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UNIT 6 CHAPTER 17<br />

Moving to Level<br />

Three and Four<br />

Happiness<br />


Chapter 17 Overview<br />

You probably know from school, sports, and other activities that nothing worthwhile is easy. We often have to<br />

put aside what we want right now to get what we truly want. While all four levels of happiness are good, if we<br />

want a truly satisfying and peaceful life, we will want to focus on making a positive difference for others, the<br />

culture we live in, and the Kingdom of God. Even more, we will not try to ignore our desire for the transcendent.<br />

Ultimately, experiencing level four happiness requires us to follow God’s call to Himself by making a little<br />

leap of faith. If we do make this leap, God strengthens our relationship with Him through grace. And then we<br />

come to know in our hearts the most comforting truth of all: that true happiness does not depend on things<br />

we have, or how we compare to others, or on anything else temporary in this world, but comes from giving<br />

ourselves completely to God, who brings us to the perfectly loving home we yearn for.<br />

In this chapter you will learn that …<br />

■ Our view of happiness shapes what we are looking for in life.<br />

■ To transition out of a level one-two dominant life, we will need to change our fundamental attitudes on<br />

the purpose of our life, our view of others, our view of ourselves, and our view of freedom.<br />

■ Looking for the good in others makes it easier to empathize with them and looking for the good in<br />

ourselves helps us live up to our God-given potential.<br />

■ If we have the perspective of “freedom for” rather than “freedom from,” we will see that the constraint,<br />

self-discipline, and sacrifices of lower levels of happiness are worthwhile if they lead to level three and<br />

four happiness, making life more peaceful and satisfying.<br />

■ God wants us to freely choose Him, and calls us to Him in our hearts, as well as through a Church<br />

community, transcendent beauty, and philosophical and theological wisdom.<br />

■ We must choose to follow the call of the transcendent by making a little leap of faith.<br />

Bible Basics<br />

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,<br />

“You may freely eat of every tree of the<br />

garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of<br />

good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day<br />

that you eat of it you shall die.”<br />

— Genesis 2:16–17<br />

Connections to the Catechism<br />

■ CCC 1718–1719<br />

■ CCC 1730–1748<br />

■ CCC 2548<br />

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast<br />

therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of<br />

slavery [to sin].<br />

— Galatians 5:1.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />


Chapter 17<br />

We All Want to Be Happy<br />

All of us desire happiness, and not just the sort of happiness we receive<br />

from eating a delicious piece of pizza or from being voted prom king<br />

or queen. As much satisfaction as those things may bring, that sort of<br />

happiness will always be fleeting. We will eventually run out of pizza and<br />

be hungry again. Prom is but one night of our lives. As we discussed<br />

in the last chapter, it can be alluring to try to make ourselves happy by<br />

constantly chasing material pleasure after material pleasure, or by constantly<br />

seeking to be the best and comparing ourselves to others. But,<br />

as we learned, these pursuits will never satisfy us fully, never make us<br />

ultimately fulfilled and happy. But how do we move from these level<br />

one-two kinds of happiness to the more meaningful and fulfilling level<br />

three-four kinds of happiness? How do we become people who seek<br />

to give back to the world and leave it a better place after we are gone?<br />

How do we build relationships with others that are rooted in love and<br />

that honor the dignity of the other person? How do we dwell in our encounters<br />

with the transcendent love, truth, justice/goodness, beauty,<br />

and being/home?<br />

In this chapter, we will consider some practical guidance on how to<br />

make level three and level four happiness dominant in our lives. It does<br />

not matter which one we choose to focus on first; the important thing is<br />

that both levels are necessary. Even an actively contributive life without<br />

transcendence can leave us feeling cosmically empty. Similarly, if level<br />

four happiness is not accompanied by level three happiness, it can lead<br />

to a superficial faith that does not seek to help others, a faith without<br />

love.<br />

To transition out of a level one-two dominant life, we will need to<br />

change our fundamental attitudes in the following four areas:<br />

1. View of Purpose in Life<br />

2. View of Others<br />

3. View of Self<br />

4. View of Freedom<br />

We must deliberately and concretely change what we are looking<br />

for in these areas, which will ultimately change our goals and our very<br />

identity. (Recall that our view of happiness shapes what we are looking<br />

for in life.)<br />

332 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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Aristotle wrote that we are<br />

