Feast Day is May 15
Patron Saint of Epilepsy, Mental Illness, Incest Victims, Runaways
“O God, we humbly beseech you through your servant, Saint Dymphna, who sealed with blood the love she bore you, to grant relief to those who suffer from mental afflictions and nervous disorders.”
Because of her personal knowledge of the terror and misery caused by madness, Saint Dymphna offers great comfort and consolation to those afflicted with mental disorders and also to their families. Her burial site continues to be a place of miraculous healing, and Gheel, in Belgium, the town where it is located, leads the world as a center for the treatment of the mentally ill. Saint Dymphna lived for such a short time, so long ago, there is little to prove that she ever really existed. Born the daughter of an Irish pagan King and Christian mother, Dymphna fled her home after her mother died to avoid the sexual advances of her grief mad father.
Saint Dymphna was born in Ireland. Her father, Damon, was a pagan king and her mother was a Christian. Dymphna was raised in her mother’s faith and was very devout. When Dymphna was fourteen, her mother died, and her father became so engulfed in grief, that he sank into mental illness. He sent messengers throughout the land to find a woman of noble birth who resembled his wife so he might marry her. None could be found. Dymphna, however, so resembled his dead wife that he decided to marry her, even though she was his daughter. In order to avoid this fate, Dymphna fled from the castle with her confessor, Saint Gerebran. They traveled abroad, first to Antwerp, then finally settling in Gheel. Within a year her father found them living as hermits. He had the priest beheaded and begged Dymphna to return home with him.
When she refused, he drew his sword and chopped off her head. Both bodies were buried immediately. She was fifteen years old at the time of her death. In those days, epileptics and the mentally ill were treated as pariahs and left to roam. Shortly after Saint Dymphna’s death, five such sufferers went to sleep at the site where she was killed and were instantly healed by the blood in the earth. The legend of Saint Dymphna became very popular in the early thirteenth century when the bodily remains of an unknown man and woman were dug up and the name Dymphna was written on a brick found in the coffin of the woman. As the remains were reinterred in a tomb, miraculous healings of those suffering from epilepsy and mental illness were reported in the immediate area.
The bishop of Cambrai commissioned a text of the life of Saint Dymphna which drew on oral reports for its information. The tomb became a pilgrimage site for those suffering from mental afflictions. By the end of the thirteenth century a hospital was built near Dymphna’s tomb for the treatment of nervous and mental illnesses.
Today, Gheel remains a world—renown hospital center, offering the most enlightened methods in treating the mentally ill, and the residents of that city are known for their kindness toward those so afflicted. As many as two thousand patients at a time live within the community with local families and work on everyday tasks until they are well. Because of the madness of her father, Dymphna is known as the patroness of mental and nervous afflictions. It is assumed she was sexually abused; thus she is also the patroness of incest victims and runaways. Saint Dymphna is traditionally pictured with the palms of martyrdom. In some images she is depicted with the sword that beheaded her, and the devil, representing mental illness, is shown in chains at her feet.
O God, we humbly beseech you through your servant Saint Dymphna, who sealed with her blood the love she bore you, to grant relief to those who suffer from mental afflictions and nervous disorders, especially
Name the afflicted person
Saint Dymphna, helper of the mentally afflicted, pray for us. Saint Dymphna, comforter of the despondent, pray for us. Saint Dymphna, renowned for many miracles, please hear my plea. Amen
Recite one Glory Be
Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days
in a row.