Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hope to see you at the CIC!

If you are in Washington, D.C., or planning to visit, please save the date for the launch event for my new book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. The talk and signing will be Monday, April 23, 6:30 p.m., at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K St. NW, Washington, D.C.

My Peace I Give You (Ave Maria Press, April 2012) is the first book ever to offer a Catholic spirituality of healing for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. It bears an Imprimatur (ecclesiastical approbation) from Washington Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl.

Here's more from the Ave Maria Press website:

Eden uses her own story as a backdrop to introduce numerous holy people—like Laura Vicuña, Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux—who suffered sexual abuse or sexual inappropriateness, as well as saints such as Ignatius of Loyola who suffered other forms of mistreatment and abandonment. Readers seeking wholeness will discover saints with wounds like their own, whose stories bear witness to the transforming power of grace. Eden explores different dimensions of divine love—sheltering, compassionate, purifying, etc.—to help those sexually wounded in childhood understand their identity in the abiding love of Christ.

Sisters of Life Superior General Agnes Mary Donovan S.V. writes in the book's foreword:

An inspired work ... powerfully moving and hope-filled ... It is my hope that this book may become a resource readily available: in churches, schools, counseling centers, young adult ministries, libraries, and hospitals. Through it may many whose human dignity has been offended come to know their beauty in the eyes of God, and learn to sing in joy of His love and His mercy. I pray that for every reader this book will be an instrument of grace and instruction.

The book has also received endorsements from Father James Martin S.J., Alice von Hildebrand, Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, and others.

Would you like to help spread the word about My Peace I Give You? If so, here are some things you can do:

  • Mention it on your blog, Facebook page, or other media outlet. Include links to the book's Ave Maria Press home page and its Amazon page (now taking pre-orders). Please also link to my blog, The Dawn Patrol, as I've resumed regular blogging.
  • If you would like to review My Peace I Give You for your blog or other media outlet, or if you would like to host my upcoming "blog tour," write to Ave Maria Press to request a review copy.
  • Are you in radio or TV, or do you know someone who is? If so, please help me get media interviews. Any personal introductions you could provide to such contacts would be enormously helpful. I can be reached by writing to me through my feedback form.
  • Is there a bookstore, church, college, or any other venue in your area that might like me to come and speak as I promote My Peace I Give You this spring and summer? If so, please link me up with them. I want to speak at shelters and prisons too--anywhere where people might be helped. Again, my feedback form is the way to reach me.
  • Most of all, please pray for God's will for My Peace I Give You, that it may reach those who would be helped by it. Please also pray for me as I seek to help adults who have suffered childhood wounds find healing in Christ.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Benedict's "theology of saints" offers a way to spiritual healing for abuse victims

From my column yesterday for Catholic News Agency, a hint of the theology behind my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints:

Pope Benedict, speaking of how the Church should address the suffering caused by clergy abuse, emphasizes the need to promote “hope born of God’s love and fidelity”; such hope brings us "the vision of a world reconciled and renewed in Christ Jesus, our Savior." To make that vision present, he often draws from the saints’ experiences, most powerfully in his encyclical Spe Salvi, "Saved in Hope," where he writes, "The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope."

Benedict in Spe Salvi focuses upon St. Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947) as a saint of our time who can "help us understand what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time." His selection of Bakhita as a model is significant. The story of the Sudanese-born woman, who was kidnapped as a child, sold into slavery, and forced to undergo brutal "tattoos" that left her with 144 scars, resonates deeply with victims of childhood sexual abuse.

But the greatest sufferings of abuse victims are not physical, nor even psychological. They are spiritual, and it is Bakhita's spiritual journey that the Holy Father brings to the fore.

The trauma of Bakhita's kidnapping was so great that, upon being ordered by her captors to call herself by the slave name "Bakhita," she forgot her own name, the one her parents gave her. Her experience of loss of identity, and with it the loss of an understanding of her human dignity, represents beyond all else the spiritual crisis of the abused child. The process of healing for all of us begins, as it did for Bakhita, with finding our identity in Christ. [Read the full story.]

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What 'Wuz' and is to be

Longtime Dawn Patrol readers may recall that I wrote a series of blog entries about my spiritual journey from Reform Jewish child to agnostic young adult, to defiantly non-Catholic Christian, and finally to my home in the Catholic Church. In an (intentionally misspelled) tribute to the title of Father Richard John Neuhaus's conversion story, I called it "How I Became the Catholic I Wuz."

Ultimately, after a number of installments, I left the series unfinished. There is something fundamentally incommunicable about the experience of conversion. I became frustrated trying to put my experiences into words in a way that would have meaning for others.

Last summer, however, while writing My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I started to think about my spiritual pilgrimage in light of those who had gone before. The saints' experiences helped me to better see how God's fatherly love had been with me throughout my life—during all the times as a child when I suffered by the sins of others, all the times as a young adult when I suffered by my own sins, and all the times when I was without hope.

So I started to write my conversion story into the pages of My Peace I Give You, intertwined with the saints' own stories of God's grace working in and through their lives. And I found that what I could not communicate on my own, I could communicate with their help. Looking back, I realize I was only doing what I had seen Pope Benedict do in his encyclical Spe Salvi—using the stories of saints (in the Pope's case, St. Josephine Bakhita) to help the reader understand "what it means to have a real encounter with this God for the first time" (Spe Salvi 3).

