400th Anniversary of the Death of Saint Camillus de Lellis

400th Anniversary of the Death of Saint Camillus de Lellis  

The Philatelic and Numismatic Office will issue a postage stamp to celebrate the founder of the Order of the Ministers of the Sick, Saint Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614). During the Angelus on 14 July 2013, Pope Francis remembered St. Camillus, saying: “The Samaritan does precisely this: he really imitates the mercy of God, mercy for those in need. ... A man who lived to the full this Gospel of the Good Samaritan is St Camillus de Lellis, patron saint of the sick and of health care workers”. The Pope called on members of the Order, as well as all doctors and nurses, to be like St. Camillus and “be inspired by the same spirit”. His life started out with great personal challenges, but he was later transformed through faith, which led to his being declared a Saint by the Catholic Church. He was born into a small noble family in the Abruzzo region of Italy and lived a dissolute life up until the age of 24. He had little desire to work and preferred instead to enlist with mercenaries who were recruiting soldiers across the Italian peninsula. He also had a gambling problem which drove him into poverty. When his military career ended, he found work as a manual laborer with the Capuchin friars of San Giovanni Rotondo. It was during this time he had a profound spiritual crisis which led to his conversion. An old wound which had been bothering him for a long time forced him to return to the hospital of San Giacomo in Rome, where he had been treated years earlier. When he recovered, he began to take care of the sick, showing extraordinary care and dedication. With the help of a few friends, he started the “Servants of the Sick” which was recognized as a religious order by Pope Gregory XIV in 1591. In addition to the customary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the Order of the Ministers of the Sick (known as the Camillians) added a fourth vow, that of offering perpetual corporeal and spiritual assistance to the sick even with danger to one’s own life. Over the past four centuries, the Order has grown considerably, with religious and lay men and women around the world finding daily inspiration from the charism of Saint Camillus de Lellis. The postage stamp shows the painting called “Saint Camillus among the plague-stricken”, attributed to the painting school of Sebastiano Conca, found in the church of Santa Maria Maddalena in the Campo Marzio area of Rome (home of the Generalate of the Order of the Ministers of the Sick).