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Heart of saint goes to Dublin

In this pious painting St Camillus receives Holy Communion just before his death

By on Friday, 11 June 2010

The heart of St Camillus, the most sacred relic of the saint, is to be brought to Dublin from Rome. The heart will be venerated at the Order of St Camillus in July in order to mark the 75th anniversary of the order’s beginnings in Ireland.

The heart will be present in St Camillus Nursing Centre, Killucan, County Westmeath, from July 9 to 14. Mass will be celebrated on the Feast of St Camillus, July 14, in Killucan at 7pm by Bishop Michael Smith.

The heart will be taken the following day, Thursday July 15, to the Mater Hospital, Dublin, where the order’s chaplains work, and Mass will be celebrated at 1pm. The heart will be present in the Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, on Friday July 16, and Mass will be celebrated at 7pm by Fr Stephen Foster, provincial of the Order of St Camillus.

The heart will be taken to Knock on Saturday July 24 and Mass will be celebrated at 3pm.

Camillus was an unlikely saint. Even his mother, while carrying him in her womb, feared after a dream she had that she would give birth to the leader of a band of brigands. Had she lived a few more years she would have thought her dream was coming true if she had seen the way he lived between the ages of 17 to 25. She dreamed that he and his followers would have a large red cross emblazoned on their chests.

He was born on May 25 in 1550 in Bucchianico, Italy. At 17 he decided to become a mercenary soldier. He was an imposing figure at 6ft 6ins tall and he developed a bad temper. He also became addicted to gambling and was often found in the middle of card games. During one game in Naples he even bet the shirt on his back and lost.

At the age of 25 he was converted. He vowed from this moment to live his life only for God. “No more the world for me,” he said.

Eventually Camillus realised that God was calling him not to be a Capuchin – which he originally thought – but to care for the plague-ridden sick people in the hospital and in the city of Rome and so he dedicated his life to serving the merciful Jesus Christ in the sick and the dying.

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 despite danger to one’s own life.

He referred to the sick as his Lord and Master and he would ask forgiveness of them for his sins. He would often quote the words of our Lord: “I was sick and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:36) He died on July 14 1614 aged 64.