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Saint of the Day: St. Dymphna

Patron Saint of the Mentally Ill


Public Domain

Virgin and Martyr (d. seventh century)

Her life

+ The life of this patron of those suffering from mental illness and nervous disorders is shrouded in myth and legend.

+ According to early accounts, she was born in Ireland to a pagan father and Christian mother; her father, Damon, was a minor king in Oriel.

+ As a young woman, Dymphna consecrated herself to Christ and took a vow of virginity. However, her mother died a short time later and the loss caused Damon to suffer a mental and emotional breakdown. He decided to take his daughter, Dymphna, as his new wife.

+ Dymphna and her confessor, Gerebernus, fled to what is present-day Belgium and settled in the town of Geel. One tradition states that she established a hospice for the sick and poor.

+ Damon eventually found her and, after she again refused to become his bride, he murdered her with his own hand. The soldiers accompanying Damon murdered Gerebernus.

+ The relics of Saint Dymphna were enshrined in Geel and as her story spread, those suffering from various mental and nervous disorders came to her sanctuary seeking a cure. For more than 500 years, Geel has been a center of study and treatment for mental health issues.

+ Although Saint Dymphna is traditionally honored in some places on May 15, the Roman Martyrology designates May 30 as her proper memorial.

Spiritual bonus

On this day, the Church also celebrates the memory of Saint Joan of Arc, the “Maid of Orleans.” An unlikely saint and soldier, the teenaged Joan help restore King Charles II to the throne of France and bring an end to the Hundred Years War. Condemned as a heretic in a highly politicized show trial, she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. Her innocence was posthumously declared in 1456 and she was canonized in 1920. Today, she is honored as a patron saint of France and of soldiers.

For reflection

“He will rescue you from the fowler’s snare,

from the destroying plague,

He will shelter you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a protecting shield.”—Psalm 91:3-4


O God, who gladden us today with the annual commemoration of blessed Dymphna, graciously grant that we may be helped by her merits, just as our lives are lit up by the splendor of her example of chastity and fortitude. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For a Virgin Martyr)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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