Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A new chapter begins
Seeking your prayers as I write my second book

I have some very happy news to share: Ave Maria Press, a ministry of the Indiana Province of Holy Cross, has commissioned me to write my second book, currently titled My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints and set for publication next spring.

This book has been on my heart for a long time. It comes from the desire to bring the joy of communion to those living with the spiritually isolating effects of childhood sexual abuse. The past few years of speaking to thousands of people about my first book, The Thrill of the Chaste, and communicating personally with many readers of that book, made me realize the particular need that abuse survivors have for this communion—which is really the Communion of Saints. It occurred to me that these people, who had suffered so much, could receive great healing if they came to know the lives and witness of saints who suffered wounds much like theirs.

When I first had the idea for My Peace I Give You, at the beginning of this year, it was not a surprise to learn that among those whom the Church has formally declared to be in heaven were people who were sexually abused as youths. The stories of the early martyrs are familiar enough; so too is that of Maria Goretti, who was fatally stabbed while resisting sexual assault. What surprised me was the sheer number of saints who experienced such abuse—there were many more than I had imagined—and how relevant their stories were to people living in the present day. In the United States of the 21st century, children may not know what it is like to be at the mercy of a pagan emperor, but many know what it is like to be at the mercy of their mother’s violent, alcoholic live-in lover, as was Blessed Laura Vicuña. They are not thrown to the lions, but many are thrown into a sexually invasive home environment, as was St. Thomas Aquinas. They may not know the breaking wheel, but many have their young hearts broken, like Blessed Margaret of Castello, whose parents abandoned her because she was blind and physically deformed.

Pope Benedict XVI observes that man needs to be saved from the sorrow and bitterness that cause him to forsake God. For this liberation to take effect, “transformation from within is necessary, some foothold of goodness, a beginning from which to start out in order to change evil into good, hatred into love, revenge into forgiveness” (General Audience, May 18, 2011). With My Peace I Give You, I hope to help readers gain this “foothold of goodness” through the stories of holy people who, having experienced the greatest sorrows that the world could offer, were yet able to turn their eyes toward heaven and be saved.

I ask your prayers as I write this book, which must be completed by the beginning of August, before I return to full-time study at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception, where I am working towards a sacred-theology licentiate (a prerequirement for a pontifically licensed doctorate).

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported my work with prayers and encouragement. It is a great blessing to be able to have the opportunity, as a writer and speaker, to help people draw closer to the Mystical Body of Christ and find their identity in it.

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During the writing process, I will be running the chapters of My Peace I Give You past people who have experience helping adult survivors of sexual abuse. If you are a priest, pastoral counselor, or therapist and could find the time to read and comment on one or more chapters of my book, I would be very grateful for your help. Please contact me via my feedback form.

If you would like to contact me for some other reason, please do not be offended if I respond very briefly, if at all. As I have written here in the past, I continue to battle the temptation to waste hours websurfing. Any e-mail usage puts me at risk of clicking on a link, then clicking on another link, and finding out all of a sudden that two or three hours of my day have gone down the drain. That is why I no longer participate in Facebook or any social media, except as a last resort for making contact with people who cannot be reached otherwise.

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My next speaking appearances will be June 10-11 at the Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference in Seattle and August 9 at the Baltimore Archdiocese Theology on Tap.

Regarding other talks: I made a promise to God that if I had the opportunity to write My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I would make myself available to give talks to women who are in crisis pregnancies, and to abuse victims, at no charge, so long as my transportation and accommodations are covered. (If the talk is at a shelter, a room there is fine.) There is no expiration date on this promise; it is valid for the rest of my life.

During the past two months, I have had the blessing of speaking to mothers and mothers-to-be living in a home run by Several Sources Shelters in New Jersey, and at a home run by the Sisters of Life. I would like to give many more such talks. If you would like me to speak to women in crisis pregnancies, or to survivors of abuse, please contact me via my feedback form.

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Since every writer needs to get out of the house, I am doing as much work as I can at places like Starbucks, especially as I can just take my notebook there and not have the distraction of the Internet. So a Starbucks gift card is tops on my wish list right now. If you would like to surprise me with one, my e-mail address is dawneden -at- (replacing the -at- with an atsign.

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My master's thesis critiquing the Christopher West/Theology of the Body Institute approach to teaching the theology of the body is still available as a free download from Catholic News Agency. Click the link at the bottom of CNA's news article to download it.

If you have benefited from my master's thesis and would like to support my studies towards a theology licentiate and doctorate, I am very grateful for your donation, as my school does not offer scholarships to lay students. Click here to donate.