“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” — Matthew 11:28.
In the Roman Catholic Church, it is tradition for confirmands to choose a new name. As young people complete the process of confirmation, they are invited to choose a saint that is meaningful for them. Recently, a lesser-known saint has been on the rise. Saint Dymphna has become the saint of choice for many adolescents.
Dymphna is the patroness saint for those managing anxiety, depression, and mental health disorders.
As anxiety and depression rates have risen in recent years due to climate crises, societal upheaval, and COVID-19, Saint Dymphna has become more prominent. Churches are starting “Dymphna groups” where people connect and support one another through facilitated conversations and prayer. As one Dymphna group leader and licensed mental health professional puts it, “We are in a crisis of the soul.”
People living with a mental health condition sometimes worry that they are not loved by God. They may feel stigma associated with their condition and believe they need to hide this part of themselves from the church community. When someone does share, uncertainty about how to respond or fear of saying or doing the wrong thing can sometimes trip up a church member. Yet, according to the CDC, more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. The statistics say that most (if not all) of us will deal with mental health issue or will be in relationship with someone who is. There can be no room in the church for stigma or shame regarding mental health issues. The church, the body of Christ, has been given a spirit of courage and compassion that cries out, “Come, all who are weary and burdened.”
The teens are preteens who are choosing Saint Dymphna are showing the church what it looks like to live in community with authenticity and faith.
Friends, may these young people inspire us to pray the prayer of Saint Dympha, “Lord Jesus Christ, Helper of the sick and Comforter of the afflicted, may those who suffer from nervous disorder and mental illness receive the consolation they need and the cure they so much desire. Amen”