Tuesday, June 25, 2013

UPDATED WITH AUDIO: Welcome, "Morning Air" listeners!

UPDATE: My "Morning Air" interview is now online! Listen here.

I'm very thankful to Sean Herriott for giving me the opportunity today to speak on his Relevant Radio show "Morning Air" on how childhood sexual abuse affects men and on how those who suffered may find healing with the help of the saints.

Here are links related to topics that Sean and I discussed:

Looking for my upcoming speaking appearances? You'll find them here.

Monday, June 24, 2013

They were in prison, and I visited them
Bringing My Peace to women behind bars

I would like to thank all the Dawn Patrol readers who prayed for me as I shared the message of my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints at the women's jail in Philadelphia this past Friday morning.

It was my first time ever inside a house of correction, let alone speaking at one. I won't lie to you and say that I wowed them like Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. It was hard. It was hard from the moment I approached the security guard at the front desk, who demanded to see the poster-size images of saints that I had brought as visuals. The permissions form that the chaplain had filled out said I was bringing "Christian literature," and the guard said that pictures did not count as "literature." When I pleaded, she let me bring some of my images in, but said I had to put one of them in the locker with my purse before she would let me pass.

The guard rolled up the banned picture before giving it back to me; I stuffed it in the locker quickly in order to move on. It wasn't until beginning my talk that I realized with regret that the one saint I could not show the women was the one I most wanted them to see: Blessed Laura Vicuña, whose story was the main inspiration for my writing My Peace I Give You.

Once the security guard cleared me for entrance, I had to pass through the metal detector, have my hand stamped, and get a patdown. If you have experienced sexual abuse, you know that patdowns are trauma triggers.

Then I and my three companions—the Catholic chaplain and two members of a local nonprofit that helps combat recidivism—passed through the sally port. It is kind of like the sets of doors Don Adams passes through during the opening credits of "Get Smart!", except more claustrophobic and not funny.

After showing my stamped hand to another guard, I was led to a gym, where a few inmates were waiting, dressed in their standard-issue light blue shirts and black pants (like the women in this photo). A few more were trickling in. Some of them were missing teeth. I remembered the conversation I had the night before with a woman in criminal justice who told me about the various ways in which prostituted women were most typically abused by pimps; having teeth knocked out was one of them.

Once twenty inmates had arrived, the chaplain suggested I begin my presentation.

I was unaware as I stood before the women that the jail was reported last month to have one of the highest rates of inmate-on-inmate sexual assault in the country. That may help to explain why, although I felt like I made a good impression at first, some of the inmates became visibly uncomfortable once they caught on to the specific subject matter of my talk. (It had been promoted to them as being about "healing and spirituality.")

Continuing full steam ahead, I launched into my conversion story, which usually engages audience members' attention pretty well. Some of the women did seem interested in it, but not all. Just as I was getting to the part about how the love of Christ first became real to me, two of them turned to one another and started kissing, which went on for some minutes. I hoped that a guard would intervene, but no one did. There was nothing to do but keep talking.

Public displays of affection are also a trauma trigger for me.

Although I had adapted my presentation to make it more relevant for an audience that was not necessarily Catholic, it was clear to me as I went on that I had not adapted it enough. Again, I just kept going, thankful for those women who were following me, and continuously making mental notes of what to do better next time.

There was one question during the Q&A, from a woman in the front row who had been paying attention the whole time. She asked me to explain what it means to call someone a "patron saint" and to say more about what is the Eucharist, which I did. Afterwards, she told me that she had posed the question for the benefit of her fellow inmates, which I thought was rather sweet, though it made me feel sorry again for not having thought of that beforehand.

The nicest moment was after my talk, when four inmates, including the one who asked the question, approached me asking for copies of My Peace I Give You. Since I had not been allowed to bring in books, I assured them I would give the chaplain enough copies to give to each of them, which I did.

