BY CEDRIC SILVEIRA
St Dymphna may not be known very well across Goa. She is the patron saint of those suffering from neurological disorders, mental illness, nervous system disorders, epilepsy, sleep walking, possessed people, runaways, emotionally disturbed and also mental health professionals.
In the ancestral chapel of the ‘Casa de Almeidas’ at Bainfol, Assolna existed amongst other images of saints, the image of St Dymphna. Since last year, the family of Lida Joao, have been dedicating May 15 to the devotion of this Saint at their ancestral house at Casa de Almeidas, Bainfol, Assolna. The image of the Saint will be kept open to friends and persons on May 15 from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. for those who wish to have a glimpse of the saint and offer their prayers. A prayer service will also be held at 9 a.m.
The ‘Isle of Saints’ has long been a title popularly given to the island evangelised by St Patric. And appropriately so, for the names of the Irish saints would more than fill the Church’s calendar. However what is sad is that many Catholics are entirely unfamiliar with so many of these glorious saints.
One such forgotten saint, referred to as the “Lily of Fire” is St Dymphna. St Dymphna was born in the 7th century in Ireland. Although Ireland was largely Catholic at that time her father, a petty King was still a pagan. Her mother was a devout Christian. Dymphna was like her mother, beautiful and devout. It was not long however that an unexpected cloud overshadowed her happy childhood with the death of her mother.
Dymphna’s father overcome with grief was persuaded after some time by his counselors to seek solace in a second marriage. After visiting many countries in search of a bride, the messengers returned saying that they could not find a bride as charming and amiable as his own lovely daughter. The King thus conceived the evil design of marrying Dymphna. With persuasion and flattering words, he proposed to her. Dymphna was horrified at the suggestion and asked for a period of 40 days to consider the proposal. She asked Fr Gerebran, a priest and family friend for advice, who suggested she flee from the country. With all speed she set out accompanied by Fr Gerebran. The King on discovering that she had fled, set out with his followers in search of her. They traced the fugitives at Belgium and the King coerced Dymphna to return with him. When Fr Gerebran objected, The King got him killed and once again persuaded Dymphna to marry him. With undaunted courage she refused. Infuriated he himself then struck off the head of his child. The day of her death has been assigned as her feast day.
After several years the villagers recalling her holy death, went to the cave in which her body was kept to give her a more suitable burial. Great was their surprise to see two of the most beautiful tombs, and on opening they found lying on her breast a red tile bearing the inscription “Here lies the holy virgin and martyr, Dymphna?” Later a magnificent Church of St Dymphna was built on the site where the bodies were first buried.
Miracles and cures began to occur in increasing numbers from that time. Her fame as the patroness of victims of nervous diseases and mental disorders has now spread from country to country.