what we repeatedly do.<br />

Excellence, therefore, is not an<br />

act but a habit.<br />

Aristotle, line engraving by P. Fidanza after Raphael Sanzio.<br />

The Conscious and Unconscious Mind<br />

Modern psychoanalytic theory posits that there are two dimensions to<br />

the human psyche — the conscious mind (which is aware of what it wants<br />

to do) and the unconscious mind (which is not aware). Our unconscious<br />

mind reacts to things based on instinct (we smell food and are suddenly<br />

hungry), on lessons and habits formed in childhood (we automatically<br />

remember how to ride a bike even years later), and on past associations<br />

(we were once made fun of by others for doing something incorrectly).<br />

Significantly, our unconscious mind can change our behavior to<br />

maintain past expectations. If we are doing unusually well at a game,<br />

for instance, then unexpectedly choke at the end, some psychologists<br />

might say it was due to an unconscious correction to the level of moderate<br />

capability that we unconsciously believe ourselves to have. This<br />

means that if we want to change our dominant form of happiness from<br />

level one-two happiness to level three-four happiness, it is not enough<br />

to just consciously think about changing — we must conform our unconscious<br />

minds to our new choices and make them habits we no longer<br />

need to consciously choose every single time, or we will just revert our<br />

behavior back to our old ways.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


Friendship moves us to give of<br />

ourselves, to share in joys and<br />

sorrows alike.<br />

Visitation, by Jerónimo Ezquerra.<br />

In the following sections, we will go through a list of questions to<br />

help refocus from the inward-centered level one-two happiness dominant<br />

view to the outward-centered level three-four happiness dominant<br />

view. In many cases, we will be exercising our imagination in new<br />

ways and may initially draw a blank on some of these questions. It will<br />

take time for reflecting on these questions to be effective.<br />

The four sets of questions that follow correspond to the four fundamental<br />

attitudes we need to change. It is important to take these in<br />

order (since they build on each other) and to reflect on only one at a<br />

time. Nothing is gained if we take on everything at once and then give<br />

up when it proves overwhelming. This transformation is a lifetime project,<br />

after all, so it is worth taking the time to do it effectively.<br />

Question 1: What Kind of Purpose in Life Am I Looking<br />

For?<br />

In our default drive, where level one-two happiness is dominant, we are<br />

instinctively on the lookout for material and competitive advantages.<br />

We might be consciously or unconsciously asking ourselves, “Who is the<br />

best-looking in this room?” “Who is sounding smartest or funniest in this<br />

conversation?” “Who is doing better than me?” or “How obvious are my<br />

weaknesses?”<br />

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If we want to change our behavior, we must refocus on new goals, in<br />

order to form new habits, and thereby retrain our unconscious minds.<br />

We must move away from constantly comparing ourselves to others<br />

and towards concrete goals that answer the question “How can I make a<br />

positive difference?”<br />

As we reflect on the answer to this question, we will find a new form<br />

of energy moving us forward, and a significant diminishment in the negative<br />

feelings that come with the comparison game. This new form of<br />

happiness carries with it a new sense of purpose. Eventually, it will become<br />

a habitual way of thinking, and we will find ourselves wanting to<br />

accomplish as much as possible without neglecting our loved ones or<br />

burning ourselves out.<br />

Question 2: What Am I Looking for in Others?<br />

In the competitive mindset that accompanies the level one-two happiness,<br />

we anxiously compare ourselves to others, looking for ways that<br />

we are superior. We see other people as a problem, which makes it almost<br />

impossible to view them with empathy. Conversely, when we begin<br />

by looking for the good in someone, the appreciation and empathy<br />

we feel for the other will contextualize and diminish the bad, opening<br />

the way to friendship and even self-sacrificial love.<br />

This simple shift in viewpoint can radically transform our relationships.<br />

If we are stuck in the habit of only seeing the bad in others, breaking<br />

the cycle may be difficult at first, so start small. Find just a few positive<br />

characteristics in someone who annoys you, put a smile on your<br />

face (a physical act that can influence your mood), and say something<br />

positive to them. It is typically hard to respond to kindness with rudeness,<br />

so the person’s response will likely make it easier for you to view<br />

them positively, and the cycle will improve.<br />

When we begin<br />

by looking for<br />

the good in<br />

someone, the<br />

appreciation<br />

and empathy<br />

we feel often<br />

opens the way<br />

to friendship.<br />

Question 3: What Am I Looking for in Myself?<br />

The perspective we use to judge others becomes the perspective we<br />

use to judge ourselves. If we ignore or disvalue empathy, friendship,<br />

generosity, humility, compassion, honesty, and nobility in others, we will<br />

fail to pursue and develop them within ourselves. By doing so, we not<br />

only reduce ourselves to a small fraction of our potential, but we depersonalize<br />

ourselves. We no longer think of our personhood, friendship,<br />

and presence as having intrinsic worth, and so we replace this intrinsic<br />

self-worth with mere things about ourselves. When we look at who we<br />

are, we do not think of loving, lovable, or transcendent characteristics,<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


