AGONIZANTS (Agony Fathers; Fathers of the Good Death, Camillians, Clerici regulares ministrantes infirmis): A fraternity founded at Rome in 1584 to care for the sick and minister to the dying. The founder was a pious priest Camillus de Lellis (b. at Buchianico, in the Neapolitan province Abruzzo, May 25, 1550; d. at Rome July 14, 1614), who, after a wild life as a soldier, entered the hospital of St. James at Rome in 1574, suffering from an incurable wound. Becoming converted, he devoted the remainder of his life to heroic service in the hospitals of Rome, Naples, and elsewhere. He was canonized by Benedict XIV. in 1746, and his statue now stands, among those of great founders of orders, in St. Peter's between the statues of St. Peter of Alcantara and St. Ignatius Loyola. The society was confirmed by Sixus V in 1586; five years later, after the members had distinguished themselves during the plague of 1590, it was created by Gregory XIV. an order with Augustinian rule. It grew rapidly in numbers and wealth during the founder's lifetime, and in 1605 was divided by Paul V. into five provinces, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Naples, and Sicily. Afterward the order spread beyond Italy, especially in Spain and Portugal, and later in France and America. During the nineteenth century it met with opposition in certain countries (including Italy, where it had thirty-four houses); but it was favored by Leo XIII., who made St. Camillus and St. John of God (see CHARITY, BROTHERS OF) patrons of all Roman Catholic hospitals, and inserted their names in the litany of the dying.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: C. Solfi, Compendio histarico della religione de' chierci regolari ministri degli infermi, Mondovi, 1689; Fèvre, Vie de St. Camille de Lellis, Paris, 1885; W. Bäumker, Der heilige Camillus von Lellis und sein Orden, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1887; Heimbucher, Orden und Kongregationen, ii. 264-27l.