Book Report: St. Dymphna
St. Dymphna: Patron of the Nervous and Emotionally Disturbed
by Father Lawrence G. Lovasik
Privately published in Tarentum, PA; available in Catholic book stores; $1.00
I have a confession to make. This isn’t easy for me, and it’s made harder by the fact that a lot of you must already have guessed it. It’s my private shame, a cross I’ve borne all my life, but the time has come to unburden my soul. I am one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed.
Yes, I am. I talk to myself. When I listen to Brahms I get edgy and start rearranging the furniture. Not only do I wash my hands compulsively when I go to the bathroom, I wash them when other people go to the bathroom, too. I’m haunted by the suspicion that there are powerful, monolithic institutions, run by space aliens, working to tear down my life and strip me of my rights. I have a morbid fear of chard.
But at least I come by all of this honestly. You see, when I was a boy I attended Catholic school. And let me tell you, it was ground zero for the nervous and emotionally disturbed. There was a nun there who cried hysterically every time James Sayers erased her blackboard (and James Sayers, being one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed too, did that a lot). There was another nun who would fly into a rage and slam your head into the wall if you said “toilet paper.” Unfortunately, she was the supply nun, the one we had to go to when there was no toilet paper (if I didn’t know Joseph Heller was Jewish, I’d swear he got the idea for Catch 22 from Catholic school). And there was the nun who taught us, in our “sex education” class, that if a boy ever takes another boy’s penis in his mouth, he will develop a lifelong urge to wear women’s clothing. I haven’t got the urge yet but, goodness, I just know it’s only a matter of time. And that’s not to mention all the “corporal punishment” and public humiliation they inflicted on us.
So you see, dear Blenders, not only am I one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed, but I count myself lucky that I didn’t turn out a lot worse.
I’ve tried everything to stop being one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed, Lord knows I have. Librium, valium, thorazene, prozacYall for nothing. Scientology, aroma therapy, crystalsYforget it. My therapist (who I suspect may well be one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed himself) has been no help at all. My life, dear Blenders, has not been rosy.
Until now, that is. Now comes this wonderful little pamphlet by Father Lawrence G. Lovasik of Tarentum, PA, telling all about St. Dymphna, patron of the nervous and emotionally disturbed, and all at once my life seems full of light. A patron saint! Oh, there is hope after all!Well, at least I think there is. There are some things in Father Lovasik’s pamphlet that have left me a bit troubled (even more than usual, I mean). It appears that St. Dymphna was the daughter of an Irish chieftain in the 7th century. Her father tried to rape her, and she resisted, so he slaughtered her on the spot. You would think that would make her an ideal patron for women who have been victims of violence and abuse, but that would not appear to be very high on Holy Mother Church’s list of priorities. In fact, Father Lovasik never even raises the idea. But then, it isn’t for the likes of you and me to question the wisdom of Rome, is it? We have to have faith.
Then there is the history of St. Dymphna’s “sanctification.” Father Lovasik tells us that there were three popes who were particularly devoted to her and promoted her worship. Well, I did some reading and I’m afraid–oh, this is so upsetting for me–I’m afraid that they didn’t exactly follow the example of the Good Shepherd in tending gently for their flocks. Oh, not at all.
The first was Pope John XXII, who according to the Oxford Dictionary of Popes was a devoted patron of the Inquisition, an advocate of torture as an “instrument of faith.” Then there was Eugenius IV, who was so tyrannical the people of Rome finally revolted and drove him out of the city, pelting him with stones and fruit in the process. And finally came Urban VIII, who collaborated actively with Cardinal Richelieu in his attempt to slaughter all the Protestants in France. (Father Lovasik never mentions any of this, but I’m sure that’s just a mere oversight.)
I would hate to judge them too hastily, but these three popes would appear to be prime specimens of the nervous and emotionally disturbed. And yet their devotion to St. Dymphna doesn’t seem to have done them much good at all. I suppose it must be what Holy Mother Church in her wisdom calls “a mystery.”
The more I think about all this, the more troubling it becomes. Why hasn’t St. Dymphna done something about all the pedophile priests the Church keeps shaking out of its sleeve? Or about Bill Donohue and his “Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights,” which threatened to firebomb the Manhattan Theater Club to prevent a gay play from being produced? Or about that nun who claimed there was a connection between sucking cock and wearing dresses? (No, on second thought she probably had a point.) How could a Church with a special saint to look after the nervous and emotionally disturbed have produced so many of us? Good gracious, it’s all so confusing to me.
It is some comfort, as I lie here on my tear stained pillow, to know that at least I’m not alone. And I mustn’t let all the apparent contradictions get me down. After all, the nuns and priests who taught me in my tender years made certain I learned that just because a thing doesn’t make any sense doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe in it. (Or as sarcastic old Mark Twain put it, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”)
No, despite everything, I mustn’t let myself lose faith. If I only pray hard enough to St. Dymphna–if I only make the little novena to her that Father Lovasik recommends in his pamphlet–I just know she will undo all the damage that was done to me in Catholic school, and I will no longer be one of the nervous and emotionally disturbed. And if I pray even longer and harder, the Catholic Church will be all right too, no more hypocrisy, no more pederasty, no more delusional claims to be infallible, no more tearing down the lives and rights of minorities. With the help of St. Dymphna, that will all end. In my heart of hearts, I just know it.
So pray with me, gentle Blenders, pray for the help of St. Dymphna. Say the words with me, here and now:
Good St. Dymphna, patron of the nervous and emotionally disturbed, I do believe in you!
I do believe!