Patroness of Those Who Suffer With Nervous and Mental Afflictions

There is a place in Belgium called Geel with a special community practice toward the mentally ill faithful. So many pilgrims flock to the site for the healing of mental afflictions that extra housing had to be built. When that overflowed, patients were taken into the homes of townspeople, a tradition that continues to this day. The “boarders,” as they are called, are treated as members of the town, and do simple labor in the community, as their afflictions allow. Some stay only a few months, others settle there permanently. The success of the Geel program is studied to this day.

The pilgrimage is made to Geel because of a young girl named Dymphna, patron Saint of runaways, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, those suffering mental illness, and survivors of sexual, emotional, and/or physical abuse, especially that which has been perpetrated by family members.

St. Dymphna, 2016St. Dymphna, after a prayer card. From the 2016 series.

Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century to a devout Christian mother and a pagan father. When she was 14 years old, she consecrated her life to Christ and took a vow of chastity.
According to her legend, it was around this time that her mother died, and her father made plans to marry again- and to make Dymphna his new bride. When she learned of her father’s plans, she escaped her home with the help of a priest named Gerebran. They sailed for what is now Belgium. Hiding in Geel, Dymphna used her wealth to build a hospital for the destitute.
Within a year, her father tracked her down in Geel. He had Gerebran beheaded and insisted Dymphna return to Ireland and marry him. She refused. Her father murdered her as well, cutting off her head. She was 15.

Gerebran and Dymphna’s remains were gathered and laid to rest in a cave in Geel. (They’ve since been moved to church reliquaries.) In the 1300’s, both Dymphna and Gerebran were sainted, and in 1349, a church was built in Geel in honor of St. Dymphna.

Prayer for St. Dymphna

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body,
I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary,
the Health of the Sick, in my present need.
(Mention it.)
Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity,
patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions,
beloved child of Jesus and Mary,
pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.


Sources:
Jay, Mike. “The Geel Question.” Aeon. 09 Jan. 2014. 10 Oct. 2016
Kirsch, Johann Peter. “St. Dymphna.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 09 October 2016
Citing this page:

Solomon, Alana. “Patroness of Those Who Suffer With Nervous and Mental Afflictions.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 15 May. 2017. Web.

 

And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well

May 13th is the Feast Day of Julian of Norwich: 14th century mystic, theologian, anchoress, and author of the first English language book known to have been written by a woman.

An anchoress was a hermit of a sort, confined to an enclosure: often merely a cell, or at most a tiny cottage with a tiny solitary enclosed garden. By the Middle Ages, a Rule of Life had been developed for the anchoress (there were anchorites, but it was primarily a practice of women), and the cell was typically attached to a parish church. The structure would include a tiny window for hearing the Mass and receiving communion, as well as another window to communicate with an assistant and speak with members the community who may visit for advice and prayers.

AnchoressThe Enclosure of an Anchoress

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By Means of That Flesh We Draw Milk

The feast day of St. Catherine of Siena is April 29th. I consider her my Patron Saint, the woman who helped bring me to the Church.

St. Catherine of Siena, rose

From one of my very favorite books, Caroline Walker Bynum’s Holy Feast and Holy Fast:

“The various accounts of Catherine’s life all stress her Eucharistic devotion. Like other fasting women, Catherine substituted frequent Communion for ordinary eating, although she encountered criticism for this from confessors, family, and her fellow tertiaries. Like Margaret of Cortona, she detected an unconsecrated host, yet also like Margaret she revered priests passionately for their ability to celebrate Mass.”

St. Catherine of Siena, orange profile

“(Biographer) Raymond (of Capua) recounts her ecstasies, trances, frenzies, bleedings, and tears at the Eucharist, and he associates her cravings for Christ’s blood, like her drinking of (a patient’s) pus, with a nursing Christ.”

St. Catherine of Siena, red stripe

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All Covered with Blood and Wounds

This post is in honor of Our Sorrowful Mother, whose feast is observed both September 15th as well as the Friday before Good Friday.

Left: After the statue of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows in the church of San Miguel.
Right: After the statue of Our Lady of Seven Dolours in the church of Santa Cruz in Madrid, Spain. From the 2016 series.

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You See My Heart

This post is in honor of the Feast Day of St. Agatha. Due to the conditions of her imprisonment and the nature of her tortures- her legend includes the excision of her breasts- she is the patron Saint of rape and sexual assault survivors, as well as bakers, nurses, and those afflicted by breast cancer.

St. Agatha, 2016St. Agatha, after a Renaissance-era painting, original artist unknown.
From the 2016 series.

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Nativity of Our Lord

Merry Christmas everyone!

Words from Pope Benedict:

“The question is: Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an “obstacle” to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers—we are sure of it—some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, and perhaps precisely because of them, humanity today seeks a path of renewal, of salvation, it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man.”

mary-and-child-jesus-aqua-smallThe Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, after an icon.
From the 2016 series.

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Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

“In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice.”

So goes the description of Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernadorne, in 1181, by his biographer and contemporary Tom Celano. Today is his feast day. St. Francis of Assisi, now the patron Saint of animals, merchants, and textile workers, started life as the privileged son of a textile merchant. However, Francis showed signs of disillusionment toward such privilege, “evil” and vice” early in life and an impulse for something more. While selling cloth in the marketplace in service of the family business, a beggar approached him. After finishing his business deal, Francis cast his wares aside and ran after the beggar, giving him everything in his pockets. For this, he was mocked by his friends and berated by his father.

