by Dawn Eden
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
In the preface of the book, in fact in the first line the author tells us the purpose of her book: “I wrote this book to share the good news that Jesus Christ heals our memories.” Eden presents us with chapters replete with her relationship with Christ. The chapters are based on the Anima Christi and Suscipe that give us points of meditation as well as forgiveness.
The first chapter Receive O Lord all my liberty she tells of the Pope Francis’ brush with death and his response to his illness, that of being united with the crucified Christ. After leaving the hospital, he entered the Jesuits. The author helps us to realize how this prayerfulness plays itself out in his memories. “Pope Francis emphasizes that his ‘prayer fill of memory’ consists of more than just his own remembrance of God: “Above all, I also know that the Lord remembers me. I can forget about him, but I know that he never, ever forgets me.” The next section of this chapter deals with memory and the Mass. “We find that, even as we give God our memory, he is giving us his. When we have occasion to revisit images of the past that were once streaked with shadow. We are surprised to find that even the darkest patches begin to bear hints of the bright hues of the Easter sunrise”. Over time the author states that she delved more deeply into the Mass and something changed in her. So much during her childhood reminded her of the liturgy of the Mass and the mercy it portrays. This is what sustained her. Eden explains that if we have been wounded by others or have endured other kinds of hardships, we may be tempted to self-pity, despair, or anger. She goes on to say: “How can we escape such thoughts, based as they are upon evils of the past that cannot be undone?” We can escape our slavery to past resentments and regrets, Francis says, if we follow Jesus in the Eucharist.
In Chapter two: Take my Memory, My Understanding and My Entire Will, the author relates the importance of spiritual discernment. It seems to concern words spoken by one’s own inner voice. This is found in the writings of Ignatius of Loyola called the Spiritual Exercises but has a long history in the Catholic Church. Eden continues to relate aspects of spiritual discernment that assist us in becoming more in union with Christ. Eden gives us thoughts about how to be in liturgical rhythm with regard to the Mass. It becomes the first glimpse of the beginning of heaven. She exhorts the reader to the will to love rather than the will to be loved. We love God in return for remembering Him and we “demonstrate our remembrance of him by offering ourselves to do his will”. –We continue to see Eden unwrapping the work of Faber’s Memoriale “God who is outside of time, enters into our bodies and souls through Jesus in the Eucharist so that he might be with us daily, in all the times and seasons of our lives. Pope Francis tells us that through the Eucharist Christ wishes to enter into our life and permeates it with his grace, to give us coherence between liturgy and life.”(p. 38) She further asks the question: How are we transformed by the Eucharist and then offer that grace to others?
Chapter three gives us an opportunity to meditate on Mar’s grace of memory. The memory of Mary keeps Jesus’ words in her heart and empowers Mary to move forward even when she cannot yet see how the present trauma would be resolved. Mary’s fortitude at the foot of the cross comes not from forgetting her past suffering but from remembering it in a new way. The author states as a victim of Childhood sexual abuse: “”The new understanding I received of my sufferings did not in itself heal me of the invisible wounds left by my childhood trauma. I still endured effects of trauma, including occasional anxiety, sadness and flashbacks, which were beyond my conscious control.” (p. 52) She further explores Mary’s memories: “Mary has this grace of memory throughout her life. St. John Paul II observed that in her daily preparation for Calvary, Mary experienced a kind of anticipated Eucharist---one might say a spiritual communion—of desire and of sacrificial offering, which would culminate in her union with her Son in his Passion” (p.54)
In Chapter four, Eden directs us to give our memories back to Jesus. She extols us to do so by living the beatitudes. Pope Francis believes that the beatitudes are our Christian identity card. The Pope wants us to picture ourselves as a daughter of God in Christ who gave the beatitudes as a plan for holiness. The beatitudes help us to contemplate the face of Jesus. If poverty of spirit is the fruit of our initial encounter with Jesus’ love, purity of heart is the fruit of that same encounter extended through time, as divine grace operates within us to affect our continued transformation. At the end of this chapter, the author gives us ways to pray for healing memories of envy, sloth, anger, gluttony, pride, lust and covetousness.
In Chapter 5, 6 and 7 the author continues her meditation/contemplation on healing memories. The entire book is replete with ways to heal the memoires that we have of abuse in some form. Whether they are recent or in the past, this book gives us ample thought for those wonderful ways of healing so that our relationship with Jesus will become stronger and deeper. The beauty and gentleness of this book is one that will fill our hearts and mind with love. Whether abused or building a deeper relationship with Jesus, this is a great book to give a friend or read yourself.