St. Dymphna
Martyr and Patron of Those Afflicted with Mental Disorders

May 15

d. 650

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 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  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.

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