Healing sexual wounds

Matt C. Abbott
© Matt C. Abbott April 11, 2012
Reproduced with Permission

Catholic author, speaker and journalist Dawn Eden has a new book out titled My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, published by Ave Maria Press. Below is the book's foreword, written by Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., superior general of the Sisters of Life.

From the Ave Maria Press website:

'One in four American women and one in six American men report having been sexually abused during childhood.... 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.'

My Peace I Give You has also been endorsed by Alice von Hildebrand, who wrote: "A powerful and poignant voice formulating in words the unspoken cry of the heart from those who have been shamefully abused and violated. Dawn Eden - a victim herself - shows readers that there is healing not in repression or misplaced self-blame, but in hiding in the wounds of Christ."

Click here to read a recent interview with Dawn Eden in the National Catholic Register.

Thanks to Dawn and her publicist, Amanda Williams, for allowing me to include this material in my column. Click here to order My Peace I Give You.

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. My Peace I Give You is an inspired work that provides a map toward the integrated healing of the mind, body, emotions, and soul of those who have suffered the shattering effects of sexual abuse either directly or indirectly.

Like a generous and gracious host, Dawn Eden freely shares herself and her friends as she introduces us to well-known and lesser-known saints all the while weaving her personal story throughout. You may be amazed and relieved to find that among those whom the Church assures us are closest to the Heart of Jesus are adults wounded and healed; adults whose wounds became the source of the greatness of their love because it opened the door to a definitive transformation in Jesus Christ; and saints who now rejoice in the words of the Easter liturgy: "Oh, happy fault!" They have lived firsthand the experience of the life-changing power of the love of God and know the truth of Jesus' words: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

As I journeyed with the saints through these pages, I was reminded of a little poem that possesses a riveting image of Jesus as he descends to the dead on the first Holy Saturday. Our victorious Lord is received by the patriarchs and prophets, Adam and Eve, and all who have died under the law still marked by the wounds of his Passion. Those same wounds are "five crimson stars." Allow me to share a few lines:

And there He was
splendid as the morning sun and fair
as only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
knelt to adore
seeing that He wore
five crimson stars
He never had before.

This image captures something of the beauty of the healing that is promised to each of us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, we are promised healing, but we may be surprised to find that the gift of wholeness will be routed in and through our wounds. This, of course, should come as no surprise at all, for the way to greatness for all Christians is in the imitation of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the hallmark of Christian spirituality that "by his wounds we are healed (Is 53:5 NIV)." It is also one of the themes included in this powerfully moving and hope-filled book.

Dawn Eden reveals this truth by explaining that in experiencing the love of God, one is freed to love oneself deeply and well, and then others. 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 mercy. I pray that this book will be an instrument of grace and instruction.