Saint Dymphna was an Irish princess born in the seventh century to a pagan king and a Christian mother. She is the Patron Saint of people who are suffering from mental illness and/or emotional stress, nervous disorders, epileptics, victims of incest, runaways, and mental health professionals.

I first learned of her from my grandmother, who suffered from depression and who gave me a pocket sized prayer booklet for Saint Dymphna from the Franciscian Mission Associates in New York which features the image below on its cover. I still have that booklet, well over twenty years after it was given to me. Saint Dymphna is very dear to me, and her feast day is coming up on May 15th.

Saint Dymphna Patron of Mental & Spiritual Afflictions

Dymphna’s Christian mother was very beautiful, and her husband, King Damon of Oriel, loved her very much. Saint Dymphna was raised Christian; she was secretly baptized by her mother and educated by their priest, Father Gerebernus. Young Dymphna loved Jesus Christ and promised herself to Him with a vow of chastity as she began to approach womanhood. Via the National Shrine of Saint Dymphna, here is what happened soon after:

It was not long, however, until an unexpected cloud overshadowed the happy childhood of the beautiful girl. She lost her good mother by death. Many were the secret tears she shed over this bereavement, but at the same time she found great comfort in the Divine Faith which, though she was still of a tender age, already had taken deep root.

Dymphna’s father, too, greatly mourned his deceased wife and for a long time continued prostrate with grief. At length he was persuaded by his counselors to seek solace in a second marriage. So he commissioned certain ones of his court to seek out for him a lady who would be like his first spouse in beauty and character. After visiting many countries in vain, the messengers returned saying that they could find none so charming and amiable as his own lovely daughter, Dymphna. Giving ear to their base suggestion, the king conceived the evil design of marrying Dymphna. With persuasive and flattering words he manifested his purpose to her. Dymphna, as may be expected, was greatly horrified at the suggestion, and asked for a period of forty days to consider the proposal. She immediately betook herself to Father Gerebran, who advised her to flee from her native country, and since the danger was imminent, he urged her to make no delay.

With all speed, therefore, she set out for the continent, accompanied by Father Gerebran, the court jester and his wife. After a favorable passage, they arrived on the coast near the present city of Antwerp. Having stopped for a short rest, they resumed their journey and came to a little village named Gheel. Here they were hospitably received and began to make plans for establishing their future abode at this place.

The king, in the meantime, having discovered Dymphna’s flight, was fearfully angry, and immediately set out with his followers in search of the fugitives. After some time, they were traced to Belgium and their place of refuge was located. At first, Dymphna’s father tried to persuade her to return with him, but Father Gerebran sternly rebuked him for his wicked intentions, whereupon he gave orders that Father Gerebran should be put to death. Without delay, his wicked retainers laid violent hands upon the priest and struck him on the neck with a sword. With one blow of the steel, the head was severed from the shoulders and another glorious martyr went to join the illustrious heroes of Christ’s kingdom.

Further attempts on the part of Dymphna’s father to induce her to return with him proved fruitless. With undaunted courage she spurned his enticing promises and scorned his cruel threats. Infuriated by her resistance, the father drew a dagger from his belt and he himself struck off the head of his child. Recommending her soul to the mercy of God, the holy virgin fell prostrate at the feet of her insanely raving father. Thus the glorious crown of martyrdom was accorded to St. Dymphna in the fifteenth year of her age, on the fifteenth day of May, between 620 and 640. The day of her death has been assigned as her feastday.

The records of Dymphna’s life and death say that the bodies of the two martyred saints lay on the ground for quite some time after their death, until the inhabitants of Gheel removed them to a cave, which was the customary manner of interment in that part of the world at the time of the martyrdoms. But after several years had elapsed, the villagers, recalling their holy deaths, decided to give the bodies a more suitable burial. When the workmen removed the heap of black earth at the cave’s entrance, great was their astonishment to find two most beautiful tombs, whiter than snow, which were carved from stone, as if by angel hands. When the coffin of St. Dymphna was opened there was found lying on her breast a red tile bearing the inscription:

“Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna.”

The remains of the saint were placed in a small church. Later necessity obliged the erection of the magnificent “Church of St. Dymphna,” which now stands on the site where the bodies were first buried. St. Dymphna’s relics repose there in a beautiful golden reliquary.

