St. Dymphna: Patroness of the Mentally Ill

Saint Dymphna is not a commonly known Catholic saint. This, perhaps, is due to the troubling nature of her very short time here on Earth. As tragic as her story may be, it is also one of inspirational courage and conviction to her faith.

St. Dymphna was born in 7th century Ireland to the pagan king, Damon. Her mother, who was Christian, secretly baptized Dymphna. When St. Dymphna was only a young teenager, her mother tragically died. Her father’s broken heart drove him into madness and mental illness engulfed him. The king’s counsellors suggested he try a second marriage. He agreed, but could not find a new bride as beautiful as his late wife. Because Dymphna reminded Damon of his departed wife, he eventually sought to marry his daughter. Repulsed, the princess fled to the town of Gheel, Belgium.

In Damon’s search for his daughter, spies soon reported her location. Once he arrived, Damon attempted to persuade Dymphna into marriage. He made elaborate promises of money and prestige. When this approach failed, his frustrations were expressed through threats and insults. Dymphna remained steadfast. She would rather die than be unable to uphold her vows of virginity and virtue. The king ordered his men to kill Dymphna. Sadly, the king’s orders were fulfilled and Dymphna was tragically martyred. She was only fifteen years old.

Due to Dymphna’s family history and circumstances of her death, she was named a patroness of the nervous, emotionally disturbed, mentally ill, those who suffer from neurological disorders, and victims of incest.  To this day many suffering from mental illness travel to Gheel to seek healing. An infirmary was built over the site of her death and several attributed miracles have been reported in relation to Saint Dymphna since.

St. Dymphna’s feast day is celebrated on May 15.

St. Dymphna lived a brief but courageous life. The young girl’s story is an example of the bravery and strength we are all called to display through our faith. Whether you personally suffer from mental illness or if mental illness has impacted your life any way, know that St. Dymphna is guiding you into greater love and healing through the grace of God.

 

A prayer to St. Dymphna:

Good Saint Dymphna, stdymphna
great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body,
I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need.
Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions,
beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

Saint Dymphna, Virgin, and Martyr, pray for us.

6 Journaling Prompts for Those Who Are Grieving

Taking up a new activity such as grief journaling after a significant loss can be intimidating, but it can be very restorative. Everyone’s healing is unique and unfolds in its own time, but reconnecting with your body and reconstructing personal self-narrative is vital. A grief journal can be a way to express this narrative free of judgement. Without the freedom to explore the full extent of your emotions, it becomes a nearly-impossible challenge to rebuild. Grief journals can also record growth and reveal patterns useful in the future.
Listed below are 6 prompts to help you begin. Write freely and genuinely, the space is yours.

berevementblog

1. Today, I am really missing…
2. What really angers me is…
3. I wish I could ask you…
4. My hope for me is…
5. Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by pain, regret, guilt, or despair, I will repeat this mantra:
6. The greatest lesson I have learned is…

You may find grief journaling, or journaling overall, is not for you. If other outlets of expression work better for you, pursue them. Some people find that drawing or illustrating their emotions works for them. Others may find more unique activities such as playing an instrument or crafting helps them express what they’re feeling. Whatever the case, finding an activity that helps you work and grow through your grief is vital to a healthy bereavement process.

If you have an activity you’ve found helpful, please share it in the comments. Your suggestion may help others in your situation.

Interested in attending a grief support group? Click here to learn more. 

Post written by Gabrielle Sergi

Saint Felicitas of Rome: Patron of Grieving Parents

Saint Felicitas (otherwise known as Felicity) doesn’t have the same wide awareness or acknowledgment as other Catholic saints. Born around 101 AD in Rome, there is no clear documentation on the life of Saint Felicity. However, those who witnessed her death continually recollected the story to others, thereby ensuring that Felicitas’ story can be shared by those of us still alive today.

Saint Felicitas
Photo Credit: Orthochristian.com

As previously stated, Felicitas was born relatively soon after the death of Christ. She was married to a wealthy merchant, and the pair had seven sons together. After the birth of their seventh son, her husband passed away leaving Felicitas to care for seven children on her own. However, through this hardship, she remained incredibly faithful. She lived a life completely dedicated to Christ and could often be found performing acts of charity (such as feeding and clothing the poor). As she continued to minister to the people of her community, she also fostered countless conversions to Christianity—putting her in the spotlight of several pagan leaders of the time.