Two of my companions took me out to a Vietnamese lunch afterwards. One of them, a lawyer, tried to explain to me the art of storytelling: "You don't say, 'St. Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869.' You say, 'Bakhita and her sister thought they were safe outside their family's home, when a man jumped out of the bushes."

I thanked her and poked my chopsticks around my shrimp saté. I did not have much of an appetite.

All I could think about was the fact that I had finally done it: actually walked into a jail, given a talk, reached some inmates, and failed to reach others. It was intense, it was hard, it brought up various traumas. But if I could do it once, I could do it again—and do it better. And I do want to do it again, please God.

* * *

If you would like to donate to support my making mission trips to speak to inmates or other needy populations (such as unwed mothers, or people who are in recovery), here is a link to give via PayPal. Donations made to my PayPal account will be set aside for travel expenses for such trips, unless otherwise specified. I do also have other personal expenses coming up for which I am grateful for assistance, such as the medical bill for my recent eye operation. If you would like your donation to go towards those expenses, please note that in the message field on the PayPal screen, or let me know by e-mail.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Welcome, "Women of Grace" viewers!

I'm thankful that you've found my personal blog, where I post information about my speaking appearances as well as periodic updates about my life and apostolate. If you're looking to find my "Women of Grace" appearances, I have posted links to all five episodes of Feast of Eden, a blog where I post occasionally on saints and spiritual healing.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"My Peace" at Johnnette's place: Watch me on EWTN's "Women of Grace" every day, June 17-21

Just a reminder that I will be appearing on EWTN's "Women of Grace," hosted by Johnnette Benkovic, every day from this Monday, June 17, through Friday, June 21, discussing my book of Catholic spirituality for adults who have suffered childhood sex abuse, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. Here on the East Coast, a new episode of the show will air each day at 11 a.m., repeating at 11:30 p.m., but check EWTN's schedule for the times in your region. The website also has a live stream so that you can watch the programs online.

I would really like to get the word out to pastors about the week of My Peace coverage on "Women of Grace," so that they might let parishioners know about it. If you are a pastor, here is one way that you could mention the show in the announcements at Sunday Mass:
"We who have been joined to Christ and to our neighbor in the Eucharist at this liturgy are now called to bring the light we have received to others, particularly to those who are suffering. This week, every day from Monday through Friday, the EWTN television program 'Women of Grace' with Johnnette Benkovic is running a special series of programs on healing childhood wounds with the help of the saints. Johnnette's guest will be Dawn Eden, author of My Peace I Give You. If someone you love is a survivor of childhood trauma or abuse, these episodes of 'Women of Grace' will help you to help that person find the peace of Christ that heals all wounds. For more information on 'Women of Grace,' or to watch the show online, visit EWTN.com."
I have another special event coming up this Friday, June 21, but it will be for a more select audience. On that morning, I will bring the message of My Peace I Give You to the Riverside Correctional Facility, which is the city's jail for women. My hope is that this will be the first of many opportunities to speak to inmates about healing childhood wounds with the help of the saints, as so many people who are incarcerated have suffered abuse or trauma. I particularly want to bring the message of My Peace I Give You to male inmates, as men often feel the toxic effects of abuse more intensely than women, as they tend to carry greater misplaced shame about the evil things done to them as children.

If you would like to offer material support to bring My Peace to more victims of abuse, there is a present need: The Catholic chaplain of the Riverside Correctional Facility, Father Matthew Palkowski, O.F.M. Cap., would like to have copies of My Peace I Give You to distribute to the women under his care. If you would like to donate books, you can order them through the sales department of my publisher, Ave Maria Press, at 1-800-282-1865, ext. 1 (or via fax). Just tell them you want the copies to go to Father Palkowski and they can send them to him; they have his address.