Aa<br />


Self-Actualization: Having<br />

become who God created<br />

us to be, through the proper<br />

use of freedom which<br />

includes self-discipline and<br />

commitment.<br />

but only what we look like or how we compare to others. We have little<br />

sense of the goodness of our presence and friendship or the life we<br />

bring to relationships. To fix this perspective, we will need to learn how<br />

to look for the good in ourselves just as much as we look for it in others.<br />

Question 4: What Kind of Freedom Am I Seeking?<br />

Like happiness, the promise of freedom can motivate us even though<br />

we have only a vague sense in our mind of what it means. Very often,<br />

it is our unconscious view of freedom that causes us to act in ways we<br />

might rationally believe to be unwise or even destructive. Freedom may<br />

seem like an uncomplicated idea, but the American philosopher Isaiah<br />

Berlin made a very important distinction between “freedom from” and<br />

“freedom for” (or “freedom to”). “Freedom from” refers to the avoidance<br />

or removal of constraints from the individual pursuit of happiness<br />

or fulfillment. Conversely, “freedom for” (or “freedom to”) refers to the<br />

pursuit of self-actualization, which includes self-constraint, self-discipline,<br />

and commitment to a particular person or course of action. This<br />

understanding of freedom is more in line with the Catholic one, where<br />

true freedom is the ability to choose the good. “Freedom is the power<br />

to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own.<br />

Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God,<br />

the sovereign Good” (CCC 1744).<br />

“Freedom from” and “freedom for” can often come into conflict.<br />

If we want to pursue an education so we can have a successful career<br />

(“freedom for” self-actualization), we must be disciplined in our studies<br />

and put restrictions on our time (rather than having “freedom from” restrictions<br />

and doing whatever we feel like).<br />

If we have the perspective of “freedom for,” we consider constraint,<br />

self-discipline, and sacrifices of lower levels of happiness to be worthwhile,<br />

if these sacrifices lead to level three and four happiness. We can<br />

think of the “freedom for” perspective with as “no pain, no gain,” or “the<br />

early bird gets the worm.” Discipline and constraint are felt to be unpleasant<br />

and negative from the vantage point of “freedom from,” but<br />

positive and liberating from the vantage point of “freedom for.”<br />

So why is it imperative that we change our view of freedom along<br />

with our view of purpose in life, others, and ourselves? If we try to move<br />

from level one-two happiness to level three-four happiness and purpose<br />

in life but fail to change our view of freedom along with it, we will<br />

be conflicted, fight ourselves, fear our new path, and eventually give up<br />

on it. Ultimately, our view of freedom not only affects how we think but<br />

also how we feel.<br />

336 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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True freedom is always in<br />

service of what is good and<br />

just.<br />

St. Vincent de Paul and the Daughters of Charity, image courtesy Shutterstock.<br />

The Benefits of Moving from Dominant Level One-<br />

Two to Dominant Level Three-Four<br />

Reflecting on these questions is a lifetime project. As the process of<br />

transformation starts to change our conscious and unconscious mind,<br />

evidenced by new habits of thinking and behaving, we will deal less and<br />

less with the negative emotions that come with comparing ourselves to<br />

others. Jealousy, fear of loss of esteem, inferiority, contempt, facade<br />

building, self-pity, ego sensitivity, resentment, excessive concern about<br />

what people think, isolation, and loneliness will all begin to subside.<br />

More importantly, the feeling of existential emptiness will lessen its<br />

grip and be replaced by a sense of purpose, substantive identity, and<br />

spirit which inspires high ideals and common cause.<br />

Life itself just becomes less of a fight, and more peaceful and satisfying.<br />

We do not have to worry about whether someone is more talented<br />

than we are, so long as we use our talents to make a positive difference<br />

to others, the culture, and the Kingdom of God. We are making<br />

the most out of what we have, and we can justify our lives accordingly.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


The Coronation of Napoleon, by Jacques-Louis David.<br />

Pride and egocentrism are at<br />

odds with level three and four<br />

pursuits.<br />

The Level Three-Four Comparison Game<br />

One warning should be added at this point — the temptation to turn the<br />

pursuit of level three and four happiness into a level two comparison<br />

game. We can become intoxicated by the pursuit of level three and four<br />

objectives, such that we begin to define ourselves in terms of our list<br />

of accomplishments. Our contributions become yet another way to objectify<br />

ourselves, and we begin to compare our achievements to those<br />

of others, thinking, “My list is bigger than yours,” or “I’m doing more<br />

good than you are.”<br />

This egocentric approach is obviously at odds with the whole purpose<br />

of level three-four pursuits, which are supposed to draw us out<br />

of ourselves through acts of love. If we continue down this path, slowly<br />

but surely, we will become emotionally detached from the individual<br />

human beings around us. We will no longer have any time or mental<br />

energy to be concerned about others’ well-being, suffering, goodness,<br />

and friendship because we are so involved in what we view as saving the<br />

world. And people will begin to pull away from us as well, just like they<br />

do with any other comparison game winner.<br />

How can we avoid this temptation to become self-centered and<br />

messianic when we are successful in our pursuit of level three and four<br />

338 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

happiness? In a word, love. Letting one person matter, making time for<br />

the little needs of a child, calling a person who is in need, and simply<br />

listening to someone who is suffering interrupts the plunge into narcissism.<br />

