The Saint of Human Connection
How my journey to St. Dymphna's Shrine became the story
Coming out of a toxic and unhealthy workplace, I had spent a year suffering, both physically and mentally. When God saved my life, I hadn’t considered the physical toll that it would take on my body. As the depression, anxiety and panic attacks faded, the physical symptoms started. I began to have intense hot flashes and a horrible bout of insomnia.
My body was responding to a year of decompensation, where it had been in fight or flight mode all day every day. At the tail end of this was a rush of full-blown menopause, without a chance to say goodbye. Not that I had a desire for another child, but the thought that I couldn’t have one plagued me, which contributed to my already debilitating sleep disorder. And so I went almost three months without much sleep.
At the same time, I had a trip planned to Ohio to drop the kids off at Damascus Catholic Camp and visit my friend Jen in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. As I shared my plans with my community on Catholic Twitter, a priest friend of mine reached out to me to tell me I had to go to the Shrine of St. Dymphna.
The discussion I had with Father Benjamin was certainly divine, both in our connection and in his prophetic wisdom to encourage me to go to the shrine. I too felt the call to go there, despite the fact that it was located nowhere near where we were staying. But the saint I had only heard about in passing was interceding for me, working in my heart to solidify my trip.
In the midst of all of this came an email from a reader of ours at Missio Dei. Karen had read my piece on suicidal ideation and the use of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and reached out to share her own story. Turns out, she didn’t live too far from the shrine.
Making a Plan
It sounded crazy that a complete stranger would be so moved by a piece I wrote that she wanted to meet me in person. But I knew God’s hand was in it and so decided to put the wheels in motion. We made plans to meet up, and I shared with my Twitter followers how excited I was to meet a new friend.
I also saw the possibility to intercede for those that needed it. So I asked for requests to bring to the shrine and wrote down each one, one by one, with the name and petition. I felt immeasurably moved by the trust that readers had in me to take their sufferings and those of their families and place them at St. Dymphna’s feet.
This is an extraordinary amount of trust, considering St. Dymphna is the patron saint of mental health, alzheimer’s, and autism. I was determined to take that pilgrimage and bring that litany of prayers with me.
I felt a buzzing excitement in heading up to the shrine as if I was going to meet an old friend. I had the intention in my mind that even if no miracles were to be had, I would still be blessed by the pilgrimage. I met Karen outside of St. Mary’s Church where the shrine is located, and we were escorted into the church by Mary, one of the wonderful ladies in the gift shop.
St. Mary’s Church is brilliantly beautiful in both its architecture and old-world feel. Mary gave us a tour, pointing delicately to the stained glass windows, and giving us an invaluable history of the shrine and how it came to be. I was in awe that St. Mary’s Church staff would take the time to walk us around the church and explain St. Dymphna’s story of suffering and martyrdom to us. I found the experience to be intensely personal, as I heard the story of how St. Dymphna’s father tried to marry her after her mother died, and how the deterioration in his mental health coupled with his sexual advances towards her forced her to flee. In keeping with her Catholic Christian faith and refusing to give in to his immoral demands, she was killed as a teenager.
As we made our way to the shrine, Mary allowed us to hold her relic in our hands; its supernatural power palpable to both Karen and myself. I was inspired by Mary’s idea of holding St. Dymphna’s relic across the prayers I had written down on that paper, as I prayed for her to intercede for each intention. It was otherworldly.
Being alone in that church with just the small group of us, continued to personalize St. Dymphna’s presence for me. That list carried all of those people into St. Mary’s, and right to St. Dymphna’s shrine. The responsibility to carry those beautiful souls was not lost on me. Neither was Karen, a woman who I had connected with just weeks before.
The Patron Saint of Sleep Disorders
Karen, my husband, and I had a wonderful lunch, bonding over the ministry that she is a part of over at Hope’s Garden. We all came away hopeful, not only because we knew that St. Dymphna would intercede, but also because St. Dymphna had connected us in our pain.
Several hours later on the drive back to my friend’s house in Ft. Wayne, we were discussing all that occurred, like the frantic followers of Christ on the Road to Emmaus. We started discussing my sufferings, my early onset menopause, but more specifically my lack of sleep which had clearly turned disordered.
“I wonder who the patron saint of sleep disorders is?” I quipped.
Pulling out my phone, I did a quick search. That’s when I saw the picture that appeared.
Jen and I were astounded. We were chuckling and standing in her kitchen as if lightning just struck.
“Well, there you go!” she said.
Over the next couple of nights at her house, my sleep improved. I started to get messages from my readers of answered prayer. In my mind, I wondered if it would be true for me also. How many nights would I continue to suffer?
I didn’t think much of it until we got back to South Florida. Unexplainably over a period of several weeks, I was sleeping. Not only was I sleeping, but my intense hot flashes completely stopped. I was too scared to even tell anybody, could this really be true?
What St. Dympha did for me is a wonderful miracle, but the way in which she connected me with hundreds of people was an even greater one. And the graces of the experience I had at her shrine keep coming. I have shared her story and supernatural power with my friends, many of whom are not Catholic. She is, more than anything, The Saint of human connection, a saint to be beloved by all.