Last spring, as I began to prepare for writing My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I longed to have the opportunity to discuss the book's message with others who had been sexually abused in childhood, to find out if it would be as helpful to them as I hoped it would be.
The opportunity to do so came when the Sisters of Life invited me to speak to the people they serve at one of their homes—pregnant women and new mothers who, were it not for the respite offered by the Sisters, would be at the mercy of abusive family members or boyfriends, or out on the street.
I spoke to the group of women about how the saints' lives had helped me to find healing, and talked in particular about the little-known Blessed Margaret of Castello. The life and witness of that young woman—cast out by parents ashamed to have a child who was blind and deformed—reveals how, in the words of Blessed John Paul, "people who unfortunately cannot in any sense claim membership of what could be called in the proper sense a family" are "particularly close to the Heart of Christ" (Familiaris Consortio 85).
Seeing how the women at the Sisters of Life's home, who had suffered so much, took inspiration from Blessed Margaret's story, I gained the affirmation I needed that the saints could help other abuse victims as they had helped me.
I have waited years for this book. As a psychologist and a consecrated religious, I am sobered and sorrowed by the sheer number of adults whose lives are marked by the shadow of sexual abuse. This failure to protect a child's innocence reverberates throughout a victim's entire life. In my knowledge, a victim of sexual abuse often struggles, even as an adult, to conquer the relentless temptations of self-condemnation. In the pages that follow, readers find an alternative to self-loathing; they find hope and a cause for joy.Read the rest of the foreword in Abbott's column on RenewAmerica.com.