The Priest III

St.Camillus: The Priest III

Reassured by the miracle of the Crucifix, Camillus resolved to carry through the work begun come what might. He stimulated his companions, now reduced to three, with a new courage. In order to make doubly sure of complying with the Divine Will, they were unanimous that Camillus should begin his studies for the priesthood. He was then thirty-two years of age. Without leaving the hospital, Camillus braved the jokes of the much younger students at the Roman College of the Jesuit Fathers. He Studied hard and was in due course deemed suit- able for Minor Orders which he received at the Church of St. Sylvester from the hands of Bishop Goldwell, a persecuted Bishop of England. About to be raised to the priesthood, Camillus was found to be without the patrimony required by Canon Law from candidates for their sustenance. Divine Providence, in which he had placed all his trust from the moment he had dedicated himself to the service of the sick, came to his aid. A Roman gentleman, Fermo Calvi, provided the six hundred scudi necessary and Camillus was ordained priest. He celebrated his first Mass in the old chapel of St. James’ on June 10, 1584, on the altar of the Madonna, whom he tenderly loved. Around him were his three faithful companions, his benefactor Calvi and his own beloved sick.

Since his project was making good progress, Camillus decided to quit the hospital of Saint James where it was impossible to form new nurses to his taste. What he wanted was religious nurses who would be ready at a moment’s notice to attend the sick in any hospital and to take care of the dying in private houses. The chapel of Saint Mary of the Miracles, a small sanctuary on the banks of the Tiber, was at his disposal. Here he found a new residence for himself and two lay companions whom he invested with the religious habit on September 15th 1584. In their new black habits, Camillus and his companions publicly carried their beloved Crucifix to its new home, while many of the population of Rome, inspired by this touching scene, knelt down along the streets to venerate the Cross. Every day, morning and afternoon, they set out on their visitation of the hospital of the Holy Spirit, where they were free to exercise their charity

By this time all Rome had begun to notice and admire this new band of apostles. Camillus found a more suitable home in the Street of Obscure Shops. He wrote rules and set out a method for the religious and hospital life of the infant group, which the people called “Camillians” after Father Camillus. In agreement with his companions, he wished nonetheless that they be known as the Ministers of the Sick. He had decided to seek the blessing and approval of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority. One day he casually encountered Cardinal Lauro on the porch of his palace. Without previous acquaintance with His Eminence, Camillus availed himself of the occasion to implore his help. The Cardinal, after a moment’s hesitation, asked to see the rules of the new institute and promised that, if they were found suitable, he would intercede with the Pope on his behalf. Camillus prayed and waited, trusting unhesitatingly in the designs of Divine Providence.

Shortly after, the Cardinal informed Camillus of his audience with Pope Sixtus V. The bull was issued on 18th March, 1586. Camillus immediately presented himself to the Pope, and prostrated at the feet of Christ’s Vicar. He wanted the blessing of Mother Church on this new Order of charity, moreover, to be granted the privilege of wearing a red cross on their new habit and on the mantle, as a symbol of the love and sacrifice that animated them in the practice of charity. The Pope, readily complied with his wishes, issued a second Brief on 26th of June 1586 granting the new con-cession and distinction.

On the 29 of June, feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Camillus, accompanied by his growing band of disciples adorned with Red Crosses, amid the cheerful greetings of the Romans, went to pray at the tomb of the Holy Apostles. His mother’s dream, he realized, was coming true. But it was to be for the glory of God, the service of the Church and the honor of the de Lellis family. Heaven had given its answer to her prayers.

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