Dymphna was born in Ireland in the 7th century. Her father Damon, a petty king of Oriel, was a pagan, but her mother was a devout Christian.
When Dymphna was 14 years old, she consecrated herself to Christ and took a vow of chastity. Shortly thereafter, her mother died. Damon had loved his wife deeply, and in the aftermath of her death his mental health sharply deteriorated. Eventually the king's counsellors pressed him to remarry. Damon agreed, but only on the condition that his bride would be as beautiful as his deceased wife. After searching fruitlessly, Damon began to desire his daughter because of her strong resemblance to her mother.
When Dymphna learned of her father's intentions she swore to uphold her vows, and fled his court along with her confessor Father Gerebernus and two trusted servants. Together they sailed eventually landing in what is present-day Belgium, where they took refuge in the town of Geel.
Once settled in Geel, Dymphna built a hospice for the poor and sick of the region. However, it was through the use of her wealth that her father would eventually ascertain her whereabouts, as some of the coins used enabled her father to trace them to Belgium.
Damon sent his agents to pursue his daughter and her companions. When their hiding place was discovered, Damon travelled to Geel to recover his daughter. Damon ordered his soldiers to kill Father Gerebernus and tried to force Dymphna to return with him to Ireland, but she resisted. Furious, Damon drew his sword and struck off his daughter's head. She was 15 years old when she died.
After Dymphna and Father Gerebernus were martyred, the residents of Geel buried them in a nearby cave. Years later, their remains were moved to a more suitable location. Some of her remains are at the National Shrine of St. Dymphna in the United States.
God, as always, uses circumstances surrounding the death of his saints to bring about good. After Dymphna’s tragic murder, those suffering from mental or emotional illness would come to the site of her death and receive miraculous healing. Later an infirmary was built over the site where she died and many miracles were reported there as well.