To Serve Sick Poor People, Children of God and my Brethren

A sick person. But who is he, why is it worthwhile living in that way, at his service?

In Camillo de Lellis contestatore riformatore Santo by Germana Sommaruga

During his youth Camillus was a carefree lover of adventures and gambling but he was not a dishonest man. Reaching the lowest point of abjection, he never lost a high view of himself, respect for his own honesty. In essential terms, he had always been an upright man capable of fidelity to his word once given, even when, unfortunately, things went badly. Now, when he looked into himself and looked at himself with the eyes of God, he also discovered the dignity of other people. That is why he could now ‘choose’ the sick from among everyone else.

Perhaps even he did not know way, after deciding to stay in the Hospital of St. James, he chose to be on the side of the poor. Perhaps because they were poor and he felt that he should defend their cause: (‘free the sick from the hands of the mercenary’: this is what Camillus would write in his Rules for the Company that he would come to found one day). But there were some deeper reasons that were concealed in his very great sensitivity and hidden under his rough exterior: being able to serve and to teach others to serve with love. However, the most intimate reason, which took shape in him as his soul gradually became purified in response to the grace of God, was a reason connected with his deep faith: ‘To serve sick poor people, children of God and my brethren’ are words that Camillus himself would put on the lips of the young men who came to share his form of life.

Intuitions, perhaps, during those very early days, then a full victory and he could exclaim: ‘The sick are our lords and masters…We see in the poor and the sick the person of Christ himself: he said: what you did to the least of one of these, you did to me. These poor people and sick people whom we serve will make us one day see the face of God’. And he added: ‘The sick are the eyes and the heart of God: what we do to the last of these poor people is done to God Himself’.

    That day would arrive and it would be a holy one. For the time being, during those very first steps in his hospital, Camillus was a new man who was gradually discovering in his suffering brother the impress of the crucified Christ, the greatness and the values of the human person, the meaning of life, a gift of God, to be kept alight until the end as something that was great: in condemned patients as well, in dying people as well, in the elderly as well. And the poor, the sick, the dying would acquire in the eyes of Camillus immense value, it would be a good thing to spend an entire life consumed for them. He, a healthy and strong man, a man in control of himself, he, who had his whole life in front of him, in the name of God and for love of God would be the defender of the weak and the poor: this was the greatest way of living the Gospel.

     This was a way of spending his young and impassioned life. It was worthwhile, therefore, to attempt the new adventure of the reform of hospitals, or, to put it better, of service to the poor. For faith. With love. Attentive to hearing the echo that the tribulations and the needs of his dying and sick brethren could have his heart and to finding a concrete response to them.