The Three Mysteries of Life

Heaven’s Currency: A Study of Love is the culmination of a trilogy that discusses the great mysteries of life. These mysteries (suffering, death and love) are synergistic and cannot be understood fully in the absence of each other, because they are co-dependent in providence, God’s great plan of Salvation.

The first book was Why all People Suffer and it was written in the aftermath of my being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease just after I had uprooted my life, quitting my lucrative job at IBM, selling my house in New York, and moving to the DC suburbs to pursue a Ph.D in catechetics, all in response to a very vivid dream to “teach the teachers.”  I didn’t understand my role in this initially.  I thought I was going to teach how to teach morality to future catechists.  It was my new neurologist who convinced me that I should be studying why people suffer and I presented her with my doctoral thesis as an answer to her question.  I rewrote it for general audiences, and it was published in April 2021.

The simple answer to why all people suffer is that in God’s plan, suffering is the sensation we get when we are confronted with evil. It is not evil itself but is an evil detector and to be effective, it must be uncomfortable and un-ignorable to drive us away from the evil it is detecting.  Suffering teaches us the way to divine love through four tasks:

  1. It teaches proper self-love by being virtuous by making vice uncomfortable.
  2. It teaches love of God by allowing us to recognize God’s will is synonymous with virtue.
  3. It unleashes love of neighbor by causing us to empathize with the suffering.
  4. It teaches redemptive love when we are willing to suffer and even die for the benefit of others.

Not only does it lead us to love as Christ did, but the fact that it does, leads us to understand that suffering is a sign of God’s love for us.

My second Book Dying without Fear was a natural outgrowth of the first book and reflected my new state in life.  My mother, whose care duties I was sharing, died on Mother’s Day 2022, my Parkinson’s symptoms were becoming increasingly burdensome, and I had done some research into the life and death of my ancestors, so I had the experience and motivation I needed to write the second book.  It showed me that understanding God’s motivations and desire to call us into communion with him allowed us to truly die without fear.

I found it cathartic to put into words and to speak to what I was going through so that led me to my third book: Heaven’s Currency: a Study of Love.  It is very much a culmination of the three books because it explains how to live a life of love that leads to heaven, which is what makes dying without fear possible.  It also presents the same concept that provides the only explanation for why all people suffer under a good and all powerful God: that God is focused on our eternal salvation by teaching us that redemptive love must be self-giving.

As I conducted my study of love for Heaven’s Currency, I began to understand that a search for love was a search for God. As Saint John commented, “God is love.” and so to better understand God, and how to share in his divine nature, we must understand how to love. Jesus himself noted the greatest commandment was to Love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. They were linked because the easiest way to show our love of God is through the love of his children, our neighbors.  Therefore, to learn how to love, we can start with how love is displayed in human relationships.  Indeed, the Greeks had seven different words for loving relationships that everyone can recognize as still relevant after thousands of years because the truth never changes.

Ironically, to recognize God’s love in our lives, we often must look at the times we have suffered to see when God was dissuading us from things that would hurt our souls and steering us toward himself.  Conversely when we respond positively to God’s love, we will experience joy, God’s reward for a job well done and his motivation for similar behavior.  If we want to be joyful, there are three sets of lists in scripture which describe what is required for salvation.

The first of these is the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, over 3000 years ago. Jesus validated this when he answered the rich young man’s question, “What good must I do to attain eternal life, with “Keep the Commandments (Matt 19:16-17).”  Noting that the Pharisees and scribes were following the letter and not the intent of the law, Jesus clarified and extended commandments 5, 6, And 8 (Matt 5:17-37) and the church, following His lead, has expanded all of them so as to reduce ambiguity and express each commandment in both positive (you must respect life from conception until natural death)and negative (you shall not kill) terms. I have pulled and attempted to explain the highlights from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2084-2557).

An alternate way to understand love, the Currency of Heaven, is to follow Jesus’s example as He laid out in the Beatitudes.  These 8 characteristics of God create a way of thinking and acting that will enhance all human relationships and lead to happiness in this world and the next.  They also put focus on some of the errors of modern thinking, exposing them as distortions of the truth.

The  final way that Jesus describes how to love is in the parable of the last Judgment (Matt 25:31-46), in which He says that that  only those who show mercy to the least of his brothers will enter  heaven.  I add to that, the problem in the modern world of how to love those who disagree with us, giving ethical ways to evaluate the best course of action toward those who disagree with us on matters big and small.

As Heaven’s Currency and the trilogy come to a close, I sum up what I have learned about love.  In all these examples, God initiates love by putting us in the position to love and providing the spark that binds us together.  That said, in each of these cases, we have the free will to love or not. Loving means putting others’ needs before our own and having the desire to share in the life of the beloved. Love is not static. The more we exercise our love through self-giving, the stronger bonds we create.  Love is a capability, being strengthened through use and atrophying through disuse, like muscles or the brain. 

This capability is the only thing we take with us when we die, and it is possible to further strengthen it by converting all of our earthly assets to charity by putting them to use in aiding the least of our brothers.  To have spiritual merit, we need to give to the point where it is a real sacrifice.  Leaving money in a will is no sacrifice, nor is leaving a building with your name on it as your legacy.

I realize that this journey needed to begin with Why All People Suffer, because suffering can only be understood with charity, Heaven’s Currency being the goal. Without self-giving, love would be indistinguishable from attraction and friendship.  Dying without Fear needed to be next because it showed me that death (along with Judgment, Heaven and Hell) was actually the motivator for people to show love and respect for each other and that without death,  nothing would be meaningful, since nothing could be lost. The mystery of love, the only one of the three that is desirable, is that it exists only because the others do.  It is not love if it isn’t a sacrifice, and if we are not confident in God’s love for us, we will not die without fear.

Heaven’s Currency: a Study of Love is available for preorder from Sophia Institute Press.

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

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Paul Chaloux was born in Maine in 1960 to Paul and Dolly Chaloux, the oldest of 6 children. He grew up in Northern Virginia and attended public schools. After graduating with a chemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia in 1982, Paul worked for over 30 years as an engineer, manager, and strategist for IBM in upstate New York. While there, he also served as a catechist for 15 years at St. Columba Parish in Hopewell Junction, NY. In 2015, after earning a Master’s in Religious Education from Fordham University and retiring from IBM, Paul was accepted into the Ph.D. program at the Catholic University of America to study Catechetics, with the goal of teaching future catechists. However, his plans changed dramatically when he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease just after moving to Washington, DC for his studies. His new neurologist, after learning that Paul was studying theology, asked him why people suffer. He had no answer since it was not his intended field of study, but the question intrigued him enough to cause him to take up the subject. Five years later, having earned his Ph.D. in Moral Theology, Dr. Chaloux wrote Why All People Suffer for general audiences as a follow on to his dissertation, The Grace Concealed in Suffering: Developing Virtue and Beatitude, which he defended at CUA on March 5, 2020. Dr. Chaloux currently teaches theology as an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America and serves as a catechist at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, Virginia. He has been married for over thirty years to his wife Sue, and they have 4 adult children and 3 granddaughters.

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