Vivacious and troublesome as a child, Camillus was already a compulsive gambler by the time of his adolescence. At the age of 19, he joined his father in the military service and fought in two battles. One of these, in 1571, was that at Lepanto, during which the Christians won over the Turks in what is acknowledged to have been a victory of the Holy Rosary. After he was discharged from the military, Camillus returned to Italy and gambled away his inheritance and his equipment. It is said that he even took to begging on the steps of the Cathedral of Mafredonia. After taking a position as a mason’s helper, he came into contact with a Capuchin priest through whose counseling he experienced a complete reform and a rekindling of faith.
His entrance into religious life was abbreviated by a recurring ulceration of his leg that had once interrupted his military career. He applied for treatment at a hospital in Rome but was so dissatisfied with the servants’ lack of cooperation and constant unfaithfulness to duty that be began the establishment of an order whose members were to bind themselves by a fourth vow—to the charitable care of the sick and dying. This vow is still made by members of the order, in addition to those of poverty, chastity and obedience. With the encouragement of his confessor, St. Philip Neri, Camillus commenced studying for the priesthood and was ordained in 1584. During the early days of his nursing order, when he diligently worked to improve the condition of the hospital in which he served as director, many opposed his efforts.
One day a scoundrel entered the oratory of the congregation, removed the crucifix from the wall, cast it aside and disturbed the contents of the room. The discovery of the vandalism vandalism greatly troubled the Saint, who reverently removed the crucifix from the oratory to another room.
During the night, while complaining and praying before this crucifix, he saw the body of Christ move, detach one arm from the affixing nail and reach toward him. At the same time, a voice came from the crucifix with great clarity and spoke words both consoling and reassuring: “Take courage, faint-hearted one, continue the work you have begun. I will be with you because it is My work.” The crucifix is now enshrined in the principal church of the order, the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Rome. Unquestionably one of the most beautiful churches in that city, it also contains the enshrined relics of the Saint. The order founded by St. Camillus, the Order of the Clerics Regular Ministers of the Sick (Camillians), always wore on the front of their robes a large red cross that was meant to inspire the sick and dying to sentiments of confidence and contrition. This was the first time the symbol of the red cross was used as a sign of organized charity, almost 300 years before the establishment of the International Red Cross. The red cross still decorates the front of the habits worn by members of the Order, with smaller versions being distributed to those who request them. Made of felt, these smaller versions measure an inch and a half in length and are blessed with special prayers that were inserted in the Roman Ritual. Their popularity dates from 1601 and is due to an apparent miracle. While the Camillians were busy with the sick during the battle of Canizza, a tent burned in which the brothers stored their equipment. Everything was destroyed except a red cross that had been attached to a religious habit. One of the officers asked for the cross and wore it as a breastplate, remaining unharmed for the remainder of the battle. The smaller versions have been propagated by the millions throughout the world procuring benefits of resignation, conversion, or recovery for the sick.
~Source:”Miraculous Images of Our Lord” by Joan Carroll Cruz