2 More Patron Saints for Alcoholics: St Therese of Lisieux and St Dymphna

St Therese of Lisieux - the LIttle Flower

St Therese of Lisieux – the LIttle Flower

These are not officially patron saints for Alcoholics, but I think they could be. Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Dymphna.

The first is St Therese of Lisieux – the Little Flower:

St Therese’ story is disarmingly simple. She was born in Alencon, France in 1873 the youngest of five sisters. She was only fifteen when she entered the Carmelite Order in Lisieux where she was known as Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy face. Nine anonymous years later she died, with no indication that her reputation for holiness had spread beyond the cloister walls.

But within a very few more years she was a household name in Catholic European circles, the object of an extraordinary worldwide following. She had then become “The Little flower.” Less than 30 years after her death, she was canonized saint of the universal Church, without question the most popular and best-loved saints of the twentieth century—an extraordinarily influential force in the spiritual lives of millions of ordinary people.

Her deathbed promise was to spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Alcoholics desire God. It is a rare alcoholic that doesn’t wish to be closer to her Creator. St Therese always desired to become a saint, but in comparing herself with the saints she felt she was as far removed from them as was a “grain of sand trampled underfoot to a mountain.”  Instead of feeling discouraged by such reflections, she concluded that God would not inspire a wish which could not be realized. And that, in spite of her “littleness” she might aim at being a saint.

Many alcoholics strive for sobriety but struggle to attain it. St. Therese instructs us that “the striving” for God is pleasing in His eyes. He knows our imperfections and limitations. I offer there is not one more “little” in one’s own mind than the alcoholic, full of shame and remorse wishing he were a better person.

The second saint I believe would be great for alcoholics to have recourse to is Saint Dymphna.

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna, another saint who died at a very young age, is “officially” the patron saint of mental illness. Science has established that alcoholic is a “disease of the mind.”  Alcoholism affects the deep recesses of our brains, the limbic system, which controls pleasure, reward, survival, spirituality. Over time, with persons pre-disposed to this, alcohol changes our brains and makes it very difficult for us to recover absent miracles.

So, alcoholism is a mental illness which is treated with the latest medication, therapy and 12 step programs – Saint Dymphna has a special love for those of us hindered by brain/mental diseases as her father was “mad.”  She fled her home with the assistance of a local priest in order to escape her father’s desire to marry her to replace the loss of his wife/her mother. She fled into the hills and became a hermit. But her father found her and beheaded her and her friend.

Centuries later, the tombs were discovered and the name “Dymphna” was written on a brick found on the coffin of the young girl. As the remains were reinterred in a tomb, miraculous healings of those suffering from mental illness were reported in the immediate area. The bishop of Cambrai commissioned a text of the life of Saint Dymphna and the tomb became a pilgrimage site for those suffering.

By the end of the thirteenth century a hospital was built near her tomb for the treatment of nervous and mental disorders. today, Gheel remains a world-renowned hospital center, offering the most enlightened methods in treating the mentally ill.

I have a special love for these two young saints and often pray they intercede for me and for my loved ones who suffer from alcoholism.