Who is Saint Dymphna?

Dymphna was born in Ireland sometime in the seventh century, her father a pagan king and her mother a devout Christian. When her mother passed away her fathers heart was broken and his mental stability declined rapidly. People closest to him suggested he marry again. He agreed, with the condition that his new bride should look exactly like his first. The king searched the land high and low but to no prevail, he could not find a woman to match the queens beauty.The kings closest advisor then came to him with a suggestion, “Marry your daughter Dymphna, for she looks like the Queen!” And the King agreed.

When Dymphna heard of her father’s misguided plot, she fled the castle with her confessor, a priest named Gerebran and two trusted servants. The group sailed toward what is now called Belgium, and hid in the town of Geel. Although the exact accounts are scarce, it is believed that Dympha used her wealth to build a hospital for the poor and sick. Word of her whereabouts traveled back to her father and she was soon found. The King himself traveled to Geel, planning to bring Dymphna back and marry her. When he found his daughter he ordered the priest be executed. When Dymphna still refused to return and become his bride he became enraged and drew his sword. He struck Dymphna’s head from her shoulders and left her there. When she died, Dymphna was only fifteen-years-old.

After her father left Geel, the residents collected both Dymphna and Gerebran’s remains and laid them to rest in a cave. In defense of her purity, Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom around the year 620 and became known as the “Lily of Éire. In 1349, a church honoring St. Dymphna was built in Geel, and by 1480, so many pilgrims were arriving in need of treatment for mental illness, that the church was expanded. The expanded sanctuary was eventually overflowing again, leaving the townspeople to accept them into their homes, which began a tradition of care for the mentally ill that continues to this day. Many miracles have been proven to take place at her shrine in the church erected in her honor, and her remains were placed in a silver reliquary in the church. Some of her remains can also be found at the Shrine to Saint Dymphna in the United States. Saint Dymphna is the patroness of those suffering nervous and mental afflictions.

May her good values and mercy for those suffering around us forever live on in our lives.