If we keep a balance between doing good and being with — between<br />

contribution and empathy — then we will have built a line of defense<br />

against the level three-four comparison game.<br />

If love for others is not enough to cure us of our egocentric view, we<br />

will need to learn from the love of God Himself. God invites us to serve<br />

Him by showing us His loving way, which enables us to let go of our list<br />

of accomplishments and to follow Him in His way of service — the way of<br />

His Son, who had time to be with sinners, the poor, and the weak; who<br />

enjoyed His relationships with the simple and the powerful; who listened<br />

to the cry of the poor as well as the wise of this world; and who sacrificed<br />

His life to bring us salvation.<br />

Grace: The free and<br />

undeserved gift of His own<br />

divine life that God gives to<br />

human persons.<br />

A Little Leap of Faith<br />

Even the strongest reasonable arguments and the best evidence from<br />

physics, logic, mathematics, and medicine will not be able to perfectly<br />

ground our trust in the loving God. Nevertheless, the evidence and use<br />

of our reason can make the leap of faith less difficult. God allows us to<br />

use reason to bridge the chasm from this world to the transcendent; we<br />

can get very close to the other side, but ultimately, we must make an<br />

act of the will to go all the way. God requires this little leap of faith not to<br />

be elusive, but to protect our freedom, dignity, and love by not forcing<br />

us in this choice.<br />

If we do make this leap, though, God then moves to help strengthen<br />

our relationship with Him through grace (favor from God, such as,<br />

inspiration, guidance, supernatural assistance, and a deeper and closer<br />

relationship with Him). God knows what we need, so we must concentrate<br />

on being open to the inspiration of God more than following a set<br />

of prescriptions or techniques.<br />

The Journey to Level Four Happiness<br />

We now begin the journey toward level four happiness and purpose in<br />

life. You might wonder, “Does the call of God really have so many different<br />

dimensions? Isn’t this a little complicated? Couldn’t He have just<br />

spoken to us and said, ‘I am God, and I’m calling you to myself, and here<br />

is a miracle to prove that it is really me,’” and then you are transformed<br />

instantly into the person of your dreams?<br />

If only it were that simple!<br />

Even the<br />

strongest<br />

reasonable<br />

arguments will<br />

not be able<br />

to perfectly<br />

ground our trust<br />

in the loving<br />

God, but the<br />

evidence can<br />

make the leap<br />

of faith less<br />

difficult.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


Interior Call: Our awareness<br />

of God’s drawing us to Himself<br />

within the inner domain of our<br />

hearts and souls.<br />

Exterior Call: Our awareness<br />

of God’s drawing us to Himself<br />

in the world around us.<br />

God must contend with one huge mitigating factor — human freedom.<br />

God truly thirsts for a faith that is free. He will never force us, compel<br />

us, or even push us into faith. He wants us to respond to His call with<br />

freedom and love. So, He operates with clues in both the inner domain<br />

of our hearts and souls (the interior call), and in the outer world around<br />

us (the exterior call). If we carefully probe these clues, we will see His<br />

loving and inviting hand — or perhaps better — heart.<br />

The Interior Call<br />

As we have learned, even level three happiness will not satisfy us completely<br />

because we have transcendent desires that call us beyond this<br />

life, whether we acknowledge them or not. Our desires for perfect love,<br />

truth, beauty, goodness/justice, and being/home will not go away if we<br />

ignore them. We noted the universal human feeling of being invited by<br />

the Wholly Other to seek more or go deeper. Without religion, with its<br />

revelation and church community, we feel radically incomplete — separated<br />

from our ultimate dignity and fulfillment. This point is corroborated<br />

by a 2004 study published by the American Psychiatric Association,<br />

which discovered that non-religiously affiliated people had significantly<br />

higher rates of suicide, depression, impulsivity, aggression, familial tensions,<br />

and substance abuse by comparison with the religiously affiliated.<br />

Interestingly, both religious and atheistic existentialist philosophers<br />

agree that we have deep and pervasive feelings about the meaninglessness<br />

of life without God, but they interpret these feelings quite differently.<br />

Religious existentialists view them as God’s call to enter into a<br />

relationship with Him for ultimate meaning, dignity, happiness, authenticity,<br />

