Today is the feast of St. Camillus de Lellis, and you’re reading The Tuesday Pillar Post.
Here’s what to know about St. Camillus:
-After a tumultuous childhood, he joined his father, a career military officer, to fight the Turks in 1566. During his military service, he received a wound to his leg that afflicted him the rest of his life. He also picked up a serious gambling habit.
— In 1575, with his military service over, Camillus went to a hospital in Rome to see if his leg could be treated. But he fought with doctors and nurses, so they threw him out.
— Camillus soon after found work as a laborer at a Franciscan friary. The friars there urged him to give up his bad attitude, his propensity for fighting, and his gambling habit. “God is everything. The rest is nothing,” one friar told him.
Camillus repented, had a powerful conversion, and tried to join the friars. But he couldn’t get in because of his wounded leg.
— Camillus went to a different Roman hospital, St. James Hospital for the Incurable, where his leg was treated, and where he worked as a kind of hospice-nurse for the dying. He also learned to pray. Eventually, he became the hospital’s director.
— While working at the hospital, St. Camillus met St. Philip Neri, who became his confessor. Neri encouraged him to become a priest — which, at 34, he did.
Then Camillus began to form a little association of devout hospital workers, who saw their work as a ministry, a work of mercy.
Eventually that association became a religious order, which spread across Italy in his lifetime. He died a holy death, with the name of Jesus on his lips.
I’m struck by this about the story of St. Camillus — he learned to pray while he was serving the sick. There’s something imporant to that, for all us.
Properly approached, the works of mercy are a school of prayer, an invitation to greater intimacy with God.
This isn’t because they are some kind of transcendent, gauzy, or ethereal thing, which elevates us to a higher plane.
On the contrary.
It’s because loving the sick, as Camillus did, is hard, demanding, messy, visceral, time-consuming and tedious work — and performed for people who are not at their best, and often ungrateful. In that kind of work, the devil tempts us to disgust, to self-importance, to the lie that there’s something more significant we should be doing with our time.
That isn’t true, of course. But such work demands prayer — prayer for patience, for fortitude, for the grace of keeping one’s tongue.
It also demands that we find a way to see the Lord Jesus in the visceral suffering of another person — and that only happens in prayer, I’ve found.
St. Camillus knew what Mother Teresa knew — that if we want to find the Lord in prayer, there’s something to looking for him in the lowliest and least expected places.
And none of that is easy or romantic — but holiness rarely is.
If your apostolic works involve some caretaking, St. Camillus is the guy for you. If it doesn’t involve some caretaking — and you want to learn to pray — maybe it could?
May St. Camillus, and the men and women he cared for at death, pray for us.
Listen, we have a lot of news for you in this newsletter. But all of it is worth reading, so bear with me.
Yes, readers, you read that right.
As Archbishop Fernandez makes waves of controversy in the Church, The Pillar asked him about his mandate to lead the Church’s doctrinal office, his sense of the pressing moral issues of our time, and the ongoing criticism of Veritatis splendor in the life of the Church.
Here’s an excerpt:
Veritatis splendor is a great document, powerfully solid.
Obviously, it denotes a particular concern — to set certain limits. For this reason it is not the most adequate text to encourage the development of theology. In fact, over the last decades, tell me how many theologians can we name with the stature of Rahner, Ratzinger, Congar or Von Balthasar?
Not even that which they call “liberation theology” has theologians at the level of Gustavo Gutiérrez.
Something has gone wrong. There were controls, [but] not so much development.
Today perhaps a text will be needed that, collecting everything valuable from Veritatis splendor, has another style, another tone, which at the same time allows for encouraging the growth of Catholic theology, as Pope Francis asks of me.
Now, listen, I got a note from one reader this morning who said that this interview was “not very edifying.” I took that to mean he did not agree with Archbishop Fernandez’ views. Well, I’m not asking you to agree with the archbishop, or saying that I agree with him. That’s not the point.
The point is that Fernandez will have a considerable influence on the Church’s life in the years to come, and it’s worth understanding how he approaches that influence.
So if you want to know a good deal about the new DDF prefect thinks about his own role, and the place of theology in the Church, this is a very good place to start.
We reported last Thursday that the state of Alaska had banned the use of altar wine in its prisons, effectively prohibiting the celebration of Mass in its 14 state correctional institutions.
Well, here’s something very cool: The day after The Pillar’s reporting, the state of Alaska rescinded its policy, allowing Mass to again be celebrated in the state’s prisons!
Readers, you did this.
Before we reported on this last week, the state’s policy memo floated around on Reddit for a day, and a Pillar reader sent it our way. So from the beginning, this reporting was a collaborative effort. And after we reported it, Pillar readers posted it everywhere on social media, and I know that many of you made calls to the Alaska Department of Corrections, and that religious liberty/public interest law firms, which read about this in The Pillar, also reached out in Alaska.
