St. Dymphna: The Lily of Fire

St. Dymphna, sometimes known as “The Lily of Fire,” is the patroness of those suffering from nervous and mental disorders. Her story is rooted in legend and cannot be verified, but the general story is as follows. She was born in 7th century Ireland. By this time, Ireland was almost fully Christian, but her father Damon, a chieftain, was a pagan. Her mother was Christian, however, and raised her daughter in the faith, preparing her for baptism. At a young age, Dymphna decided to take a vow of chastity and consecrate her virginity to Jesus. Sadly, her mother passed away when Dymphna was only fourteen years old.

Her father was besieged with grief. His advisors suggested that he find a new wife to help ease his pain. He instructed them to find him a woman who would match his first wife in beauty and character. It is reported that they returned empty handed and told him that the only woman who came close was his own daughter. Somewhat deranged, he also decided that marrying Dymphna would mean the stabilization of his property. He proposed to his daughter who was duly horrified, but bought herself some time by asking for forty days to consider the proposal. During this time, she consulted with a priestly friend, Fr. Gerebran, who advised her to flee and offered to accompany her. They set off for Antwerp where they were warmly received.

Her father soon discovered her flight and set off after her. He discovered them in Belgium. He attempted to convince Dymphna to return with him and become his wife. She refused and Fr. Gerebran tried unsuccessfully to show him the wickedness of this idea. For his efforts, Damon had the elderly priest killed. Damon then once again turned his attention to Dymphna who remained resolute in her refusal. Her mentally ill father then pulled out his dagger and cut off his own daughter’s head.

Dymphna’s remains, as well as those of Fr. Gerebran, were originally placed in a cave. Several years later, they were moved to a small church where they began to be venerated. When that Church was destroyed by fire in 1489, a new magnificent “Church of St. Dymphna” was built and dedicated in 1532. Dymphna became famous as the patroness of those suffering from nervous disorders and mental illness. More and more patients were brought to her shrine and many miraculous cures were reported. Eventually the “Infirmary of St. Elizabeth,” run by the Sisters of St. Augustine, was later built in the area for the care of patients.

In addition to being the patroness of those with mental illness, Dymphna is also considered the patroness of incest victims, rape victims, psychiatrists and therapists. Her feast day is May 15th .

Prayer in Honor of St. Dymphna

Lord, our God, you graciously chose St. Dymphna as patroness of those afflicted with mental, emotional, 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. (Here mention those for whom you wish to 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.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic Lane.com, she blogs at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

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  • Christine

    Thank you for posting this article! Some may be interested to know that there is a National Shrine in her honor, right here in the U.S.! The St. Dymphna National Shrine, located in Massillon, Ohio, contains a votive shrine as well as the very first church in America to be named in her honor. On display inside the church is a true first-class relic of St. Dymphna – a bone chip from the saint’s femur.

    I recently made a pilgrimage to the shrine with several other people who have a devotion to St. Dymphna, and we all experienced much peace and received many graces there. In recent years, there have been many stories of miraculous healings of both mind and body attributed to Dymphna. I recommend to anyone who is struggling mentally and emotionally during these trying times to ask for her intercession.

    The official St. Dymphna National Shrine website is: http://www.natlshrinestdymphna.org/

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