That is why I removed the "Wuz" series from the Dawn Patrol archives tonight. Instead, in the coming weeks, as the publication of My Peace I Give You nears, I'll share more about it as it relates to my own experience. However much I am able to comprehend this great gift of life in Christ at all, I can now comprehend it only from the perspective of living in the communion of saints.

Image: Detail of Passion sculpture at the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada. Photo by Dawn Eden.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The bishop and Bakhita

Since many readers were interested to read about St. Josephine Bakhita in the post I wrote about her last week, I thought I would share today a quote from a public appearance Pope Benedict made in 2007 where he related a story about the saint.

Speaking of the need "to understand that the true treasure of our life is living in the Lord's love and never losing this love," the Holy Father said:

"We have found, indeed, we have been found by the love of the Lord, and the more we let ourselves be moved by his love in sacramental life, in prayer life, in the life of work, in our free time, the better we will understand that indeed, I have found the true pearl, all the rest is worthless, all the rest is important only to the extent that the Lord's love attributes these things to me. I am rich, I am truly rich and borne aloft if I am in this love. Here I find the center of life, its riches. Then let us allow ourselves to be guided, let us allow Providence to decide what to do with us.

"Here a little story springs to my mind about St. Bakhita, the beautiful African saint who was a slave in Sudan and then discovered the faith in Italy, who became a Sister. When she was old, the Bishop who was paying a visit to her religious house had not met her. He spotted this small, bent African Sister and said to Bakhita: 'But what do you do, Sister?'; and Sr. Bakhita replied: 'I do the same as you, Your Excellency.' Astonished, the Bishop asked her: 'But what?', and Bakhita answered, 'But Your Excellency, we both want to do the same thing: God's will.'

"This seems to me to be a most beautiful answer, the Bishop and the tiny Sister who was almost no longer capable of working, who were both doing the same thing in their different offices; they were seeking to do God's will and so were in the right place."

St. Josephine Bakhita is one of the saints featured in my upcoming book of Catholic spirituality for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. The book is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Image Stained-glass window of St. Josephine Bakhita, D R Art Glass Studio.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The right direction

Good to see the professor who directed my master's thesis, Father John Corbett O.P., among the moral theologians quoted today in the excellent Catholic News Agency article on moral theologians' rejection of USA Today writer David Gibson's defense of the HHS contraception mandate.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The greatest story never told

"The real story of human history—the story of the saints—has never been told. All our histories are about what the rich and powerful were doing because we don't really believe 'He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away' (Luke 1:51-53). We get glimpses of the real story (the biggest interruption in the monotonous narrative of power struggle being the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord, of course). But the real story will not be known till That Day, when we discover who the real heroes of history were, what the real story of history was, and how much we owe all those obscure saints for saving our bacon from our own self-destructive lunacy so many times throughout history by their courageous imitation of Christ. There will be a lot of surprises. And yet we will also see that we shouldn’t have been surprised because the whole story is really all summarized in the story of Christ, played out again and again in the lives of his saints, ever ancient and ever new."

 —Mark Shea"The Real Story of History"

Image: Fra Angelico, "The Last Judgment," detail known as "Dance of the Saints"

Making mercy visible

Today the Church honors St. Claude de la Columbière, the spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who in turn was the 17th-century mystic who received the revelation of the Sacred Heart. Confronted with Jansenism—a perversion of the faith that led many to believe they were beyond any hope of mercy—Columbiere championed the forgiving love of Christ. His "Despair Prayer" offers beautiful food for contemplation:

"Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others. Other people will glorify You by making visible the power of Your grace by their fidelity and constancy to You. For my part I will glorify You by making known how good You are to sinners, that Your mercy is boundless and that no sinner no matter how great his offenses should have reason to despair of pardon. If I have grievously offended You, my Redeemer, let me not offend You even more by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon me. Amen."
Image: Window at Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Georgetown. Photo by Gregory Gresko OSB.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Entering the tabernacle of the heart

On this Valentine's Day, I would like to share with you what is perhaps the most beautiful quote I have read about love this past year. The quote is from the fourteenth-century Dominican mystic Johannes Tauler, and it touched me because it made me think about what it means to have a deeper union with God. Somehow Tauler captures how the very emptiness in a lonely heart may become a space where the spirit of Love can enter in:

"There are only some men who are able to consecrate or bless the sacred Body of Jesus, and no one else. In a spiritual manner, however ... a woman can offer this sacrifice just as a man, and whenever she wants, night or day. She needs to penetrate into the Holy of Holies and leave behind anything of the world. She must enter alone, that is to say enter into herself with a recollected spirit, and there, having left outside all things sensible, she must offer to the Father of Heaven for all that she desires and for all her intentions the all-lovable sacrifice, His own beloved Son, with all His works and words, with all His sufferings and holy life. She must, with a great devotion, include in this prayer all men, poor sinners, the just, those imprisoned in purgatory."

