It's a wonder that not many people know about St. Camillus, who built an order of priests who cared for the sick and dying on battlefields. These ministers wore red crosses on their black cassocks, symbols of hope in places of brokenness. Susan Peek's young adult novel helps us remember the story...here is my review.
In another great addition, A Soldier Surrenders, The Conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis, from the God's Forgotten Friends Series, Susan Peek challenges us and her protagonist, Saint Camillus, to search in our hearts for the true meaning of courage. The book opens at the heart of the story, introducing us to the most important person for Camillus, his father, who is battle-tested and inspirational. The two have been on a journey as mercenary soldiers.
Interrupting his brawling ways, due to a wound that won't heal, Camillus becomes an orderly at a hospital in Rome. Some of my most favorite scenes took place here, and I would have liked even more details of how healing would take place in the 1500s. Here, another orderly, Curzio, challenges Camillus' soldierly definition of courage as strength and honor, instead pointing out that it is mastering oneself and following the call of God. I love Peek's realism here in how she portrays characters. There isn't an easy answer for Camillus, and he can't listen fully to his friend's words at this time in his life.
With a quick pace and plot turns, Camillus sinks back to old ways of fighting and gambling as readers look into a soul, that like Camillus' wound, struggles to heal. I wondered how Camillus could ever make his way back to the places I believe he needed to needed to go.
In summary, this beautiful novel left me with two images of courage: crescent-shaped swords clashing against men paid to fight and a man simply comforting another, a stranger, in his dying moment on a battlefield. This second image is the cornerstone of Saint Camillus' eventual legacy. As Camillus follows both paths, the reader does as well, a unique reading journey. Highly recommended.
I'm Sherry Weaver Smith, author of The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick. I like to have adventures in getting outside in nature, crafting, and cooking as I explore our Catholic faith with my daughter. We want to be inspired by the saints!