You’re in college. It is a world of complete uncertainty. You’re away from home, meeting new people every day, learning new intellectual concepts you never knew existed. You now have more independence and more responsibility. Your decisions as a freshman or sophomore may range from what to eat for lunch to what classes to register for. Soon those decisions become heavier; with a much larger impact on your life. Some of those decisions will change the trajectory of your life. This might also be the first time in your life contemplating your stances on specific moral issues, your spirituality, and your connection to your religious faith. Whether it is deciding to attend Mass on Sunday or contemplating the larger-than-life decisions you will soon be required to make, college is the breeding ground for self-awareness and development.
To draw comparison, one should consider the basic economic principle of Present and Future Value – an initial deposit of an asset (cash) or an equity (stocks & bonds) that compounds to be of greater value at a future time. The formula for Future Value is FV = PV*(1 + r)^n where PV is the present value, r is the interest rate, and n is the duration of time for compounding. In a very similar yet abstract sense, our faith can act as an internal asset or equity.
For example, our inward or outward expression of faith is analogous to that of the present value of an equity. Throughout the course of our lives, faith can be compounded through the human experience coupled with a deepening trust in God, hence leading us to sanctity – the ultimate future value of Christian virtue. The initial deposit of that faith, the present value, and its application within our daily lives is the most important step that we as Christians need to take to achieve the future value of sanctity.
Let us first focus on the Present value of the PV/FV economic principle. The initial deposit of cash, for example, is the single most important step one must take. Without money to be compounded, there is no future value. Plus, the more you’re willing to risk, the more reward you’re likely to have. Faith is no different. The French essayist Leon Bloy coined the famous statement, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy, is to not become a saint”. Bloy candidly reminds all Catholics that we must live and grow in holiness to join the communion of saints.
It may seem like a daunting task, but we were destined to aspire for this community by the grace of God. Faith requires a great deal of trust. We can’t see it or feel it. There are no interest rates outlined by the Fed or your local bank. Faith is a risk we need to be willing to take. This becomes increasingly important when we are living in this world of uncertainty. The first step, that initial deposit, will always be the hardest, but will always be the most important. We must prepare ourselves for when that faith is tested by temptations. After making that initial deposit of faith, allowing it to compound becomes the second step to attain sanctity.
Investments can be diverse. Investments typically compound daily, monthly, or yearly. The more often the investment compounds, the faster it will grow. Even though the rate of return may be different, the goal is the same – maximize your portfolio. Faith is tantamount to compounded investments. It is similar in the sense that it must compound over time to grow and lead us to sanctity. It is different in the sense that faith can only be compounded by us and our willingness to establish that relationship with God – sometimes without physically seeing the results.
Furthermore, every person’s journey is different. Every person’s future value is different. Why? Because God has a different and unique relationship with each and every person. In the same way you have different types of relationships with different types of people, God holds that true to all of his children. Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself next is: what do you want your sanctity to look like?
As mentioned, sanctity is a unique human experience. No one person’s definition or classification of sanctity is the same. Saint Francis de Sales, known for his teachings on spiritual direction, once said, “All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” If we look at this quote a little deeper, “Christian virtue and holiness” is sanctity, the ultimate future value. The “condition of life we live” is how we choose to spend our time and the people we choose to spend it with. Finally, “our life work” is our vocation – what we have been called to do. What Francis de Sales wants us to understand is that the “condition” of our lives and the “work” we choose to undertake doesn’t matter. What matters is the initial deposit, the present value, and the willingness to compound that deposit over time and welcome it into our lives. But how does that initial deposit manifest itself?
Attaining a higher future value is based on strategic financial decisions that need to be made. The first, and perhaps most important concept to understand is that there is no single formula or tool that will ensure financial success and security. Financially, some will choose a simple and long-term strategy, like bonds. Bonds yield over time but don’t have intense volatility. Bonds are therefore classified as low-risk, low-return investments. Others will choose to place their bets on stocks, which have higher volatility but may produce better returns: a high-risk, high-return investment. Spiritually, we will also choose strategic decisions on how to live out our call to sanctity.
That is not to say that we will not be tested. Just like the stock market, our faith will have peaks and troughs. The lies and temptations of this world will make their way into our lives, attempting to push us away from God. Many of our great saints have fallen into the volatile troughs but are regarded as the most holy people to ever live; and many saints have had small changes to their faith over time, no different than the path of a long-term bond. One journey is no better or worse than the other. They are just different, which makes our relationship with God that much more unique.
Finally, our call to action. Making that initial deposit of faith can be a difficult decision. Perhaps it will challenge you to let go of possessions and bad habits. Perhaps it means to walk away from abusive or negative relationships. Perhaps it means to make a career choice that pays more in fulfillment than in a bi-weekly paycheck. When faith is at the forefront of our lives, God will provide. When we trust that God has a plan for all of us and no longer worry about earthly possessions or worries, God will provide. As mentioned previously, the formula for Future Value is FV = PV*(1 + r)^n where PV is the present value, r is the interest rate, and n is the duration of compounding. A framework for sanctity can be defined by the following formula: S = F*(1 + x)^n, where S is sanctity, F is faith, x is the practical action or change that we make to perform God’s will, and n is the duration of our lives. It is essential to begin planning for your future – both spiritually and financially – and to make that initial deposit of faith to achieve the maximized future value of sanctity.
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