OSV: You say that “past pain is an integral part of present joy,” which may be difficult for some people to accept. What is the significance of learning to integrate painful memories?
Eden: Sorrow in itself isn’t joyful. We need to be clear on that, because atheists like the late Christopher Hitchens have accused the Church of being in love with suffering. But, having experienced pain, we have to believe that we are yet capable of experiencing joy. And when we do experience joy, that past pain is part of it somehow, because it remains part of us.
We are, in some sense, the product of our experiences. What happened to me in the past remains part of me, whether or not I can consciously remember it, because its effects led to the formation of my present identity. So I have to find a way to come to terms with past pain, if my present life is to have meaning. And the beautiful thing for us, as Catholics, is that the Eucharist shows us the way. The resurrected Christ comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament bearing the wounds he suffered on the cross — only those wounds are now glorified. God could have saved us however he wished, but he chose to save us through suffering…
Dawn Eden will be speaking in the Cincinnati area next month, and I'll be sure to share more details. Her book (and talk) are relevant for those who have been sexually abused or who have experienced past trauma, as well as those involved in various ministries, or who have friends or family members who have experienced the tragedy of abuse. Quite unfortunately, in today's climate, this means it is a book that could be interesting and helpful for just about anyone.