Friday, March 06, 2015

Book Review: The Thrill of the Chaste: Catholic Edition

The Thrill of the Chaste: I've always thought that was the best title imaginable for a book on the pure of heart. And now Dawn Eden's early book, written while she was on her way to becoming a Catholic, has been issued in an updated and revised "Catholic edition."  A Twitter conversation with Eden led to my receiving a review copy--which I read precisely as a most unchaste film was breaking box office records all across America.

I was expecting something a bit more targeted; a bit more on the "relationships" which would seem to be the only context for a book about chaste living. Instead, what I found in The Thrill of the Chaste is an integrated book of Catholic spirituality for young adults who are puzzled about how they can, in the words of the subtitle "find fulfillment" in their relational lives, not only with a prospective spouse, but in a deeper way: living a fulfilled life, rich in healthy relationships (starting with the self!). The Thrill of the Chaste uses the desire for a fulfilling spousal relationship as a home base for a thorough presentation of the human vocation to love. After all, the search for love is a driving force in every person's life, because we were created for God, who is love.

Sadly, the vocation to love is frequently compromised, and in many people's lives it is violated, leading a person to seek love in all the wrong places, or to sabotage their own desire for it. This was the case in Eden's life. Her book is a testimony to the mystery of the cross, in that the unjust and dehumanizing suffering that was inflicted on her has become, in her two books (the other is My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints) a means of light and guidance for thousands of others.

In some ways, Thrill is a catechism for young adult Catholics: a presentation of aspects of the faith that are particularly relevant (and particularly susceptible to misinterpretation) among the twenty and thirty-somethings who may for a time have fallen away from the practice of the faith to follow all the rules of the surrounding culture--only to be left disappointed, disillusioned, spent and alone. Eden does not just offer the readers guidance for getting their outward act together in a way that would be consistent with Catholic sexual morality: she puts it in a complete Catholic context with a presentation of the human vocation (in the words of St John Paul the Great's talks on love, better known as his Theology of the Body), the meaning and place of the Mass and Confession, the path of spiritual growth (ordered toward Heaven!) and the irreplaceability of a warm, personal relationship with Jesus. She does all this while also addressing issues like workplace flirtation and fashionably modest attire.

A thoroughly personalized book--Eden is drawing on her own struggles and misconceptions--The Thrill of the Chaste does not preach from on high, but offers a voice of friendship and accompaniment to those on a contemporary "Road to Emmaus."

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