Source: Johannes Tauler, quoted in Charles Journet, The Mass: The Presence of the Sacrifice of the Cross, 104-105.

Image: St. Elizabeth of Hungary, window at the Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart. Photo by Father Gregory Gresko OSB.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bring My Peace to your place

Flyer for the My Peace I Give You launch event at the Catholic Information Center (click to enlarge)

As I prepare for my April 23 talk and signing at Washington's Catholic Information Center to launch my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I am also lining up other personal appearances.

My Peace I Give You, which bears an Imprimatur from Donald Cardinal Wuerl, is the first book ever to provide a Catholic approach to spiritual healing for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. (Read praise for it here.) There are several different talks I can give on the book. The subtitle itself makes an excellent topic for a general talk, but I can also give a talk on the topic of each individual chapter. To list just a few:

  • "Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints"
  • "The Love We Forget: Discovering the Father—with St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Josephine Bakhita"
  • "The Love that Shelters: Opening Our Hearts to the Sacred Heart—with Mary, Mother of Hope"
  • "The Love that Transforms: Learning the True Meaning of Spiritual Childhood with St. Thérèse of Lisieux"
  • "The Love that Grows Deeper: Drawing Closer to God and to One Another—with Dorothy Day"
  • "The Love that Heals: Finding Our Past, Present, and Future in the Eucharist—with St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Karolina Kózka"
If you are interested in having me speak at your bookstore, parish, college, or other venue, write me via my feedback form for a complete list of topics for talks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Launch hour

As promised, I have a wonderful piece of news to share: The launch event for my next book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, will be April 23 at Washington's Catholic Information Center. Watch this space for more details to appear tomorrow.

I want to speak everywhere about My Peace I Give You. It is the first book ever to provide a Catholic approach to spiritual healing for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, and it bears an Imprimatur from my bishop, Donald Cardinal Wuerl. Read advance praise for it here. If you would like to host me at your bookstore, parish, or other venue, please write to me via my feedback form.

The saint who shows what it means to be known, loved, and awaited by the Father

Today is the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, one of the heavenly patrons featured in my upcoming book for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.

Born in the Darfur region of Sudan, Bakhita was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery. One of her masters insisted on having her "tattooed" in a manner that left her with more than 100 scars, which she bore throughout her life. In My Peace I Give You, I offer her as a patron for the many victims of childhood sexual abuse who suffer from the compulsion to harm themselves by cutting.

The reason I believe the abuse Bakhita endured as a slave places her in fellowship with those who commit self-harm is because the compulsion to hurt oneself is itself a kind of slavery. It is a slavery from within.

For the survivor of sexual abuse, the story of how Bakhita discovered the Father's love for her is a beautiful model for how to attain hope and healing in Christ. That is why Pope Benedict XVI cited her in Spe Salvi as an example of a saint who was—in the words of the encyclical's English title—"saved in hope."

The Pope writes of Bakhita's experience upon being introduced to Christian faith:

Here, after the terrifying "masters" who had owned her up to that point, Bakhita came to know a totally different kind of "master"—in Venetian dialect, which she was now learning, she used the name "paron" for the living God, the God of Jesus Christ. Up to that time she had known only masters who despised and maltreated her, or at best considered her a useful slave. Now, however, she heard that there is a "paron" above all masters, the Lord of all lords, and that this Lord is good, goodness in person. She came to know that this Lord even knew her, that he had created her—that he actually loved her. She too was loved, and by none other than the supreme "Paron", before whom all other masters are themselves no more than lowly servants. She was known and loved and she was awaited. [Source: Spe Salvi 3]
When Bakhita was in her late teens, she gained her freedom, eventually entering the Congregation of Canossian Sisters in Venice. The photo above was taken during her religious life. Some people, upon hearing of her childhood suffering, would say, "Poor thing!" She would respond, "I'm not a poor thing because I belong to the Master, and I'm in his house. People who don’t know Our Lord—they’re the ones who are poor!"

Learn more: The source I used in My Peace I Give You for most of my information on St. Josephine Bakhita was Josephine Bakhita: The Lucky One. (That link will take you to the Catholic Truth Society's blog, which offers the book as a free PDF download.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The other kind of martyr

Today, in addition to being the feast of St. Blaise, patron saint of throat ailments—whose prayers I sought when recovering after thyroid-cancer treatment—it is also the day the Church commemorates the ninth-century Benedictine monk St. Ansgar.

Ansgar's greatest hope was to die a martyr for the Church. Although he got his wish, it was not as he expected. He died a "white" martyr; that is, his witness was bloodless, but no less genuine.

The author of his Vita puts it beautifully: "For it is clear that there are two kinds of martyrdom, one which occurs when the Church is at peace, and which is hidden from sight; the other which occurs in a time of persecution and is visible to all. [Ansgar] desired both kinds of martyrdom, but one only did he attain."

In my upcoming book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I talk about how victims of childhood sexual abuse have fellowship with the martyrs. They are living witnesses to the dignity of every human person, a dignity that shines through the wounds inflicted upon them by those who would deface the image of God. Like Ansgar and all the saints, they share in Christ's Passion, and, as John Paul II wrote, they are particularly close to His Heart.