Interview with Dawn Eden

We recently had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with internationally known author Dawn Eden Goldstein, whose pen name is Dawn Eden. She will lead a silent women’s retreat with us August 24-26. We invite the women of the Archdiocese to register, and we hope you enjoy getting to know Dawn before the retreat!

Palisades: Hi, Dawn! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?

Dawn: Sure. I’m Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology and Chair of the undergraduate theology programs at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. I have a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, and a licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Dominican House of Studies. Those are known as canonical degrees in that they’re actually given under the authority of the Holy See. So, they’re to be the highest theology degrees – rather, the doctorate is the highest degree that one can attain in the Catholic Church. I was the first woman to receive a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake and received it summa cum laude.

I’m the author of, I’d like to say, three-and-a-half books, because The Thrill of the Chaste came out in two editions, which I wrote when I was in RCIA. The second edition of the book, which I rewrote when I was a Catholic, is known as the “Catholic edition” of The Thrill of the Chaste. Besides that, I have books on healing, which are My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, and Remembering God’s Mercy.

Palisades: Would you mind sharing your vocation story with us? What most inspired or influenced you to enter the Roman Catholic Church?

Dawn: I was born into a Jewish family, and by the time I was in college, I was an agnostic. I became a rock journalist, and also a rock historian. Most of what I did was writing about music that was before my time, the music of the ‘60s. I wrote for magazines, and also for record labels that hired me to write for the informational booklets that came with their CDs.

I was suffering during my teens and twenties from cyclical suicidal depression, which I now know was actually Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the time, it was misdiagnosed as major depression.

When I was 27, back in late 1995, I was doing a telephone interview with a musician from a band in Los Angeles called The Sugarplastic, and I asked him what he was reading at the time. And he said he was reading a book by an author I had never heard of. He was reading the novel The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton, and I’d never heard of Chesterton, so I just thought I’ll go pick up this novel so when this musician comes to town I can tell him that I read it. And I was interested in reading a good novel anyway. So I picked up the book, and I learned from the introduction that, in fact, Chesterton was this Anglican convert to Catholicism, but I decided to read the novel anyway since the rock musician recommended it. What I found in reading it was this – that Chesterton did this powerful theology of suffering. That was the first time that I ever came into contact with the idea, the understanding that, through the human experience of Jesus Christ, God knows what suffering is like from the inside.

I had thought of God as just being outside of my mental and emotional life and just more like what they call the “blind watchmaker.” That’s the image Deists have of God, in which they imagine that God is totally uninvolved in His creation, like a blind watchmaker who just makes a watch and then leaves it for anyone to pick up and doesn’t care what happens to it. So I was really affected by this image that Chesterton gave of God who can sympathize on an interior level with my weakness, with my suffering. That led me to read more Chesterton over time, and eventually return to reading the Bible. I had tried to read the New Testament before, but it had never clicked. This time, it clicked. I got baptized, initially as a Protestant, but then after five years of really searching for a church home, I realized, to my surprise really, that my church home was the Catholic Church. I look forward to speaking more about that in one of the talks I’ll be giving at the retreat.

Palisades: What might women expect from you as they attend your retreat? Could you delve into the theme for us?

Dawn: In speaking about St. John Paul II, Divine Mercy, and healing of memories, I really want to look in-depth at what the teachings are on each of these. I’m going to look in-depth at John Paul II’s life; I’m going to look at how he encountered the Divine Mercy message and wrote about it in his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, Rich in Mercy. I’m also going to look at John Paul’s Catechesis on Human Love, the Theology of the Body, examining what that has to say about Divine Mercy and about healing. I’m going to examine John Paul’s apostolic letter on redemptive suffering, Salvifici Doloris.

But the talks are not going to be presented as I would present them if I were teaching in a college classroom. I’m going to use concrete examples of how John Paul’s writings apply to us in the real world. It’s not going to be an intellectual exercise so much as a pastoral, practical examination of how John Paul, as the world’s pastor, wanted to be our pastor and give us the tools we need for healing.

Palisades: As an author, you mentioned earlier that you focus on the themes of healing, redemptive suffering, sexual wounds, or painful memories. Are there any particular authors or saints that influence your writings? Do you have other book recommendations for women on these same topics?

Dawn: Oh yes, definitely. I would say that the author who has influenced me most on this is Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and there are many books by him that are relevant. And these books are all accessible to any reader, whether the reader is theologically educated or just an ordinary layperson. So, Sheen’s books are relevant on Divine Mercy, redemptive suffering, healing. I especially recommend Sheen’s booklet Calvary and the Mass and two of his books, Lift up Your Heart and Peace of Soul. Those books are very insightful with respect to their treatment of suffering and healing, and they’re solidly scriptural too. That’s another thing I’ll be bringing out in my talks – how sacred scripture can help us to better understand how Jesus heals us.

Palisades: For the women attending your retreat, if they could leave remembering just one concept, what would that be for you and why?

Dawn: The one concept would be that in order to find healing of memories, it’s not necessary to call up every individual memory. I speak as someone who suffers from Complex PTSD, and one of the defining symptoms of PTSD is being unable to remember traumatic events. And I think that some of the ways that have been proposed in the church for what is called inner healing, while they may be helpful to some people, are peculiarly unhelpful to people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because they require calling-up of each individual memory, and in some way inviting Jesus in or trying to see where was Jesus. That’s not my approach at all. I had to come up with a different approach, because I was physically incapable of calling up every painful memory. So what I found in reading Archbishop Sheen and going back further and reading St. Ignatius of Loyola, is that if we learn about the relevance of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection has for us — if we learn about the relevance that Jesus’ wounds have for us — then we can unite with Jesus, not at some moment in the past, but here and now. We can unite our wounded heart to Jesus’ heart, which is wounded and glorified and sacred, and we can allow his wounds to heal ours. So that’s really what I want people to take with them.

Palisades: Would you mind sharing your “Catholicism favorites?” What are your favorite prayers, saints, type of spirituality?

Dawn: Oh, sure! Well, my favorite prayers include the Anima Christi and the Suscipe, which are both prayers that are found in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. I have too many favorite saints to mention, but right now one of them is Blessed Cardinal Newman and another is Fulton J. Sheen, who is, Lord willing, going to be a saint of the Catholic Church before long. I also love the Mass, love Adoration, going to confession. Going to confession is really important to me. One of the things that I’ll be taking about during the retreat is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and how we can find in it healing not only of our sins but also of our wounds.

Palisades: Do you have any last thoughts to share with us? About yourself, the retreat?

Dawn: Well, I can tell you that we’re going to have an excellent confessor at the retreat, Fr. Sean Raftis. He’s been a confessor many times at retreats for women who are seeking healing after an abortion. He has a lot of experience with just hearing confessions of people who have suffered trauma and giving spiritual direction to people who have suffered trauma. I would myself go to a retreat where Fr. Raftis was there to hear my confession and give me direction. I’m quite excited about that.

Also, that I want the experience for people at the retreat to be an experience of lightness and joy. Even though we’ll be addressing some subjects that involve pain, people who attend aren’t going to be left in their pain, by no means. My goal is really for them to encounter the joy of the risen Christ.

 

We encourage women, 18 and older, of the Archdiocese to register for Dawn’s silent women’s retreat today!