According to tradition, Dymphna was born the daughter of Damon, a pagan king of Ireland. Early in her life she became a Christian, and was secretly baptized. When she was only fifteen years of age her mother died, and her father was wrought by terrible grief and became emotionally unbalanced. He sent messengers throughout his own town and other lands to find another to be his wife, but she had to be as beautiful as his wife had been. Since none could be found, he proposed to his daughter that they marry because she resembled her mother, but she adamantly refused.
Dymphna fled from her father’s castle with St. Gerebran, her confessor, and two other friends. Their boat landed in Gheel, Belgium. Damon found them in Belgium, , and proposed his offer once again. At this, Gerebran rebuked the king for his proposition and urged Dymphna to remain in opposition. At this, Damon ordered his servants to behead the priest. When she persisted in her refusal, he drew his sword and struck off her head. St. Dymphna received the crown of martyrdom in defense of her purity about the year 620.
Shortly after her death, five “mentally disturbed men” wandered to the countryside where she was killed, and slept the night there, only to awaken cured. She has since been invoked as the patron of those suffering from nervous, mental, emotional and spiritual afflictions . A church was built on this site in 1532 and remains to the present day, and has been joined by a house for the mentally ill that often houses as many as fifteen hundred patients.
St. Dymphna’s Feast is celebrated on May 15. St. Dymphna, pray for us.
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