Camillus de Lellis vs. Melangell

Welcome to the Saintly Sixteen! With your help, we have successfully whittled our field from 32 saints to 16. For this round, rather than the basic biographical information, we enter the realm of Quirks and Quotes. Our brilliant Celebrity Bloggers will provide unusual information or legends surrounding their saints along with quotes either by or about their saints.

If you need a quick refresher on those first round battles (and want to look at the initial bios), click the Bracket Tab. Just beneath the bracket, you'll find all the previous matchups sorted by round.

We kick things off with Camillus de Lellis vs. Melangell. In the first round, Camillus trounced Matthias while Melangell narrowly defeated Hermione.

Yesterday, we finished up the Round of 32 as Catherine of Genoa smothered Catherine of Bologna 65% to 35% in the Battle of the Deli Meats. Just be glad there's no patron saint of head cheese...

Camillus de Lellis
Camillus would not be described as being quirky, which carries with it a nuance of odd but charming. Camillus was, quite honestly, rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome. He was a gambler, a habit that led to financial, physical, and spiritual ruin throughout much of his life.

Having nowhere else to go and no way to earn a living because of an incurable leg wound likely a result of his short-lived military career, he went to the St. Giacomo hospital, from which he was eventually expelled because he was rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome. He gambled some more, lost even more, and eventually made his way to a Capuchin friary. There, he was overwhelmed by a sermon he heard, and realized he could serve God and those in need with his life. However, he was denied admission to the order, in part because he was rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome.

So he returned to St. Giacomo, and while still having the qualities that got him excused the first time, God was focusing those same qualities into passions to help the sick. He also discovered the Jesuits, who appreciated his rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome ways; he was ordained to the priesthood at age 34.

He organized a group of lay and ordained people to become servants of the sick, which eventually became Order of the Ministers of the Infirm. Camillus chose red crosses on their black cassocks and capes to terrorize the devil while they cared for the sick and dying.

His roughness found energy in making sure hospitals were clean and those who cared for the sick were competent. He did not suffer stupidity and filth around those in need of healing. He continued to have an unpleasant streak that showed when people limited him from his ministry. While caring for plague victims, Camillus discovered people were being buried alive—they weren’t dead yet. So he demanded all members of the Order pray for those who had died for 15 minutes after their apparent death, just to make sure.

His quarrelsomeness became a passion for his ministry to the sick and dying. Camillus, in his later years, suffered many sores on his legs and feet, greatly limiting his mobility. On days he couldn’t walk from bed to bed to offer prayers for the dying, he crawled to their bedsides to minister.

At age 64, Camillus learned he himself was dying. He replied, “I rejoice in what has been told me. We shall go into the house of the Lord.” He received the Eucharist as he died, confessing that he was the most wretched of sinners, undeserving of the grace God has bestowed on him that saved him.

—Laurie Brock


St. Melangell doesn’t leave behind any words, just the place where she—a sixth-century Irish princess—once sought and offered sanctuary.

But her story—of fleeing marriage and royal life to become a hermit, of protecting a defenseless hare from a prince’s hunting dogs, of providing rest and safety to all creatures in need at Pennant Melangell in Wales—continues to offer sanctuary to many.

“It dramatizes the strength of contemplative resistance; it tells us that there is a place to be away from hunting,” writes Welsh Anglican bishop Rowan Williams in a foreword to the poetry collection “The Hare That Hides Within: Poems about St. Melangell.”

“Whether this is read in connection with human abuse of nature, male abuse of women, or power’s abuse of prayer in general, the pattern is similar,” Williams continues.

Some writers have lent their voices to Melangell, who says in Norman Schwenk’s poem “Rime of St. Melangell,” that she was “weary of running, like the hare / Hounded day and night.”

Welsh antiquarian Thomas Pennant wrote Melangell had “lived fifteen years without seeing the face of a man” at Pennant Melangell, making her relatable after a pandemic year largely spent in lockdown.

And a recent guide to pilgrimage in Wales points out she and her abbey connect with people beyond her own tradition. With its pre-Christian and ancient Celtic connections, Pennant Melangell was and continues to be a place of pilgrimage for followers of pagan traditions.

Other writers have offered readers sanctuary in their words about the saint, especially the poets.

For those seeking a place away from hunting—perhaps a “thin place” like Pennant Melangell, where Celts believe heaven and earth are especially close—there are the words of Anne Cluysenaar’s poem “On a Visit to Pennant Melangell”:

In this Welsh valley
her Irish Gaelic
quested for God.
The valley speaks
no language. In exile
she was at home,
trusting the place.

