Friday, November 22, 2019

The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

Who knew there was a book on minimalism from a Catholic point of view? And why was I surprised when it was much more meaningful than the Protestant books I’ve read on the subject?

Haley Stewart and her husband have an evangelical background (Baptist, I think), but gravitated toward Catholicism for various reasons. In this book she cites the Bible, several saints, and papal encyclicals. (And Wendell Berry and C.S. Lewis!) I found her arguments to be clearly reasoned and compelling.

How do you extricate yourself from throwaway culture and live out the Gospel values in your own home and family? I believe that the key to shifting our worldview, to pursuing less and living more, is to develop virtue by taking on practices that, little by little, transform us. This kind of growth won’t occur if we passively sit and wish for virtue to spring up spontaneously and effortlessly in our hearts. We can and must actively pursue virtue by taking up practices and habits that cultivate it.  (from intro)

Mere minimalism is an incomplete solution to our consumerism. If we ignore a deep generosity to share what we have with others, and if we are unwilling to accept help in return, we have not adopted a Gospel mind-set. The early Church viewed all its possessions as “ours.” (p. 29)

My journey toward generous love – the self-sacrificing love that accompanies motherhood – began with a 180-degree turn from a throwaway culture, which in the arena of sexuality elevates pleasure and convenience above every other consideration….The contraceptive mind-set (that removes fertility from its connection to sexuality) and its tragic sister, abortion, are facets of throwaway culture intended to eliminate the need to embrace this call to sacrificial love. Yet this is a journey we need to take, no matter what our vocation. Whether we’re called to married life or religious life, and whether or not there are children in our future, we are all called to lives of generous outpouring for others. (p. 125,127)

This is a wonderful book that gives a solid theological basis for its opposition to consumerism. Not for everybody, but I appreciated Stewart for stretching my thinking on several, important cultural issues.


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