Camillus de Lellis was born on May 25, 1550 at Bocchiavico, Abruzzi, in Naples, Italy. He was the son of army captain Giovanni de Lellis and his nearly sixty year old wife, Camilla Compelli de Laureto. Prior to her son's birth, Camilla had a dream of her son with a cross on his chest leading other men also bearing this cross. At this time the cross signified those who were condemned to death by hanging. The mother feared that her son would become the leader of a gang of criminals.
The mother died when Camillus was only thirteen, not living to see her son's reckless youth. The young man followed his father into the army where he received a leg wound that would torment him the rest of his life. His free time was mostly spent in gambling due to which he nearly fell into poverty.
His circumstances forced Camillus to take a job doing construction for the Capuchin friars. These holy men converted Camillus who, at the age of 25, "resolved to reform his life and dedicate himself to the service of God." He "entered the Capuchin novitiate three times" but, each time, a recurrence of his leg injury forced him to leave.
In search of better medical care Camillus departed for Rome where he met St. Philip Neri who became his confessor.
Camillus founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Sick which began as a small "group of good men willing to dedicate themselves to the sick." He led a veritable army of these Servants in fighting the plague and other epidemics sweeping Rome. All the Servants had a red cross emblazoned on the front of their black cassocks, thereby fulfilling the mother's dream.
Camillus studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of 24.
After a lifetime spent in service of the sick, Camillus himself fell ill and died on July 14, 1614 in Genoa, Italy of natural causes. He was canonized on June 29, 1746 by Pope Benedict XIV. Camillus de Lellis is the patron saint: against bodily ills; against illness; against sickness; of hospitals; of hospital workers; of nurses; and of sick people.