9 Decisions:   God Himself called us to 10....think I should offer LESS!


There are 3 ways to know yourself and 2 of them are fallible:

  1. What others think

  2. What I think

  3. What God thinks.....God loved each of us into existence, made from love for love....His Image & Likeness (Intellect, Will, Communion) = basis for our dignity & worth

    1. Meaning of THE HUMAN PERSON, MADE IN THEE IMAGE & LIKENESS of GOD • Intellect • Will • Communion....ability to be “in relationship to Another”....God is a Family of Persons...always loving each other perfectly • Can be merely abstract notion...ANECDOTE may shed light on what “being an image of God” means:

ANECDOTE: In 1983, an American bishop (Robt Brom) was making his 1st “ad limina” visit to see Pope JPII.  During visit, JPII remarked:  “I think we have met before.”  Confident their paths had never crossed, the bishop assured him it was their FIRST meeting, but JPII insisted otherwise. A few days later the Pope’s Secy, Msgr Dziwisz told the bishop that the Holy Father remembered WHEN they had met before.        “WHEN?”....November 1963 outside the Church of the Gesu in Rome. Brom paused & then recalled he HAD been in Rome at that time during the 2nd session of Vatican II.  He had been a seminarian @ the North American College, while JPII was then Karol Wotyla, Aux Bishop of Krakow.  One day Brom & fellow seminarians had been exiting the Church of the Gesu as a group of Polish seminarians and their bishop were entering.  The 2 groups had met briefly, and subsequently Brom had forgotten all about the meeting. After Brom’s memory was refreshed, he asked Msgr Dziwisz how JPII could remember him after 20 years, after such a brief (and group) encounter.

Dziewisz : “You must understand this: for the Holy Father, to meet another Person IS TO ENCOUNTER CHRIST.”  (Jason Evert, St John Paul the Great: His 5 Loves) This is a man’s love & care for a person....Imagine God’s!


4. Interesting: New Testament....ALL THE WOMEN who encounter Christ go

away stronger, more fully themselves, more liberated (empowered!)....Samaritan Woman, Elizabeth, Martha, Syro-Phoenician Woman, Woman Caught in Adultery, etc...NOT SO W/THE MEN (Rich Young Man, Simon who hosts the Dinner Party, Scribes & Pharisees, ) ...suggesting, perhaps, the gift of a greater sensitivity, a greater receptivity to God.... Worth thinking about when we think of SELF-ESTEEM...HOW DOES GOD SEE US?


A. Peter Kreeft : 2 Notions of Happiness: Ancients (Think: Aristotle...& Aquinas who Re-discovers him) and Moderns (Think: post- Christian American society....”opinion-poll American”)

• we all seek happiness as an end in itself, not just as a means.. People often say what good are riches if they don’t bring happiness, but no one asks what good is happiness if it does not bring me riches • Moderns: Happiness = contentment & subjective satisfaction     =  old English word "hap" meaning fortune or luck (like “happenstance”)    =  denotes a feeling (“If you FEEL happy, then you ARE happy.”) = include ingredients such as power, riches, individual rights to justice and peace, good self esteem, freedom from pain, success, and being understood, loved and accepted. EG, If friend is smiling, we ask commonly, “Did you win the Lottery??” • Ancients (Socrates and Aristotle): • Happiness = “EU-DAE-MO-NI-A” (pronounced “you-die-mo-ni-a”) ... a state of true blessedness that included not only contentment, but also freedom and responsibility, goodness and a spiritual dimension as well. • Latin word = “BE-A-TI-TU-DO” = Blessedness

B. Kreeft suggests looking at the Greek word “Eudaemonia” to grasp its meaning so we can contrast it with our modern notions. • “Eu-” = “Good”, implying we must be good, morally good to be happy (Virtuous), not simply possessing material well-being • “Daemon=” “Spirit”, suggesting happiness is a matter of the Soul, not the Body • “Daemon” =   Also Suggests, since Spiritual (involves intellect & will so we can know and choose)...So we’re Free to Choose & Responsible for our Happiness • “-ia” = a Lasting State, something Permanent • Objective State of Goodness

Ancients could say, “You can think you’re happy, but you’re not,” or “You can feel unhappy, but actually be happy.”  (Feelings are transient, but goodness–virtues fully realized–


NOW...think what this means for a Transformed Life.

