WASHINGTON (CNS) — Dawn Eden Goldstein, rock-music-historian-turned-theology-professor, isn’t afraid to say where she’s been.
She does this in her new memoir, “Sunday Will Never Be the Same: A Rock & Roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God.”
The book, published this year by Catholic Answers, chronicles Goldstein’s spiritual path from Reform Judaism to Protestantism to Catholicism and her career moves from headline writing for the New York Post and music writing for publications such as Mojo, Billboard and the Village Voice. It ends in 2009 when she is beginning to study theology, three years after becoming Catholic and writing her first book, “The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On.”
Followers of Goldstein, especially from her long-running blog, “The Dawn Patrol,” know what happens where the book leaves off. Years later, under the pen name Dawn Eden, she wrote two other books: “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” and “Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories.”
In the wake of the recent sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, she has become a sought-after voice in interviews and talks about how the church might find its way forward since she wrote about her own experience of being abused by a janitor in a synagogue when she was a child and how eventually her Catholic faith helped her find healing.
Goldstein found and embraced the Catholic faith and learned all she could about it, so much so that since 2017, she had been an assistant professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Just recently, her position, and all full-time online theology professor jobs at the college, were eliminated, so she is currently looking for a new job and considering other books to write.
Now 50, Goldstein told Catholic News Service in late May that she had been “running away from the idea of writing a memoir” because she was confusing it with an autobiography and thought she would have to tell every detail of her life. But with “Sunday Will Never Be the Same,” she focused only on what she wanted to write about, or as she said: “I basically wrote out a script for movie I’ve been writing in my head all my life.”
Even the title is a reference to a major part of her former life because it’s also the name of a hit song by “Spanky and Our Gang,” a 1960s sunshine pop band a subgenre somewhat akin to Beach Boys music and Goldstein’s particular following during her years of writing about music and hanging out in clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village.
She zeroed in on one relatively unknown artist named Curt Boettcher and finally made a connection with people who knew him, but it was too late because he had just died a few months before. His death inspired her to bring more attention to his work, aiming to write his biography which led her to writing liner notes — the inserted written material for CDs — for several reissues of his albums.
Goldstein decided, at 19, that she was “going to tell the world how great Curt Boettcher was” when there were maybe a 100 people in the world, if that, who were active collectors of his works. And today, the reissues of his music and a well-curated entry about him on Wikipedia, she said, prove that if something or someone “hasn’t gotten its due,” it eventually happens, with some hard work.
That’s also the case in point for the attention the book “My Peace I Give You” is now getting even though she wrote it seven years ago.
She said she saw the need for the book because after the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in Dallas — a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy — she said it seemed like the church was trying to “get out the message that we have this abuse thing under control.”
“I saw that in fact we didn’t have it under control,” she said, pointing out that even if there were rules that made it more difficult for people to abuse, victim outreach was severely lacking.
Her book sold twice as many copies in 2018 as it did in 2017 and she thinks it’s because many people came to the realization about the plight of sexual abuse victims.
“Although I wrote it before Pope Francis, it is very much in his spirit of the church being a field hospital,” she said, noting that although some things should only be handled by therapists, just being there listening to those who have suffered is something “any member of the baptized community should do.”
This book also shows how saints offer a way forward. St. Maria Goretti, who was stabbed while resisting a sexual assault, forgave her assailant on her death bed and gave police a detailed description of what happened to her.
Goldstein told CNS in a previous interview that St. Maria Goretti, canonized in 1950, shows those who suffer “that to forgive is in no way to excuse the abuser.”
This appreciation and connection with the saints comes through in her memoir and in conversation.
She admits she is drawn to obscure saints, not unlike her appreciation of unknown musicians and she also finds the appeal of those not yet on the path to sainthood such as Jesuit priests Father Ed Dowling, who died in 1960 and was a close friend and spiritual adviser to Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous; Father Lou Twomey, a civil rights activist who died in 1969; and Father Daniel Lord, who died in 1955 and was the author of numerous Catholic pamphlets.
That’s not to say she doesn’t have her go-to canonized saints or nearly saints, such as Blessed John Henry Newman, a big favorite, and Sts. Maximilian Kolbe, Gerard Majella and Dominic Savio.
“Saints are our family, our community in heaven. God deputizes them to intercede for us in different ways so it’s a pleasure to assign different things to different saints,” she told CNS during a break between sessions at a meeting of Catholic theologians at Dominican House of Studies in Washington, where she studied.
Her attention to the saints and Catholic theology doesn’t mean she has given up her love of music or would look down on it.
“The love of music will always be part of me,” she said, even though she ended up selling or giving away most of her record collection (which she still misses) to make room for shelves of theology books that are now mostly packed away. She also is still writing about music, noting that she can’t give too many details about an upcoming project, but it might have to do with more liner notes.
All of this — who she is, what she likes, what she is good at — is a key part of her memoir: to show that “Catholics, for example, don’t believe that everything non-Catholic is necessarily sinful.”
She said the people she had in mind while writing it are those who hate the Catholic Church such as former school friends or people she knew in the music business. She thinks people who don’t like the church should at least find out why a person like herself would want to join it.
Goldstein also wanted to describe more than just a spiritual quest but to show how “life can be messy and life can also carry in it experiences of evil, experiences of suffering and feeling forsaken by God.”
“I’m quite frank in ‘Sunday Will Never Be the Same’ about years of my life when I suffered from cyclical suicidal depression,” which she said she said was diagnosed as depression, but she now knows was brought on in part by sexual abuse and was a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I wanted in writing this book to reach people who suffer from depression and to show them how it is possible to find healing from that and to find that even what is unhealed — remaining suffering — can still be used by God.”
Looking back at where she’s been and where she is now, she feels very much at home. She also said she is continually recharged through the life of the church, the sacraments and the church’s prayer and communal life.
As she put it: “That’s where I primarily get my spiritual energy now.”