Our Sick Neighbour

A Camillian Reading of the Parable of the Good Samaritan

St. Camillus had the famous gift of merciful love towards the sick and his biography (written by his contemporary confrere, the famous ‘Vita manoscritta’ of Fr. Sanzio Cicatelli, and printed for the first time three years ago) offers us as an introduction a summary and an effective application to Camillus of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

‘This so notable and wonderful example of charity (if for me such a comparison be licit without any least reference to other saintly men), it seems, we can properly apply to our Fr. Camillus.  I believe that for the man who fell into the hands of thieves and was left half-dead on the side of the road who might one better understand than sick poor people in hospitals and abandoned in their own homes?

It is the case that since the beginning of the Church not just one but many priests and Levites have passed on the road of this life, that is to say many saintly men, and great servants of God, founders of other religions, having all directed to other holy works their Rules and institutes, but none of them took upon themselves by their initial institute or by vows help for these sick poor, these dying poor, wounded by pestilence. In the end, passing here on earth by the mercy of God, the pitying Samaritan (whom we can without doubt say Camillus was), first a man of the world then a convert to the Lord, seeing these poor languishing people was moved by compassion for them and drew near to them, and, as a physician, took upon himself the burden of helping them and serving them’.

In the end, on his return, the Samaritan is identified with Christ who on the judgement day comes to reward ‘those who have been merciful. Saying: I was sick and you visited me, come blessed of my Father…’

Two Poles

In this introduction by Cicatelli we have two ways by which a sick person becomes our neighbour: when he is drawn near to with love in the way that the Samaritan does (that is to say the way of Christ) and when we draw near to him as we draw near to Christ.

These are the two poles of the whole of the spirituality of St. Camillus and his religious: identifying with Christ in his approach of being a Good Samaritan who allows himself to be guided by merciful love towards the sick, and serving the sick as one serves Christ who identified with the sick.

In harmony with this gospel vision, our Constitution states, on the one hand, that the Order of the Ministers of the Sick has received from God the gift of ‘witnessing to the world the ever-present love of Christ for the sick’ (Const. 1) so as to continue in time and space the mission of Jesus who ‘made a tour through all the towns and villages proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and sickness’ (cf. Const. 4; Mt 9:35), thereby carrying out his mandate to unite preaching the Kingdom with healing the sick: “Heal the sick…and say: the Kingdom of God is very near to you” (Lk 10:9).

On the other hand, the Constitution of the Order also states that in serving the sick we serve Christ himself who said: “Whenever you did these things to one of these smallest of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). We find the source of our spirituality in this presence of Christ in the sick and in us who in his name place ourselves at their service (cf. Const. 13).