St. Camillus de Lellis was born on 25 May 1550 at Bucchianico, Italy. His mother died when he was 13 and at the age of 17 he decided to follow his father’s footsteps and became a soldier. His father died in early of his new career so he left without any family. He fought for the Venetians against the Turks, was addicted to gambling, and by 1574 was penniless in Naples. At the age of 25 he was converted on his way to Manfredonia in Southern Italy. Here he developed a deep religious faith and became a Capuchin novice, (a branch of the followers of St Francis of Assisi), but was unable to make vows as a friar because of a diseased leg he contracted while fighting the Turks. Eventually he realized that God was calling him to care for the sick people and dedicate his life to serving the merciful Jesus Christ in the sick and the dying. As being a patient in the hospital, St. Camillus had devoted himself to serve the sick at the same time. Later on he was selected to serve as a Managing Director of of the St. Giacomo Hospital in Rome. He realized he could not do this alone and so he called others to follow his example, embracing not only the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but a fourth vow also to care for the sick even with danger to one’s own life. He received permission from his confessor (St. Philip Neri) to be ordained and decided, with two companions, to found his own congregation, the Ministers of the Sick (the Camillians), dedicated to the care of the sick. They ministered to the sick of the Holy Spirit Hospital in Rome, enlarged their work in 1585, founded a new house in Naples in 1588, and attended the plague-stricken aboard ships in Rome’s harbor and in Rome itself. In 1591, the Congregation was made into an order to serve the sick by Pope Gregory XIV, and in 1591 and 1605, Camillus sent members of his order to minister to wounded troops in Hungary and Croatia, the first field medical unit. Gravely ill for many years, he resigned as superior of the Order in 1607 and died in Rome on July 14, the year after he attended a General Chapter there. He was canonized a saint of the Church in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV, was declared patron of the sick, with St John of God, by Pope Leo XIII, and patron of nurses and nursing groups by Pope Pius XI. His feast day is 14 July.
St. Camillus de Lellis died on 14 July 1614. Immediately after his death, there was an autopsy by medical doctors with the witness of two Camillian priests (Fr. Mancini, Superior and Fr. Califano). During the process, the heart of St. Camillus had been removed and it was kept by Fr. Califano as the memory of the Camillian Founder and they felt that his heart was somewhat magnificent because of the life St Camillus led. Fr. Califano had put the “heart” in a bowl full of herbal mixtures. Father Superior had instructed Fr. Califano to send the removed “heart” of St. Camillus to Camillian Religious House in Napoli. However, Fr. Califano took the liberty to cut a small piece from this “heart” to share to the Camillian House in Mesina.
The Catholic Church has mentioned in the Cannon Law that any relic of the potential saints cannot be venerated before the completion of beatification step of that saint. However, the “heart” of St. Caillus had been kept before the process of beatification step. It was so many faithful people to venerate the relic of St. Camillus at that time. Therefore, the Bishop of Napoli had kept the piece of the “heart” of St. Camillus together with other pieces of relics of the potential saints. It was reviewed again in 1728 before the beatification of St. Camillus which had been kept more than hundred years. Since there were many relics kept together, there was a need to ensure the right piece of relic. It was testified by two medical doctors of the two separated pieces of the “heart” of St. Camillus. The test had included the size of the heart, the merging of two pieces, and the perfume smell of both pieces. It was approved by both two doctors that these two pieces are the same. The relic of the heart of St. Camillus remained uncorrupted ever since for the last 400 years. Finally, the decree of beatification of St. Camillus was signed on 7 April 1742. St. Camillus was canonized a saint of the Church in 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV.
During the period of political instability, the relic of St. Camillus was not exposed to public. In 1925, the relic of St. Camillus had permanently transferred to Camillian Religious House (Maddalena’s House) in Rome up to present.
This first visit to Thailand by the precious relic of the heart of St. Camillus will be a historical opportunity moment for the Camillians, its collaborators and for all healthcare providers to renew their dedication and commitment in loving and serving the sick. This is also a special moment for the sick to deepen their devotion and relationship with St. Camillus especially in experiencing the ever-present love of Christ in them. It will be good opportunity for the faithful people to learn and understand the in-depth charism of St. Camillus and be able to adapt into the daily life.
In commemorate the 400 years death anniversary of St. Camillus and the 60th anniversary of Camillian in Thailand (1952-2012), the Camillian is bringing their most precious relic, this miraculously relic of the heart of St. Camillus which is in its incorrupt state, to Camillian Hospital in Bangkok. In this presence of the miraculous healing heart of St. Camillus, all members of the public will be able to visit for the veneration and blessings at the Camillian Hospital, Bangkok from 31 January to 3 February 2015.