21 September 1591: from a Congregation to an Order

pro regisBy the Bull Illius qui pro gregis, which is our Magna Carta, the Supreme Pontiff Gregory XIV erected our Congregation into a religious Order, outlined its fundamental laws, and enriched its privileges.

In this Bull Gregory XIV stated that the community of Camillus was ‘appreciated and accepted by people and so very useful and necessary for help to our neighbour that the number of members had greatly grown and many faithful greatly wished to be received into this Congregation’

By the Illius qui pro gregis certain innovations were introduced: the ministry of the Ministers of the Sick now embraced also prisons and private homes; overall care for the sick in body and in spirit, day and night; a continual presence at the side of the dying until their deaths; and an emphasis on the central role of charity – the soul of the life and the activities of the community – carried out without any material payment.

In this Bull Pope Gregory XIV grated to the Camillian Order the faculty of aggregating lay people, involving them in the exercise of the Camllian charism in helping the religious. ‘The Prefect General and with his authorisation the other Prefects or Superiors of local Communities can aggregate and being into their Congregations other secular people, lay faithful, clerics and priests to exercise the same pious works of mercy and charity. Those who are aggregated in this way will take part in all indulgences and the individual indulgences and graces of the Congregation’.

There flourished as never before also the intrinsic link between the Crucifix and Charity which was stated again in the ‘Formula of Life’ drawn up by St. Camillus for our Order and which contained all the elements that were then taken up in 1591 specifically in the Bull of institution. Indeed, the ‘Formula of Life’ points to the specificity of the charism of the Ministers of the Sick, and reaffirms the priority of the Crucifix and the primary function of charity in service to the sick: ‘If someone’, these are the words of St. Camillus, ‘inspired by the Lord God wants to exercise works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, according to our Institute, he should know that he has to be dead to the things of this world, that is to relatives, friends, possessions, and himself, and live only in Jesus Christ under the very gentle yoke of perpetual poverty, charity, obedience and service to the sick poor even if they have the plague, in their corporal and spiritual needs, day and night….which he will do for love of God and to do penitence for his sins; reminding himself of the Truth, Jesus Christ’.