Miracles and cures began to occur in continually increasing numbers. Gradually St. Dymphna’s fame as patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders was spread from country to country. More and more mentally afflicted persons were brought to the shrine by relatives and friends, many coming in pilgrimages from far-distant places. Novenas wer made, and St. Dymphna’s relic was applied to the patients. The remarkable cures reported caused confidence in the saint to grow daily. At first the patients were lodged in a small annex built onto the church. Then gradually it came about that the patients were place in the homes of the families living in Gheel. From this beginning Gheel developed into a town world-famed for its care of the insane and mentally afflicted. An institution, called the “Infirmary of St. Elizabeth,” which was conducted by the Sisters of St. Augustine was later built for the hospital care of the patients. Most of the latter, after some time spent in the institution, are placed in one or other of the families of Gheel, where they lead a comparatively normal life.

In the town of Geel, Belgium, where Saints Dymphna and Gerebernus were martyred, local people still continue to provide care for those who travel there seeking relief from mental illness centuries later. Via NCR Online:

In the mid-14th century, Geel erected a church in Dymphna’s honor; it was built on the spot where she was buried. Around this time, rumors spread about disturbed individuals who were cured upon visiting Geel. As these accounts circulated, people began bringing disturbed family members, hoping for their own miracle. And many embattled souls made it to Geel on their own.

A building contiguous to St. Dymphna Church was built to accommodate the troubled pilgrims. Soon enough, the capacity of this structure was exceeded. Church authorities appealed to the citizens of Geel, who responded in a way that would eventually designate Geel as “the charitable city”: They welcomed mentally ill strangers into their homes.

The Geel community showed remarkable compassion, particularly for an era when most any sort of psychological aberration was viewed as being due to demonic influence or possession. Ronald J. Comer’s Abnormal Psychology mentions the typical techniques of the time for dealing with the psychologically aberrant. Exorcisms, of course, were performed. “Holy water” or “bitter drinks” might be administered. If these remedies failed to produce results, the ensuing therapy could consist of flogging, scalding, stretching of limbs, or starvation. It was hoped that these extreme measures might expunge the iniquity.

In contrast to these measures was the Geel way, in which the mentally ill, who were called “boarders” instead of “patients,” became a valued part of the community. Many of the boarders helped with agricultural labor. They were allowed to go about the village, and some even became regulars at local taverns. Some boarders stayed in Geel for only a few months; others stayed for the rest of their lives.

The boarder population peaked in the year 1938, when the number reached 3,736. About 1,600 remained by the late 1970s. Geel now has some 500 boarders and a total population of about 35,000.

Via Medelita, here is more information about how the mentally ill are cared for in Gheel currently:

These days, boarders are considered wards of the local psychiatric hospital, and they have a treatment team that checks in on them and drops off medications when needed. However, there is no care plan or greater goal given to the families that take them in. They are only told to be as normal as possible. Families are unaware of the patient’s diagnosis, only knowing what the patient chooses to tell them, and often times, families are not trained in any way other than what they’ve learned from relatives, other townspeople, or past experiences. Despite the lack of a treatment plan, boarders are given the security and stability of being accepted by a whole community, as well as family and doctors, which some say has a healing effect. People living in Geel simply do not look at mental illness in the same way that most societies do, and mental illness is regarded with zero stigma attached.

Compassionate care for the mentally ill seems to work out well for the afflicted and the people of Geel who welcome them and help them. Divine intervention seems a plausible explanation for this.

Below is a prayer to Saint Dymphna, via Our Catholic Prayers:

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.

You can also do a Novena to her, which is a series of prayers lasting nine days. Via Pray More Novenas:

St. Dymphna Novena Prayers

Day 1 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Faith

O God, Source of our salvation, in the midst of a pagan people, Thou didst enlighten St. Dymphna by the light of the true faith, which she professed under the guidance of her holy confessor, Gerebran, with such constance that she suffered martyrdom. Through the intercession of these two saints, we beg Thee to strengthen the faith which Thou hast given us, so that by wisely subjecting our souls to Thy Supreme Authority, and by faithfully conforming our lives according to our faith, we may honor Thee with our whole heart and soul until the hour of our death. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 2 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Hope

Almighty and infinitely good God, Thou hast promised eternal salvation to those who obey Thy commandments and make zealous use of Thy graces. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who fled from the danger of sin by leaving the palace of her father, and who, eager to gain eternal salvation, fled to Belgium to live in poverty, we beg Thee to grant that we also, who are striving for eternal happiness, may overcome all obstacles in the way of virtue and may attain eternal salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 3 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Charity

