Camillus de Lellis vs. Matthias

Welcome to the opening matchup of Lent Madness 2021! We kick things off with what we're calling the Gambler's Gambit, a matchup between Camillus de Lellis and Matthias. Of course, there's much more to these two than the fact that one is a reformed gambler and the other was chosen by lot (gambling!). But that's what our amazing Celebrity Bloggers are here for -- to bring to life the varied aspects of our saintly lineup over the coming weeks.

If you’re a veteran of the Saintly Smackdown, we’re delighted you’re back for another year of saintly thrills and spills. If you’re joining us for the first time, we’re especially glad you’re along for this wild penitential ride. If you’re curious about what this all entails, check out the About Lent Madness tab on the website. We assure you this is the safest, most socially-distanced Lenten devotion out there.

To experience the fullness of the Lent Madness experience, the Supreme Executive Committee (the somewhat benevolent dictatorship that runs this whole enterprise) encourages you to do several things. First, "like" Lent Madness on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter. Second, subscribe to the Lent Madness e-mails so you never miss a vote — you’ll get each matchup hand-delivered to your inbox on the weekdays of Lent. You can do this by going to the home page of our website and entering your e-mail address (near the top right). Third, you can support the ministry of Lent Madness by heading over to the Lentorium and purchasing Lent Madness swag, thereby impressing everyone in your virtual pew.

But mostly, we encourage you to read about the 32 saints participating in this year’s edition of Lent Madness, faithfully cast your (single!) vote on the weekdays of Lent, and add your comments to the great cloud of participating witnesses that gathers as the online Lent Madness community each year. If you’re wondering when your favorite saint will be competing – in order to rally your friends and neighbors (creative campaigning is encouraged, voter fraud is not) – you can check out the 2021 Matchup Calendar.

But enough blathering. It's time to cast your very first vote of Lent Madness 2021!

Camillus de Lellis 
Camillus began his life as anything but a saint. Born in 1550 in Italy, he was the son of a soldier who himself became a soldier of fortune. He had a well-deserved reputation for being a scoundrel, a gambler, and all-around trouble-maker. He suffered from a leg wound, but when he went to a hospital, Camillus was ousted because of his argumentative nature.

Ultimately, his leg wound brought his soldiering to an end, so he took up gambling. Destitute and desperate for food and a place to sleep, Camillus begged employ at a Capuchin friary in Manfredonia, Italy. After time with the order, he had a religious conversion. He applied to become a Franciscan three times but was denied because of his incurable wound and a lack of education.

The leg wound continued to plague Camillus, so he went back to the same hospital for treatment, working in exchange for a place to live. He eventually became the hospital’s superintendent while growing in his faith through spiritual direction, confession, and prayer. He still occasionally gambled and brawled, as old habits die hard. But he was also committed to a life of love and service and was ordained to the priesthood in 1584.

Inspired by his time at the hospital, Camillus gathered a group of lay and ordained men to tend to the needs of the poor and destitute who were sick, wounded, suffering, and dying. He called this group Servants of the Sick. In 1591, Pope Gregory XIV changed the name to Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers of the Infirm. This new religious order wore black cassocks and capes with a red cross over the chest—the original red cross insignia.

Camillus organized his order to help wherever needed: private homes, jails, streets, and battlefields. In 1601 during a battle, the Camillans’ hospital tent and all their supplies were burned to the ground except the red cross of one member’s religious habit—surely, they thought, a sign of divine approval for their work to help the sick and dying.

Camillus was canonized in 1746 and is a patron saint for hospitals, those who are sick, nurses, and doctors. He also offers divine assistance for those struggling with a gambling addiction. This order takes traditional vows, as well as a vow of unfailing service to the sick, even at risk to their own lives.

Collect for Camillus de Lellis 
Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son came not to be served but to serve: Bless all who, following in his steps, give themselves to the service of others; that with wisdom, patience, and courage, they may minister in his Name to the suffering, the friendless, and the needy, for the love of him who laid down his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Laurie Brock


“And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.” With that action, as detailed in Acts 1:26, Matthias joined the other Apostles, replacing the betrayer Judas Iscariot.

