Thursday, April 22, 2021

Municipal Market of São Paulo city

Municipal Market of São Paulo city

 Isn't this gorgeous? Click on the photo or through to the link to see a larger size.

A Catholic Guide to Spending Less and Living More: Advice from a Debt-Free Family of 16

A husband-and-wife team shares their extraordinary story of raising fourteen children on a modest income while living in an expensive metropolitan region. Their practical wisdom, hard-won spiritual insights, and Catholic perspectives on how they have created their own plan.
  • Break free of debt—even if your family lives on one income.
  • Pay off your mortgage and other big-ticket expenditures.
  • Save for long- and short-term goals.
  • Enjoy fun family vacations without going into debt.
  • Cultivate interior virtues such as gratitude and generosity to prevent resentment and hoarding.
  • Help your kids become good money managers and discerning consumers.
  • Achieve a happier marriage and family life through Catholic principles of good stewardship.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book which is easy to read and has a lot of good advice. Some of it is standard and some is interestingly creative. However, all of it is interwoven with spiritual reminders that practicing things like temperance, generosity, and prudence are ways to grow closer to God.  That's the Catholic part and what that makes this book go deeper than the average "spending less" advice. I especially appreciated the section on living the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

During Lent I came across the idea that Americans are addicted to comfort, which I think is true. I reflected on it and tried to break little addictions during that very appropriate time of sacrifice. This book continues those reflections in showing us how that we may be addicted to comfort in ways we never realized. That makes it valuable in yet another way.

My husband and I already learned many of the suggested techniques through our years of marriage and making ends meet. However, there's always something new to pick up. I was intrigued by the idea of a spending fast where you choose two months of the year to buy nothing that is non-essential. So food and toilet paper and utilities. We live relatively frugally but this will mean rethinking things that I never consider — such as, what about store brand peanut butter instead of my favorite kind? My immediate, unthinking rejection of that idea made me realize that I'm rather spoiled. If nothing else, this already has me looking at my regular expenditures in a new way. 

I received a review copy which I am, in best frugal fashion, going to pass on to my daughter and her husband.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Psalm 14 — Fools Deny God

When you hear some people blaspheming against the providence of God, but do not make common cause with them in their impiety, but on the other hand, intercede with God, saying Psalm 14.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

This psalm delighted me by beginning with the well known lines:

The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."

Therefore, I was extra interested to read the rest of the psalm. It is a meditation on the first sentence in examining how the wicked have chosen their lifestyles based on the mistaken idea that they don't have to worry about righteousness because there is no God at all. 

My goodness, these psalms can be so modern! Or, to put it more accurately, humankind hasn't really changed at all.

I like the acerbic comment below on these fools, as the psalmist calls them.

Gerard van Honthorst,
King David Playing the Harp, 1622

14:1. Fools Deny God

A History of Fools. Asterius the Homilist: It was the fool who said through Pharaoah, "I have not known this God"; and the depth of the sea became a tomb for him. The fool said through Sennecharib, "God is not able to snatch Hezekiah from my hands," and he was killed by his sons. The fool said through Nebuchadnezzar, "Who is this God who can snatch you from my hand? Who is the most powerful of men?" ... Judas the denier of God was destroyed by a noose because he had deemed God as a man to be betrayed. Homilies on the Psalms

Psalms 1-50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Julie, Scott, and 170,000 of their closest friends are stuck in Kuwait. Which one of them will tell Ranjit about the state of the toilet?

 In episode 255 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, Scott Danielson and I discuss Airlift (2016) starring Akshay Kumar. It's another Indian movie! This time one telling us about a historical event we never heard of.


James Tissot, Mavourneen

A Movie You Might Have Missed #39 — Offside

It's been 11 years since I began this series highlighting movies I wished more people knew about. I'm rerunning it from the beginning because I still think these are movies you might have missed.  

In Iran, all women are banned from men's sporting events. Can they sneak in to see Iran qualify for the World Cup?

 This little movie is a real charmer.

A number of Iranian girls attempt to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium dressed as boys in order to watch a qualifying match that will get Iran into the World Cup competition. Several are arrested and the movie largely consists of watching their attempts to escape or talk the guards into letting them go.

Ironically, the ostensible reason for keeping women out of the stadium is to protect their delicate sensibilities when the men become overcome by excitement and begin swearing at missed goals and the like. A stadium entryway is tantalizingly close so that several guards are able to watch part of the game and naturally ... swear when goals are missed. No one blinks an eye.

Likewise, when one woman engages the head guard in a logical discussion about why the law is nonsensical, he knows she is right but is unable to do anything but his duty.