God of love, Thou art the most perfect Being, and Creator of all that is good and beautiful. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, who in her youth loved Thee above all creatures and for Thy sake loved her neighbor as herself, as the image and likeness of Thee, as the price of the Blood of Jesus and as co-heir of heaven, be pleased to help us by Thy powerful grace, that we may faithfully fulfill the two great commandments of charity not only in word, but in action and in truth. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 4 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Piety

God, Our Creator and Supreme Master, St. Dymphna served Thee with great zeal even in her childhood, by hearing Thy word with delight, by assisting at Holy Mass with fervent reverence, and by receiving Holy Communion from the hand of St. Gerebran with tender devotion. Through her intercession we beg Thee to grant us the same virtue of piety so that, having honored Thee during this life as our Creator, we may possess Thee hereafter as our final reward. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 5 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Prudence

O God, ruler of the universe, Thou didst allow St. Dymphna to discover a helpful means of avoiding the evil intentions of her father. Through the merits of Thy holy servant, be pleased to grant that we may become, according to the words of Jesus, simple as doves and wise as serpents, so that through prudent advice and sound judgment we may recognize what we must do to achieve the great work of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 6 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Justice

O God, source of eternal justice, Thou didst inspire St. Dymphna to flee from her country and her father in order to render to Thee that which was Thine. Through her intercession we beg Thee to make us seek after justice so that we may perform our duties toward Thee as we ought. Though Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 7 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Fortitude

O God, rewarder of those who remain firm in their good resolutions, Thou gavest St. Dymphna such a love of virtue that she had the courage to suffer privation, persecution, and even martyrdom. Through her prayers we beg Thee to grant us fortitude that we may courageously and perseveringly overcome ourselves and finally conquer the enemy of our salvation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 8 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Temperance

O God, You made St. Dymphna resplendent in the virtue of temperance so that she mastered sensual inclinations and used temporal goods prudently. With temperance she combined the beautiful virtues of modesty, docility and humility. Let us not forget that humility is called the foundation of all virtue because it banishes from the soul pride, the obstacle to grace. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg Thee to guide and direct us, so that being preserved from evil and nervous disorders, we may obey till death the commandments and counsels Thou hast given us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Day 9 – St. Dymphna Novena

For Chastity

O God, lover of innocent souls, Thou gavest St. Dymphna the virtue of angelic purity which made her reserved in all her actions, modest in her dress, attentive in her conversation, upright in her character, so that she even shed her blood to preserve this precious virtue. Through the intercession of St. Dymphna, we beg thee to bestow upon us the virtue of chastity that we may enjoy peace of conscience in this life and pure eternal joys of heaven hereafter. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be five times

Please remember those suffering from mental illnesses in your prayers and try to have compassion for them in your hearts.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

As you probably know by now Tim Allen’s series Last Man Standing is going to be returning to TV on Fox after ABC cancelled the popular show without explanation, but insisting that it had nothing to do with its conservative bent.

I don’t watch a lot of TV these days thanks to a 2nd shift job and other concerns but I want to briefly note something.

Instapundit’s piece on this linked to the Hill:

Allen, an outspoken Republican, starred as a right-leaning character on the sitcom. Shortly after ABC canceled the series last year, critics questioned whether the show got the ax because of Allen’s political views.

“There’s nothing more dangerous to me, especially in this climate, than a funny, likable conservative,” Allen said while discussing the show’s cancellation in an interview last year.

ABC denied politics played a role in the cancellation. The network’s entertainment president, Channing Dungey, said in 2017, “politics had absolutely nothing to do” with the network nixing the series.

“We have actors on our shows who have all sorts of different political views,” Dungey said.

The story is good, but the real story is the fact that a piece on the return of a comedy to TV isn’t from trade magazine like Inside Hollywood or Variety but it is at the Hill

Take a look at the list of categories at the Hill from this drop down graphic

There are a lot of categories for news and political stories there, but none of them involve sitcoms and unlike Roseanne which had a hook to the President, there is no indication that Last Man Standing is going to have any direct link to the president to play off of. Yet the Hill choose to report on it.

What does it say? It says this.

The media and the left are so united in their public and professional hatred of conservatism in general and President Trump in particular that a single sitcom that might just display those values without mocking them, even while ignoring the President is big enough news for a national political journal to cover.

That’s the real story.