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st camillus conversion

Conversion of St Camillus - 2 February 1575.

1575 was a severe winter which meant there were no wars to be fought so Camillus, the mercenary, was unemployed. Rather than beg he went to work for the Capuchins in Manfredonia. The local superior sent him to the monastery in San Giovanni Rotondo to get supplies. He stayed overnight and that evening fell into serious conversation with Fr Angelo. This conversation on the meaning of life was to have a profound effect on Camillus. On his way back to Manfredonia the next day, he got off his horse in a desolate place aptly named the Valley of Hell and decided to give his life to God.

Camillus the mercenary underwent a complete transformation. His addiction to gambling ceased. He learnt to control his violent temper; he had once challenged a fellow soldier to a duel unto death because of alleged cheating at the card tables. He was now on fire with a maternal and untiring care for others and he set about channelling his strong emotions into fighting for the rights of the sick. He was the precursor of modern day nursing care. The Pope of the time, Sixtus V, credited Camillus as the 'founder of a new school of charity.' By opening his heart to the grace of God, Camillus became an extraordinary saint. He grew to seeing God in every person and every man and woman became his brother and sister.

Prayer: Lord, through the intercession of St Camillus help me to find the path you have laid out for me on the path of life. Guide me towards you and to a greater awareness  of my fellow men and women and their needs. Amen

st camillus 3

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

Read here an account of St Camillus' conversion from violence and addiction.

Camillus as a young man – a man of violence and an addict.

‘In 1567(at this time he was 17) he went to Francavilla a Mare in order to be enlisted in the army of the Venetians but in vain. Some years later, in 1570, he tried again; this time he was accompanied by his father who became seriously ill and died at Saint Elpidio by the sea (Ascoli Piceno).

Meanwhile he contracted a small sore on his right foot preceded by a small blister to the left above the malleolus. That small sore, which when rubbed turned red and bled, became a wound for which no cure was available and because of this Camillus suffered very much during his whole life, without any doctor succeeding in giving an exact diagnosis. Moreover, he was also struck by a slight persistent fever that made him very weak. At Fermo, two Franciscan Friars with their modest and recollected gait, attracted his attention. A desire or fancy grew within him to imitate them and he vowed to become a Franciscan. For this reason he went to Aquila, where a maternal uncle, Fr Paolo da Loreto Aprutino, was a guardian of Saint Bernadine Monastery and asked for the religious habit. After some days of reflection and counselling by his uncle, Camillus gave up the idea and went to Rome for treatment in the main hospital of St Giacomo (St James). He stayed there from March 7 to December 31, 1571, first as a patient and then from April 1 as a hospital attendant. Being “terribly hard-headed” he was always arguing with his superiors and his companions; having lost interest in the patients, he dropped his commitments as a hospital attendant “so as to be able to play cards to which he was always inclined and he would go along the river banks of the Tiber to play with the barcaroles of Ripetta”. He was dismissed and having enrolled in the army of Venice, he took part in the campaign against the Turks. In 1573 and 1574 he was a soldier of the Spanish army. In this entire period, he was a typically adventurous soldier of the 16th century. “Big, strong limbed, violent, he played with his life, so as to be able to play with money in the taverns, on the wine-filled tables, or in the encampments over inverted drums.”

He challenged one of his companions at arms to a duel, suffered a fever and dysentery and his life was in danger many times; but most of all, he gambled and lost so much that he was left in great misery. In his hardest moments, he would run to God, renewing his vow to become a Friar as happened on October 28, 1574 during a storm at sea while travelling from Palermo to Naples.

Towards the end of 1574, he had to beg for alms in Manfredonia; finally, he found a job in a Capuchin monastery as a helper, with the task of providing stones and cement for the construction of the monastery.

February 2, 1575, Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, marked his conversion, bringing a total change of his life and the start of his dedication to the service of the Lord. When he went to Saint Giovanni Rotondo on the vigil of the feast to bring provisions for the Friars of that monastery he had a deep religious conversation with the Father Guardian, Fr Angelo. The next morning, on his way back to Manfredonia, immersed in the thoughts inculcated by the good Capuchin, he felt deeply and intimately transformed. Prostrated on the ground by the wayside, he professed and implored loudly:  “Miserable and unhappy me, who for such a long time ignored you, my God and did not love you. Give me time to do penance and to weep for a long time for my sins. Not anymore the world, not anymore the world for me.” He even promised to be a Capuchin.

He entered the Order and put on the habit but was dismissed after a few months of novitiate for the worsening of his sore on his foot. He returned to S. Giacomo (Hospital in Rome) to be cured where he stayed on from 23 October 1575 to 20 June 1579 with common edification, curing and assisting the sick under the spiritual guidance of Saint Philip Neri.

In 1579, believing he was cured, he wanted to return to the Capuchins at Tagliacozzo, with the name Friar Christopher and resumed his religious life. But soon after, the wound reopened and he was inevitably dismissed...................’


(Sannazzaro Pietro, Camillian Order 1550-1699 A History, pp62-64, English translation)