Saturday, December 31, 2011

Previewing My Peace

On Thursday night, I had the great pleasure of giving the first-ever preview of my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints to about 30 teens and young adults at a private home in Maryland.

My host was John Olon, who teaches honors philosophy and moral theology to juniors and seniors at St. Mary's Ryken, a Catholic prep school in Leonardtown. John and his wife, Nhan, are parents of a large family who feel called to be spiritual parents as well. They regularly host gatherings of young people—most of them being John's current or former students—to discuss theology and philosophy over a homemade dinner.

This was the third time in the past two and a half years that I addressed the group. Before I agreed to address them for the first time, in the summer of 2009, John had to nudge me a bit. Normally, I decline invitations to speak to teens, as experience has shown that I do not have whatever it takes to connect with high-schoolers. (Just ask the teens in London, Ontario, who, after my tour of the city's Catholic high schools, formed a Facebook group: "Dawn Eden, Never Come Back to Canada!") But after that first talk, no more nudging was necessary. For one thing, these teens are terrifically bright (just look at what John teaches them). For another, unlike high-school assemblies, they are there only because they want to be there. The fact that the talks take place at a loving Catholic home abuzz with W.C. Fields' least favorite things (children and dogs) also creates a wonderfully welcoming vibe.

I was going to use the evening as an opportunity to practice giving the kind of talk I'll be giving on My Peace I Give You when it comes out, but changed my mind at the last minute. Instead, I decided to simply read a chapter of the book—the first time I had ever done so in public.

My Peace I Give You is intended to help adult victims of childhood sexual abuse find healing in Christ through the lives and witness of the saints. (You can read advance praise for it here.) I read to the group a chapter titled, "The Love That Transforms: Learning the true meaning of spiritual childhood—with St. Thérèse of Lisieux."

Although Thérèse, unlike some of the other saints I discuss in My Peace I Give You, did not suffer sexual abuse in childhood, she underwent a severely traumatic experience at a young age. Her healing process entailed a purification of memory—not forgetting the past, but learning to see it in light of God's loving plan for her life. While she was never without suffering, she learned, with the aid of divine grace, to unite her suffering to that of the crucified Christ, and so attained a joy that could not be taken away.

As you can see in these photos, the people who came to hear me were generous with their attention. I was profoundly encouraged by their reactions to my chapter—so encouraged that I would like to give more readings between now and when My Peace I Give You comes out in April. Since I hope to give talks around the world upon the book's publication, it is very helpful for me to learn which aspects of it most resonate with people. For that reason, if anyone would like me to read a chapter of My Peace I Give You to their church group, reading club, or campus ministry between now and the end of March, I am willing to do so free of charge, anywhere in the world, so long as my transportation and accommodations are covered. Potential sponsors can reach me via my feedback form.

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A very happy New Year to everyone reading this blog, especially all who have prayed for me or have otherwise supported me in my studies and writing. I am sending up prayers tonight for all Dawn Patrol readers, with much thanksgiving.