By Anna Jones, Religion and Philosophy Major, Class of 2018
It was almost three o’clock, and the afternoon’s talk by speaker and author Dawn Eden was about to begin. Coffee-shop conversation bubbled around me in the Fried Hemenway Auditorium as we waited for her to start. I had heard Eden speak that morning during the Wednesday chapel service and was excited to hear more of her story. The chapel talk had given a brief introduction to the topic Eden was about to discuss at length: “How Jesus' Sacred Heart Healed My Memories.” The talk was linked to her book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, which discusses the whole story of her trauma and healing.
Strangely enough, joy was tangible in her presence. Eden had experienced severe suffering and was now in a sense reliving that pain with all of us by retelling her story. She spoke of how she still suffers from PTSD, yet her presence was one of such peace and joy that I couldn’t help but marvel at the work God has done in her.
Raised in a semi-devout Reformed Jewish home, Eden eventually lost her faith in God, seeking love and fulfillment by living a promiscuous life as a rock-and-roll journalist. In the afternoon talk, Eden spoke of how she had blocked out many painful memories, and in so doing brought an even greater pain to herself. Through the mercy of Our Lord and devotion to His Sacred Heart, Eden found the transforming love of Jesus, which turned the suffering of her memory into a pathway that brought her into union with Himself.
That evening in Winants Auditorium, Eden gave another talk entitled, “Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On.” This talk touched on the story found in her book of the same name. Eden gave a testimony that recalled the abuse she suffered as a child, her search for fulfillment and value, and her eventual conversion and healing in Christ. Before her conversion, the wounds Eden suffered as a child told her that her value rested not in who she was but in what she would do. She suffered from guilt, made even worse by being told that the abuse perpetrated on her was her own fault.
In spite of this, Eden related that as a child she knew the necessity of love and came to the realization that if we loved one another, there would be peace. Eden related how she pursued an ever allusive “love” by chasing relationships and pushing the physical boundaries of each one. In essence, she was attempting to prove her worth. Her lifestyle was enabled by the rock-n-roll world she chose to be a part of which asked no questions of her about moral rightness. Ironically, it was this very life of wandering that eventually brought Eden to the fulfillment and healing she longed for.
During a phone interview with a member of a popular band at the time, Eden was introduced to a book entitled, “The Man who was Thursday” by G.K. Chesterton. Her interest was piqued and she picked a copy of the book. She was struck by the book’s statement, “The most poetical thing in the world was not being sick.” This struck a chord in Eden’s heart. Eden read more work by Chesterton, which eventually led her to Chesterton’s inspiration, the Bible, particularly the Psalms and the Gospels. Scripture became real and three-dimensional for Eden, not just “flat words on a page.” Through the working of the Holy Spirit she was led become a Christian, eventually discovering the richness and truth of the Catholic Church.
Finding the teachings of the Catholic Church “profoundly liberating,” Eden began to see that Chastity is an active virtue and not a mere restriction. This new found teaching defied the accusations of her wounds and confirmed her identity as a beloved daughter of the living God. Dawn Eden’s story was truly inspiring, filled with joy and grace and the message of Jesus’s redemptive healing which is so needed in this world’s broken culture. Her testimony offers hope not only to those who have suffered as she has, but also to all those seeking a life of abundance in Christ.
Dawn Eden is the author of Thrill of the Chaste (Catholic Edition): Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (Ave Maria Press, 2015, revised and updated from 2006 edition) and My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (Ave Maria Press, 2012).
All photos by Joy Rhine.