and fulfillment. Atheistic existentialists, however, view these feelings<br />

as a part of life’s absurdity.<br />

As with all things, God can make good things come from bad ones.<br />

Viewed properly, we can understand the negative feelings as a way we<br />

are led back to God. Let’s explore four in turn:<br />

Cosmic Emptiness<br />

For Kierkegaard and other religious existentialists, this feeling comes<br />

from believing that we lack purpose, not in the immediate world around<br />

us, but in the totality of being. A sign of it is an overriding sense of boredom,<br />

even amidst a beautiful family, a successful academic career or<br />

job, material comforts, terrific friends, and just about everything a person<br />

could want in this world. The boredom keeps telling us that there<br />

should be something more — yet that something does not seem to be<br />

340 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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apparent in the world around us. Emptiness is perceived not only in the<br />

outer world, but also in our inner world. We can also feel a hole in the pit<br />

of our stomach — a hunger that cannot be satisfied by food — that indicates<br />

a lack of spiritual and transcendent substance.<br />

Cosmic Alienation<br />

It is not unusual for people to feel perfectly at home with family, friends,<br />

community, and culture, yet still feel a pervasive sense of not being at<br />

home, not fitting in, or not having a place in the totality of things (the<br />

cosmos). Atheistic existentialists would interpret this feeling as yet another<br />

sign of the absurdity of life and the inevitability of despair. By<br />

contrast, religious existentialists see it as God’s invitation to move more<br />

closely to our ultimate home — the transcendent, perfect, and eternal<br />

home in Him.<br />

Cosmic Loneliness<br />

The human person is interpersonal. When we are not in relation to others,<br />

we feel like a mere fraction of ourselves. Other people make us<br />

come alive, reflect us back to ourselves, and give us significance in our<br />

relationship with them. When we are deprived of the presence of others,<br />

We naturally feel lonely and<br />

alienated when we are cut off<br />

from others.<br />

Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


we lose this sense of significance, love, and well-being — and along with<br />

it, most of our sense of self. It is almost like someone has torn away a<br />

part of our being. The Jewish existentialist philosopher, Martin Buber,<br />

noticed that our interpersonal personhood has two layers: we not only<br />

desire to connect with other human beings, but also with an ultimate<br />

and absolute interpersonal Being. No human relationship will be able to<br />

take the place of this transcendent One. Continuing to ignore it makes<br />

the loneliness more acute, even if we already have meaningful relationships<br />

with family and friends.<br />

Cosmic Guilt<br />

Recall that even if we do not pursue one or more of the various levels<br />

of happiness, we still desire them, and that unfilled desire leaves us with<br />

a sense of yearning. We then have an underlying sense that we are not<br />

living up to our potential, that the most important parts of life are passing<br />

us by, and that we have ignored or shirked one of our most important<br />

responsibilities. When we ignore this cosmic dimension of our lives,<br />

we feel like guilty bystanders, implicitly believing that we are letting other<br />

people down.<br />

St. Katharine Drexel was<br />

born into a very wealthy<br />

family. She founded the<br />

Blessed Sacrament Sisters<br />

and used her fortune to fund<br />

its work running schools for<br />

Native American and African<br />

American children.<br />

St. Katharine Drexel Stained Glass, Saint Stephen, Martyr Roman<br />

Catholic Church (Chesapeake, Virginia). Image courtesy Nheyob<br />

342 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

Religious existentialists have seen all four of these negative feelings<br />

as something positive, because they lead us to our true nature, true<br />

home, true relationship with the divine, and therefore to our true selves.<br />

If they are to have this positive effect, however, we must make a decision<br />

to move toward the transcendent domain to which they point — a<br />

little leap of faith. Their interpretation adds to what we have seen since<br />

we first began this course: we have a transcendent soul capable of surviving<br />

bodily death, which is oriented toward the unconditional love of<br />

God in Jesus Christ.<br />

The Exterior Call of the Transcendent<br />

The exterior call to level four happiness can take many forms. Two<br />

common forms are through the experience of suffering (which we will<br />

consider more deeply in the next unit) and through evangelization.<br />

Whether it is a conversation with a trusted friend or a chance encounter<br />

with a book or TV show, evangelization typically reaches people intellectually<br />

when they have already detected some form of the interior call<br />

in their lives and are ready to respond.<br />

Of the many forms the exterior call of the transcendent can take,<br />

we will focus here on three specifically: church community, transcendent<br />

beauty, and philosophical and theological wisdom.<br />

Church Community<br />

Some people grow up in a religious household in which family members<br />

attend Church services. If they feel welcome and understand the<br />

doctrines and moral precepts of the Church, they have likely begun to<br />

sense themselves being within a transcendent or spiritual home — not<br />

just like being at home with their family but being at home in the totality<br />

of things. Some people who were raised in a religious household but<br />

fell away or felt alienated — as well as people raised without any religion<br />

at all — will begin to search for the spiritual or religious to discover what<br />

