Thanks to the dedicated efforts of my friend Michael J. New as well as a wonderful core of volunteers from Assumption Grotto Parish, I had a beautiful time in Detroit earlier this month promoting My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints with eight personal appearances in five days.
Things that stand out in my memory of the tour include:
- Finding my voice. This was my first tour speaking on healing from the wounds of childhood sexual abuse. Before, speaking about chastity at college campuses, I always felt the pressure of having to work into my talks some practical instructions on how to live chastely. Speaking prescriptively added a layer of distance between me and my audience. By contrast, in speaking about My Peace I Give You, I'm speaking descriptively, telling stories about myself and saints who experienced healing through discovering their identity in Christ. My message is still, in a sense, about morality, but here morality becomes one with Catholic spirituality; the saints show us what a fully integrated human person looks like. As a result, I'm finding it much easier to connect with audiences.
- Being surrounded by saints. Every day I met joyful, humble, and genuinely charitable people who took their faith very seriously. The parish life at Assumption Grotto is particularly rich, including daily Mass in both English and Latin (Extraordinary Form). With many of the parishioners, as well as people I met from other parishes, it seemed that even when they were not at the liturgy, it remained within them; they were eager to find God in all things.
- Becoming more sensitive to the action of the Holy Spirit as it brings isolated individuals into communion. At every appearance I gave, someone came up to me to tell me his or her own story of surviving childhood sexual abuse, or of trying to help a close friend or family member who had suffered such abuse. At some parish talks, ten or more such people approached me after my talk, one by one.
As I listened to these audience members' stories, I was reminded of the many times John Paul II wrote about God's love for those who endure pain:
"In this Body [the Church as the Body of Christ], Christ wishes to be united with every individual, and in a special way he is united with those who suffer" (Salvifici Doloris 24).It was deeply humbling to be entrusted with those audience members' stories and to know that they saw in me a kindred soul. They may have thought that I was blessing them with words of comfort, but they were really blessing me. Christ is with them.
"I consider particularly close to the Heart of Christ ... people who unfortunately cannot in any sense claim membership of what could be called in the proper sense a family" (Familiaris Consortio 85.
I thought of the closing lines of Dorothy Day's autobiography: "We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."