I am reading the above book – surprise. Powerful. Profound. Truthful. Wrenching. Joyful. Hopeful. Haunting.
Dawn Eden, raised Jewish, describes how in her own journey the lives of the saints have given her hope and aided her spiritual healing after childhood sexual abuse. According to the CDC, one in four American women and one in six American men report having been sexually abused during childhood. “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” is a wonderful resource. Dawn is studying for her doctorate in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. The world is a small place. This book provides a much-needed resource for spiritual healing from the isolating effects of these wounds. Dawn gives an excellent account of the understanding of Christian suffering.
In my too rare and too few privileged moments with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I have struggled to come to terms with their personal tragedy and the continuing communal tragedy within the Church. I realize I will never understand their suffering in the way they do. They lived and live it.
Pope Benedict XVI in his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland”, 3/19/10, stated “…(we) have obscured the light of Gospel to a degree not even centuries of persecution have succeeded in doing.” How true. We continue to do so. Kyrie Eleison.
“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.”
-Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., Sisters of Life, Psychololgist & Author of the Forward for the book. Christe Eleison.
Dawn writes, truly, “I share the anger and grief (ed: and outrage and shame and humiliation and disorientation and profound, painful doubts & fresh disillusionment, cynicism budding anew, the deceptive whispers of the Enemy) of my fellow Catholics over those who have betrayed their sacred office.” Just like Judas, with a “kiss”, betraying the Body of Christ.
I found Dawn’s reflections on St Ignatius of Loyola particularly poignant. Anyone familiar with Jesuit spirituality will have encountered the Suscipe.
“Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud Quidquam ultra posco. Amen.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own, You have given to me; to you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only Your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
In her book, Dawn poses the “taking of one’s memory” not as a surrender of something good and valuable as a sacrifice or oblation, but, rather, the taking of memory by God as a balm, a salve, a healing compassion for those who have suffered trauma.
And of St Sebastian, Dawn writes, “Artists typically depict him shot through with arrows. The image is deceptive, for the assault on him by the Emperor Diocletian’s archers is not the most interesting part of his story. The most interesting part is that he survived.”
Dawn does an excellent job of comparing the stigmata, even “invisible stigmata”, experienced by some of the saints to the ongoing trauma suffered by survivors of childhood sexual abuse at their most vulnerable and innocent stage of life. Heart of Jesus, be the comfort of those afflicted and suffering. Kyrie Eleison.
I highly recommend this book. Please pray for those who have suffered, do suffer, and will suffer. Be there for them. Believe them.
As “eloquent icons of innocence”, as so described by the Fathers of the Early Church, and recall Heaven can see all our actions through eyes of an icon, “maxima debetur puero reverentia”. (Mt 19:14/Mk 10:14)
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
“God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with.”
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 39, quoting the ancient maxim.
Awardee, John Paul the Great Scholarship, (not normally given to 1st yr graduate students!) Ave Maria University.