If take Modern Slant: • Always taking our Emotional Pulse • Life’s Unfair, Meaningless • Happiness Elusive, Changing, Matter of Feelings • Can Do Nothing About It, but Work harder, faster; exercise more, etc • Can Lose Happiness in an Instant

If take Ancient (Classical) Slant: • Need to ask What is Virtue? Moral Goodness? • How Will I Acquire It? And Make it Permanent? • I’m Responsible for My Life= In My Hands, not Circumstances (though I can always try to make them better) • My Choices Matter.  Even “insignificant”, boring, daily duties (setting the table, paying bills..matter because the repetition shapes us....and as Catholics, we know...”between the soul and God, there are no insignificant moments” • Happiness = Builds, Becomes M Permanent, even when Material/Temporal Circumstances Seem to Worsen (eg, MARTYRS)

IMPLICATION: I can substantially influence my own happiness; I can keep building it through my free choices; even when difficult circumstances occur (eg, Auschwitz), I can be happy (eg, Kolbe)

3. TO KEEP OPTIONS OPEN OR TO COMMIT 100% In smaller matters of taste–opinionable matters– I can keep experimenting with more successful work techniques, gathering information, styles ...keeping my options open, but in IMPORTANT LIFE CHOICES give 100%. • Vocation: Married, Religious, Single (By Choice or Waiting but Living) • Profession • Schooling • Family

Whenever we do something that the majority doesn’t do, we face some strange questions:

• Why work so hard?  You’ll still get your paycheck if you slow down. • You’re not having another child? Are you NUTS?  1 (or 2, or 5, or 7) was enough for me! • I could never stay home with children...My mind craves adult can you stand it? • You’re not married yet??? What’s wrong with you? • Why go to so much trouble?  It’s just Family • Don’t you wish you’d never married?  Or, don’t you wish you hadn’t stayed single?

We’ve already seen that many people –false idea of happiness

- can’t see how happiness & difficulties can go together.

Different Perspective: In one of her novels, Marilynn Robinson paints a picture of a snowy, blizzardy day in Idaho. Someone read the passage aloud to me, and as I listened I thought of how different perspectives lead us to SEE different things.

Adults See: Cold, wet Weather Vehicles sluggish or won’t start Pipes freeze Furnaces & Power Go Out Traffic is Snarled Accidents More Frequent Everything is Behind Schedule Everytheing is MISERABLE !

Children: Snow Day = Unexpected Gift from Heaven No School Whole Day w/Friends Whole Day of Fun Whole Day Outside...(well, outside, then wet and chilled, crying...then inside ...Hot Chocolate & Hot Food Then Right  Back Out to Do It All Again “ a blessed day of joy”

Same Event, Different Perspectives: a) Wish it were otherwise & “murmur”, or b) See the joy, suffer some pain, and know it’s worth it!

Willing to bet most women in this room have had people (family or strangers) question: • Why go thru the misery of another pregnancy and delivery? • Are you sorry you don’t do something more exciting or glamorous, rather than just being a mother? Or a sister? Or Single

If you love the Event (the Snowy Day, your Marriage, your Single Life, your Profession, your Family), you see the Fun, the Adventure, the “Miracle of Joy” it often is; yes there are difficulties (frozen mittens, wet feet; colicky children, budgetary woes), but so worth the joy!

If you don’t...or you are uncertain and keeping options see the Negatives: -the miserable cold, the crying babies, the lack of a husband, a job filled with frustration.

It’s a kind of vocational awareness.

St Josemaria spoke about finding poetry in the prose of everyday living.  Giving our best–not just effort, but outlook, too-requires giving of ourselves, which is the real “secret” of happiness.


Sometimes we face situations where we have to decide whether it’s worth paying a higher, or at least an unexpected, cost for something good.

ANECDOTE: Consider an incident from the novel, Mama’s Bank Account (Kathryn Forbes)

Ms Forbes based her novel on her recollections of growing up in a Norwegian immigrant family in San Francisco in the 1910's and 1920's.

To make ends meet while a strike is going on, her family takes in a refined and cultured boarder, Mr Hyde.  As the weather grows colder, Mama–the central character–worries that Mr Hyde’s bedroom may be too cold, and invites him to spend his evenings with the family–Mama, her husband, and the 4 children–in the living room, which is warmer. 

Because Mr Hyde has traveled extensively throughout the world and has read so much, he captivates the children with his stories concerning geography and history, making these subjects come alive.  He suggests courses for Nels, the oldest and the only son, to take in his high school that will challenge him and begins helping Nels with his Latin.  Nels begins taking a stronger interest in high school, deciding to continue rather than drop out to get a job.

One night Mr Hyde begins reading Dickens aloud around the fireplace.  Very soon it becomes the nightly routine that, once homework is done and the kitchen meal cleaned up Mr Hyde would open one of his books and begin to read aloud.   He read David Copperfield, Vanity Fair, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other classics of literature.

