“The poor and the sick are the heart of God. By serving them we serve Jesus the Christ.”
-St. Camillus De Lellis
St. Camillus de Lellis, Life dates: 1550-1614
Introduction: After a youth of fighting and gambling, Camillus spent his adult life in service to the sick. His work marked a turning point in how medical care was provided. He is now the patron saint of the sick, nurses and hospitals. He founded an order of men dedicated to the caring of the sick, and chose for them to wear a red cross on the front of their cassocks. This may be the beginning of the very familiar symbol of the Red Cross organization. (See www.camillians.org)
Children can identify with a person who gets angry and even hits someone. Most can also identify with what it means to receive loving care when sick. Camillus offers them an example of someone who developed self-control, and learned compassion.
Story: FROM NASTY TO NICE
Camillus was a nasty guy. He’d get angry, hit someone and there would be a big fight. . When he played card games for money and lost, he got mad too.
He was a soldier. When his leg was hurt, he went to a hospital. This would change his life.
It was a terrible place, with dirt and germs everywhere. The air was vile, the food revolting. Some workers didn’t care about the sick people, and were even cruel.
Even nasty Camillus felt badly for the other sick people. Dragging his leg, he hobbled from bed to bed. He wiped feverish foreheads with a cool, wet cloth. He brought drinks of water. He talked gently, comforting and cheering people.
Still, he was so nasty to the people who worked there, they told him to leave! He soon lost all his money again by playing cards, so he looked for a job. As mean as Camillus was, some priests who needed a builder hired him. They soon saw that inside that nasty person was a very good one. Through them, Camillus learned that God loved him—bad temper, bad leg and all! God loved him!
Knowing this, he started a new life. Camillus went back to the hospital to show others this love. He treated the sick people with love and respect—he treated each as if he or she was Christ himself.
Just this made a difference to the patients. He also cleaned floors, washed blankets, opened windows and made sure the food was good as well as healthy. The hospital became a loving place where people could heal.
Others wanted to join him. He agreed and trained them. He started eight more hospitals! So many men joined, Camillus founded fifteen places for them to live. They all worked, treating each person as a precious child of God.
Celebrate Camillus with children:
St. Camillus made certain hospital patients had healthy food. Discuss with children different healthy choices for a snack. Together decide on something that is feasible.
Tell children they can prepare for the feast as St. Camillus worked to help others.
They might enjoy wiping the table, washing plastic cups or dishes, hanging wet cleaning cloths up to dry, etc. Give them a tablecloth, napkins, etc. and have some children can set the table themselves, and others can help prepare the food.
In addition, children can make cards with markers and stickers to cheer up someone who is sick. Use the cards to decorate the table. Later have children see that you are sending them to a children’s hospital.
Dear Saint Camillus,
You were a child of God and so were the people you helped in the hospital.
We are also children of God. Please pray with us for children of God who are sick in hospitals now. Amen.
FOR MORE ON SAINTS AND CELEBRATIONS, SEE A CIRCLE OF SAINTS