The Pillar wasn’t the only outlet to report it. I saw it picked up in some local press in Alaska, and I know that at least one other outlet reported the story on Thursday as well.
So if you think it’s good that incarcerated people can attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, you, readers and subscribers, played a part in that. And that makes me immensely proud to know you.
Read the state’s walk-back here. You did it!
The Arlington diocese announced last week that it will offer eight weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers, and paid bereavement leave for those who lose a loved one, including by miscarriage.
In many work environments, those policies would not be especially newsworthy — but compared to many dioceses and Church institutions, they go well beyond the norm.
So The Pillar talked with the diocesan HR director in Arlington about why the new policy was launched, what it will cost the diocese, and how other dioceses can look at their own policies.
Here’s what she told us:
“Well, we're pro-life, right? We're Catholic and that starts from conceptions to death. I mean, that's who we are. And so having policies that support our belief system are really important to us. And so that runs the gamut, and that would include providing appropriate leave for people to use, who have those life experiences.”
The move has been read as the Vatican’s concession that Beijing will not respect its 2018 deal, and will instead appoint bishops whenever they want, and wherever they want. And in the wake of that move, Cardinal Pietro Parolin has conceded as much, admitting that the deal is now more-or-less defunct.
And Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, appointed by Pope Francis for a peace mission in Ukraine, is in DC this week, to meet with President Biden for discussion on the future of the war.
Last month, Zuppi went both to Moscow and Kyiv, aimed at securing a negotiated peace in Ukraine. In Ukraine, that work has been met with cynicism — with Catholic leaders in the country lamenting the influence of an Italian ecclesial movement — Sant'Egidio — with which Zuppi is closely connected.
So why do Ukrainians say that Sant'Egidio is exercising outsize influence on their country’s future. Anatolii Babynskyi talked with Church leaders about that, and explains where things stand.
This group, the ULC, has a real impact on the work of state legislatures, so the vote matters. And at issue is a polyvalent debate over the meaning of death itself — and especially over the complicated notion of brain death.
This group, the ULC, has real effect on the work of state legislatures, so the vote matters. And at issue is a polyvalent debate over the meaning of death itself — and especially over the complicated notion of brain death.
But why is the debate over brain death complicated? And how should Catholics understand it?
To answer that, moral theologian Charlie Camosy talked with a lot of the players in this debate, to present it fairly and thoroughly from several viewpoints.
Listen, you probably already knew that Charlie is a great interviewer and a talented guy. You might not have known that he’s a pretty good longform reporter on complicated issues — but that’s exactly what he’s done here, and it’s worth the read.
From the lake
Among the many gifts and blessings our family enjoys is that my in-laws, my wife’s parents, have a kind of country house in western Illinois, which abuts a little lake, and which we customarily visit for a couple of weeks in the summer.
We’ll be here for the next two weeks, during which time I’ll still be working, but I’ll also have time for swimming, hiking, playing games, and building Lego with the family.
I’ll also, hopefully, have some time to read on the porch — and since I’ve still got about 300 pages left in Ron Chernow’s magnificent biography of Ulysses Grant, I’m looking forward to that time.
But for me, the best part of our annual traipse out to “the lakehouse” is the drive.
I like the trip because I just like hanging out with the family for a couple of days, with precious few demands on our time, except to press forward with the drive. And even that we approach casually.
We probably could do the drive in two days, but we do it in three, so that we don’t have to spend too much time in the car with cranky, grumbling children.
We stop along the way for good lunches, for ice cream, for Mass, and for playgrounds. And this year, we also stopped at Gower Abbey, to pray at the body of Sr. Wilhelmina, which is believed to be incorrupt.
Pillar readers know I’ve been there before, for work, but it was a good stop for our family on this trip.
Gower Abbey is a beautiful place, and it was a gift to be there. And if that’s not on your way, you should take this as a general encouragement to stop during your summer road trips for some pilgrimage spots.
And, if you can swing it, you should stop at Dairy Queen, or whatever, after the pilgrimage part.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did make my kids listen to the EDM remix of the World Youth Day song several times.
Wait — What? You didn’t know there was an electronic dance music version of the World Youth Day theme song? Well, then you haven’t truly lived, have you?
Which reminds me.
I told you last week about the official 2023 World Youth Day song “Feel the Rush in the Air,” which we broke down in a pretty good play-by-play.
Now you have the EDM version.
But I didn’t tell you about “Feel the Rush,” the theme song for Euro 2008, the 13th UEFA European Soccer Championship.
That song, created by Jamaica’s own Shaggy, begins, “Feel the rush! Feel it in the air!”
Look, I’m not saying that when World Youth Day organizers went looking for a crowd-pleasing bob to serve as the theme song for their large European youth-focused event, they were influenced directly by Shaggy. But I’m not saying they weren’t either. It’s a mad, mad world out there.
Please be assured of our prayers, and please pray for us. We need it.
Yours in Christ,