(Painting by William Hart McNichols © frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com; photo by Parisa Hajizadeh-Amini/Los Angeles Times; Unsplash and Getty Images)
Patron Saint Of Anxiety Prayer
Elena Zuniga was not looking for a patron saint of anxiety, depression and mental illness, but St. Dymphna saw him.
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First, there was a little charm of St. Dymphna appeared in her jewelry box without explanation. Then there was a religious card of St. Dymphna fell out of a book she happened to pick up.
And after Zuniga appeared one morning in 2019 on Yorba Linda St. The Catholic Church Martin de Porres during the meeting about the new health service, Zuniga soon found himself one of the two members of the group of St. From Dymphna’s Disciples Companion. working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness in the church and supporting people with mental health difficulties.
“I didn’t come up with the name or set out to run this group,” said Zuniga, 49, a marriage and family expert and art therapist. “But he kind of ticked me off, saying, ‘Hey, there’s a need here.'”
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According to Catholic teaching, Saint Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century. After her mother died, the father tried to get his daughter married. He follows Dymphna to Belgium and kills her when she rejects his advances.
When his body was found again, 600 years after his death, it was believed that he could heal the insane or the afflicted. A chapel was built in his honor. Since then, he has been known as an advocate for people with mental illness.
The popularity of St. Dymphna for centuries, but as rates of anxiety and depression have increased in recent years due to global warming, political unrest and the COVID-19 crisis, it is experiencing a renaissance. . “Dymphna” is popping up in many parishes across the country and as a sign that a new generation has taken it up, “Dymphna” has become a common confirmation name for young women.
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“He’s getting popular because we need him,” Zuniga said. “Look at the state of mental health around the world. We are in a spiritual crisis.”
Elena Zuniga, left, lights a candle as she watches in the chapel of St. Cherie Ibanez is Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda. Zuniga and Ibanez, marriage and family therapists, run one of Southern California’s growing mental health ministries, St. Student of Dymphna.
This month, parishes across Southern California presented St. Dymphna is a novena, or nine days of intentional prayer, before the Sunday holiday as part of a recent push to create a more welcoming environment for those suffering from mental illness.
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Although the church changed its teaching on euthanasia in 1992 — encouraging Catholics to pray for the victims and allow them to be buried in Catholic cemeteries — there is still a long way to go. to ensure that all parishes have the resources. Those with depression, anxiety and other health conditions, experts say.
An expert on the history of mental illness said the psychiatric profession needs to “stop saying chemistry is the only way forward”.
“Too often people suffering from these diseases think that God doesn’t love them and society doesn’t want them,” said Deacon Ed Shoener, founder of the Assn. Catholic Mental Health Minister. “We all face these problems, and if we don’t have a mental illness ourselves, someone is close.”
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When Shoener’s daughter developed symptoms of bipolar disorder, one of the last places she thought she could turn for support was the Catholic Church. “The church does not understand these diseases,” he said. “There was stigma, uncertainty and fear about how to recover from these diseases. We can do better and the church will be better.
The pace of change has accelerated in recent years. In 2018, the bishops of California issued a pastoral letter acknowledging the magnitude of the health crisis in the United States and the role of the church in addressing it together with researchers and health professionals.
In 2020, the same group announced a statewide initiative, Caring for the Whole Person, to help congregations provide community support and health resources for individuals and families. Last year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles trained more than 100 church leaders in mental health first aid.
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“Many people go to church looking for that spiritual guidance, and one in five of them are dealing with a mental health problem,” said Michael Donaldson, senior director of the Life Office. , Justice and Peace in the archdiocese. “Our goal is to train church leaders to go better with people, to be with them and to help them.”
Ray Martinez, right, and Martha Olivares list their hats with attendees at the St. Dymphna in April.
When he first came to the meeting of the Students of St. Dymphna people, Zuniga and his partner Cherie Padilla gave them bags full of hope, small bags with rosaries, holy water and prayer cards for St. Dymphna and St. Dymphna. . John God. Also included is a card listing Orange County’s free health resources – crisis hotline, suicide hotline and phone number for the Department of Health and Human Services.
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Martha Olivares, who attended the meeting of the students of St. Recently, Dymphna said that she believes in science, prayer and miracles.
“Especially in recent years, it’s good to admit that you or your family members need counseling,” he said. “It’s a way to bring it into the spiritual world.”
“Her father is mentally ill, not Dymphna,” said priest and iconographer William Hart McNichols, who painted St. Dymphna in 1996. “In the icon, she’s holding a cross with beads, a rosary, and she’s looking at you like, ‘Oh, help me.’
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St. Dymphna, the patron saint of mental health, makes a double appearance as Ray Martinez recites the rosary during a St. Dymphna.
According to legend, Dymphna was born to a pagan king and a Christian mother in Ireland. His mother died when he was 14 years old, and his father lost his mind due to grief. He vowed to marry only a woman as beautiful as his first wife. When no one was found, he decided to marry his daughter.
Hearing his plan, Dymphna flees Ireland with a priest and two servants and the king is mad. The gang was hiding in the town of Geel, now in Belgium, but Dymphna’s father found them and imprisoned them. He had the priest’s head removed from his body and tried to persuade Dymphna to return to Ireland to marry him. But when he refused, he drew his sword and cut off his head. He is only 15 years old.
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At the same time, the body of Dymphna was found, famous as a healer of people suffering from epilepsy and mental illness, which was believed to be possessed by the devil at that time.
In the year 1300, the church of Geel was built in honor of St. Dymphna, and eventually so many people with mental health problems came to the church that the townspeople started taking them into their homes, starting the tradition of home care. mental illness that continues. the year. city today. A clinic was also set up where patients could come in if they were uncontrollably or sick.
“In recent years, it is best to admit that you or a family member need counseling,” said Martha Olivares. “It’s a way to bring it into the spiritual world.”
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“The real miracle of Dymphna is how the people of Geely have responded to this special call to welcome people with health problems in their town for centuries,” said Shoener. “Welcoming people and fully integrating them into society is an inspiration.”
Today, Dymphna is known as the patron saint of diarrhea and mental illness, depression and sex, but she is not the only saint who can help the faithful. in spiritual distress. Those seeking divine intercession can choose from a pantheon of divine helpers.
Some may turn to the loving mother of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec convert, in Mexico, or St. John of God, who spent time in a Spanish mental hospital serving the poor and sick. .
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Saint Óscar Romero, who risked his life in defense of human rights in El Salvador and died in its civil war, is said to suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. For most of her life, Mother Teresa suffered from severe depression and a sense of being abandoned by God.
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