-two to return again to school and to learn the first elements of grammar among children. Being afterwards promoted in due order to the priesthood, he was joined by several companions, and in spite of the opposition attempted by the enemy of the human race, laid the foundations of the Congregation of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm (MI).
In this work Camillus was wonderfully strengthened by a heavenly voice coming from an image of Christ crucified, which, by an admirable miracle loosing the hands from the wood, stretched them out towards him. He obtained the approbation of his Order from the Apostolic See. Its members bind themselves by a fourth and very arduous vow, namely, to minister to the sick, even those infected with the plague. St. Philip Neri, who was his confessor, attested how pleasing this institution was go God, and how great it attributed towards the salvation of souls; for he declared that he often saw angels suggesting the words to disciples of Camillus, when they were assisting those in their agony.
When he had thus bound himself more strictly than before to the service of the sick, he devoted himself with marvelous ardor to watching over their interests, by night and by day, till his last breath. No labor could tire him, no peril of his life could affright him. He became all to all, and claimed for himself the lowest offices, which he discharged promptly and joyfully, in the humblest manner, often on bended knees, as though he saw Christ himself present in the sick.
In order to be more at the command of all in need, he of his own accord laid aside the general government of the order, and deprived himself of the heavenly delights, with which he was inundated during contemplation. His fatherly love for the unfortunate shone out with greatest brilliancy when Rome was suffering first from a contagious distemper, and then from a great scarcity of provisions; and also when a dreadful plague was ravaging Nola in Campania. In a word, he was consumed with so great a love of God and his neighbor that he was called an angel, and merited to be helped by the angels in different dangers which threatened him on his journeys.
He was endowed with the gift of prophecy and the grace of healing, and he could read the secrets of hearts. By his prayers he at one time multiplied food, and at another changed water into wine. At length, worn out by watching, fasting, and ceaseless labor, he seemed to be nothing but skin and bone. He endured courageously five long and troublesome sicknesses, which he used to call the “mercies of the Lord;” and, strengthened by the sacraments, with the sweet names of Jesus and Mary on his lips, he fell asleep in our Lord, while these words were being said: “May Christ Jesus appear to thee with a sweet and gracious countenance.”
He died at Rome, at the hour he had foretold, on the day before the Ides of July, in the year of salvation 1614, the sixty-fifth of his age. He was made illustrious by many miracles, and Benedict XIV solemnly enrolled him upon the calendar of the Saints. Leo XIII, at the desire of the bishops of the Catholic world, and with the advice of the Congregation of Rites, declared him the heavenly patron of all nurses and of the sick in all places, and ordered his name to be invoked in the litanies for the agonizing.
Angel of charity, by what wonderful paths did the Divine Spirit lead thee! The vision of thy pious mother remained long unrealized; before taking on thee the holy cross and enlisting comrades under that sacred sign, thou didst serve the odious tyrant, who will have none but slaves under his standard, and the passion of gambling was well nigh thy ruin. O Camillus, remembering the danger thou didst incur, have pity on the unhappy slaves of passion; free them from the madness wherewith they risk, to the caprice of chance, their goods, their honor, and their peace in this world and in the next.
Thy history proves the power of grace to break the strongest ties and alter the most inveterate habits: may these men, like thee, turn their bent towards God, and change their rashness into love of the dangers to which holy charity may expose them! For charity, too, has its risk, even the peril of life, as the Lord of charity laid down his life for us: a heavenly game of chance, which thou didst play so well that the very angels applauded thee. But what is the hazarding of earthly life compared with the prize reserved for the winner?
According to the commandment of the Gospel read by the Church in thy honor, may we all, like thee, love our brethren as Christ has loved us! Few, says St. Augustine, love one another to this end, that God may be all in all. (In Joann, Tract 83) Thou, O Camillus, having this love, didst exercise it by preference towards those suffering members of Christ’s mystic body, in whom our Lord revealed himself more clearly to thee, and in whom his kingdom was nearer at hand. Therefore, has the Church in gratitude chosen thee, together with John of God, to be guardian of those homes for the suffering which she has founded with a mother’s thoughtful care.
Do honor to that mother’s confidence. Protect the hospitals against the attempts of an odious and incapable secularization, which, in its eagerness to lose the souls, sacrifices even the corporal well-being of the unhappy mortals committed to the care of its evil philanthropy. In order to meet our increasing miseries, multiply thy sons, and make them worthy to be assisted by angels. Wherever we may be in this valley of exile when the hour of our last struggle sounds, make use of thy precious prerogative which the holy liturgy honors today; help us, by the spirit of holy love, to vanquish the enemy and attain unto the heavenly crown!