Just Because Something is Good & Holy Doesn't Mean It's What God Wants.
Lessons from cycle II of the feria, according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Isaiah 38: 1-6, 21-22, 7-8.
Isaiah 38: 10-12, 16.
Matthew 12: 1-8.
The Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest.
The Fifteenth Friday of Ordinary Time.
Return to ByzantineCatholicPriest.com.
2:37 PM 7/18/2014 — I don't know if the feast of Saint Camillus de Lellis is celebrated in Italy; it's not on the calendar of the Universal Church, but it is celebrated specifically in the United States, which I find odd since he was never here. He was born in the province of Abruzzi in Italy in 1550; was a soldier who was addicted to gambling;—maybe someone felt we were playing too much Bingo in our churches and needed to pray to this particular saint—and, after his conversion to Christ he decided to become a priest and dedicate his life to the care of the sick, founding the Order of Ministers to the Sick. He died in Rome toward the beginning of the 17th Century.
Now, I had mentioned last week or the week before that I use the old edition of the Divine Office as allowed in Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, which not only allows use of the Mass of St. John XXIII of 1962, but also the Roman Breviary of 1960; and, I had also mentioned that, on the feasts of some of these lesser known saints, that Breviary presents much more detailed biographies of these people that contains information that, at the time I suppose, the Church felt was OK to tell priests but that the laity didn't need to know. In the case of St. Camillus, it goes into more detail about what happened to him after his conversion: he had initially felt called to enter the Capuchin Franciscans, and did—several times—and ended up leaving the Order several times. He suffered from a lot of health problems,—which had attracted me to look into his life a little deeper, since I've been down that road myself—and was in and out of the Order I think three times during this period. Eventually, he ended up in Rome where he was ordained a Secular Priest, and where he founded the Order of Ministers to the Sick, the mission of which was to care for plague victims without any concern for the safety or health of its own members. A lot of people, during this latter plague, were reluctant to care for plague victims out of concern for catching the plague themselves, and he saw a need for some organization to care for these people without being hindered by concern for the safety of the members. He continued to suffer from health problems of his own, and finally died in Rome in 1614 at the age of sixty-five, and was canonized by Pope Leo XIII, who named him the Patron Saint of Hospitals and the Sick.
It is purely coincidental that his feast coincides with today's first Scripture lesson, in which the Prophet Isaiah is sent to Hezekiah, who is mortally ill, to tell him that he's about to die. He is, of course, very distressed at this news, and begins to pray for his life to be spared; and, the Lord, having heard this prayer, sends Isaiah back to him to tell him that, because of the sincerity of his prayers, he will be allowed to live another fifteen years.
Now, theologically, we don't accept the notion that the mind of God, in his infinite wisdom, is changeable, but we do accept the notion that God will allow us to believe he's changed his mind in order to impress upon us the fact that he does hear our prayers. God knew all along that he was going to save Hezekiah's life, but he didn't let Hezekiah know that. Hezekiah needed to be taken down a peg first; he needed to be forced to realize his dependency on God alone; so, God allowed him to believe that he was going to die.
Just like St. Camillus: God knew all along what he was going to do with this man, but there was an element of pride there that had to be boiled out of him first; so, he allowed him to try and fail several times in his attempts to become a Capuchin. It was only after landing in Rome depressed and dejected that God led him to the Secular Priesthood—a vocation he had never seriously considered—and revealed to him the need to care for the sick and the dying.
It is an uncomfortable fact that our hopes and desires, no matter how holy, do not often coincide with the will of God. I don't do spiritual direction anymore, but I used to; and, when you're directing nuns it's not at all uncommon to run headlong into a solid wall of pride, where someone will be convinced that God wants her to do something when, in reality, it's what she wants, not what God wants. She can't see that because what she wants is a good and holy thing to do; but, just because it's good and holy doesn't mean it's what God wants for her. I often like to say that our soul is like a canoe on a spiritual river—which takes me back to my Boy Scout days—and where you see a particular island you'd like to land on, but the current of the river has other ideas; so, you paddle and paddle and paddle, but the current is just too strong, so you're basically just paddling in place without going anywhere, and it's only after you've worn yourself out and stop paddling that the river is able to take you where you were supposed to go in the first place.
I don't want to say this too forcefully, since there are few spiritual rules that apply to everyone, but sometimes I think the more we try to discern the will of God, the more we harden our hearts to it. Sometimes it's better to stop paddling and just let the river take us where it will. Maybe we can add that to our intentions during this Mass on the feast of St. Camillus, who knew more than anyone what it's like to have one's hopes and aspirations dashed as a preparation for doing a great work for God.