is missing in their lives. If young people, however, do not nourish their<br />

faith, or reject it through apathy or skepticism, the feelings of cosmic<br />

emptiness, alienation, and loneliness then begin to emerge.<br />

Beauty<br />

In addition to evangelization, the call of beauty can be irresistible.<br />

Beauty is not limited to the senses — many forms of beauty appeal to<br />

the mind and heart. Beauty, whether it be found in nature, physical<br />

forms, mathematics, physics, poetry, literature, art, architecture, music,<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


or individual people all have a way of pointing upward, toward its origin<br />

in an absolutely beautiful Being. Plato recognized this elevating and<br />

transcendent quality of beauty and expressed it as a hierarchy, moving<br />

upwards from the beauty of nature, art, and the senses, to the beauty<br />

of love, institutions, and laws, then to the beauty of mathematics and<br />

sciences, and finally to the beauty of transcendence and the divine<br />

One. In all these things, beauty attracts us, and when we appreciate it, it<br />

enhances us, fulfills us, and brings us to a higher sense of reality. Beauty<br />

by itself, however, does not have the power to push us into the transcendent,<br />

but only to draw us close to it. If we want to cross the frontier,<br />

we must choose to do so by the little leap of faith we have discussed.<br />

Sacred Beauty<br />

The outward<br />

beauty of<br />

religious art,<br />

architecture,<br />

music, and ritual<br />

can spark the<br />

interior call<br />

within us.<br />

As the entire history of spirituality indicates, there is something intrinsically<br />

beautiful about the domain of the sacred. Many of us have had<br />

experiences of being moved by a beautiful church, sacred music, liturgy,<br />

and sacred art — which all initially appeal to the senses, though they<br />

point beyond themselves. Spiritual and religious ideas can also incite an<br />

experience of sacred beauty (with the excitement, awe, and even ecstasy<br />

that accompanies it). For example, there is something beautiful<br />

about Scripture, theological ideas, the mystical life, the history of the<br />

Church, the living Tradition, the social encyclicals, the lives of the saints,<br />

spiritual literature, spiritual poetry, and the unity of all of these things.<br />

Virtually every culture throughout human history has recognized the<br />

beauty, enchantment and fulfillment of the spiritual and the sacred.<br />

The outward beauty of religious art, architecture, music and ritual<br />

can move us and spark the interior call within us. Sacred beauty can be<br />

manifest beyond glorious and awe-inspiring forms (beautiful cathedrals,<br />

symphonic masses, frescoes and paintings, sacred liturgy, and<br />

spiritual ideas); it extends to simplicity and stillness — the walkway of<br />

a Carthusian Monastery, the smile of Mother Teresa, a simple creche<br />

scene, a deed of kindness, or a deed of noble self-sacrifice. The beauty<br />

of holy people is especially powerful, revealing the love of God in genuine<br />

loving action that we can see and experience. When we allow ourselves<br />

to be drawn into the life of the sacred, the Lord responds even<br />

more intensely — with an invitation to even deeper realities.<br />

Philosophical and Theological Wisdom<br />

God’s exterior call can also be found in philosophical and theological<br />

wisdom which seeks to know the ultimate — ultimate causes, ultimate<br />

meaning, ultimate destiny. Individuals who are moved by these great<br />

344 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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questions and ideas frequently find their way to a God who is perfect<br />

and unconditional truth, love, goodness, beauty, and being. When these<br />

individuals find sufficient rational evidence for this ultimate divine principle,<br />

they allow their interior call to be awakened and felt.<br />

This exterior call to the transcendent through reason and wisdom<br />

comes from the search for something more meaningful than emotional<br />

responses or materialistic, naturalistic, and utilitarian philosophies. It<br />

frequently leads to systematic metaphysics and logical proofs for the<br />

existence of God (and scientific evidence for a Creator). When intellectuals<br />

become convinced God exists, they generally become interested<br />

in the consequences of this for their lives. This leads them to an<br />

investigation of the nature of created reality, the existence of the soul,<br />

and then to happiness, virtue, and purpose in life. A brief encounter<br />

with these deeper questions shows the intrinsic limits of reason alone.<br />

Some typical questions are, “Does God love us or is He indifferent to<br />

us (as Aristotle thought)?” “Does God redeem our suffering?” “Is there<br />

St. Thomas Aquinas applied<br />

both reason and faith in his<br />

study of metaphysics, moral<br />

philosophy, and religion.<br />

St. Thomas Aquinas, altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


a Heaven?” “Does God answer prayers?” and “Does God guide us?” As<br />

we have been learning, for if these questions are to be answered, God<br />

will have to reveal Himself to us, and tell us about the domain beyond<br />

the merely rational. Reason must be complemented by revelation.<br />

Conclusion<br />

The dimensions of God’s interior call can be complemented and realized<br />

by His exterior call through a church community, transcendent<br />

beauty, and philosophical and theological wisdom. But we must choose<br />

to follow the call of the transcendent by making a little leap of faith. This<br />

