In Brabant, St. Dympna, virgin and martyr, daughter of an Irish king. By order of her father, she was beheaded for the faith of Christ and the preservation of her virginity.
I’ve always had a special fondness for Saint Dymphna, ever since I found a statue of her labeled “Patron of the Insane”. Seemed to me that she would be a perfect patron of the world, which we all know is insane.
Her story is one that still fills the newspapers today – a beautiful daughter and a depraved father, and you know what happens next. Her mother having died, the 14-year-old girl came under the "notice" of her father, and to avoid his incestuous advances (or as Rev. Alban Butler coyly says “to avoid the snares to which she saw herself exposed at home”), she ran far away in company with her confessor Gerebert. They found refuge in a forest oratory dedicated to St. Martin near Geel, a town in northern Belgium.
Her father sent men to find her; when they did, he followed. “The king came to her and renewed his solicitations. He offered that she should be enrolled among the goddesses of his nation and have a marble temple erected in her honor. Gerebert interfered and was immediately put to death by the king’s orders”
Sir Leslie Stephen, Dictionary of National Biography (1888), Vol XVI, p. 297.
“Dympna was inflexible, and reproaching him with the wickedness of his proceeding declared, that she detested his gods and goddesses, and that nothing should induce her to offend her true lover Jesus Christ. On this the king became outrageous, and gave orders that she should be beheaded. As all his attendants declined to obey this command, he became the executioner himself and murdered his own daughter.”
John Lanigan, An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland (1829) Vol II, p. 475.
Of her patronage of the insane, one story relates that the cruelty of her martyrdom greatly frightened a group of lunatics in the vicinity, which strong feelings immediately reversed their maladies. More miracles were reported at her shrine, in which those suffering from mental afflictions (anything from depression to dementia) or neurological disorders (epilepsy) – all grouped together under the umbrella of Insanity – regained their mental or physical health. Gheel became a place of pilgrimage, to which lunatics were brought for healing by her intercession, and from it, a cottage industry caring for the insane grew up in the area which exists to this day.
Lord, our God,
You graciously chose St. Dymphna as patroness of those afflicted with mental and nervous disorders. She is thus an inspiration and a symbol of charity to the thousands who ask her intercession.
Please grant, Lord, through the prayers of this pure youthful martyr, relief and consolation to all suffering such trials, and especially those for whom we pray.
We beg You, Lord, to hear the prayers of St. Dymphna on our behalf. Grant all those for whom we pray patience in their sufferings and resignation to Your Divine Will. Please fill them with hope, and grant them the relief and cure they so much desire.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, Who suffered agony in the garden. Amen.
[and especially for our world, Lord, where the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Amen.]