The charismas are gifts of the Spirit for the good of God’s people. They are aimed at the construction and growth of the community having a deep impact on those who receive it, ripping them from a narrow circle of a prisoner life of personal projects and launching them into the great adventure of salvation history and in following of Christ.
The founder of a religious community is always charismatic raised by the Spirit, able to capture the plan of the Father in the signs of time and make it a reality. He/she is a man/woman of great faith and hope, courage and vision. They become a river that overcomes all obstacles, moving many waters, opens new paths and points the direction.
Voice of the Spirit
At the time of St. Camillus there were strong appeals coming from the world of the sick. Many Christians have heard them, but, like the Levite priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan, did not realize the voice of God speaking in the heart of events and went on their way, driven by many personal projects and commitments. Saint Camillus De Lellis, sensitive to the voice of the Lord that since the conversion put him on the path of love with compassion, heard those pleas and placed himself entirely at the service of those who were sick. He became, therefore, the Good Samaritan, the example of Christ, whose merciful love he had experienced.
For some years Camillus fought alone to change the inhumane the healthcare system, but without too much result. He had not yet understood that we cannot impose on others what we call an inner light, charism.
Love is Not Imposed
It was one evening in mid-August 1582 that Camillus became enlightened: “Why not meet good and pious men, in good standard, though isolated and without stimulation, and transform them into a community of a compassionate people who love each other as brothers and dedicate themselves to the service of the sick by pure motherly love, following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? It was the divine light that wanted to make of Camillus a Camillian, father and brother of a large religious family. He was the founder of the charism. In that moment of grace, Camillus really found the solution, but yet unaware of how the plan was unfolding into a small religious order that, after four centuries, blossomed and continues to grow and expand the vitality of the tree planted by the river, whose roots are founded in the Word of God.
A Wonderful Gift
Camillus was so passionate about the charism of mercy, that in speaking, he became like a poet of compassion. Proud of his vision, Camillus stated:” We received a huge gift of grace from the Holy Spirit. With serving the sick, we have inherited a gem of charity”.
Camillus expressed with strong words and deep meaning that he wanted to keep it intact as the new preamble of the first Constitution of the Order:: “If someone inspired by our Lord would like to exercise the works of mercy, physical and spiritual, according to the spirit of our Institute, should know that he has to die to all the things of the world…in order to live solely for the crucified Jesus…He should consider it a great gain to die for the crucified Jesus Christ our Lord….”
In his Testament Letter sent a few days before his death to all the confreres of the Order, Camillus also expresses his admiration, gratitude, joy and enthusiasm for the charisma that “so great talent that the Lord has placed in our hands.” He sees the charism of the institute in the heart of the gospel and the heart of the church: “The service to the sick is so according to the gospel and doctrine of Christ, Our Lord, which exalts both the Old and New Testament and with the example of his holy life, caring for the sick and healing all kind of diseases. Christ indissolubly united the care for the sick and preaching the good news and has given the church’s mission: “… Preach the gospel…and heal the sick.”
It grows and enculturates.
The charism of founders of any religious order is transmitted to the disciples called personally by God himself. They strive to grow and live out the core values of their mission, always striving to maintain the dream alive within the constant changes of our Catholic Healthcare system. When the environment changes also living organisms must change otherwise become fossils. It is a matter of identity and fidelity to their mission: change to remain the same.
After Vatican II, to be true to themselves and faithful to the charism, the Order of Saint Camillus Order proceeded to reexamine revise, and rewrite the constitution. The new constitution opens with a reflection on the theological-pastoral charisma. This comes as presenting the gift to witness to the world the love of Christ always present for the sick, given by God to our Order through St. Camillus. This love is sourced from God himself, manifested fully in Christ and been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Article 11 expresses our response: “We believe in love, and moved by the Spirit, we embrace the charism of our Order and want to live solely dedicated to God and merciful Jesus Christ, serving the sick, in chastity, poverty and obedience.”
Specifically, our charism is expressed in works of mercy to the sick, taking on the world’s health services. We place ourselves at the service of the sick person in their context and in the whole of their being, providing them with the necessary care according to their needs and our capabilities and competencies. Therefore, according to the health needs of the world and the gifts of each confrere themselves, there will be Camillian nurses, hospital chaplains, doctors, psychologists, experts in health care ministry in sacred scripture in moral theology, anthropology, in hospital administration, in a word, in all humanities and theological, that somehow help better serve the sick and create around them, in the vast world of health care, a humane and Christian atmosphere.
Fathers and Brothers: One Mission. One Ministry.
For a complete service to the sick, Camillus wanted to encourage both priests and brothers to work in healthcare as equal partners. It was a hard statement for Camillus to say and for his members to carry out. It was a total new paradigm of service within the church at Camillus time.
In the Testament Letter, Camillus returns and urges his followers not to give in: “No need to look at other religious institutions in the church of God which does not go down this road, because their institutions are not common (the clergy and laity) as ours.”
First of all the Love
The entire legal structure and all studies and specializations serve little without the spirit of the Good Samaritan, “moved with compassion” to animate the life and activities of each religious and the entire Camillian Order.
Camillus, when drafting the “Guidelines that should be followed in hospitals in caring for the poor sick, states: “Firstly, each ask the Lord to grant him maternal affection towards others, so that we can serve him with lots of love, both in soul and body, for with the grace of God we wish to serve all sick with the same care that a mother has to watch his only son sick.”
Fr. Calisto Vendrame, MI