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Book Review: “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints”

July 17, AD 2013 10 Comments

A few weeks ago, Dawn Eden discovered my blog, Theological-Librarian. She got in touch with me and told me that her publisher would send a free copy of her newest book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, to bloggers who were willing to review it.

I jumped at the chance. A free book? What more could any bibliophile want?

Then I had second thoughts; and a friend asked me why I was reading, and writing a book review of, a book for those who had “sexual wounds.” After all, I hadn’t been wounded in that way.

I wondered that, too, until I read Eden’s book.

My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints

My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, despite its subtitle, is not only for those who have sexual wounds (e.g. those who have addictions to pornography or masturbation, or who have grown up in an environment that does not respect their dignity and modesty). My Peace I Give You is for all of us who have been wounded, particularly for those of us whose childhood has been wounded or taken away from us through circumstances beyond our control.

I wish I had read this book a year ago, when wounds that I had been denying for years had arisen and slapped me in the face, when I was fighting tooth and nail to avoid admitting that I was wounded. This is the book that helped me to admit: “Yes, I’m wounded…and it’s okay. That doesn’t mean I’m weak; it means that God is giving me an opportunity to heal.” Eden explains how admitting our woundedness helps us heal:

God not only wants to heal our wounds: if we let him, he will heal us through our wounds, making everything we have endured serve to draw us nearer to him in love. (xxxi)

The God in Whom we believe and Whom we adore is a wounded God; Dawn reminds us of the prayer Anima Christi (Soul of Christ), with its line: “Within Thy wounds hide me.” She writes: “[The prayer] goes from asking Christ to be within you to asking that you may be within him. More than that, where in Christ are you asking to be sheltered? Within his wounds” (xxi).

If we take our wounded selves to the Wounded Christ, we will find in His wounds the one thing that will heal us: His Love.

Christ’s Wounds are an expression of His Love, and Eden shows how this love heals us as in each chapter she discusses a different aspect of the love that heals us. The saints are the ones who help us to see this love at work in the lives of ordinary, down-to-earth people, as Eden writes:

[T]hey opened their hearts to me so that I might, through their love, enter more deeply into the Heart of Christ. It is the mission of the entire Communion of Saints—that we may all be one, even as the Father and the Son are one (Jn 17:11). In his will is our peace. (181)

The saint whose story particularly struck me was St. Ignatius of Loyola. Eden puts his story in the chapter “The Love We Forget”—love that heals our memories. Specifically, this love is “the experience of continually being sustained in existence by God” (37). That is a “love we forget” because how many of us ever reflect on the fact that if God ceased thinking about us for one instant, we would exist no more? Eden uses the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola, with its line: “Take, O Lord, and receive . . . my memory” as her springboard for this chapter:

In Ignatius’s understanding of the human mind, the concept of memory refers to more than just particular memories. Memory includes everything that had entered into his consciousness to make him who he was—whether or not he could actually remember it. It forms the foundation of his present identity, including his hopes for the future.

This is an ancient way of understanding memory . . . and it makes particular sense for one who has survived trauma…. Often in trauma survivors . . . the brain attempts to protect itself by consigning painful swaths of the past to areas where memory’s tendrils cannot reach them. Yet the memories of traumatic events, whether present to us or not, remain part of us.

The answer to those memories includes

what spiritual theologians call a ‘purification of memory.’ This does not have to include reliving the details of traumatic events; indeed, it shouldn’t, if the pain of recalling them is too much to bear. However, it does require the willingness to enter into the past so that we might disentangle traumatic events from events that were not traumatic. When we do this, we reclaim the hidden treasures that are rightfully ours.

This same weaving of the lives of the saints and her own experiences continues through the rest of Eden’s book.

In conclusion, Eden reminds us that only God can bring good out of evil, but that He will do this if we unite our wounds to His:

God permitted my heart to be wounded so that I might take shelter in Jesus’ pierced Heart, and so that Jesus might find a home in mine. But, beyond even that, he permitted it so that my heart would be big enough to provide shelter to other wounded souls, bringing to them the same Christ I have received. (180-181)

And that is exactly what Eden has done in this book. She has given us the same shelter from our wounds that she found—the wounds of Christ.

