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,
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.