St Dympna

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Martyr. Possibly seventh century. Patron of the mentally ill. Few facts are known about this ancient saint but her memory has been very influential. According to legend, she was the daughter of a British or Celtic king. When his wife died, he developed an incestuous attraction for Dympna. In an effort to escape his attentions, she fled with her confessor St Gerebernus, to Antwerp, and then to Gheel. Her father tracked them down and found them living as hermits. When they refused to return, the king killed his daughter and had his servants kill the priest.

Both bodies were buried on the spot. In the 13th century they were reburied - an occasion marked by many cures of epileptics and people suffering from insanity. From that time on, the town of Gheel has developed a wonderful record of caring for the mentally ill.

In modern times it has pioneered their treatment in the homes of farmers and other local residents.

See also: ICN 10 May 2016 Bishop Moth speaks out on mental health ahead of St Dymphna's Day

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