About the Author:

Emily C. Hurt is a 2012 graduate of Christendom College with a Bachelor’s in Theology. She wrote her Senior Thesis on “Redemptive Suffering in the Theology of the Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen.” When she’s not job-hunting or reading Fulton Sheen, she writes about the writings of Fulton Sheen, redemptive suffering, and her alma mater at her blog, www.theological-librarian.blogspot.com.

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  • Olga Lucia Manrique

    Excellent article. I watched Johnnette Benkovic interview Dawn Eden, back in February on her EWTN program Women of Grace, and was very impressed by what she said about the book and her experience. Regardless of the type of wound we may have, we are ALL wounded children of God in need of healing of all types of wounds as well. Jesus took upon Himself our human nature in everything except sin, so that we can identify with Him and therefore believe that in Him ALL things are possible and attain true inner Peace here on earth while we wait to see Him after this our exile, face to face. I think it is only when we start to reflect and meditate on God’s infinite Love for us in Christ, that we begin to realize how much closer He is to us that we can possibly fathom.
    Thank you so much. Praised be His Name!

  • Tom W.

    Healing memories is important to reconcile your life with your experiences. However memories not brought to mind for long periods of time are often remembered with a little reflection or talking to others regarding events in your life. Sometimes we do not want to deal with sad or hurtful memories and push them away, which is not helpful, but it is all part of the normal remembering/forgetting/re-remembering process we all go through. In the legitimate effort to heal memories there is one thing that is an evil under the disguise of something good. It is the concept of “recovering” lost tramatic memories. I know. Up close. First hand. Personal. After the decades long scientific studies on how memories really work, what has been proven as fact is how easily false memories can be created out of events that never really happened, but strongly believed. (See False Memory Syndrome) While Ms. Hurt did a great job on bringing to our attention the need to heal our memories and accept them for what they are, please stay away from the recovered memory concept. It is not only a great error, but a guaranteed suffering for everyone caught up in it.

    • Dawn Eden

      Thanks for the observations, Tom. While I do not discuss “false memory syndrome” in “My Peace I Give You,” I do stress that healing of memory does _not_ require calling up every individual trauma. Many people have been hurt by nonprofessionals attempting to do “exposure therapy” under the guise of healing of memory. As I discuss in “My Peace I Give You,” such efforts, however well-intentioned, reflect a misunderstanding of what is traditionally meant by purification of memory. Moreover, if attempted outside of a confidential therapeutic environment, or in an atmosphere of psychological or religious pressure, it can be very dangerous.

      Certainly, when painful memories come up, we need to offer them up to God for healing. But what is most needed to purify memory is not to remember traumas, but, rather, to bring to mind _beautiful_ things from your past, and so begin to see the darker events of the past in the light of God’s enduring love. I talk more about this in a talk I recently gave to formerly prostituted women seeking to rebuild their lives: that you can read here: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/130708.

  • petitefleur921

    You cannot imagine how painful it is for survivors of horrific sexual abuse as extremely young children to hear others say that suppressing these memories and having them suddenly and horrifically surface decades later is a myth. I know. This happened to me. I believe my physicians, how are experts in this field, would not waste their time and skills helping someone like me to recover my life after such a shattering experience. It is well understood that when one is too young to have the defenses necessary to cope with life threatening trauma that occurs on a regular basis, the mind can protect itself by burying these memories until something, like my father’s violent suicide, triggers them later in life. Just as there may be some who have suffered from “false recovered memory” there are many others who have suffered from the trauma of flashbacks once the mind is ready to deal with these memories. Pardon my vehemence on this but I believe it is foolish and arrogant to say one has the “correct” or “incorrect” perspective on what remains a deep mystery of the mind. I say this not only from my own personal experience but as a chaplain of over twenty years experiences often helping those who have suffered the same. As did the director of my graduate program and more women than I can count. I find it interesting that in my experience, every single person who has sought to “debunk” the concept of recovered memories is a male. Every person I know who has suffered from it is a female.

