[Editor’s Note: Dawn Eden Goldstein, whose previous books include The Thrill of the Chaste and My Peace I Give You, began her writing career as a rock and roll historian, using the pen name Dawn Eden. In the 1990s, she contributed to Billboard, the Village Voice, Mojo, and Salon and co-wrote The Encyclopedia of Singles. She went on to work in editorial positions at the New York Post and the Daily News. At the age of thirty-one, Goldstein, who was raised Jewish, experienced an encounter with the divine, which began a personal transformation that would eventually lead her to enter the Catholic Church. In 2016, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake. She is an assistant professor of dogmatic theology in the online division of Holy Apostles College and Seminary and lives in Washington, D.C. Charles Camosy recently spoke to Goldstein about her new memoir, Sunday Will Never Be the Same: A Rock & Roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God.]
Camosy: I’ve not done one myself, but I hear that for many who decide to write a memoir there is a moment which pushes them in that direction. Was there such a moment for you? What was the motivation to sit down and hammer out this new project?
Goldstein: The moment arrived one afternoon in late 2016 or early 2017 when I was talking with my friend Kevin Turley, a Catholic writer, in a café on the King’s Road in Chelsea, London. He was telling me about the excellent conversion memoir that had just come out by poet and onetime feminist Sally Read, Night’s Bright Darkness, and then he asked me why I didn’t write about my conversion.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question. But when I gave Kevin my well-rehearsed answer, which was that I really didn’t want to tell the whole world about every detail of my life history, he responded as no one else had before.
He told me that I was confusing memoir with autobiography. Whereas an autobiography might be expected to contain my entire life, a memoir could have a more limited scope, covering only those things that were relevant to telling a particular aspect of my story.
Once I understood what was expected of a memoir, I became excited about writing one, because I did want very much to share how the Hound of Heaven chased me into the Church.
The book has an interesting title. Why did you want to drive home the point that “Sunday will never be the same”? What does your choosing this title reveal about your conversion experience?
It reveals, first of all, that I love Sixties pop music, for “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” is the title of a classic hit by Spanky and Our Gang.
The song is part of a genre called sunshine pop that I helped popularize as a rock historian during the late 1980s and 1990s — yes, I started during my teens! I tell about that time of my life in Sunday Will Never Be the Same, partly because it was also a time when God was trying to reach me. But I also discuss it because I don’t think converts such as myself should despise our past loves when those loves weren’t sinful in themselves.
In my case, God used my love of Sixties pop — including artists like the Zombies, the Kinks, and the Left Banke — to stir up my desire for what songwriter Robyn Hitchcock calls a “Shimmering Distant Love.” The music’s beauty made me hope that there was something transcendent that I could attain to and find happiness. And that is in fact what happened — only not as I originally hoped, which was simply that I would find a husband who liked the same music that I did.
My memoir’s title is also meaningful because, in times past, Saturday night was the highlight of my week. It was then that I would go out to hear live music, whereas Sundays were for sleeping in. But once I became Catholic, Sunday became a day for communing with Jesus in the Eucharist. So Sunday truly never will be the same for me.
Your first book was for readers who are curious about chastity, and then you wrote two books for readers seeking healing from trauma. Who is the ideal reader of your memoir?
I want Sunday Will Never Be the Same to be the book that Catholics give to friends and family who hate the Church. It’s meant to reach people who can’t even imagine why anyone with a choice, let alone a Jewish rock and roll journalist with the world of New York City nightclubs at her disposal, would want to become Catholic.
One of the ways God was trying to reach you, it seems clear, was through our Blessed Mother. Can you say something about this? Her effect on your life came about in a way that you weren’t expecting–at least at first.
Although I spent five years as a Protestant before entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, it wasn’t until I became Catholic that I understood that, through our fellowship with Jesus, the Holy Family becomes our family. Mary becomes a mother to us and Joseph, through his role providing a father’s care to young Jesus, takes on a fatherly role to us as well.
I realize non-Catholics might think it childish or superstitious to look at Mary and Joseph in this way. But the truth is that many if not most of us need some sort of re-parenting — to have someone, if not we ourselves, compensate for the ways in which our own parents were not fully present for us. And I think part of the reason Jesus gave Mary and Joseph to us—as he did upon the Cross when he said to the beloved disciple John, “Behold, your Mother” (John 19:27 RSV), was that he wanted us to make his perfect family our own.
So I see Mary and Joseph’s role as being, in part, to re-parent us. And Mary does this in a special way through her relationship with the Holy Spirit, by whose power she bestows grace.
As a new Catholic, I needed that re-parenting from Mary, because I had a spiritual wound that impaired my relationship with my mother. In Sunday Will Never Be the Same, I share how Mary helped me begin to overcome that wound by showing me that my mother and I were united as spiritual children under Mary’s divine motherhood.
Your new book is quite different from your others in which, among other things, you helped the Church both confront the pain of sexual abuse—but also what a road to healing might look like–both in your own life and in the lives of others. You are uniquely positioned to offer thoughts on the sex and cover-up scandals revealed in the Church over the last couple years–scandals which do not appear to be going away any time soon. How do you feel about our current moment?
When my first book on spiritual recovery from trauma, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, was published in 2012, what little discussion there was among Catholic leaders on abuse centered upon legal and psychological issues, not spiritual ones. That’s still the case today, and that’s why we have moved so little beyond where we were in 2002 in terms of understanding the crisis.
We will not achieve real progress in addressing abuse until we Catholics promote spiritual healing for abuse victims — not only for victims of clergy abuse but also for victims of any kind of abuse. Yes, victims need legal help and psychological help, but it must never be forgotten that they also need every spiritual help that is available to them. That’s where we’ve really been failing on an institutional level, and that’s where we need to educate bishops, priests, and the entire faithful.
It doesn’t take psychological training or a doctorate in theology to help a friend, family member, or fellow parishioner find meaning in his or her suffering. It takes a basic understanding of the mystery of the Cross and a willingness to walk with another human being.
With that in mind, I am encouraged by Pope Francis’s writings and speeches on suffering. His vision of the Church as a field hospital where wounds are healed is exactly that which we need if we are to be what Christ is calling us to be.
Taking interviewer’s prerogative here and asking a question from our profession! We are both professors of theology, but we also write for more popular audiences in addition to our fellow academics. How are you currently finding this balance of often competing goods?
I wouldn’t want to write books full-time, with no work that takes me outside my apartment. It’s too isolating. For me, as an author, university teaching is an ideal profession because most of the year I’m engaged in instructing students, and yet there’s a solid block of time during the summer when I can work on a book. So it’s the best of both worlds.
But there remains the challenge of finding time to accomplish not only popular writing but also academic writing. If you’re talking about competing goods, that’s where the competition lies for me, and I’ve yet to square that circle — especially since, as an early-career professor, I have a heavy teaching load. Any advice you or academic readers might offer would be most welcome!