“. . .O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee. . .”
In the first few pages to My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, the inimitable Dawn Eden marvels at the Anima Christi’s swift transition from asking Christ to be with us to begging that we be allowed to come to Him. And not just to Him, but in Him; within His very wounds. In the subsequent recounting of her own spiritual and emotional journey as an abuse survivor, Dawn comes to recognize that same shift in her own life — her movement from asking for God’s visitation to finding protection and comfort in His salvific suffering.
Dawn’s willingness to reveal her own painful past for the sake of others is both agonizing and deeply inspiring. The book’s final chapter, “The Love That Heals,” gives stirring witness to the power of the saints to transform our lives, and to her own grace-fueled resiliency. Yet I found myself drawn back time and again to her reflections on Christ’s wounds, and to the third chapter, “The Love That Suffers.” For it is in that chapter that she dwells more clearly on something we cannot possible hear enough: our suffering does not need to be “only” ours.
Humans have always struggled with the “problem” of suffering. For some, the mere possibility of future pain has led them to embrace Death, and we seem Hell-bent (quite literally) on avoiding the pangs of suffering at all costs, obfuscating and even obliterating its redemptive power. Yet despite society’s insistence to the contrary, suffering should never be seen as the ultimate evil, for we have been gifted with the extraordinary opportunity of joining our pain and anguish to that of our Redeemer’s, thereby elevating it far beyond mere human passivity.
This world will always be one of sorrow — a vale of tears no matter our various beliefs. But it does not need to be a world of pointless suffering. Joining our human misery to Christ’s redemptive Passion will give meaning to our pain, bringing us peace at last. The message that accepting and transforming our suffering is the only true path to Peace is not an intuitive one, but it is one we need now more than ever. God bless Dawn Eden for underscoring the vital connection between the two.
Joseph Susanka is a regular columnist for the Catholic Channel at Patheos.