Money Talks

Phil Lenahan discusses how to think about money without thinking too much about money. Also: What is your “money personality type”?

I’ve heard you speak about “money personality types.” For me this discussion raises two questions. One, is it possible for a Catholic to spend too much time thinking and praying about money? And two, how can I determine my money personality type?

In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

And yet, in Romans 7:15, he recognizes how difficult it is for him to do what is right when he says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

I’m glad St. Paul said that: At least we know there is hope for us.

Each one of us faces the same tension that St. Paul faced. On the one hand, as Christians, we know our call is to grow in the image and likeness of God. On the other hand, our fallen human nature gets in the way, doesn’t it?

This tension plays itself out with how we handle money, as well. On the one hand, we are guided by the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, as well as the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.

On the other hand, we struggle against the capital sins. Have you ever considered how closely linked the capital sins are to our attitude toward money? The Catechism lists the capital sins as pride, avarice (greed), envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth (laziness).

Surely we can — and should — pray for God’s guidance in our stewardship of the resources with which he has entrusted us. And surely a major part of stewardship is money management.

Now to your second question. Whether I’m leading a small group or counseling a couple, it’s always interesting to see money personality types emerge during the discussions. Money personality types that reflect the virtues include Temperate Tom, Prudent Paul, Just Jerry and Fortuitous Felicity. Money personality types that reflect our fallen nature include Sam the Slob, Suzy Spender, Harry the Hoarder and Wilbert the Winner.

Can you relate to any of these? If you’re not sure which ones you reflect, just ask your spouse! Most of us will relate to several, including some that are virtue-based and some that reflect the capital sins.

How can we grow our personality to more fully reflect the image of God? I was once on a retreat where the retreat master asked us to consider which capital sin was our predominant fault. He suggested that, when a man recognizes his predominant fault, he can begin to overcome that fault by growing in the opposite virtue. And how do we grow in virtue? By seeking God’s grace through all of the gifts he has given us through the Church. These include the sacraments, the liturgy, sacred Scripture, the lives and writings of the saints and our prayer life.

Why is this discussion important? As we grow in managing our money in a virtuous way, we make decisions that are healthy for our relationship with God and for our family. This leads to the peace that comes from true financial freedom. God love you.

Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries

and author of 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.