A Day from the Past: the Beatification of St. Camillus

imagesBy the papal Breve of 7 April 1742 (AGMI 2321), it was established that the solemn beatification of St. Camillus would take place on 8 April, the second feast day of Easter, in St. Peter’s Basilica. For this event the Vicar of Rome had granted a plenary indulgence for three days to all those faithful who after confession and holy communion visited a church of the Ministers of the Sick.

The people of Rome, with their affection to the holy memory of the Blessed, as indeed the decisions and the Breve itself of the beatification observed, received this much awaited event with enthusiasm and joy.

The Vatican basilica, which was decorated for the occasion, generated extraordinary admiration. The outer door and the open galleries of the façade were covered with very valuable tapestries and damasks which displayed a great portrait of the Blessed Camillus, held up from above by thick clouds and angels. He was depicted looking at the Holy Cross, the multiple symbol of faith, predestination, victory and the coat of arms of the Order; ‘the work of the famous Signor Bichierari is a hundred palms high’.

When entering the basilica, at the entrance of the great doorway of St. Peter’s, which was also decorated by one of the most famous tapestries of Raphael, within the larger door there was another large portrait portraying one of the miracles that had most struck Rome a few years previously and which had been obtained through the intercession of the Blessed Camillus.

But the most thrilling moment took place when during the ceremony eight Cardinals with the presence of Cardinal Cardinal Guadagni, the Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Rites, together with its consultors, appeared in the chapel where the event was held, which was presided over by Cardinal Mosca, with the entire Chapter of the basilica, the Generals of the Orders and the highest members of the ecclesiastical and secular Orders. When they reached the places that had been assigned to them, the postulator gave an elegant oration in Latin at the end of which he showed to the Cardinal Pro-Prefect the Breve of Beatification which was read from the pulpit. At the end of this reading, choirs of musicians sung the ‘Te Deum’, accompanied by the sound of four organs and IMG_8066various musical instruments which were echoed by the sound of mortars and cannons being fired by the Swiss Guards in the belvedere. All of this was accompanied by a harmonious intertwining of the roll of drums and the sound of trumpets which demonstrated the enthusiasm of the people of Rome.

The solemn Holy Mass was celebrated by the Cardinal vicar and when the Pope arrived in the basilica the Father General and the Father Procutaror came forward and offered the Supreme Pontiff a picture in satin embellished with golden lace with the Life and Compendium of the Blessed, both of which were covered in velvet with embroidery in gold and the papal coat of arms, which was also in gold. They expressed to His Holiness their thanks and the incommensurable joy that the entire Order felt at the fact that he had always promoted and advanced the cause of Beatification, even before he had become Pope. The Ministers of the Sick then gave to the dignitaries who were present, and to the faithful, thousands of pictures, and compendiums of the Life of the Blessed Camillus and the miracles of their Founder. Worthy of note, in addition to the presence of many princes who were at that time in Rome, was the participation of His Britannic Majesty with the royal children who after going to the solemn Holy Mass in St. Peter’s went to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in order to pay tribute to the Blessed. To them was offered by the Father Procurator General of the Order three copies of the life of St. Camillus richly bound with pictures in laced silk with very fine gold.

     The solemn celebrations continued with the solemn triduum from 29 April to 1 May 1742 and Pope Benedict XIV on the first day celebrated the Holy Mass with that well-known special devotion and admiration that he felt for the new Blessed.