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Peace the World Cannot Give
Healing through a look at stories of heroic virtue.

Dawn Eden, author of My Peace I Give You

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LOPEZ: “So long as our hearts long for union with Jesus’ Sacred Heart, our feelings about ourselves will not prevent such union, because God’s love is stronger than feelings. It is a presence.” What does that mean? Is it a delusion?

EDEN: I’m thinking of what the priest and the faithful say together at every Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” Whether God is with me doesn’t depend on whether I feel close to him, and it certainly doesn’t depend on whether I feel worthy. In fact, judging by that prayer, if I do feel worthy to receive God, I’m doing something wrong! To borrow a phrase from Blessed Karolina Kozka — one of the holy people you’ll meet in My Peace I Give You — all that’s needed for God to dwell within me is that I cooperate with his grace by making room for him.

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LOPEZ: Why is the Sacred Heart so important? As someone who has written a book about chastity, do you think it is significant here?

EDEN: The Sacred Heart reveals to us the love of Christ, and in so doing, reveals the meaning of suffering in the life of the Christian. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council put it, “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us.”

As for the link to chastity — well, chastity, although incorporating self-control, is fundamentally about loving rightly. The Sacred Heart shows us how to love.

LOPEZ: What has the reaction to My Peace I Give You been?

EDEN: I feel like I am living the parable of the mustard seed. The word is spreading slowly about My Peace I Give You, but when people find out about it and read it, they want to tell their friends and family members.

People often don’t know what to make of it at first, because there has never been a book of Catholic spirituality for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. The only other works that mention Christianity and sexual wounds in their title are books on the Church’s abuse crisis, or books that take a Protestant approach to healing, or ones that put a Christian gloss on psychotherapeutic methods. My Peace I Give You is none of the above — it’s really about learning to find healing as the saints did, through praying in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

That’s why I sought an imprimatur from my bishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl — so that Catholics would know that this is a book intended for the upbuilding of the Mystical Body of Christ. To my knowledge, My Peace I Give You is the only book on healing from abuse ever to have received an imprimatur.

I’m very thankful to be part of what I believe is a new moment in the Church. Having taken important steps toward our own purification, we can now become proactive in helping the culture heal from the evil of childhood sexual abuse. The overwhelming majority of adults who were sexually abused in childhood were victimized at their own house, at a public school, or at a neighbor’s house — not at God’s house. And the number of victims in the United States alone is in the tens of millions. The Centers for Disease Control found that one in four women and one in six men report having been abused in childhood. That amounts to at least one person in every pew in every parish. And that’s just contact abuse — it doesn’t even count those who were subject to other forms of victimization, such as being made to view pornography.

So, there are many Catholics carrying these hidden wounds and the tragically misplaced guilt that often accompanies them. Regardless of whether they need professional help — some do, some don’t — they all need something that no secular psychotherapist can give them: the assurance that their heavenly Father loves them, and the graces that flow from living in union with Christ. Only the life of the Church can give that to them. That’s what we have, and that’s what we’ve got to share.

LOPEZ: Is it awkward?

EDEN: You mean, is it awkward, when speaking about My Peace I Give You, to get up in front of a room of fifty strangers and talk about healing from childhood sexual abuse? No and yes.

No, it is not awkward, because I have come to believe that being a witness to this kind of healing is part of my Christian behavior. Yes, it is awkward, because public speaking on the whole is a purgative experience — at least it is for me — especially when the topic is likely to bring up painful memories for listeners. So I just do the best I can, trying to keep the focus on Christian joy and hope, and trusting that the Holy Spirit will make up for my own inadequacies.

 

LOPEZ: Why is it so important? Have you seen hearts open and heal?

EDEN: Yes, I have. Hearts of people I know and love, as well as those of people I have never met — like blogger Michael Barrick, who wrote that reading My Peace inspired him to bring his own childhood wounds into the light. And that makes it all worthwhile.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.



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