Camillus de Lellis – Saint

Saint Camillus de Lellis (Compulsive Gambler)
Italy (1550–1614)
Beatified: 1742
Canonized: 1746
Patron: nurses, addicted gamblers
Feast day: July 14

Camillus was the son of a successful military officer and a mother who died when he was very young. He followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the military when he was of age. His father kept him busy, hiring out his services whenever someone needed a soldier.

Camillus didn’t have a stable or wholesome upbringing and thus lived a rebellious adolescence. Following once again in his father’s footsteps, he acquired a taste for heavy gambling and wagering, which often led to barroom brawls. Once, when he and his father were traveling on foot to join the army in Venice, which was being raised to fight the Turks, both men fell terribly ill.

Camillus’s father’s illness was the worse of the two, and he eventually succumbed to the illness. On his deathbed, seeing his disillusioned life pass before him, Camillus’s father asked for a priest and made a good confession, was anointed, and received the last rites. He died a repentant man.

Camillus, however, took a bit longer to see the error of his ways, joining a Franciscan monastery only after becoming totally destitute from gambling debts. At the monastery, he found that old habits truly do die hard. He often snuck out of the monastery to meet with old friends and engage in old habits, such as drinking to excess and gambling. His superiors at the monastery dismissed him, believing he wasn’t ready to commit to the monastic life.

Returning to his mercenary career, Camillus found little or no happiness. Remembering the peace his father had found, Camillus tried to reenter the Franciscan monastery, but his previous track record tarnished his reputation enough that he soon had to leave. Camillus eventually founded his own religious community, the Fathers of a Good Death, in 1584.

He bound himself and the members by a vow to devote themselves to the plague stricken, but their work wasn’t restricted to hospitals — they also cared for the sick in their homes. Pope Sixtus V confirmed the congregation in 1586.

Last updated: March 21, 2013 at 20:18 pm

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