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Chastity: A Hymn to God’s Providence

February 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Books, Chastity, Fr. Geiger, Purity of Heart

Chastity: A Hymn to God’s Providence

 

DawnEdenPhotographedByRonSartini1In a way, Dawn Eden’s newly released Catholic edition of her popular The Thrill of the Chaste is the third installment of the chronicle of her life journey. In 2005, when she wrote the first edition of The Thrill, she was a Jewish convert to Protestantism on her way to becoming a Catholic, and was hoping to be married. Dawn’s work applied balm to the sore spot in many a heart, which like hers, were wounded by the lies of the hook-up culture.

Then in 2012, a Catholic then for some years, she took another brave step and released My Peace I Give You. Having had the courage to speak frankly about chastity and her own journey to find it, in My Peace, Dawn addresses the difficult issue of the sexual abuse, which as a child she suffered herself. My Peace is a book about God’s healing from a person who has experienced it deeply.

Now, with the Catholic edition of The Thrill of the Chaste, Dawn offers her mature reflection on the matter of God’s plan for human love, and she does so as someone who has consecrated her celibacy “to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” She is also presently a doctoral student in sacred theology and hopes by means of her consecrated life to be completely available to teach and minister to “victims of trauma and abuse with the healing love of Christ.”

Thus, one of the outstanding features of the new revised edition are Dawn’s insights on healing, which she bases firmly on the teaching of Christ and the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist and confession. The sexual brokenness of our society at times requires professional help, as Dawn clearly states, but her book goes to the source of the problem, which is beyond professional and self-help:

While it is no sin to be unhappy, the fact that there is any unhappiness in the world is due to sin. Whatever makes me unhappy is due to sins I commit, sins committed against me, or the general state of brokenness resulting from original sin.

Healing comes from Christ through His mercy and love. Hence, Dawn references Venerable Archbishop Sheen’s oft-repeated exhortation that people “consider spending time in the confessional before spending money on therapy.”

In a reflection on the words of Our Lady to St. Bernadette at Lourdes: “I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only the next,” Dawn points out that, at Lourdes, Our Lady draws people to the healing power of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, which is a foretaste of heaven. In reality, many people attempt to escape their pain by fleeing to what seem safer places, only to find more pain. This is a symptom of a culture without God. We are looking for love and settle for its counterfeits. The Catholic thing, which Dawn has come to grasp well, is that there is a mystery to human life which only makes sense in the light of the Cross. And this leads us straight to the tabernacle, where we find the source of all love and healing. It is a matter of finding love and joy in the right place.

Dawn has a sense of divine providence working in her life, which, perhaps, is part of the thrill. Chastity is hard. Being a Catholic is hard, but, as Dawn points out, quoting a character in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, there is “poetry” in not being sick. Providence not only reorders our desires, but also reorders are manner of assessing what happens to us.

Thus, her focus on the saints is telling. Chesterton (perhaps a saint) was instrumental in her conversion to Christianity. St. Maximilian led her to the Church, and her reflection on the lives the saints has led her through healing, and to help others to heal. In a beautiful passage on the workings of St. Maximilian in her life, Dawn prays:

Thank you, Lord, for the times when you said ‘no.’ Thank you for not giving me what I thought I wanted. This is what I truly want, Lord–this moment that you are giving me right now.

TheThrillOfTheChaste4In this way, The Thrill of the Chaste, is not just good advice from someone who has been there, though it is indeed that, and Dawn’s prose and characteristic humor make for enjoyable reading. The book is a hymn to divine providence, and specifically in the way it expresses the truth that the gift of ourselves to God is accepted and protected by His love. The Marian and filial, as well as spousal dimensions of the life of grace, are evident throughout, as Dawn encourages her readers to say yes to love, like Mary did at the Annunciation and Calvary. This makes all things possible–even chastity and bearing the cross of our woundedness.