choice means acting on the call we have received which can be done by<br />

participating in a church community, seeking a deep understanding of<br />

spiritual wisdom and God’s self-revelation, entering into a life of prayer,<br />

trying to live according to God’s goodness, and helping others to see<br />

their true dignity and destiny.<br />

This is a journey worth taking. It will have trials as well as rewards,<br />

experiences of enmity as well as love, encounters with evil as well as<br />

goodness, but we can be sure that if we trust in the God of love, He will<br />

bring us safely to the home we yearn for.<br />

If we trust in God He will bring<br />

us to the home we yearn for.<br />

The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Ricci, by Pierre Subleyras.<br />

346 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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LIVES<br />

OF<br />

FAITH<br />

In the gutter of the street, the<br />

man laid dying. He was the<br />

poorest of the poor, dirty, sick,<br />

covered in wounds, and dying.<br />

He was un-savable. The hospital<br />

refused to take the man<br />

in. Why should they waste a<br />

bed on someone like him, they<br />

said, when he could not pay<br />

and there were others who<br />

could and whose lives could be<br />

saved? He was angry. He was sad. But most of all, he<br />

felt abandoned. He felt worthless.<br />

And then the small, frail-looking woman came<br />

to him, the woman the people called Mother Teresa.<br />

Dressed in a simple, white garment and head covering<br />

with blue trim, she knelt beside him and took his<br />

hand. It did not matter to her that he was filthy, that<br />

he smelled, that no one else wanted to be near him,<br />

or that no one wanted to even look at him. She did<br />

not care. She looked at him straight in his eyes. She<br />

picked him up and took him back to her infirmary.<br />

She cleaned him, tended his wounds, fed him, and<br />

gave him a bed to lay on.<br />

Once she had taken care of his physical needs,<br />

she looked at him and said, “Have you ever heard of<br />

Jesus? May I tell you about him?” To which the man<br />

St. Teresa of Calcutta<br />

responded, “If he is anything like<br />

you, I would love to hear about him!”<br />

By treating the man with the<br />

dignity he deserved as a child of<br />

God, Mother Teresa opened his<br />

heart to hearing about where his<br />

worth came from.<br />

Mother Teresa, or St. Teresa of<br />

Calcutta, worked hard throughout<br />

her life to uphold the dignity of all<br />

people, especially those who were<br />

poor and forgotten, the sick, and the dying. When<br />

she was younger, Jesus spoke to her and said, “I<br />

thirst.” Jesus thirsted for souls, especially the poor.<br />

St. Teresa devoted the rest of her life to working<br />

to satisfy Christ’s thirst by caring for the many sick<br />

and poor souls she encountered on the streets of<br />

Calcutta, India. Later, the order of nuns she founded,<br />

the Missionaries of Charity, continued her work<br />

in cities throughout the world.<br />

The heroic actions of Mother Teresa are an example<br />

to us of how every person, great or small, rich<br />

or poor, deserves to be treated with the same dignity.<br />

By this example, may we be unafraid to see the<br />

image of God in everyone we meet and treat them<br />

with compassion.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


Focus and Reflection Questions<br />

1 In order to transition from a level one-two dominant life to a level three-four dominant one, what<br />

four fundamental attitudes must we change?<br />

2 What role do our conscious and unconscious minds play in changing our dominant form of happiness<br />

to level three-four?<br />

3 What question must we reflect upon to refocus our goals away from constantly comparing ourselves<br />

to others? What will happen to us as we do so?<br />

4 What simple thing can we look for in others and ourselves to begin to stop comparing ourselves to<br />

others?<br />

5 What is the difference between “freedom from” and “freedom for”? How does the perspective of<br />

“freedom for” change our conception of happiness?<br />

6 Why must we move from a dominant level one-two level of happiness to a dominant level three-four<br />

level?<br />

7 What ego-centric temptation exists in our pursuit of level three-four happiness? How can we avoid<br />

this temptation?<br />

8 What is required to help us continue on the path to level three-four happiness?<br />

9 What will God never do as we journey towards level three-four happiness? Why not?<br />

10 Why do we feel radically incomplete without religion?<br />

11 How do religious existentialists view each of the four negative “cosmic” feelings? Why do they view<br />

them as positive things?<br />

12 What are three forms the exterior call of the transcendent can take?<br />

13 What happens when we are attracted by and appreciate beauty? What can beauty not do?<br />

14 From where does the exterior call to the transcendent through reason and wisdom come? To what<br />

does it lead?<br />

348 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

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Straight to the Source<br />


