Martyr and Patron of Those Afflicted with Mental Disorders
St. Dymphna is known for her intercession regarding mental illness
and nervous disorders. The life of St. Dymphna was written by a
priest in the middle of the 13th century. Under Bishop Guy I of
Cambrai (1238-47), Pierre, a canon of the Church of Saint Aubert at
Cambrai, wrote a "Vita" of the Saint, from which we learn that she had
been venerated for many years in a church at Gheel (province of
Antwerp, Belgium), which was devoted to her. The author expressly
states that he has drawn his biography from oral tradition. He
relates that St. Dymphna had been venerated for many years in a
church dedicated to her in Gheel (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 as he desired her for her extraordinary
beauty. 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 Gheel.
They took refuge there. Here the two thought they were safe from
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
and the priest were beheaded by her own father.
The body of Dymphna was buried in the church at Gheel. In 1489 the
Church of St. Dymphna at Gheel 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 Gheel that had as many as fifteen hundred
patients. In Gheel there is also a fraternity under her name.
Forward for Prayers.
OF ST. DYMPHNA