In 2006, Dawn Eden wrote The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. It was an account of how, as a new Christian converthaving led an exciting but spiritually unfulfilling life as a rock journalistshe learned to be joyfully chaste.
Eden’s book stood out. While many Christian writers were directing their messages toward teenagers tempted by pre-marital sex, she spoke empathetically to singles who had already been sexually active, and were wounded by their way of life.
The book resonated with manyChristians and non-Christians alike. The New York Times took note of it, (later profiling her) and a Village Voice sex columnist wrote in a back-cover blurb for the book: “As a single woman myself, Dawn’s given me a lot to think about.” To date, the book has sold over 20,000 copies worldwide, and been translated into Spanish, Polish, Slovak and Chinese.
Now, nearly a decade later, Eden has written a thoughtful revision: The Thrill of the Chaste (Catholic Edition).
While in her first edition Eden was still searching for an ideal Christian husbandand for the fulfillment a devout marriage can bringnow she reveals that, while she never did marry “Mr. Right,” Divine providence led her in unexpectedly fulfilling directions. She became a Catholic and began to study theology (she is currently working toward a pontifical doctorate, which, she writes, “by some cruel joke on chaste people, is called an STD”). The new Thrill reveals how her Catholic faith and studies have brought her a deeper, more richly conceived perspective on chastity.
If there was anything lacking in the original Thrill, it’s that it was geared toward single young women. But chastity’s call is much broader, and the new Thrill highlights that by addressing both men and women, and not just singles. Eden affirms that all Christians are called to live chastely, as the Catechism explains, whatever their state in life. Chastitynot to be confused with celibacy, as it often ismeans a total commitment to Christ, and self-mastery over one’s desires, whether one is single or married, female or male, religious or secular. It means leading a life of virtue and sacrifice, in charity and gratitude, for the glory of God.
In chapters like “The Meaning of Sex,” “Becoming a Singular Sensation,” “The Gift of the Present Moment,” “Winning the Spiritual Battle,” and “Craving Heaven,” Eden describes God’s design for human sexuality, why sex is reserved for marriage, the importance of modesty, how singles struggling with loneliness and unrequited love can empower themselves through prayer and the sacraments, and why shared values with one’s spouse are so vital for a successful marriage.
Eden never suggests any of this will be easy, or without trialquite the contrary. She writes:
Concupiscencethe inclination to sinisn’t washed away by Baptism any more than are other physical frailties. It is not something that can be overcome just by thinking enlightened thoughts about the goodness and beauty of the human body. Pope Francis observes, ‘It is very hard to cut ties with a sinful situation. It is hard! . . . But the voice of God tells us this word: Flee! You cannot fight here because the fire, the sulfur will kill you. Flee!’
Following Francis, and sounding like a modern-day Francis de Sales, Eden shows how it is possible to live a devout life, even in a world fraught with danger. “In the battle against temptation,” she concludes, “fleeing is not cowardly, it is courageous.”
Having overcome so much in her lifeincluding agnosticism, depression, broken relationships, and even child abuse (revealed in her moving book, My Peace I Give You)Eden has decided to make yet another courageous decision, recounted in her last chapter: to make a promise of consecrated celibacy to Christ. It is not a decision for everyone, but one that is perfect for her, as she prepares for her new life teaching dogmatic theology.
Eden’s new edition is certainly a meditation on the beauty of chastity. But intertwined in this is the question of vocationabout having the patience and openness to listen to God, and the courage to say a wholehearted “yes!” to whatever he asks of us.
William Doino Jr. is a contributor to Inside the Vatican magazine, among many other publications, and writes often about religion, history and politics. He contributed an extensive bibliography of works on Pius XII to The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII. His previous articles can be found here.