“I Will Return a Prince.”

The first time Francis went to war, he spent a year in a dungeon awaiting ransom and release. The second, he left for the Fourth Crusade, declaring that he would return “a prince.” One day’s ride from Assisi, he had a dream in which God told him to return home. Doing so earned him, again, the wrath of his father and derision of the village. Francis was expected to at the very least help run the family business, but he spent more and more time in prayer and exhibited such strange behavior as retreating to a cave to weep for his sins or embracing lepers he met on the road. Obviously this was not becoming of the son of a wealthy merchant, who was expected to marry well and take over the family business one day. As friction with his family increased and his previous identity fell away, Francis’ gradual conversion led him to spend time in the nearby ancient and dilapidated San Damiano church. While praying and gazing upon the crucifix, Francis received a vision of Christ exhorting him to “repair” the church.

In order to fund the repair of San Damiano, Francis simply took fabric from his father’s shop and sold it. This act, along with his perceived cowardice, increasingly strange behavior, and lack of interest in the family business, drove his father Pietro to drag Francis before the bishop and all of Assisi, demanding that Francis return the money and renounce his rights as an heir.

The Bishop patiently explained to Francis that he must return the money and that as far as church repairs, God would provide. In response, Francis returned the money, stripped off his clothes, and said to the crowd:

“Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.'”

francis-street-01-oct-4St. Francis of Assisi, from the 2016 series. After a statue.

Those Hands Had Held God

Francis had assumed his call was to repair the San Damiano church. In hindsight, his vision is generally interpreted as a call to repair the Church at large, which was marred by scandal and corruption. But Francis as anti-authoritarian maverick is a modern invention: he was not a reformer and did not appeal to those who would become schismatic extremists, but exhorted all- Church hierarchy included- to return to God and obedience to Christ’s Church on earth. His faith in the entire Body of the Church, and his respect for the essential magisterium and for the Eucharist itself is evident in the story of a wayward priest. When Francis was asked if the Mass was polluted, having been celebrated by a priest who was known to be living openly with a woman, “he went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands, because those hands had held God.”

Treat Coins as if they were Pebbles in the Road

Within a year of devoting himself to a life of poverty as described in Matthew 10, ten more had joined Francis in an abandoned house near Assisi.  Poverty was central to the character of the order,. The brothers worked for what they needed and would beg if necessary, but they would not accept money, and were told to treat coins as if they were “pebbles in the road.”  His final work, the Testament, reminds his followers that absolute personal and corporate poverty is essential to the nature of the order. When a Bishop expressed concern at their harsh life, Francis replied:

“If we had any possessions we should need weapons and laws to defend them.”

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Much has been written of Francis’ love of nature and his association with the environment, especially most recently by those who would recast him as a sort of hippie outlaw while relegating God to some abstract personal idea to be found “in nature.” But Francis did not “see God in nature” in the popular, modern, quasi-animist sense, so much as he saw all of God’s creations as being part of his own brotherhood. It is no wonder, as the brothers spent much time out of doors, in the hills, and at the mercy of the elements.

Pope Innocent and St. Clare of Assisi

In 1210, with the help of a sympathetic Cardinal, Francis and the original 11 brothers managed to meet with Pope Innocent. This strange band of mendicants almost weren’t allowed audience, but the Pope agreed to the meeting after having a dream in which he saw Francis holding up the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome. As a result of this meeting, the order was endorsed and officially legitimized.


st-clare-of-assisi-1208x1848
St. Clare of Assisi, from the 2016 series.
After the Simone Martini painting.

Clare of Assisi, a young noblewoman, heard Francis preaching in 1211. By 1212 she left home for her vocation, forsaking all possibility of marriage and wealth. Francis gave Clare a rough garment not unlike his own, and she was sent to stay in a nearby monastery of Benedictine nuns. Eventually Clare and several other women went to live at San Damiano, to be joined by even more women of Assisi. The Order of Poor Ladies, later called the Poor Clares, was established for the women. The Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance was also formed for the laity and clergy, in order to live the principles of the Rule of the order in the world. Clare would became a force for the Franciscan order in her own right, and her letters and writings have been published around the world.

The Seraph and the Stigmata

On the day of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and in the midst of a forty-day fast in preparation for Michaelmas, Francis and Brother Leo went to pray on the mountain of Verna. Brother Leo gives an account of what happened to Francis there, and the first definite account of the phenomena of stigmata:

“Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ.”

Suffering from these wounds and trachoma, Francis sought medical care. As his condition worsened, he was brought to a hut in town. The end of his life was approaching. This was when Francis he dictated his spiritual Testament. He died on Saturday evening, October 3rd, 1226, singing Psalm 142 (141), “Voce mea ad Dominum”.

The St. Francis prayer, inaccurately attributed to Francis (it was written in the 19th century) is nonetheless fitting and beautiful, so I will include it here:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.


Source:
“St. Francis of Assisi.” Catholic Online. n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 02 Oct. 2016.