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Valued and overvalued

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The value of something can be very hard to determine. Sometimes, things just don't turn out the way we expect them to, mostly because they aren't what we had expected them to be. We've seen a good example of that in the latest news from the stock exchange regarding Facebook. It appears that the initial price for shares in the corporation had been set too high. That is, public investors who bought in to the company when that first became possible, lost a significant amount of their funds the minute they did so.

I don't know much about business or finance, and I detested my college Econ 10 and accounting classes with a passion. But it seems to me that the Facebook fiasco may be a worthy analogy for the state of our world in general. It certainly isn't the only thing our culture has overvalued lately, and the list of items that have fallen short of expectations is clearly much longer than a daily ticker tape.

Choosing worthy investments is both a science and an art. Those who succeed have a certain knack for it. It's as if they possess some kind of secret knowledge of the future or a heightened awareness of current trends. Those kinds of investors manage their risks well, and usually come out in the black when all is said and done. It's because they can see what is inherently valuable, and distinguish it from what only appears to have value.

But what about the rest of us? God knows I don't have any bank balances to speak of, and what used to be a small portfolio is now an empty folder. What kinds of investments can I make? And more, what are the rules of investment I should follow?

Most financial advisors talk about long term plans made to reach long term goals. Frankly, goals about money have never been much of a motivation for me. But what about eternal goals? What about holiness and heaven, virtues and gifts, prayer and sacraments, and other people? If those are really what I value, I ought to be fully invested in them.

Our faith teaches us to be prudent, to make wise and discerning choices. But it also tells us to put all we have and all we are on the line. Contradictory? Perhaps on the surface. But the self-emptying gift of Christ's cross shows us how to do both.

There is no more secure investment than to place our lives -- wholly and completely as they are -- into God's hands. There is no better set of values than those he has given us in the Scriptures, and by the example of his Son Jesus. There is nothing more worth our hearts, minds, souls, or strength than loving God and our neighbor. And there is nothing so undervalued in our culture as the things that genuinely, and by their very nature, have value: things like faith, and truth, and even God himself.

I used to think about what I'd try to save if my home ever caught fire and I had to leave in a hurry. The truth is that what is genuinely valuable can't be saved from a fire, and perhaps can't even be destroyed by one. I'd just hate to realize at the end that I had spent all I had on things that didn't matter, that the treasure my heart followed wasn't a treasure at all. As we turn to the Holy Spirit and the gifts and fruit that he alone offers us, we might think about where we've invested ourselves, and what we count as the valuables in our lives.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.

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