Other than the fact he was born in Judea, Matthias’s early life is lost to history and not much is known about him. However, according to tradition, he had been one of Jesus’ seventy disciples at the baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. In fact, the witnessing of Jesus’ baptism was a key element in Matthias’s nomination to replace Judas. The other requirement was being present at the Ascension.

After the betrayal by Judas, the remaining apostles believed it was critical to keep their number at twelve, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Two disciples met the standards for nomination; they cast lots, and Matthias was chosen. While Matthias’s selection occurred after the ascension of Jesus, it was before the Day of Pentecost. Therefore, Matthias was with the group in the Upper Room at the descent of the Holy Spirit. As with the other apostles, his ministry blossomed following the miracle of Pentecost.

From Jerusalem, Matthias traveled far to spread the word of Jesus. Historians say his ministry focused near Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey and the area around the Caspian Sea. Some reports indicate he made his way to today’s country of Georgia.

He died in 80 ce, but the particulars of his death vary greatly. Some report he was stoned to death and then beheaded in Jerusalem, while other accounts have him dying near Sebastopolis, now in Turkey, and still another stated he died of old age. As for his remains, some are interred in the Abbey of Santa Giustina, in Padua, Italy, thanks to Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, who had them transported there. Other relics are located in the Abbey of St. Matthias, in Trier, Germany.

He is the patron saint of alcoholics; tailors; Gary, Indiana; and Montana. He is prayed to for hope and perseverance and in instances of smallpox. He is often portrayed holding an ax, widely believed to be the instrument of his death. His feast day is February 24.

Collect for Matthias
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

—Neva Rae Fox

Camillus de Lellis vs. Matthias

  • Camillus de Lellis (70%, 5,856 Votes)
  • Matthias (30%, 2,452 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,308

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Camillus de Lellis: Wikicommons, public domain
Matthias: Workshop of Simone Martini / Public domain


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237 comments on “Camillus de Lellis vs. Matthias”

  1. A healer, the chroniclers tell us,
    Was the sainted Camillus de Lellis.
    He’s the one I prefer;
    If perchance you demur,
    Our shared fight against plague should compel us.

    1. If you study the life of Matthias,
      You'll find he was fervent and pious;
      So give it some thought
      and cast in your lot
      for a saint who will always stand by us.

      1. Was thinking the same. I used to live in Syracusexand had friends in Camillus, so I had to vote for him.

      2. Found this information on the town's website: "Founded on March 8, 1799, the Town of Camillus is named after the Roman general Marcus Furius Camillus and is the only Town in the United States to bear that name."

    1. Crazy small world! Happy to be joining, especially you, Neva! Wish I knew this existed when I was teaching in NJ, kids would have enjoyed.

    1. Yes, as someone who also lives part-time in northwestern WY, the Montana part almost tipped me for Matthias (wonder what the back-story is?). But like others I just found Camillus’s story too compelling not to vote for.

    2. Don Camillo! Thanks for the reminder. I read those mysteries long ago. I wonder if I still have the books--more stories to get me through the current plague.

    3. I had never heard of this series. Thanks so much for mentioning it. I just ordered the first book.

    4. I love those books!! However, I voted for Matthias, partly because he is the patron saint of Montana, a state close to my heart.

  2. You just have to vote for someone who had such a dramatic change in his life. Old habits are hard to break and it seems he made radical change. It is also inspiring to think about his recruiting others to help the infirm. Now more than ever!

    1. But, as you say old habits die hard. “ He still occasionally gambled and brawled, as old habits die hard. But he was also committed to a life of love and service”. I take that as encouragement to us sinners who backslide or have trouble breaking old habits.

  3. I do demur Mr. Cabot!
    Matthias, having to step in following Judas, brings to mind the unfathomable situation another man faces today in redeeming our faith and hope.

    1. Thank you for this account. The book you refer to is an e-book in French.
      "What does it mean to save one’s neighbor in a time of machetes and bloodbaths? Is there a place for a god of love in the midst of carnage? Why give one’s life when life has no value? An African priest recounts his experience in a land of massacres. A gripping witness."
      The Guardian has written about this priest and his mission:

  4. Fascinating that both are tied to some form of addiction. In honor of the healers in the trenches this past year I choose Camillis de Lillus.

