The Relic of the Heart of St. Camillus: a Reflection by Father Eugenio Sapori

The pilgrimage of the relic of the heart of St. Camillus to Mesagne and Cosenza has just come to an end. To mark this event, we asked the Camillian, Father Eugenio Sapori, a Professor at the Camillianum, about the meaning of this ‘journey’ during the fourth centenary of the death of this saint, which still has rich appointments in various dioceses in Italy.

Read here the updated programme

Father Sapori, what is the value of these pilgrimages of the heart of St. Camillus to places of health care?

1493371_10202123615986965_1111046916_oA hospital, for St. Camillus, was a ‘mystic vineyard of the Lord’ in which one could work to serve Jesus in the person of a sick man or woman. During this important anniversary we are led to take the relic of the heart of St. Camillus to places where still today the Lord himself is present because there is a deep tie between the love that Camillus had for sick people and their desire for physical and spiritual comfort.

The showing of the relic is not an act of idolatry or fetishism – it has a profound pastoral dimension. Why is this?

This is an act that is an extension of the liturgical life of the Church but without wanting to take its place. It relives in other forms – which are more popular and immediate – the life of Christ, who not only was made man but gave himself for us unto death as St. Camillus taught us through his life of profound dedication to the good of people with illnesses in the totality of their persons, profoundly marked in body and spirit.

Where does the tradition of venerating the relics of saints come from and why is it so important for Catholics?

Ever since the beginning of Christianity the Church has held in particular esteem the bodies of martyrs who bore witness to their faith in Christ, and to such an extent as to celebrate the Eucharist in the places where they were buried. With the passing of centuries there emerged the same approach to holy people, who often had miraculous powers as regards the poor and the needy. For this reason, as well, the religiosity of people, of all epochs, has found expression in various forms of piety, amongst which the veneration of the ‘remains’ (relics) of their bodies. One is dealing here with a deep tie looked for, and achieved, between saints and the faithful, with references that are not only spiritual but also more ‘tangible’.

What spiritual teaching does the relic of St. Camillus have for us?

The heart of St. Camillus, which has been conserved almost intact four hundred years after his death, also has a great teaching for our epoch which is so attentive to ‘messages from the heart’. The message of Camillus can be summed up very well in the phrase ‘more heart in those hands’, the motto of the fourth centenary: the heart tells us still today to have more love, tenderness, compassion, affection and dedication…This is an ancient message but one that is always new, as Jesus told us: ‘And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (Jn 13:34; see also 1 Jn 2:7-8). This not applies to today – it is valid always given that at the end of our lives we will be judged by our love: ‘I was sick and you visited me…Come you that are blessed…Come and possess the Kingdom which has been prepared for you’(Mt 25:34).

Look here at the photographic gallery of the pilgrimage of the heart of St. Camillus to Mesagne and Cosenza

Look here at the video interview with Fr. Eugenio Sapori for the fourth centenary

Look here at the press information