    • Dawn Eden

      petitefleur921, thank you for relating your experience of recovered memory. I am so sorry about what happened to you, and admire your courage in speaking out.

      The reason I do not discuss so-called “false memory syndrome” in “My Peace I Give You” is because I don’t want to get out of my depth. My expertise is as an abuse survivor and as a student of theology, and not as a psychologist. However, as a survivor (and one who has suffered flashbacks), I know for a fact that a child who endures abuse may not process the experience at the time as abuse. It has to do with the way that children’s brains are wired; they normally survive by being trusting, so their default reaction when harmed (especially by an adult) is to blame themselves.

      Although I do not believe that my brain has buried entire memories, I have, as an adult, experienced new pain when realizing that certain things I suffered as a child, for which I blamed myself at the time, were in fact instances when I was victimized. Much of “My Peace I Give You” is about overcoming the effects of such misplaced guilt.

      • petitefleur921

        Thank you, Dawn, for your kind response and for sharing in your book on a topic I find most Americans do not want to believe even exists, let alone at the epidemic level it does. it’s too horrifying and ugly. I was far too young to have any conscious feelings of guilt. I was only a toddler when this began. I can tell you the one memory I always did retain was the first time I attempted to run away from home at the age of 4 yrs. with my 2 yr. old brother in hand down two flight of stairs into the dark night. I was terrified to be at home alone with my dad and didn’t know where my mother was. As soon as I noticed he was on the phone, I grabbed my brother and literally ran for my life. Until the flashbacks that nearly killed me happened six months after his violent suicide, I had no idea why I would have done this. Neither did my younger sister or I have any idea why we were afraid to be alone with my father and oddly both were afraid he would kill us. Neither of us, until the flashbacks I had at the age of 38 yrs. remembered being assaulted at gunpoint. Amazingly, the migraines with which I suffered all my life disappeared as soon as this memory came back. It was particularly traumatic to the child within that my father “blew his head off” with a gun since this is what he threatened to do to me if I ever told anyone. So, the child in me couldn’t believe he was dead and in this way felt guilty since I was the one who had been brainwashed with the above expression and felt if someone should have died, it should have been me. it took years of intensive therapy to understand any of this, none of which was “implanted by my doctors. it was my father who not only abused my body but tried to control my mind. Brainwashing is a technique common to perpetrators and another reason, beyond the brain’s lack of coping skills at such a young age, for the repression of memories. I was also brainwashed to believe if I told anyone they would think I was “crazy.” in the event, with remarks trying to “prove” recovered memories don’t exist, he was right. I was even brainwashed at a little older age to believe no child could recall anything that happened to them before the age of seven years. It is very easy to brainwash a child who depends on their sense of truth and reality on that parent.

        I am genuinely sorry for what you endured, grateful for your sharing of your story and hope it will open more discussion on how children are not only horrifically abused in this country, but how much denial prevents our dealing adequately with this, an evil that destroys not only children, but the lives they were given by God to lead. Only He can heal such devastating wounds to the body mind and soul and I pray your book will be one of His instruments. Blessings and peace.

      • Dawn Eden

        Thank you so much, petitefleur921, for all your good wishes for my apostolate. I am praying for you too, with thanksgiving that you have found grace amid your own wounds, and that you have become a courageous witness for healing. I agree completely regarding the need for all of us to overcome our denial so that we may counter the evil of abuse. In this area, as in all the battles against evil, the Church needs to become a beacon to the world.

  • Catholic facing east

    It is Dawn rather than Dawn’s book that is the cause of celebration. Her understanding of person and in particular the path he/she must take to attain to divine fullness tells me that she has another book within her. I for one will be lighting a candle for her at Divine Liturgy this morning.