While Camillus was performing his charitable service at St James’ Hospital, holding the position of House Master, he managed to find time among his many commitments to study and become a priest, which he did on 26 May, the Saturday after Pentecost Sunday, at the Basilica of St John Lateran. On Sunday 10 June 1584, the third Sunday after Pentecost, he celebrated his first mass at the small church belonging to the Venerable Company of Santa Maria del Popolo, which had the care of St James of the Incurables and was called Santa Maria Porta Paradisi.
As a sign of recognition for having been able to reconcile with such zeal both the work of charity and piety towards the sick and that of his studies to the point of becoming a priest, the hospital administrators wanted to appoint him chaplain of a small church called Madonnina dei Miracoli located near Piazza del Popolo, on the banks of the Tiber, where today Via Ferdinando di Savoia extends over Ponte Margherita.
This little church belonged to the hospital of St James, which had had it erected to fulfil the devotion of a prodigious image of the Virgin and Child that was frescoed on a wall of the precincts of Rome near the Tiber not far from Piazza del Popolo, then placed in said church, who had miraculously cured a child who had fallen into the Tiber by listening to the pleas of his mother.
News of the miracle immediately spread through the city and the sacred image began to be worshipped
This new commitment was providential for Camillus de Lellis, who had long yearned to create a Congregation.
He then stayed in early September, also in 1584, at this small church where he was soon joined by his first companions: Bernardino Norcino and Curzio Lodi, to whom he gave the ecclesiastical habit, namely the cassock and mantle, on the auspicious day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It can therefore be said that the small Shrine of Our Lady of Miracles was the cradle of the Camillian Order. Fr. Sanzio Cicatelli tells us: “that our Holy Founder gave a true and uninterrupted beginning to his Company, being born into the world together with the Blessed Virgin, having first received in St. James only a simple sketch, for which the church of the Madonnina was extremely and always dear to Camillus after he had been able to comfortably begin the Company itself in it”.
But where is the Madonnina dei Miracoli today?
The effigy of the Madonnina was removed from the church in 1598 to move it to the new church of San Giacomo, built by Cardinal Salviati on the Via del Corso, and placed in the chapel that is the second on the right as one enters the church, where it is still venerated today, and where we can contemplate it in memory of the Holy Founder and the other fathers who prayed before Her to obtain graces, help and comfort in those difficult beginnings of the Camillian Order.
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