  5. This was a tough call. Thank you for Camillus' story; I'd never heard of him before and it was a moving story. I wanted to vote for him. But then, as I was reading about Matthias, I started thinking about how we don't know so much about him, and there are so many followers of Jesus that we don't know a whole lot about. And then I laughed out loud when I read that he was the patron saint of Montana; I lived in northwestern Wyoming for 4 1/2 years and was in Montana a lot, and never knew that. So I voted for Matthias. But if Camillus advances, I'm okay with that. Thanks for teaching me about new saints!

  6. I would also like to think that Matthias is the patron saint of understudies, having stepped in to return the number of the apostles to 12 after Judas's rather ignominious exit.

    1. I love that! I work in show business and we are always thrilled when an understudy is able to perform! Thanks. Tessa!

  7. Leading off with Camillus was an inspired choice. I predict he'll go far in a year where caregivers are being recognized as true saints all around us.

  8. A choice between someone who wrestled his own demons in order to help others; fallible and deeply human, or a sort of amorphous cloud. Camillus all the way!

  9. Living through a year with Covid has put a lot of things on hold. This virus could not push the "pause button" on Lent Madness saintly smackdown. Hallelujah! Bring it on!

  10. Voting on the playlentmadness site has closed. Voting for these guys was yesterday. I’m confused.

    1. Marilyn, much like any other bracket, you need to fill it out before the tournament starts. I also, sadly, missed the deadline.

    2. I believe that it a "fan site" made by folks--not officailly sanctioned by the SEC. You can print out a bracket and put it on your fridge and play along. It's good fun to play along and vote without a bracket, too.

  11. Onward, Lent Madness!
    Always difficult when biblical saints are paired up with those of more recent history. Matthias is compelling for simply trying to fill someone else’s shoes. Lifted from his “also ran” position, he reminds me of all the times people step up, propelled forward at the right time, filling a hole and fulfilling a ministry. I’m voting for all those unsung and often unknown heroes

  12. I have a soft spot for Matthias representing all those who faithfully serve but whose ministry is mostly forgotten--but was all prepared to vote for Camillus until Neva pointed out Matthias was the patron saint of Gary, Indiana. That detail swung me back to Matthias.

    1. Being a nurse for over 50 years, Camillus got my vote. Hard work and harded in this year long pandemic.

    The pandemic and how to honour the good work of front line health care workers
    The name of Jesus being held up by those who fight against BLM and want to do harm on the Feast of Epiphany.
    The winter storms that have brought hardship to so many.
    Matthias "is prayed to for hope and perseverance..." and
    "Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors" - from the Collect for Matthais.

  14. In honor of our brave front line workers in hospitals and clinics everywhere, I cast my vote for Camillus!

  15. Camillus survival depended on a life of gambling or a religious life. He went back and forth for a while but eventually not only choose the religious life but a caregiver. He has my vote.

  16. Camillus: rejected three times by the Franciscans (shame on them) and worked his way up from room-and-board at the hospital to superintendent of the hospital. The original Red Cross. How could I not vote for this saint I had never heard of until today?

    1. I kinda think the Fransicans were probably right. He wasn't ready yet. We have many of his type working hard during this pandemic. God, bless and protect them all

  17. Although I had never heard of Camillus, as a nurse I must uphold our shared profession and cast my vote for Camillus.

    1. I agree, Sue. We nurses recognize the work Camillus did in ministering to the infirm. However, I almost voted for Matthias because he was invoked during the smallpox epidemics, and that seems appropriate for our current world. Tough call!

  18. There’s doom scrolling, and then there’s bloom scrolling: that’s us each morning checking for signs of spring, hope, rebirth, resurrection—via the lives of these Saints.

  19. Although Matthias deserves honor being saint to oil smogged Gary Indiana, I cast my vote for Camillus whose red cross is an important symbol in these Corona virus times. He persevered despite set backs.