For those seeking healing like the prince who was changed by his encounter with Melangell, there are the words of John Freeman’s poem “The Rebirth of Brochwel”:

You need her healing love.
She will flourish from the good
you take from here to do
in her name in the world.

And for those who would, like Melangell, offer a picture of God’s rest and safety to a weary world, there are the words of Ruth Bidgood’s poem “Hare at Pennant,” told from the hare’s perspective:

All I have been, am, she shelters.
‘Not, I,’ she says, ‘it is my Lord.’ But she
is what I know, soft-robed saint,
gentle one, who heard my piping cry,

Cudd fi, cudd fi, Melangell, 
Monacella, hide me!

—Emily McFarlan Miller


Camillus de Lellis vs. Melangell

  • Camillus de Lellis (52%, 3,476 Votes)
  • Melangell (48%, 3,152 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,628

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John Haynes / Marker post for the Pererindod Melangell


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116 comments on “Camillus de Lellis vs. Melangell”

  1. Heal the sick or shelter the hunted? I cannot help but think that our duty as Christians is to do both these things. Our spiritual relationship to God would suggest that sheltering the hunted is the higher calling, but our physical nature and its need for healing is just as much God's gift as our soul. To me, these two saints capture as much of who we are as Christians as any pair so far and to make a choice is a tough call. I"m going with Melangell because she stood for the lesser creatures in a world of power and persecution - it is where Christ also stood.

  2. Like the original “ugly American,” Camillus reminds us that exteriors can be deceiving, and to look for today’s saints with our hearts, not our eyes.

  3. I had first thought to vote for Camillus, as he recalled to mind a friend who can be rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome, but who uses those attributes to serve God and love others. But Rowan Williams on Melangell's "contemplative resistance" and the final poem from the hare won me over. Like others, praise to both bloggers for their excellent work.

    1. Anika, I had the same thought about Monty Python! This was a tough one - I could almost have tossed a coin, but in the end I had to go with Camillus.

  4. The story of the guy with the gruff exterior hiding a soft heart appealed to me - and was amusingly told. And it's always inspiring to see someone who is obviously flawed work for good in spite of their flaws, reminding us that our faults are not really the obstacles we might imagine them to be.

    The poetry inspired by Melangell is lovely. She made quite the impression, it would seem.

    I voted for the priest whose write-up made me chuckle, however.

    1. Like you, I find it inspiring to hear our “flaws” are only flaws when not used for God. As a flawed individual among other flawed beings, that is reassuring, although it does leave the required “used for God” to be addressed...

  5. As a retired "First Responder" I must vote for Saint Camillus who was one of the first. In these troubling times we need those first responders and medical personnel more than ever. Thanks be to God for those individuals that get up every day to help us in our time of calamity and illness.

  6. I'm voting for Camillus for all the curmudgeons I've known and loved and been. May God use us to bring order and cleanliness and competence.

  7. Random thought when I should be working: Would it not be a terrific idea to place a pandemic compilation of John Cabot’s limericks in the Lentorium?

  8. If Camillus was so effectively quarrelsome, why didn’t he stop the practice of burying plague victims alive instead of praying for them?

    1. The purpose of praying for 15 minutes was to get the "undertakers" to wait long enough to see if the "dead" were actually still alive. It was to pause them long enough for the weak and immobile to gasp and move. (Bring out your dead! But I'm still alive! No, you're not!) Perhaps the undertakers could also have been taught to check for a pulse, but since it was plague, perhaps no one wanted to physically touch the bodies.

  9. I voted for Camillus, in part because the presentation of Melangell did not, to my mind, clearly present good reasons for regarding her as saintly.

  10. As a retired nurse, I am voting for Camillus, as I now that sometimes to get things done, and save a life- or perhaps a soul- you have to be willing to act in a rough, unpleasant and quarrelsome manner. And I think that all of us at one time or another have acted in ways we may regret, yet we still love God and work for Her blessings.

  11. This week the U.K. is reeling from another woman killed while walking hike in the evening, and our social media (and traditional media) are filled with stories of women talking about how tired we are of changing our behaviour to protect ourselves from men who won’t change theirs.
    The words of Rowan Williams connected the dots for me: It’s Melangell’s moment!!

  12. Tough decision. Rough and tumble, yet effective, Camillus versus the contemplative resistance of quiet Melangell. Then I found a photo of St. Melangell's church, Pennant Melangell and want to be there. Today I am going with the peaceful influence of Melangell.

    1. I hope that you get to visit there one day, Brenda. It is the most magical place; like being cupped in the most kind and loving hand.

  13. Though I voted for Camillus last time, partly in honor of the Jesuits who share space with the Episcopal church to which I belong, I went with Melangell this time for her concern for all creatures, including humans, and her "thin place".

