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News article 2

St Camillus was born in 1550. He was born in Bucchianico in the Abbruzzi region of Italy. His name was Camillus de Lellis. His mother was quite advanced in age when she gave birth to her son. An earlier child, Camillus' elder brother died in childhood.

It is stated that Camillus' mother had a dream whilst pregnant that her child would be a leader of men who would all have crosses on their shirts. She feared she was to give birth to a leader of a band of brigands and this troubled her.

Camillus was born on 25 May 1550. His mother died when he was thirteen. At the age of 17 Camillus decided to follow in his father's footsteps and he became a mercenary soldier. He travelled with his father and fought many battles. His father died early in Camillus' new career and so he was left without any family. He fought against the Turks.

Camillus was an imposing figure. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall and he developed a bad temper. He also became addicted to gambling and was often found in the middle of card games. During one game in Naples he even bet the shirt on his back and lost. Thus leaving the game half-stripped. He lived a dangerous life and was a man of violence. It was during these years that he developed a leg wound that would prove incurable and he had it for the remainder of his life.

st camillus conversion

At the age of 25 he was converted. He was on his way to Manfredonia in Southern Italy riding horseback when he was so overwhelmed by the sins he had committed and the dissolute life he led, that he fell from his horse. He vowed from this moment to live his life only for God. ‘No more the world for me,’ he said. He joined the Capuchins, (Fransciscans) believing this to be God’s will for him. However, despite his best efforts in the Capuchins and the high esteem in which he was held by them, he was released by them as his leg wound was aggravated by the coarse habit they wore. He was encouraged to go to Rome for treatment. He went to Santo Spirito Hospital where the sick were not well cared for.

Eventually Camillus realised that God was calling him to care for the plague ridden sick people here and in the city of Rome and so he dedicated his life to serving the merciful Jesus Christ in the sick and the dying. He realised he could not do this alone and so he called others to follow his example, embracing not only the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but a fourth vow also to care for the sick even with danger to one’s own life. He called on his followers to be dead to the world and dead even to their own life, living only for the merciful Jesus Christ. He referred to the Sick as his Lord and Master and he would ask forgiveness of them for his sins. He would quote to his companions often the words of our Lord. ‘I was sick and you visited me.’(Matthew 25:36)


St Camillus assisting the plague stricken of Rome.

'More love in those hands brother,' he would say in urging and encouraging his fellow Camillians in their care for the sick and the dying.

St Camillus loved Jesus in the Eucharist and would spend a long time in prayer each day before the Blessed Sacrament. He loved Jesus in the Sick. For him, the Sick were his 'Lord and Master.' He believed his sole role was to alleviate the Sick in their suffering, assured that what he was doing to them he was doing to the Lord Himself. No patient was too dirty, too sick or too malevolent for him not to care for them. Many of the Sick were afflicted with the plague. Thus the Camillians took a fourth vow to serve the Sick, even those who were afflicted with the plague at the risk of being contaminated and losing one's life.

st camillus 3

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

Many Camillians died as a direct result of looking after these sick people. But for Camillus and his followers, this was their call. This was their vocation. This was what Christ wanted them to do. They could think of nothing better than to lay down one's life for Christ and the sick. 'Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do for me.'(Matthew. 25:40) So it would be decreed for all time that the Camillians would take four vows, poverty, chastity, obedience and service to the Sick even with danger to their own life. They would become known as the Fathers and Brothers of a Happy Death, so much was the comfort that they brought to the dying. Indeed, St Philip Neri, another holy man and Confessor of St Camillus said he saw on many occasions, Camillians (as they became known) speaking words of spiritual comfort to the dying and standing beside the Camillians angels of God speaking into the ears of the Camillians the words of comfort they were to offer to the dying.

The Order officially came into being on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception 1591 when Camillus and his first followers took their vows. The work of Camillus was described by the Pope, Sixtus V as a 'new school of charity'. The first group was truly international. There were 13 men aside from Camillus. Even though our Province, Anglo-Irish, would not come into being until the Second World War 350 years later, we know that amongst his first followers were two English priests, Fathers Roger and Robert and one Irish Brother, John Baudin, - a native of Galway.

St Camillus served the sick tirelessly throughout his life. His greatest joy was to be in the midst of the sick and to be able to alleviating their suffering. He would feed them, wash them, bandage their wounds and he would even confess his sins to them and ask pardon of them. He would also wash their bandages believing this to be complete and total service to the Lord Himself.

Camillus having exhausted himself in the service of the Sick and the dying, died on July 14, 1614 aged 64. He died already proclaimed by those who knew him as a holy man and indeed a saint. He was canonised a saint of the Church in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV.

st camillus in death

St Camillus in death.

One of his most famous counsels he offered to his confreres was the following. ‘Brother, if you commit a sin and take pleasure in it, the pleasure passes but the sin remains. But if you do something virtuous even though you are tired, the tiredness passes but the virtue remains.’

Fr Stephen Foster, MI


Order of St Camillus

Would you like to follow Jesus Christ in the service of the Sick and the dying?

Write for further information to:-

Fr John Philip, MI

St Camillus,

11 St Vincent St North

Dublin 7

or email   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

All enquires treated in confidence.

News article 1

Would you like to follow Jesus Christ

in the service of the Sick and the Dying?