Dawn has taken her witness to a new level, through prayer, theological acumen, and her always readable style. I would make particular note of her insights on St. John Paul II’s “Catechesis on Human Love,” popularly known as the Theology of the Body. The Thrill helps to convey the truth of that great development of doctrine in the larger context of Catholic life. Instead of focusing on the “body” half of “Theology of the Body,” Dawn focuses on the theology, that is, the meaning of the body relative to the gift of self that the body expresses:

Only understood in this context–as the act of the whole person making a “sincere gift of self” to another person in Christ–can sexual intercourse be seen in its proper importance, without making it a god or denigrating it as though it were inherently godless.

I also thought her treatment of modesty–new to the Catholic edition–to be the best I have found. It is to the point, providing the clear principles of the Church, without either being too vague or removing the question from the domain of prudence. For example, Dawn writes about how the realization that chastity is a part of the universal call to holiness led to think of modesty in the same way:

For I was no longer dressing for some man I hoped to attract or keep. Instead, I was dressing for everyone I would meet during the course of the day–from neighbors to coworkers, friends, family, and strangers. They have all become a part of my apostolate, an apostolate of beauty.

This is a book to give away to those who need to hear the New Evangelization. It is not just a book for women. Dawn has revised it to address the question of chastity as it relates to all.

Dawn’s journey is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our way of thinking and make possible a wholly new kind of life, complete with the inversion of values represented by the beatitudes. Only the pure will see the face of God. But this is what each of us has always desired, and it is the meaning of human love.

 

Editor's Note: Click here to purchase Dawn Eden's book “The Thrill of the Chaste”.

Art: The Thrill of The Chaste cover and Dawn Eden, both photographed by Ron Sartini, used with permission.

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About Fr. Angelo Geiger

A native of Los Angeles, California, Father Angelo joined the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the Philippines in 1985, and was ordained a priest in 1991. Subsequently, he assisted in establishing the Franciscans of the Immaculate in the United States where he served as general delegate for the United States, novice master and spiritual assistant for the Marian Third Order. He has lectured extensively on Marian theology and spirituality, both in the United States and abroad. His articles have been published in "Inside the Vatican", the online edition of "The Catholic World Report" and in a number of books from the Academy of the Immaculate. Currently he is studying for a licentiate in Theology at the Angelicum in Rome. He blogs at maryvictrix.com and airmaria.com.

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  • Barb Schoeneberger

    This book seems to be a powerful antidote to “50 Shades of Gray” which many people are running off to buy and to see at the movie theaters. Let’s do what uplifts us to the Lord, not what degrades us to hell.

  • Patricia

    Great…..our culture really needs this kind of witness. It would wonderful if College Newman Centers, FOCUS conferences, Catholic High Schools, Home School groups, and Dioceses would invite Dawn to speak! She restores meaning to our Catholic Faith in contemporary society which is such a struggle for our young people today who are bombarded with constant sexual messages, shunned for not doing what everyone else is doing, and will meet some people who expect her to “hookup” without marriage, engagement, long term relationship, dating for awhile, or even a single date, especially when at college and away from family influences.

  • DianeVa

    Thank you Fr Geiger for this beautiful article about a book that I intend to purchase ASAP, read and share with others. Thank you Dawn for telling your story, a story that I believe is similar to my own and so many other people raised in the last 50 years. When I read your quote “I was dressing for everyone I would meet during the day” I wanted to shout out “Yes, Yes, Yes others think the same way I do!” This is so important for us as women to understand!!!! I try to remind my daughter, but it still hasn’t totally sunk in. When we dress modestly our hearts and face can glow and radiate the beauty of Christ! Just like Moses, we allow the glory of the Lord to transform us and those around us; and boy does society ever need to be blinded by the glory of the Lord shining amongst us! Thank you both, thank you God for using this article to affirm a movement God has placed within me to step out and share my story as did Dawn. I agree with Patricia, more people need to hear personal testimonies from strong Catholic men and women who battle against the culture of death. I just attended a workshop by Christopher West this weekend on human love and what we truly desire, oneness with God. Thank you again to people like Dawn and Christopher West who are sharing the beautiful message of Theology of the Body. May God bless you all for sharing.

  • Camila

    Insightful comment on the “body” part of theology of the body. The Hypostatic union cannot be understood apart from the correct grasp of the union of body and soul in man. Likewise neither can man be understood as member of Christ’s mystical body without chastity.

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