  14. I voted for both of these Saints in the first round. I would have liked to know Camillus, he reminds me of some of the nurses and doctors I have loved to work beside. I respect that the order he started is still strong today. I feel we all need the peace of Melangell. The site of her Abby still open for overnight stays, still offering refreshing rest. Read all the comments and agree with everybody. So hard. Voting for the hard working troublemaker.

  15. Bloggers! Excellent work! It's a tough one. Who isn't rough, unpleasant and quarrelsome some times? And hoping someone takes us on anyway? But today, the poetry got me: I heard the hare's "piping cry," and I vote Melangell from home, my thin place, the place I trust.

  16. I loved the poetry, but my own manner is more rough, unpleasant, and quarrelsome than it is sweet, I'm afraid, so I went with Camillus.

  17. Emily McFarlin Miller and Laurie Brock did so well today, which made a hard decision even harder. I voted for both in the first round. I had thought I'd vote for Camillus, but the poem from the hare's perspective touched me so deeply that I voted for Melangell.

  18. I'm a wee bit Irish and a wee bit Welsh, but I admire the Jesuits and Camillus de Lellis's advocacy for the sick and the dying and the not quite dead yet too.

    I'm not sure what criteria was used at that time to determine that someone was in fact deceased, but having the monks pray for the person for 15 minutes surely gave enough time for movement or breathing or moaning to be observed and therefore prevent some poor plague patient from being impatiently immured in the Terra Firma before their time.

    Also, per Wikipedia, pallor mortis "occurs almost immediately, generally within 15–25 minutes, after death," in lighter skinned people, which most Europeans would be, so if whilst they are praying for the person, the person's skin starts looking not so rosy and even paler than normal, either they are hypothermic (unlikely to get that cold indoors in Italy), experiencing heart failure (without modern medicine, a sign of impending death), suffering a great shock (very temporary draining of the blood from the face et cetera . . . ), or they are dead and should be buried (and IMNSHO left buried so they can rest in peace).

    1. Miss Jan, you are at Trinity! I write icons there. There are two Celias. One is a very lovely lady, a pillar of the community, beloved by the entire congregation. That am not I. I am the one "most likely to be banned from the online service 'chat.'" Camillus' younger sister, sadly. So glad to "see" you on these threads, whoever you are.

  19. Although I voted for both Camillus and Melangell in the first round, I have to vote for Melangell here. Although the results of Camillus' work are admirable, I don't appreciate leadership that would be aptly described as bullying. Melangell's was quiet, effective leadership.

  20. As someone who at times might well have been described as rough, unpleasant and quarrelsome, I am drawn to Camillus, but I yearn to be more like Melangell. In a week in Britain when a young woman walking home alone has gone missing and a police officer has been arrested on suspicion of her murder, I am voting for Melangell, who offered shelter to the hunted. I am also thankful for the prince she encountered who recognised her calling and gave her the wherewithal to live it without finding it necessary to tell her what to do and how to live.

  21. I know a few rough, unpleasant & quarrelsome people who could follow the example of Camillus & use their privileges for the common good, but the isolation, protection and comfort of Malangell is today’s saint of the vote. Besides it’s the Easter bunny season!


  23. Tough Choice! Back and forth I went trying to discern who would get my vote. I need thin places in my life to equalize my spirit. However, the world needs tough pragmatic saints that are willing “to get their hands dirty” doing God’s work to heal and comfort the sick and dying. Oh, and I admit I am not “warm and fuzzy” and can, I am sure, be abrasive.

  24. What a beautiful tribute to the gentle Melangell Emily writes. This is biographical writing at its best!

  25. I voted for Camillus. My Mother received loving, long-term care at St. Camillus in Syracuse, New York many years ago.

  26. Both are fascinating and true saints. I am voting for the veteran who bore the cross of physical and emotional wounds and who tenderly cared for the suffering.

  27. I love a good curmudgeon but I again had to vote for Melangell and her example of non-violent resistance through contemplation. We need new examples of leadership, both spiritually and otherwise, and she offers me that; a different vision of what power truly means.

    "Lady and hare were one,
    an emblem of true power,
    the power to love and heal,
    not the false power of war."

    John Freeman, “The Rebirth of Brochwel”:

  28. What to do?? I voted for both of these saints in the first round, so I am predisposed to both. As a nurse and an alum of Loyola University Chicago, I am drawn to Camillus. As an animal lover who appreciates a refuge for the hunted of all species, I bless the example of Melangell and her thin place. Thank you to the Celebrity Bloggers for their wonderful write-ups and to all the thoughtful commentators for their inspiration. I may have to toss a coin!