Perhaps you have a vocation to join our Order. You may be interested in our way of life. Please feel welcome to contact the Vocation Director for more information. There is no obligation attached to your enquiry and there will no visits or telephone calls to your house.

for more information please contact

Fr John Philip, MI

St Camillus

11 St Vincent St North,

Dublin 7

email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

martins farewell dinner 078

Fr John Philip also works as Chaplain to the Mater Hospital Dublin

******** see below an interview on vocations with the Provincial, Fr Stephen Foster.


Q What exactly are you looking for?


A Well, we are looking for people who believe they may have a vocation to follow Christ by serving the sick and the dying. And of course we would invite them to visit us here and together we can explore the possibility that they may have a vocation.


Q How Father would you know if you have a vocation?


A It’s something that arises in the person. An inner belief that won’t go away that Christ is asking them to do something that perhaps they have not considered before. It may be a surprise to them. It may even be something that they would rather resist. They might think, I do not want this. But if it’s a true call from the Lord, it will not just disappear, even if the person wants it to. They will have to ponder on it. They will have to test it, as they say. And we would test it too. We would tell them what we think.


Q Is it a special work to work with the sick?


A Oh yes, it is very special. Not everyone has it, because they are called to different vocations. Some are teachers, some are parish priests and others look after the sick.


Q Do they have to be convinced that they are being called?


A No no, they don’t have to be convinced. In fact I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t believe anybody is convinced. It’s something, as I say, that has to be tested. Their faith will mature and they will go through what we call a path of discernment or discovery if you like.


Q Why would anyone want to join the Order of St Camillus? Looking after sick and dying people is hardly what the majority of people would consider doing? Can you talk briefly about your Order and how it was founded, because it’s not an Irish Order, is it?


A it’s probably true not everyone would be called to join our Order. You’re right, it’s not an Irish Order, it was founded in Rome in 1582 by St Camillus. Yet it must be pointed out that the first group of Camillians was an international group including one Irishman and two English priests. The Irish Camillian was Brother John Baudin from Co. Galway. And the Order has stood the test of time I’m glad to say. And the Pope at the time, Pope Sixtus V, described it ‘as a new school of charity.’ Indeed it was proved by the dedication of Camillus and his first followers. Many of them died as a result of looking after the sick. The sick were all at that time afflicted by the plague. To come into contact with them could mean a strong chance of becoming infected oneself and thus dying. So Camillus and his first followers took a fourth vow, to serve the sick even with danger to their own life. They were what you would call, true martyrs.


Q You mean they died because they were looking after the sick?


A Yes, they lost many men. Many Camillians died during the lifetime of Camillus. But they kept receiving many vocations and the Order’s houses in Rome and elsewhere in Italy started to overflow with vocations. Any new outbreaks of the plague in different parts of Italy was met by a huge number of Camillians volunteering to Camillus to be chosen as part of the group to go and help these people.


Q That’s very inspirational. But we’re living in times now that are not inspirational. We have the child abuse scandals. Why would anyone want to be a priest today or a brother? The vocations are down and parents don’t want their kids to be priests or religious unlike 40 years ago. Did you see the Late Late show recently. Ryan Turbidy asked the audience how many would encourage their children to become priests. No one put their hand up. Where are you going to get your vocations from?


A I didn’t see the Late Late Show that you refer to, but in some sense it’s not surprising that parents would think that way. People are shocked at what has happened. Many are discouraged and there are some who are demoralised. Those who are anti-church have now even more reason to be. It’s not good for people that they should suffer like this. But our first concern has to be those who have been abused. They must have justice. They must have healing, if that’s possible. But they must be heard, it must be reported to the authorities.

The Lord himself is quite clear about this. ‘Anyone who defiles one of these little ones, better that a millstone be hung round his neck and he be drowned in the sea.’ I don’t think we could be more clear or graphic than that.


Q So you still think you’ll get vocations?


A I hope so. The Lord does not stop calling people to follow Him in this particular way of life. But we have to listen. It’s a personal choice. We can say yes or no. The Camillian work will always be here.


Q But what about if you don’t get vocations. Your Order will cease to exist.


A I don’t think so. I think it may diminish perhaps a bit further in Europe because we seem to be pretty dry in Europe as regards vocations. But we don’t have any problem in other parts of the worlds. We have many vocations in Africa and Asia. Maybe too many. We have to discern carefully as to who has a vocation and who hasn’t.


Q So what’s important in order to be a Camillian? What do you need?


A Well you need to have a prayer life first of all, that is something that you do each day. You can’t bring Christ or represent Christ to the sick if you don’t talk to him. Secondly you have to live in community. This is not easy. To live with others. Especially when under normal circumstances you wouldn’t live with the people you find yourself with in community life. But you can’t proclaim or preach the gospel if you can’t share it in some way with those you live with. The ego is the big challenge. We all have egos and we all have egotistical needs. But we have to be unselfish and try to be open to those around us. Mother Teresa said to an audience when she was in Dublin years ago. ‘If I cannot smile to the sister with whom I live in community, then my smile to the sick is not genuine.’ Or to put it in an expression common here. ‘Don’t be a street angel and a house devil’  it’s easy to appear to be kind to the general public, but if you’re not concerned about those with whom you live then it’s pretty shallow really. A previous Father General of ours, Calisto Vendrame used to say, ‘He who fails at community, fails as a man.’ It’s very easy to succumb to the temptation in religious life to be irritable or bad tempered or impatient. But it’s not acceptable behaviour and people need to be challenged.

In actual fact the diocesan structure of having a priest live alone in a parish community can learn a lot from religious life. Jesus never said to the apostles live alone and preach the gospel. He sent them out in twos.

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