Even after the weather warmed up, the nightly reading routine continued, much to Mama’s satisfaction since she did not like the children running around the streets after dinner.  Even Nels joined in, no longer hanging around the corner with his friends at night. In fact, the night his friends got into trouble with the law for breaking into a store, Nels was home, not wanting to miss the next chapter of Dickens.

But eventually, Mr Hyde had to leave, and as he gave Mama his check for  his room and board, he thanked her profoundly for her hospitality and surprised them all by leaving his wonderful collection of books so the reading routine could continue.

But soon they learned from others that all of Mr Hyde’s checks were worthless, including Mama’s.  Having had him as a boarder for many months, Mama had suffered the greatest loss. One of her neighbors, who had lost money, commented,  “I’ll bet Mr Hyde owes you plenty, eh?”

Mama considered the past months–her children learning to read English fluently, learning the best classics in the English language, Nels’ decision to stay in school & his academic achievements, his staying out of trouble when his friends did not, and the strong family routine of gathering each night together, the treasure house of books....

.and she said, “No......No...He owes me nothing.”

****** We’ve all heard the Mastercard ads.... Cost of A, Cost of B, Cost of C....PRICELESS.

There are some riches that no one can buy, such as the ones Mama had for her children. Part of having a happy life—a life that appreciates TRUE TREASURES–is the ability to know the worth of things.

The virtue of Christian poverty is all about being detached from THINGS OWNING US SO MUCH that we are blind to the goods before us. 

I suspect each of us has had to struggle with money, at least at some times in our lives.  It’s often clearest then where our Treasure really is, because, like Mama, that’s where our heart is.


A.  Key Pts....This requires being able to see the TRUTH NOT RATIONALIZE... • Requires ongoing daily formation of our CHARACTER, CONSCIENCE, AND CONDUCT. (The 3 C’s) • Mark Belling calls RATONALIZATION ...”the 2nd-strongest instinct in man”.

ANECDOTE; The Von Trapp Family Singers. • Movie...charming but not accurate in many respects (eg, Marriage took place in 1927, more than a decade before the Annexation of Austria in March 1938) • In early spring 1938, the Von Trapps (family of 11 or so by that time) had to make decision because 3 things had happened simultaneously that involved them personally: 1. Capt Von Trapp a true WWI hero of submarine warfare, was being offerd a position in the German Navy 2. The eldest child (Ruprecht, not Liesl) had already graduated from medical school & was a rising physician.  He had just rec’d an invitation to join the medical staff that included taking care of the Fueher...again, an answer was needed soon 3. The Von Trapp Family Singers had been given a Command Invitation to sing before Adolph Hitler himself for the birthday celebration The Von Trapps were in the precarious position of being noticed by Hitler and the Third Reich precisely because they have been successful...they have worked hard with excellence.

Captain gathers the family and explains We have 2 choices: • Either we can keep our home, our positions, our security...and cooperate with an evil government; or

• We can sell what we can, leave Austria...probably forever...but save our souls.

Many people would have rationalized there was nothing wrong in fulfilling military duty or in attending the medical needs of another person. (Doctors strive to give good care without regard to the politics or nationality of the patient).  And surely it’s not an entertainer’s job to morally vet the members of the audience

Yet the Von Trapps believed that accepting these 3 invitations would a) Signal their Affirmation of Hitler’s Injustice; b) Only Lead Them Deeper into The War Machine Known as the 3rd Reich

So they left Austria, legally, by train, traveling to Italy (not Switzerland)....No Nazis pursuing them...the day after they left, the borders were closed.

.DIFFICULT: To see the Truth honestly, not rationalizing it away. (The 3rd Reich was not the Von Trapps’ responsibility)... requires 3 C’s I mentioned...a daily examining of ourselves

6. TO RESIST SUFFERING ...OR TO USE IT WELL A. Key Pts • Inevitable • MAKES YOU BITTER OR BETTER • Lived well...with graciousness...touches & inspires so man

ANECDOTE:JPII, so vigorous & athletic for first 15 years of his Papacy; then afflicted w/Parkinson’s and other ailments. • Could have hidden away, but sees God asking him to offer himself as a preparation for the Church’s entering the 3rd Millennium w/Courage, Perseverance, Mission.

• 1994, for example, he published the Apostolic Letter “On the Christian Meaning of Suffering.” When confronted with suffering, most of us desperately seek answers to the question Why? Why me? Why now? Why in this unexpected form? • Christ does not really give us an answer to such questions, but rather a lived example. When we approach Christ with our questions about the reason for suffering.... we cannot help noticing that the one to whom we put the questions “is himself suffering and wishes to answer...from the Cross, from the heart of his own suffering....

“Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering,” he points out, “but before all else he says: ‘Follow me!’ Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world....Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him” (#26). ANECDOTE; Kathy & Jack, parents of 3 children with Cystic Fibrosis • Kathy gives her name to hospitals and pediatricians in the DC area to give to parents of newborn children with CF so they can have someone to talk to who understands their pain, bewilderment, anger, incomprehension, fear, helplessness...and see Light • Only Critics: Parents of CF children already born, some of whom are indignant K & J

had additional children after having a CF child. (“You minimize our if it can be bearable!”) or for saying “ life can go on after CF.”)

• My brother & his wife did think life could go on, and tried always to make family life as NORMAL as possible, so that the DISEASE did not “MEDICALIZE THE FAMILY.” They organized so many CF fundraisers & parties, they touched so many people in their neighborhood & at work that when one of my nephews died, there were over 5,000 people at his wake.  The lines went without interruption from 2-10 PM.

IMPLICATION • Suffering can be transformed into something noble and good: “said. “Rather, it is seen opportunity ‘to release love..., to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love’ (Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, #30)”.

Whether we bear it with love or not, however, is a different matter. We do have a real choice there. We are free to choose “the pain of loving” or “the pain of not loving,” the latter being a pain that is empty and barren—a pain without any redeeming qualities.

The Cross = the Living Book in which we learn definitively who we are ;..It is a book that is always open before us. (JPII)

7. TO SEE FAMILY as a DRAIN....or TO SEE FAMILY AS A GAIN. Very common to hear people complain about their families: their parents, their siblings, their “crazy aunts & uncles,” their spouses, and their children.  In fact, over the years, I have probably tried over 50 times to Google for stories about people loving their spouses, their families, etc...and it’s hard to find stories..(Usually, the stories are about a difficult medical situation when family members pitch in and help, or about a military member stationed in a hardship area.)  Other than that, the people who write articles online seem to complain about and/or resent their families. CAUTION:   My son commented, “Mom, you’re not exactly the world’s best user of Google.”“

KEY POINTS: Family = the place we are loved for who we are = we learn right from wrong, normal from abnormal –we set our ambitions and hope - we learn to know ourselves, defects & gifts - we learn how to get along well with others - school of Virtues - community of love in service of life (and vice versa) - foundation of society

My son also commented: Families are like OXYGEN that we breathe.   We don’t tend to write about Ordinary Things.

.ORDINARY....easy to see as boring, take for granted....Family Life, whether with a house full of children, with grown children who come back to visit, with married or with singles...can seem so ordinary, INSIGNIFICANT..but Christian knows that between


So perhaps it’s easier to understand why family should be treasured–whether you are single (still part of a family), married w/little ones, married with no children, all the children are gone, grandchildren are around you...when we consider what happens when the Family is not treasured. .

Anecdote: Leah Lampone A few years ago, in my town, a distinguished judge resigned from her job, following the birth of her third child.  In her letter of resignation, this judge spoke about the "civilization" we have produced and what is required to form a human being.  I want to quote that letter: "In each of my judicial assignments over the years, I have seen, heard and felt society unraveling as palpably as a slap in the face... Brutality and cruelty are commonplace.  Lawlessness has become blatant.  Crimes are committed no longer under cover of night, but in broad daylight without a hint of shame. "As a substitute for the structure, control, and education the family once provided, people now turn to the government.  Ancient values of self-reliance and responsibility for, and to, family are seemingly dying. "Unfortunately, government programs, well-intentioned though they may be, cannot stop the erosion.  We cannot be the nurturing mother and father that the people who come before us never had. "The values we preach fall upon ears deafened by the daily thunder of moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the houses they call home. "...Looking back upon my years as both judge and mother, I have come to realize the greatest impact I have made in any life is that which I've made in the lives of my children. "...Hopefully, by investing more of my time in my own home, I will look up at the end of my life to see {my children}, emotionally vibrant and self-reliant, ready to face their life's drama. "With that solid foundation, perhaps they will be better equipped to meet the challenge of putting back together the pieces of society we let crumble in our hands."


a.  Key Point:Share Talents & Gifts, Including Gift of Family w/Others Generosity knits bonds in a fraying society Generosity enriches the giver who becomes more aware of her gifts

....and more grateful ....and it helps someone in need.

