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St Camillus the Adventurer


St. Camillus, the Adventurer

Today’s Good Samaritan

The care for the sick and the concern for them and their family members, discovered by St. Camillus, form the core value of the Camillian mission and ministry. Our guide and rules of engagement are very simply and clearly set down for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel, chapter 10. There are three protagonists within the parable: the brigands who attacked the traveller, the victim who was robbed and left for dead and the Samaritan who, in fact, is Christ himself. Jesus, in telling the parable, is at his storyteller’s best. In his account of what befell the misfortunate traveller, we know that the very same misfortune is the sad reality that can be found in every generation in human history. Only the details differ from one set of circumstances to the next and the “left for dead” experience is had by victims in our own day and right under our own noses in Ireland. Our magnificent advancement in science and technology has contributed greatly in preventing and curing pathologies but has not eliminated sickness, bereavement, muggings, wife beating, child abuse, isolation, fear among the elderly living alone and suicidal tendencies among young people who are sick of living. Sickness has many faces and presents under various guises. In fact the sick are all around us. While we have to say sickness is normal, however unfortunate. we are never prepared and the timing always seems wrong. Those are the people the World Day of the Sick calls on us to be aware of and become for them a Good Samaritan. We Camillians say you are never more than a hundred yards from a sick person! That was the discovery made by St. Camillus. It changed his life and the lives of the sick whom he touched.

World Day of the  Sick

On February 13th next, the Feastday of Our Lady of Lourdes, the world Day of the Sick will be celebrated across the catholic world. Instituted by Pope Blessed John Paul II in 1992, this year it is celebrating its 21st birthday. The aim is to draw attention to the reality of sickness in our world, in our neighbourhood down the road and the stress and strain also on family members. It calls on us to be the Good Samaritan who stops, looks and remains in a caring way alongside our victim-sister/victim-brother notwithstanding our feelings of helplessness. Togetherness cuts through isolation and subsequent fear whether real or imaginary. It highlights the value of presence even in silence as our only basic statement when it comes to handling the mystery of pain and death among those around us. From our high-tech hospitals to the most primitive mission healthcare clinics, the call to be consciously aware of the sick will be the focus point by the Pope, Bishops, priests and catholic laity across the world. In it we see a personal challenge as we reflect on the parable of the Good Samaritan where some walked by on the other side while the stranger (the Samaritan man) stopped by and thanks to his compassion he found creative ways of caring, treated and saving the life of the victim whom he looked upon as his own brother.

In saying “Do this in memory of me” at the end of the Last Supper when He had just instituted and celebrated the Eucharist, Jesus beckons us into much more than just celebrating Mass repeatedly. He had in mind his entire teaching in loving our neighbour and particularly, as he himself showed, loving in a very special way the weaker ones, the sick and those who are weighed down by the human condition of suffering and pain. The Christian care of the sick, following the example of Christ and taken up by St. Camillus, is always directed towards the sick person in the totality of his/her being.  In a special way Jesus identified very personally with the leaper, the blind, the bereaved ... these are the people who sought Him out and were never disappointed. So central were they to Jesus in his ministry and mission, that He challenged us, his followers, with his clear-cut statement: “Whatever you do to these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me” (Matt 25;40). All of us Christians are called to be Christ-like (Samaritan-like) to the sick and those weighed down by life’s problems.  Camillians make that challenge their life commitment in over 40 countries following the example of the Founder, St. Camillus (1550-1614), who referred to the sick in the neighbourhood (apart from those in the hospitals and institutions) as “the wide ocean” of Camillian care and concern. Our Camillian Lay Family members have this as their aim and objective.

Self-help groups and the Camillian Lay Family ...

Hospitals worldwide and Mission Stations and Clinics (like those run by Camillians) in developing countries do great work caring for those suffering from recognised and unrecognised diseases and sicknesses. Sickness, disease and distressing human conditions however are not confined to institutions. The burdensomeness of the human condition in so many ways is to be found all round us and cry out for a good Samaritan, you and me, wherever we are listening, if only now and then, to Jesus and his unfolding parable. Self help groups do wonderful work with those suffering from dyslexia, Alzheimer disease, and those for alcoholics and gamblers , etc, etc.  But wherever we are, down the road from each one of us, there is the sick person alone and lonely, trapped in the isolation of physical and emotional sickness: the old, the bereaved, the suicidal .......

The World Day of the Sick (Feb 13th) calls on us to stop and look with compassion on the sick all around us. That too is our prayer, compassionate in heart and hand, in response to the teaching of Jesus the Good Samaritan.

      Tom O’Connor, O.S.Cam.

 Picture at top. Fr O'Connor with Cardinal Wamala