Monday, February 11, 2013

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

Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. ~Apocalypse 13:10
My Peace I Give You by Dawn Eden is a much-needed spiritual resource for those recovering from any type of physical or emotional suffering brought on by the lust, crassness or cruelty of others. It took a long time to read because I had to stop and take time to ponder and absorb, reading several parts of it over again. Not only is Dawn's book well-written but every contention is backed up by solid references. With modesty and restraint, she confronts a topic uncomfortable to many. The misuse of the gift of life-giving sexuality has scourged multiple lives and institutions, not the least of which is our Holy Catholic Church. Too often amid the scandals, the wounded do not receive the treatment which they need in order to heal. This book, coming from the long and painful recovery of a survivor of abuse, will be a grace for many who are hurting from similar wounds. Hopefully, it will inspire all who read it to take action to insure a safer world for the innocent.

While My Peace I Give You is written specifically for those who have experienced sexual abuse, it brought home to me that in this day and age there are few of us who have not experienced some form of assault upon our purity, at least psychologically. The public exultation of vice surrounds us with greater impunity than at any other time since the fall of the Roman Empire. It is impossible to go shopping or watch the news without hearing or seeing the effluvia of the intimate lives of others. In church, in school, in gatherings of friends or family, too often the natural barriers of modesty are breached by topics which are best left in the private realm. For instance, I think natural family planning is wonderful but must children hear the mechanics of it discussed in detail during Mass? Then there are the impure conversations to which the young are constantly subjected in many schools. It is desensitizing and can lead to a callous, utilitarian attitude towards male and female interactions, in which teenagers regard each other as playthings. The problem of emotional and physical sexual intrusion does not recognize the boundaries of liberal or conservative, rich or poor; it has totally infiltrated our entire society. A restoration of morals and self-control would help immensely, of course. In the meantime there must be a new recognition of propriety along with respect for the sensibilities and private sphere of others. It is not a matter of prudery but a matter refraining from invasive talk which might disturb or unsettle those whose inner struggles we cannot guess.

As for actual physical assault, Dawn uses episodes from the lives of various saints to show that such outrages are sadly nothing new. The story of the patroness of abuse victims, Blessed Laura Vicuña, is told. Blessed Laura was a young girl whose mother's live-in boyfriend made continual sexual advances upon her. How many weak-willed women today place their children in similar dangerous situations? Although the local nuns tried to protect Laura, the man's predatory obsession eventually led to her death. This and other accounts of saints' lives show us that sexual obsession is a demon that once let loose seeks only to devour and destroy.

The book offers the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as one of the paths of healing for those who are wounded by abuse. There is a discussion of the magnificent stained-glass windows in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Georgetown University, showing how sacred art can heal as well as inspire. The Sacred Heart devotion is an abyss of spiritual riches; the book helped me to deepen my understanding of it. To quote Dawn:
 Seeing St. John at Jesus' side, I imagine I am witnessing the moment in John's gospel when the Lord urged us to make the love of his Heart our own: 'I give you a new commandment: love one another' (John 13:34 NAB). And in that love he offers us the greatest gift of all: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid' (John 14:27 NAB).

The verse takes me back to the time when, as a child, I first took a curious look at the gospels. I remember how the phrase jumped out at me: 'Not as the world gives.' Someone understands, I thought. Someone understands that there is something very wrong with how the world gives peace. The world gives peace only to take it away unexpectedly at any moment. What I longed for was true peace, a living peace­­­­­−a peace I could enjoy forever. (p.27)
As I tend to read more than one book at a time, I read My Peace I Give You in conjunction with Stieg Larsson's fictional Millennium Trilogy and Robert K. Massie's biography of Catherine the Great, all of which deal with the abuse of women on some level. Only Dawn's book offers the key to the exit door from the vicious cycle of abasement and promiscuity. While dealing with the physical and psychological repercussions which can be suffered by those who have experienced trauma, My Peace I Give You takes into account the crucial spiritual aspects of the recovery and healing process, aspects which tend to be ignored in our materialistic culture. Practical and ethereal, suitable for both prayer and study, it is the kind of book I want to hand out to everyone I know.

(More on Blessed Laura, HERE.)

St. Joan in prison by Howard Pyle

 (*NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author's representative in exchange for my honest opinion.)  

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