For more information on my upcoming appearances, scroll down or click here. To see one of my previous EWTN appearances, when I shared my conversion story on "The Journey Home," click here.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Life in Eden update
Bringing My Peace to EWTN—and behind jailhouse walls

Sharing the message of My Peace I Give You with Catholic students at American University's multi-faith Kay Spiritual Life Center, April 20, 2013

With the help of your prayers, my summer vacation is off to a beautiful start as I prepare to speak about healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints to a new audience: women in jail. Here's a quick rundown of all the latest news about my apostolate, studies, and health:
  • This month, I am appearing on six different episodes of EWTN TV programs, speaking on all of them about My Peace I Give You. On June 4—tomorrow, as I write—Colleen Carroll Campbell's interview with me for "Faith and Culture" will be rerun (6 p.m. EDT), and from June 17 through June 21, I will appear every day on Johnnette Benkovic's "Women of Grace" (11 a.m. EDT, repeats at 11:30 a.m.). Check your local listings for times and stations via EWTN.com, where you can also watch the shows via livestream.

    I am grateful to Colleen and Johnnette for granting me time on their shows to reach out to viewers who have been affected by childhood sexual abuse or trauma. Although the topic of abuse comes up on the news, very few television hosts on any network devote any time to speaking about how victims may find healing. Please pray that viewers may come to know that all their sufferings have profound meaning in light of the glorified wounds of our crucified and resurrected Lord.

    This month will also see me speak in Cherry Hill, N.J. and on Sean Herriott's Relevant Radio program "Morning Air." For information on those and other upcoming appearances, see my tour dates.
I told my conversion story to Marcus Grodi last October on "The Journey Home"
  • I wrote to you earlier that I feel called to share the message of My Peace I Give You with prisoners. That dream is now approaching fulfillment, as Father Matthew Palkowski, O.F.M. Cap., who is the chaplain for Catholic inmates of the Philadelphia jails, has invited me to address the women of the Riverside Correctional Facility on June 21. Please pray for me and for the inmates, so many of whom have suffered childhood abuse or trauma.

    Father Palkowski has told me that he would like to have copies of My Peace I Give You to distribute to the women under his pastoral care, who number more than one thousand at any given time. If you would like to help, you may do so by ordering books for inmates through the sales department at Ave Maria Press, (800) 282-1865, ext. 1 (or click here to see their fax and e-mail address). Just tell the salespeople that you would like to donate the books to Father Palkowski in the Philadelphia prison chaplaincy; they have his mailing address.

    I am also grateful for donations to support my making mission trips to speak to inmates or other needy populations (e.g. unwed mothers, or people who are in recovery). If you would like to donate via PayPal, click here. Donations made to my PayPal account will be set aside for travel expenses for future mission trips, unless otherwise specified. I do also have personal expenses coming up for which I will need assistance, such as new contact lenses in the wake of my upcoming eye surgery (more on that below). If you would like your donation to go towards those expenses, please note that in the message field on the PayPal screen, or let me know by e-mail.
  • Last month, thanks be to God, I received my S.T.B. degree, a graduate degree in theology granted under the authority of the Holy See, from the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception. The degree is a prerequisite for entering studies for a pontifical licentiate (for which I will return to school in the fall) and doctorate. I wrote to you earlier that I hope to enter into a state of lay consecration. Careerwise, I would like to teach on the university level. Having a pontifical degree makes me feel closer to these goals of teaching the faith and living the mystery of spiritual motherhood in the heart of the Church.
  • Finally, I would like to ask your prayers for my eye surgery, which will take place this Wednesday, June 5, at an outpatient facility. I will be put under general anesthesia as the surgeon adjusts the muscles of both my eyes, to correct my strabismic amblyopia (a form of lazy eye). It is my fourth such operation (the last one was in 2000). My hope is that it will improve my peripheral vision, as my Guardian Angel has been working overtime to keep me from bumping into things. [UPDATE, 6/14/13: The operation went smoothly, and I am healing well, thank God. Soon, when the soreness dissipates, I hope to find that I am seeing better. Even now, my eyes look straight. Thanks so much for your prayers!]