Dymphna, Ireland’s Patron Saint of The Mentally Ill
The Girl Destined To Become The Patron Saint of The Mentally Ill
When it comes to traveling, animals, children, there is Catholic saint for everything. Little did I know that there is actually a saint of the mentally ill. Her name is Dymphna, the saint of the mentally ill. Let me tell you more about her.
To begin, legend has it that Dymphna was a daughter of Damon, a pagan and petty king of Oriel and a Christian mother. At fourteen, Dymphna consecrated herself to Christ and took a vow of chastity. Unfortunately, it was after this time that Dympha’s mother died.
Tragedy Strikes The Family, Mental Illness Ensues
Stuck with unsurmountable grief, Damon’s mental health quickly deteriorated. The king was advised to take a new wife, but he agreed only upon the condition that his new wife was as beautiful as the last. However, he searched without success and, in his illness, began to desire his daughter who looked just like her mother.
Eventually, learning about his taboo intentions, Dymphna escapes her mentally ill father with Father Gerebernus along with a couple of servants and the king’s fool. They set sail for Belgium, finally taking refuge in the town of Geel.
Temporary Escape, Charity, And Martyrdom
Then, as legend continues, Dymphna constructed a home for the poor and sick. Eventually, people from all over the region sought refuge from her shelter. Damon’s agents traced his daughter through the coins she used to pay her way to Belgium.
After discovering her whereabouts, Damon tracked down his daughter and ordered his soldiers to kill Father Gerebernus. He tried to force his daughter to return with him to Ireland, but she resisted. In an act of fury, Damon struck off his fifteen year old daughter’s head.
Martyred, the citizens of Geel buried Father Gerebernus and Dymphna. Eventually, their remains were moved to different locations. And, today, some of her remains rest in the State of Ohio at the Shrine of Dymphyna.
Geel, The Patron City of The Mentally Ill
In 1349, the town of Geel built a shrine to Stain Dymphna. And, by the late 1480s, droves of pilgrims visited the town seeking treatment for the mentally ill.
To fit these pilgrims, the church expanded to care for the mentally ill who would eventually be called “boarders”. Eventually, the city’s people took in the mentally ill, giving them small jobs to feel valued and included in the community. Some boarders stayed days, months, years. Many for the rest of their lives. Over 4,000 boarders were living in Geel by the 1930s.
According to legend, miracles occurred after the discovery of Dymphna’s remains. People with mental illness, epilepsy and possession were reportedly cured thanks to the belief in Saint Dymphna.
For as long as historical memory, Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed and anxious. Additionally, Dymphna is the saint for victims of incest and neurological disorders.
A Prayer In Honor of Saint Dymphna
Finally, If you have experienced mental illness, a neurological disorder, anxiety, or are a victim of incest you can pray in honor of Saint. Dymphna.
Prayer: Hear us, O God, Our Saviour, as we honor St. Dymphna, patron of those afflicted with mental and emotional illness. Help us to be inspired by her example and comforted by her merciful help. Amen.
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