Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Feast of St Camillus de Lellis

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1614 of St Camillus de Lellis, and his feast day in the Calendar of the Ordinary Form. Born in the Abruzzi region of Italy, he served in youth as a soldier of the Venetian Republic against the Turks; he is honored as a Patron Saint of gambling addicts, since he himself suffered much from this vice, which once literally cost him the shirt off his back. Reduced by gambling to the most extreme poverty, he underwent a conversion experience which led him to embrace religious life, and eventually, after priestly ordination, to found a congregation of Clerks Regular, the Ministers of the Sick. In addition to the ordinary vows, the Camillians, as they are sometimes called, also take a fourth vow to administer to the ill, even when they suffer from a contagious disease, and likewise, to attend the dying of whatever condition. The red cross now internationally recognized as a symbol of medical care originated from the large red cross which St Camillus’ sons and daughters wear on the front of their habit.

Pope Leo XIII declared him a Patron Saint of the sick, and along with St John of God, the founder of the Order of Brothers Hospitallers, added his name to the Litanies for the Dying. (In the Extraordinary Form, his feast is on July 18th, one of a series of Saints displaced from their respective death days by the feast of Pope Anacletus, now recognized to be the same person as Pope Cletus.)

Shortly after its founding, the order received as a gift a small church dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, very close to the Pantheon in the center of Rome. It was completely torn down, and over the course of the 17th century rebuilt as one of the most elaborate churches in the city, despite its small size; the relics of St Camillus, who was canonized in 1746, now rest in the side chapel of the right transept.

An effigy of St Camillus, with his bones underneath.
The side-altar of the right transept, in which his relics were formerly kept, and a bust-reliquary of him above.
The main altar
The fresco of the apse, showing Christ healing the sick.
In a side chapel at the back of the church on the right side is kept this Crucifix; as St Camillus was praying before it, the arms miraculously opened up and Christ spoke to him from it, to encourage him in the founding of the Order.
The side chapel on the opposite end contains an enormous number of relics, including several items of clothing worn by the Saint.
A side chapel on the right side of the nave houses this image of the Virgin Mary, honored with the title “Salus Infirmorum - Health of the Infirm.”
The organ and organ loft, mounted on the counter-façade, famously one of the most elaborately decorated organs in the city.  
St Mary Magdalene anoints the feet of Christ in the house of Simon the Pharisee, depicted in the ceiling of the crossing. 
A chasuble and stole laid out for the feast day, decorated with a medallion image of St Camillus, and the red cross of the Order. 
The ceiling of the sacristy; St Philip Neri, who knew St Camillus personally and acted as his confessor, welcomes him into heaven and the company of the Saints. 
The rococo façade, completed in the 18th century, one of only two constructions in that style in the historical center of Rome. 

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