What was most interesting to me was this look into Iran as this was filmed on location during the actual sporting event. The men are all dressed Western-style in shirts and slacks while any women we see are sporting terrible attempts to pass for boys. Also interesting was that all the other men we see (with the exception of one father) are largely sympathetic to the girls' attempts to see the match in person. They routinely attempt to help them slip into the stadium or refuse to turn them in.

As I said before, this is a small movie but ultimately it is one that is a lot of fun, especially during the scene when one hapless guard has to find a way to get one of the girls into the all-male bathroom.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Still Life with Coffee

Albert Anker, Still Life with Coffee, 1877
Via Arts Everyday Living

I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Friday, April 16, 2021

Guardian of the Sun

Guardian of the Sun, Remo Savisaar

Do away with counting the cost

When we perform an act of kindness we should rejoice and not be sad about it. If you undo the shackles and the thongs, says Isaiah, that is, if you do away with miserliness and counting the cost, with hesitation and grumbling, what will be the result? Something great and wonderful! What a marvelous reward there will be: Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will rise up quickly. Who would not aspire to light and healing?
Gregory of Nazianzen, sermon

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Queen of Spades

The Queen of Spades (1898). John Byam Liston Shaw.
Via Books and Art.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other's fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges - one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

This is a perfectly named book. It captures the feeling of summer for those of us lucky enough to grow up without parents urging them into summer camps or other improving activities. For those of us lucky enough to be allowed to have free days and nights and boredom pushing us to observe, discover, and play. In this series of vignettes we come to know a grandmother and granddaughter who provide all the human interactions with their tiny island, home, and each other. Neither is perfect and their imperfection is recognizable. They get mad, fight, cheat, try to help in the wrong way, and more.

It is a wonderful series of snapshots of real life where every situation doesn't tie up neatly or provide a life lesson, though some do. Very highly recommended with much thanks to my daughter, Hannah, who pointed me to this book. I hope she had enough summer freedom in her young days to recognize the feel in this book as much as I did.

Hannah and Scott Danielson discussed it on the Shelf Wear podcast. Their conversation made me pick it up to reread.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary working for the poor

Saint Elizabeth of Hungary working for the poor by Marianne Stokes, 1920.


Psalm 13 — Waiting on the Lord

Though the plot of the enemies lasts a very long time, do not lose heart, as though God had forgotten you, but call on the Lord, singing Psalm 13.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

These days it is easy to lose heart and feel as if nothing will ever change. We're a year into the Covid-19 pandemic with contentious political division and everyone arguing ferociously at the drop of a hat.

I especially think of this line from verse 2: "How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?"

I like how the psalmist thanks God at the end, before his prayer has been answered. Such is his trust.

Psalm 13 in the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

13:5. Trusting in God's Steadfast Love

A Hope-Filled Soul. St. John Chrysostom: Do you see a hope-filled soul? He asked, and before receiving he gives thanks as though having received, sings praise to God and achieves all that had been anticipated. Commentary on the Psalms

Psalms 1-50 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

Clearly, though, the psalmist has been suffering a long time and feels as if God has abandoned him. This commenter looks at the result of the Babylonian Exile on the Jewish people who felt abandoned by God. I mean to say when your temple has been destroyed and your people dragged to slavery, it is safe to say you feel as if God wasn't around. The change to their thinking about suffering and redemption is transformative. Surely it also paved the way for their ability to recognize Christ's redemptive sacrifice. Also — I never knew why it was called "the Holocaust." Astounding
The Absence of God

Throughout the centuries since, the convention arose of understanding the continuing suffering of Diaspora Judaism as redemptive, vicarious suffering by the faithful remnant for the sins of the whole community. This draws on Isaiah's four Servant Songs (Isa. 42:1-6[9], 49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52: 13-53:12), in which Yahweh's servant (variously identified as Israel, a faithful remnant, the prophet, or some future servant/messiah) suffers innocently for the sins of the people.

In this regard, the acute and tragic suffering of the European Jewish community under the Nazi program of exploitation and extermination during World War II has come to be called "the Holocaust," a reference to the completely burned sin offering offered yearly on the Day of Atonement for the sins of the nation. In this way the suffering and death of six and a half million Jews and their survivors has been interpreted as vicarious and redemptive sacrifice by the innocent for the sins of the world. This reinterpretation of the suffering of the faithful follows the lead of Job and Ecclesiastes in affirming that the absence of God is not a sign of his lack of power or concern. Nor is God's delay in coming a necessary indication of the wickedness of those who suffer in the interim. God is still God and worth of worship and allegiance despite the inability of humans to comprehend human suffering fully.
Psalms Volume 1 (NIV Application Commentary)

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here