February 26, 1995 Brother John Raymond Sometimes it is a real mystery why a particular saint is associated with a particular form of help. St. Dymphna is such a case. She is known for her intercession regarding mental illness and nervous disorders - but you wouldn't know it from her life. The life of St. Dymphna was written by a priest in the middle of the 13th century. The author of her life tells us that he based his writing on oral tradition. He relates that St. Dymphna had been venerated for many years in a church dedicated to her in Geel (a province of Antwerp, Belgium). Here's how he relates her life. St. Dymphna was born in Ireland at the end of the 6th century. Her father was a non-Christian king but her mother was Christian. When Dymphna became a Christian she had to be secretly baptized. At the death of her mother trouble began for Dymphna. Her own father decided to marry her. Dymphna fled with a priest named Fr. Gerebernus, her counselor and protector. Their boat landed in Antwerp. They made their way to St. Martin of Tours' Church in the village of Geel. They took refuge there. Here the two thought they were safe from Dymphna's father. When the Irish king heard his daughter had escaped across the sea he went after her. He traced the two of them from the foreign money that Dymphna had spent along the way. The king finally arrived at their hiding place and proposed his offer again to his daughter. Fr. Gerebernus rebuked the king for his shameful conduct and urged Dymphna to remain steadfast in her refusal. The king saw that he was getting nowhere so he ordered his servants to kill the priest, which they did. Then, shortly afterwards, Dymphna was beheaded by her own father. The body of Dymphna was buried in the church at Geel. Today there is a Shrine to St. Dymphna here in the United States run by the Franciscan Fathers. For those who might like to visit or write here is the address: St. Dymphna Devotion Franciscan Fathers P.O. Box 598 Mount Vernon, NY 10550-53 In Christian art St. Dymphna is shown with a sword in her hand and a shackled devil at her feet. In 1489 the Church of St. Dymphna at Geel was destroyed by fire. A new church was built in 1532 and is still there today. The saint always was invoked as the patroness of the mentally ill. Between the years 1604 and 1668 the Bollandists (a group of Jesuits in Belgium who write authoritative lives of the saints) published numerous accounts of cures through her intercession. Later, a house for the mentally ill was built at Geel that had as many as fifteen hundred patients. St. Dymphna's feast is celebrated on May 15. Prayer Lord God, Who has graciously chosen St. Dymphna to be the patroness of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders, and has caused her to be an inspiration and a symbol of charity to the thousands who invoke her intercession, grant through the prayers of this pure, youthful martyr, relief and consolation to all who suffer from these disturbances, and especially to those for whom we now pray. (Here mention those for whom you wish to pray.) We beg You to accept and grant the prayers of St. Dymphna on our behalf. Grant to those we have particularly recommended patience in their sufferings and resignation to Your Divine Will. Fill them with hope and, if it is according to Your Divine Plan, bestow upon them the cure they so earnestly desire. Grant this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Taken from an e-mail: "Regarding Brother John's article, we do know why Dymphna is the patron of the mentally ill. Several people were cured of mental illness when her relics were translated in the 12th century. Also, there is a national shrine to St. Dymphna in Ohio, but I haven't located the exact location yet. His note about the New York site is appreciated."
Answer to e-mail: The National Shrine to St. Dymphna is located in Massillon, Ohio. There telephone number is 216-833-8478.