Her outward display of faith was so troubling to the pagan leaders that they reported her to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, under the guise of heresy. Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and her sons worship the pagan gods and abandon their devotion to Christ. Felicitas refused them time and time again, her sons following her example. In response, Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and all seven of her sons be executed. Felicitas did not waver in her faith or show signs of weakness– her only request was that she should be the last to die so that she could be with each of her sons during their time of suffering.

After the death of each of her sons, Felicitas was given the opportunity to denounce her faith. Each time she refused and instead looked to God for comfort and strength. She (along with her sons Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip, and Sylvanus) died in 165 as a martyr of the Church. It’s said that she died eight times—once for each of her sons and then for her own final death.

As sorrowing as her story may be, there is some comfort to be found in the life of Saint Felicitas. She, along with Mary our Mother and many other saints, know the personal pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. It is for this reason that she has become one of the patron saints of those parents who have lost a child or struggle with infertility. Her story reminds us that sometimes God’s plan doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair or right. However, Saint Felicitas kept a strong focus on the Lord, even when it meant losing her own children. Felicitas knew that those who are innocent, pure, and devoted to God will be rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If you are a grieving parent, know someone who is grieving a child, or are someone who struggles with infertility, say a quick prayer to Saint Felicitas for strength and comfort. Look to her as an example of remaining true to Christ even in times of great personal sacrifice and hardship. Remember that His plan may not always make sense, but it will always lead you toward greater salvation.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Transformative Love

I’ve spoken to many fathers during my time here at the Catholic Cemeteries Association. I’ve also spoken to countless children who have lost their fathers. While everyone I talk to is unique in their stage of life and grief, I have noticed one commonality– an intense, unwavering love. Whether their relationship was biological or not, whether their earthly relationship was ended on good terms or bad, there is a permanent connection between a father and their child. One that cannot be broken, even in death.

Fatherhood can be a hard thing to define, and I realize that some father/child relationships can be complicated. However, I believe fatherhood in its purest form is the willingness to sacrifice everything for their family. We see this willingness exampled by God the Father, who gave us His only Son so that we might be saved. We also see this in Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His life for the betterment of the world. Our earthly fathers give us just a small glimpse of this heavenly love and sacrifice. For those who may not have found this type of love in their earthly father, there is great comfort to be found in the presence of our Heavenly Father and the moving force He continually plays in our lives.

Whether you are a father missing a dearly departed child, or a child mourning the loss of your father, I encourage you to look to God the Father for hope. The life of Jesus Christ encourages us that we all have the opportunity to be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven one day. Until then, we can rest knowing that God is caring for our loved ones in His all-encompassing embrace. As we celebrate Father’s Day this month, remember that the love between a father and child is not broken in death—it is transformed into something beyond the scope of this world.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association

A Place to Remember and Reconnect

During my walks through our cemeteries, I like to pay special attention to the headstones and monuments along my path.

Some headstones have one name, others have several. Some are big, some are small. Some are worn after years of exposure to the elements, others are new and freshly engraved. Despite these differences, I know that no matter how a headstone may appear, each and every one I see represents a unique person– a person whose existence undoubtedly left (or still leaves) a lasting impact on their family. Sometimes a name will stick with me as I walk and I wonder what they were like. What type of life did they lead? How would their family describe them? What was the world like during their time?

Headstones and monuments are a way for us to permanently acknowledge lives once lived and ensure that dearly departed loved ones will always be remembered. Our loved ones deserve a proper memorial and we (their ancestors) deserve a sacred place to visit our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond. A memorial is more than a slab of granite—it’s a permanent record of a life that gives future generations a special place to touch a name, place a flower, shed a tear, and even smile in thankfulness for their loved one.

Your Catholic cemeteries are places of peace. They are places where families can visit their loved ones who have passed from this Earth. As we approach the warm-weather holidays of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day, it’s common to see more and more people walking the cemetery grounds. The reason is simple. The emotion and connection that defies the fact of death is best experienced in a sacred place. A place void of every day activity and worry. A place set aside specifically for our beloved dead. A place with the singular goal of bringing people closer together through a mutual faith in Christ.

I encourage you to reconnect with your family over the next couple months. You may be surprised by what you experience.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
May 2019