St. Dominic Savio: patron saint of falsely accused people, boys, and…flacks?

Meet my press agent, St. Dominic Savio. He is in a glass by himself–a great glass urn, that is, where his relics are housed. His office is in a high-rise, so to speak (so high you can’t get over it), but he is easily reachable via knee-mail.

This is the honest truth: in April 2012, I was wondering how victims of childhood sexual abuse were ever going to find out that I had written a book on healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints.

Although the publicists at my publisher were sending My Peace I Give You to Catholic press, I knew that many of the people who needed it most were those whose experience of evil at a young age had caused them to detach from Catholic community. They would not read the National Catholic Register, but they would read the Washington Post and the New York Times. However, as a full-time graduate student without money to pay an independent publicist, it seemed I had little chance of getting My Peace I Give You into a non-Catholic publication.

That’s when I felt moved to petition St. Dominic Savio. You see, I imagine child saints as being absolutely fierce with the love of Jesus—like World Youth Day on heavenly overdrive, 24/7. St. Dominic Savio is a prime example: there were a thousand and one things he had hoped to do to win the world for Christ but did not have time or opportunity to accomplish before his untimely death on March 9, 1857, less than a month shy of his fifteenth birthday. So I thought he might enjoy doing something from heaven that he had been unable to do on earth: lobbying newspaper reporters to cover a book about saints and healing.

Anyway, what did I have to lose? Saints don’t charge money. You just have to promise God that you will tell others about their holy lives, and you offer prayers for their intentions, which are always in union with God’s own will for you.

(Oh, and it helps if you promise God that you will accept any crosses that might come with the answered prayers. That’s the fine print.)

So, I asked St. Dominic Savio, if it was God’s will, to please accept the assignment of being my press agent, and specifically to get My Peace I Give Youinto the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Almost immediately, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a reporter from the Washington Post, who proceeded to do a thoughtful interview with me for the Post‘s online “On Faith” section. (I had not thought of specifying to my heavenly flack that the story be in the print edition.)

Deo gratias! One down, one to go! The New York Times was sure to follow, yes?

Well, no. Months went by. I spread the word about healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints on EWTN’s “The Journey Home,”, and was able to share the message with audiences throughout the United States, Canada, and England (aided, I believe, by my heavenly booking agents, Father Daniel A. Lord, S.J., who handles my talks to Catholic audiences, and Father Edward Dowling, S.J., who handles my talks to current or former inmates and 12-step groups). But nothing from the Grey Lady.

Until, that is, this past January, when Alexandra Molotkow, a twenty-seven-year-old reporter from Canada, e-mailed to ask if I would be willing to discuss research I had done in the early 1990s on an obscure record producer named Curt Boettcher—for an article she was writing for the New York Times Magazine.

The article came out this past Sunday. I am stunned at how beautiful it is. Molotkow engages in a meditation on the nature of fandom. As I noted here yesterday, she compares my love of obscure musicians with my love of obscure saints. And, even though she admits not being able to fully relate to my journey, she tells my story with sensitivity:

At the time of Boettcher’s death, at least one person was doggedly searching for him: Dawn Eden, an 18-year-old student at New York University. Raised mostly by her mom in Texas and New Jersey, Eden had been obsessed with pop music since age 10, when she began visiting the D.J.’s at the local Top 40 radio station after school. While her college dorm mates revered Prince and Bruce Springsteen, she was hanging out in a ’60s revival scene, romanticizing an era she never lived through. Eden only knew about Boettcher through a friend whose father had been a D.J. in the ’60s. The first time she heard the opening chords of “It’s You,” the first single from “Begin,” she got goose bumps. It wasn’t just the music. It was the person the music pointed to.

At the time, Eden was going through bouts of suicidal depression, later diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood sexual abuse. The music she loved, with all its apparent purity, with Boettcher’s angelic voice, represented a promise of happiness that eluded her in real life. She decided to become a rock historian, to write about the acts who, in her loneliness, she could relate to. She hoped that if she got close enough to her idols, she might learn something about herself. She wrote for Mojo and Salon, interviewed Harry Nilsson and Del Shannon. But no one enchanted her like Boettcher.
[Read the entire article at NYTimes.com.]

Sometime in the near future, I hope to write a bit about why I was drawn to St. Dominic Savio in the first place. He is one of the more underrated and, I would say, misunderstood saints. Like other young saints, such as St. Maria Goretti (whom I discuss here), he suffers from being depicted in sickly sweet holy-card images that fail to capture the fire in his heart that burned for Christ.

In the meantime, I want to ask you, dear reader, to please join me in now asking St. Dominic Savio’s intercession for those who read the Times article, as I have already heard from someone who was touched by it and asked for prayers. (The reader wrote to say that she is a Christian who suffers from depression; it surprised her to find an article in the New York Times Magazine with a story about someone whose experience in certain ways mirrored hers.) And I want to publicly thank St. Dominic Savio for praying for me, and thank God for answering his and my prayers.

Miracles really do happen, every day—but I can’t remember the last time I saw one in the New York Times. Dear heavenly press agent, St. Dominic Savio, your check is in the mail.

Photo via FindAGrave.com.


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