Libertas 1, an Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XIII, June 20, 1888<br />

Liberty, the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of intellectual or rational natures,<br />

confers on man this dignity — that he is “in the hand of his counsel” and has power over his actions. But<br />

the manner in which such dignity is exercised is of the greatest moment, inasmuch as on the use that<br />

is made of liberty the highest good and the greatest evil alike depend. Man, indeed, is free to obey<br />

his reason, to seek moral good, and to strive unswervingly after his last end. Yet he is free also to turn<br />

aside to all other things; and, in pursuing the empty semblance of good, to disturb rightful order and to<br />

fall headlong into the destruction which he has voluntarily chosen. The Redeemer of mankind, Jesus<br />

Christ, having restored and exalted the original dignity of nature, vouchsafed special assistance to the<br />

will of man; and by the gifts of His grace here, and the promise of heavenly bliss hereafter, He raised it<br />

to a nobler state. In like manner, this great gift of nature has ever been, and always will be, deservingly<br />

cherished by the Catholic Church, for to her alone has been committed the charge of handing down to<br />

all ages the benefits purchased for us by Jesus Christ. Yet there are many who imagine that the Church<br />

is hostile to human liberty. Having a false and absurd notion as to what liberty is, either they pervert the<br />

very idea of freedom, or they extend it at their pleasure to many things in respect of which man cannot<br />

rightly be regarded as free.<br />

1 Why does Pope Leo XIII insist that the manner in which human liberty is exercised is of the greatest<br />

importance?<br />

2 What do you think Pope Leo XIII means by stating that Christ has raised our will to a nobler state? How<br />

did Christ do this?<br />

3 Why might some people hold the position that the Church is “hostile to human liberty”? Explain why<br />

this is a false position, based on what you have learned in this unit.<br />

Letter of Pope St. John Paul II to Artists 12–13, April 4, 1999<br />

12. In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must<br />

make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must<br />

therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to<br />

take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish<br />

the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent<br />

value and its aura of mystery.<br />

The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the<br />

endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in<br />

his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen<br />

God.<br />

© Sophia Institute for Teachers<br />

Unit 6, Chapter 17: Moving to Level Three and Four Happiness<br />


The Church also needs musicians. How many sacred works have been composed through the centuries<br />

by people deeply imbued with the sense of the mystery! The faith of countless believers has been nourished<br />

by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the liturgy or used<br />

as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation<br />

of the saving intervention of God.<br />

The Church needs architects, because she needs spaces to bring the Christian people together and<br />

celebrate the mysteries of salvation. After the terrible destruction of the last World War and the growth<br />

of great cities, a new generation of architects showed themselves adept at responding to the exigencies<br />

of Christian worship, confirming that the religious theme can still inspire architectural design in our<br />

own day. Not infrequently these architects have constructed churches which are both places of prayer<br />

and true works of art.<br />

13. The Church therefore needs art. But can it also be said that art needs the Church? The question may<br />

seem like a provocation. Yet, rightly understood, it is both legitimate and profound. Artists are constantly<br />

in search of the hidden meaning of things, and their torment is to succeed in expressing the world of<br />

the ineffable. How then can we fail to see what a great source of inspiration is offered by that kind of<br />

homeland of the soul that is religion? Is it not perhaps within the realm of religion that the most vital personal<br />

questions are posed, and answers both concrete and definitive are sought?<br />

In fact, the religious theme has been among those most frequently treated by artists in every age. The<br />

Church has always appealed to their creative powers in interpreting the Gospel message and discerning<br />

its precise application in the life of the Christian community. This partnership has been a source of<br />

mutual spiritual enrichment. Ultimately, it has been a great boon for an understanding of man, of the<br />

authentic image and truth of the person. The special bond between art and Christian revelation has<br />

also become evident. This does not mean that human genius has not found inspiration in other religious<br />

contexts. It is enough to recall the art of the ancient world, especially Greek and Roman art, or the art<br />

which still flourishes in the very ancient civilizations of the East. It remains true, however, that because of<br />

its central doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word of God, Christianity offers artists a horizon especially<br />

rich in inspiration. What an impoverishment it would be for art to abandon the inexhaustible mine of the<br />

Gospel!<br />

1 According to Pope St. John Paul II, why does the Church need art? What does art accomplish?<br />

2 Pope St. John Paul II speaks about the symbolic force of images, and says that “Christ himself made<br />

extensive use of images in his preaching”. Name three images used by Christ that you can recall.<br />

3 What types of artists does Pope St. John Paul II say the Church needs? If you could serve the Church<br />

in one of these artistic professions, which would you choose? Why?<br />

4 What case does Pope St. John Paul II make for the arts needing the Church?<br />

350 Apologetics I: The Catholic Faith and Science<br />

© Magis Center

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