St Camillus de Lellis

Founder of the Minsters of the Sick (entered heaven in 1614)

Dear Cammie,

If I knew you less than I do, I would think it quaint that you have taken a summer job as a hospitality manager in one of those Las Vegas hotels.  Since I know you well, however, I am obliged to throw you a life preserver. I have always thought it highly appropriate that you inherited the same vice as your namesake, and I continually pray that through his intercession you will inherit the same cure.  Gambling, betting, games of chance – in and of themselves, most are innocent and entertaining. But when they start devouring money that you don’t have, monopolizing your time and attention, inspiring you to rejoice in others’ losses, or encouraging you to compromise your integrity in the interests of winning – these are telltale signs that the thirst for money (or power) is leading you into a deadly idolatry.  (And don’t tell me “Everyone does it! It’s no big deal!” Tell that to a lemming.) I only hope that God will not have to let you descend to the depths of misery, destitution, and shame that it took to bring St Camillus to his knees in repentance. Although, if the results are equally propitious, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Camillus was a large man, 6’6”, and went off to fight in the wars with his dad when he was still quite young.  He contracted some strange disease in his leg, and had to spend time in one of those horrendously unhygienic pre-modern hospitals in Rome.  In and out of hospitals and wars, he repeatedly frittered away his livelihood by gambling, won a reputation as bad-tempered and argumentative, and led a generally unpromising life, until his regrettable state and the memory of a vow he had once made to God started him on the road to conversion.  He took a job as a construction worker at the erection of a new Franciscan monastery, and the words and examples of the friars brought the grace of God into his troubled soul. He so fully repented that he entered the Franciscan novitiate, but was dismissed on account of his diseased leg. He returned to the hospital where he had once been interred, and there began serving the sick.  The rest of his life was spent in gathering disciples who would dedicate themselves to reform the inhumane practices of contemporary hospitals and nursing. His efforts spawned houses of “Ministers of the Sick” throughout Italy, and though he himself suffered from a combination of illnesses until the day he died, he succeeded in bringing the love of the gospel into the lives of the most miserable of his countrymen.  He and his ministers would tend those whom no one else would tend. Once a fleet of plague-ridden ships was forbidden to enter the port of Naples, whereupon Camillus’s ministers rowed out to them in order to ease their suffering and help them prepare their souls to meet the Lord. Camillus also formed the first military “ambulance” unit; sending some of his men to the wars in Hungary, where they dedicated themselves full time to tend the wounded and dying.

So you see, my energetic young niece, by the grace of God, this ornery and brusque soldier went from skinning his fellow men (or being skinned by them) to saving them; instead of aggrandizing himself at their expense (the bottom line of excessive gambling), he ended up ennobling them at no expense.  May our Lord lead you down a similar path.

Sincerely, your Uncle Eddy

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