The life of St. Camillus should serve as an inspiration to us - he was not born perfect. After his mother died, he was virtually abandoned by his father. He fought against the Turks as a young man but after an addiction to gambling, he was completely destitute.
Inspired to become a Capuchin, he was unable to be professed in the area due to a disease of his leg which he contracted from the war which progressively became work. St. Camillus dedicated himself to caring for the sick and he became director of a hospital in Rome. His spiritual director was the illustrious St. Philip Neri. With St. Neri's consent, St. Camillus was ordained a priest and founded a congregation with two others.
St. Camillus, Founder of the Ministers of the Sick (Camellians), ministered initially to the sick of Holy Ghost Hospital in Rome. In 1588, they moved to a new house in Naples and worked to care for the many stricken by the plague. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV made the Congregation into an order to serve the sick. That year, members of the order were sent to Hungary and Croatia to minister to wounded troops - this was the first field medical unit.
In 1607, after a long battle with illness, St. Camillus resigned as Superior of his order and died on July 25 of that year. He was canonized in 1746 and, along with St. John of God, was declared patron saint of the sick as well as patron saint of nurses and nursing groups.
The body of this saint is today preserved in Rome in the altar of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, along with several of his relics. Also on display is the Cross which spoke to Camillus, and asked him, "Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine?"
O holy saint of God, pray for us! Pray for the sick and for our doctors and physicians to serve the True God and fight against the evils of the culture of death.
In the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Rome, there is a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is specially venerated under the title of Help of the Sick. This picture is said to have been painted by the celebrated Dominican painter, Blessed Fra Angelico and before it Pope St Pius V is said to have prayed for the victory of the Christian fleet during the Battle of Lepanto (1571). This picture suggested to a brother of the Order of Saint Camillus de Lellis, Ferdinand Vicari, the idea of founding a confraternity under the invocation of the Virgin Mary for the poor sick. The confraternity was canonically erected in the above-mentioned church in 1860. The scapular is black and the front has an image of the above picture of the Virgin Mary and at her feet St. Joseph and St. Camillus, the two other patrons of the sick and of the confraternity. The other side has a little red cloth cross. Indulgences were granted by Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII in 1860 and 1883; these were last ratified by the Congregation of Indulgences, 21 July 1883.