Among her many other attributes and advocacies, Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of teenaged girls. Most accounts of Saint Dymphna place her at fourteen years of age at the time of her martyrdom.
Teenaged girls are capable of doing great things for God. The world treats teenaged girls with scant respect, assuming that they are superficial, materialistic, hypersensitive, over–emotional, self–absorbed . . . the world’s list goes on, and it is not flattering. The Holy Catholic Church, having so many teenaged girls among her martyrs and other saints, treats them with the utmost respect, knowing that they are capable of great things, of noble aspirations, of courageous decisions, of costly sacrifices, of wise choices, of shining chastity, of single–hearted devotion to the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Girls Honoured by the Church
No institution in the world has honoured young ladies, teenaged girls, as much as the Holy Catholic Church. Every single time the Roman Canon is prayed at Holy Mass, Saint Agnes, a teenaged girl, is named and honoured. The ancient Church of Lyon in France glories in the fearless witness of Saint Blandina who died a martyr in the year 177 at fifteen years of age. Saint Filomena, another teenaged virgin martyr, has devoted clients all over the world. There are few churches in the Catholic world where one does not find a statue of the girl who wanted to enter Carmel at the age of fifteen: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Who has not heard of Saint Maria Goretti, the twelve year old martyr for purity, who forgave her murderer before she died, and appeared to him in glory after her death? I must also call your attention to Blessed Karolina Kozkowna, the Polish girl martyred for her purity at the age of sixteen. In each of these young ladies, as in the fourteen year old Saint Dymphna, one sees a living illustration of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost:
The Gifts of the Holy Ghost
Wisdom: the capacity to taste and to savour the things of God. Understanding: insight into the mysteries of the faith and into the beauty of virtue. Counsel: a light by which one knows right from wrong. Fortitude: the grace to overcome fear so as to prefer nothing to the love of Christ, the way, the truth, and the life. Knowledge: clear insight into the workings of the Kingdom of God and of His Providence in one’s own life. Piety: a childlike devotedness by which one seeks to do always that things that are pleasing to God the Father. Fear of the Lord: awareness of the glory and majesty of God that expresses itself in the spirit of adoration.
These seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, transform the world’s caricature of what teenaged girls are reputed to be into radiant icons of holiness! These same seven gifts were given each us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism; they were powerfully strengthened in us at Confirmation; they are re–ignited every time we receive the absolution of our sins after making our Confession; they are quickened in us with every Holy Communion.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Before and above all the examples of holiness that we see and admire in the Church’s catalogue of teenaged saints, there is the Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Agnes, Blandina, Filomena, Dymphna, Thérèse, Maria Goretti, and Karolina Kozkowna, all look to Mary, full of grace. Each of these youthful saints share in Mary’s holiness, for every woman’s holiness is a reflection of the holiness of the Mother of God.
Think of it! God suspended the salvation of the entire world on the word of a teenaged girl, Mary of Nazareth. Saint Bernard, in one of his unforgettable sermons, describes what happened:
You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.
The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.
Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.
Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.
Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.
The Model of Feminine Holiness
Our Lady, Mary, full of Grace, overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, espoused by the Word, become a mother to the Son of God without loss of the virginity, and a mother to all the children of the Church until the end of time — Mary is the model of feminine holiness. There is not a single teenaged girl who is not called, in some way, to love to the point of union, to be open to the gift of life, to carry life, nurture it, protect it, and surround it with tenderness.
For most girls this vocation, inscribed in her very being, will lead her to the man chosen for her by God to be her husband and the father of her children. For other young ladies, there will be another way to love to the point of union, to become a mother, to carry life, nurture it, protect it, and surround it with tenderness, and that is by vowing herself to Christ alone, as to a Bridegroom, by asking for the veil of consecrated life that marks her in the eyes of all as a woman belonging to Christ, a woman in whom all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable, and the wounded, can find a mother. Still other women, single or widowed, will live a hidden life of union with Christ in the midst of the world, praying, loving, and serving with all their hearts, in the special ways shown them by the Holy Spirit.
Spousal Hearts, Maternal Hearts
We must then pray St Dymphna for the young ladies present here, and for our daughters, our grandaughters, our nieces, and our sisters, asking that they may take their place in the great procession of holy woman that, beginning with Our Lady, will stretch until the end of time, filling this world with spousal hearts worthy of God, and with maternal hearts overflowing with love for all His children.