November as we know is the month of the Holy Souls. I've already had a stark reminder of the fragility of our mortality and the utter dependence upon God’s grace with the shocking news last week of the sudden death of a second cousin of mine.
Not the Destination...
Over the holidays I read the excellent book by Dawn Eden: "Remembering God's Mercy. Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories." I highly recommend this little book (it’s not a lengthy tome!) because it's well worth reading before the Jubilee Year of Mercy has run its course on the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.
Dawn is a dear friend of mine and I've had the joy and privilege of collaborating with her on several occasions since we first met at a Theology of the Body conference in Dublin over 10 years ago. And she has twice been a guest speaker for the annual Theology of the Body lecture I've hosted in Westminster diocese since 2004.
Dawn is candid about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder she has suffered due to sexual abuse she suffered as a child. This is not a new revelation as she disclosed it in her previous books. What's unique about this analysis is how she weaves much of the thought and teachings of Pope Francis on the subject of mercy into how she herself has experienced the deep and mystical power of healing and reconciliation over a long period of her life.
I was reminded of how much healing I need in my own life and relationships, but also just how often God has blessed my soul with what one author I once read describes as "savage grace." That almost sounds like an oxymoron for we often only associate the concept of grace with tenderness, gentleness and peace.
Grace is often all these things, but I think what Dawn’s book reveals in a fresh way is how such qualities of grace are in fact the fruits or end result of a process rather than the beginning.
Oftentimes the Lord (being the all loving Father that He is) allows us to go through a painful process of inner purification and humbling experiences precisely because, if we didn't, the graces we so earnestly desire and need would not take root in us in such a way so that we in turn, by "Remembering God's Mercy" towards us, are better able to be eager channels of it for others, especially those who have hurt us in the past; which if were honest can often be close family members.
There's one final little twist in Dawn's story towards the end of the book which for me sums up how God's mercy really is working and at work in our lives at every stage ....often at the darkest of moments and when we might imagine we are as far away from God as we can possibly be, just as Dawn was at the age at which (without realising it) the Holy Spirit was gifting His presence to her through a piece of music. Only much later in her life did she understand its powerful significance for the whole of her life.
I'm delighted that Dawn will now be teaching seminarians as a Doctor of Theology. She is truly a great gift to the Church in these times. Read the book.