ANECDOTE:  Impact of a Happy, Virtuous Family.  J Clifford Wallace, a retired judge of the 9th Circuit Appellate Court, grew up in a very poor home.  His parents were immigrants who had to drop out of school by 3rd grade.  His father was an alcoholic; there was no religion in the home.  But when he was in middle school, during the Great Depression, a classmate invited him to his family’s home for dinner.  From the moment he stepped into the home, he saw a world he had never known existed.  A meal was cooking, its aroma spreading through the house; the house was attractive, neat, and clean; the mother welcomed him warmly by name; the children helped set the table,  the family prayed,  the family shared news of the day at the dinner table, including him.  By the time he left, he knew he wanted what that family had.  He was drawn to that family’s religion ,eventually converting to it, drawn by the warm, attractive embodiment of life, and love and purpose.

IMPLICATION To the mother of that family, it was probably just another dinner, but to that boy, it was lifechanging...just a small act of generosity builds up the Civilization of Love


FORGIVENESS: • Wounds of Society, Wounds of Each Individual Soul. • IMO,   impossible w/out God....because some hurts, some injustices are just too horrific. • Many secular counselors will appeal to self-interest in calls for forgiveness, saying pragmatically, “It only hurts you...It’s like a poison that destroys you, not the offender.” • True but the desire that justice right the wrong can persist. • We need Deeper Reasons, I think, to truly forgive and have no resentment toward the offender...desire for justice, but no resentment...and something deeper to encourage others to forgive.

ANECDOTE:   Surprised by Grief by Jeff Cavins True Incident called “Forgiving the Unforgiveable”

11 year-old girl from a large family (Mike and Kathie Caley)  is murdered as she delivers the papers on her morning paper route...Just gone for 15’s Ascension Thursday...Killed by a sex predator, but not assaulted.  The medical examiner determines she fought off her assailant who panicked at her screams, knocked her down, and stabbed her repeatedly,  killing her. 2 ½ days after her murder, which shocked the small town where she lived, her parents were interviewed for TV by a local news anchor.  Initially they had wanted to turn down the request, but their parish priest who was the spiritual director of the family, urged them to accept the interview.  “The whole town is grieving and needs healing, too.”

At the end of the interview, the anchor asked the parents if they had anything to say to the murderer.

The parents had never even discussed the murderer, since they were trying to grasp what had happened and why God had allowed such evil.

But the mother replied, “Yes...I’d like to tell him...we forgive him.”

The anchor was a bit shocked, and murmured into the microphone: “I don’t see how you can do that after what he did.”

The mother continued, “It’s not my’s God’s way, and it has to become my way....That’s why we forgive...because God asks us to.”

The TV interview played that night, and starting the next morning and continuing on for months, the family received hundreds of telephone calls and letters, saying: “If you can forgive that man for what he did, I guess I can forgive my fellow priest...” ********************* These 9 Decisions about: 1. Identity 2. Happiness 3. Commitment 4. Treasure 5. Truth & Goodness Rather Than Success 6. Suffering 7. Family 8. Generosity 9. Forgiveness

These 9 Decisions:

• Don’t’ Exhaust All the Big Questions,,..BUT TAKEN SERIOUSLY, CAN TRANSFORM OUR LIVES • Try to be PRACTICAL: Consider 1 idea, 1 story....What would I have done?  How can I live any of these 9 decisions better • Transform Life...because A)   Transforms Us in Ideas, Judgments, Actions        B)   Makes us More Mindful, More Aware of the Gift our Life Is C)   We will be happier (Remember Pt #2!) D) We affect the lives of those around us with the Witness of Our Lives

ANECDOTE: My husband has often surveyed  his college students, asking them in an informal survey to write down the name of the living person each most admires.  Over the years 80-85% of the students cite either their father or their mother; most of the time it’s their mothers.

A typical response has been:

“I think my mother is the most heroic person I’ve ever known.  She is always there for us, without thinking of herself...She has been the glue that has held our family together...I love her.”

Don’t underestimate the impact your daily witness upon others.  Without ever knowing it, you are someone’s inspiration.   Your own struggles to be a better woman of faith, a, a wiser , more virtuous,  more loving woman are being watched by eyes that miss very little.


We are living, IMO, in a world that is profoundly confused about Who God is...and

so we :

• Don’t know how to Love, and • Don’t know how even to be human sometimes

When we try to become better people, we become a fuller gift to those around us.

We build up the Civilization of Love by Making Decisions That Transform Us Into the Women God Wants Us to Become...We Help Others to Become Better and Happier With Our Witness, our “Wisdom.”

(Daniel 3) “Those who teach others in the ways of Wisdom shall sparkle like the stars