I keep this older posting at the head of my blog, outlining the viewpoint of all that follows. The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation in addition to the general Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience and stability adapted to a lay context. The Riders strive to promote a conversational culture, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort. While somewhat bookish, given our use of books to establish continuity, we prefer conversation over writing and recognize that mere talking is rarely conversation. I think apologetics is a waste of time better spent on positive statement of belief. Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My own investigations center around the apparent paradox of Christologies seeming to be close together when their related Ecclesiologies are far apart. My booklist (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on 24 books) is:
- Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
- The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
- Isaiah commentary; Brevard S. Childs
- The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
- Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
- Fifteen Plays; by William Shakespeare
- Complete English Poems; John Donne
- Pride and Prejudice; by Jane Austen
- Five Short Novels; by Anton Chekhov
- Methodist Hymnbook-with Tunes 1933
- The Acts of the Apostles; J.B. Lightfoot
- Collected Works; Flannery O’Connor
- Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
- The Geometry of Spacetime; Callahan
- On the Christian Life; Anthony Esolen
- History of the Church; James Hitchcock
- Lumen Christi Simple Gradual; Bartlett
- Enchiridion Symbolorum; Denzinger
- Compendium of the Catholic Catechism
My booklist starts with Scripture, centered in the Psalms, and continues its intertwining of history, poetic literature, and philosophy broadly considered up to contemporary times. Essential to the culture of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is participation in daily Mass at our particular parishes (7am Mass at St Ambrose in Salt Lake City, Utah in my case) and our encouragement of increasing use of the Liturgy of the Hours. We also try to form connections outside the Catholic Church (in my case, with St John’s Anglican, to which my wife belongs).
Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar
I want to commend the Catholic perspective to you. Of course, that raises several questions:
- Is it reasonable to speak of THE Catholic perspective?
- Is my characterization of this perspective warranted?
- Can one also speak of THE Protestant perspective, especially given the range of protestant ecclesial bodies?
I propose that the protestant perspective is that the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the individual or, at most, the congregation. On the other hand, I commend the Catholic perspective: the Christian life is best lived and considered from the primary viewpoint of the universal Church, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose head steward is the bishop of Rome. After addressing those preliminary questions, I intend to commend the Catholic perspective in three aspects:
- better able to cope with adversity
- more resources for spiritual formation
- closer alignment with the scriptural canon
All these points are controversial; however, I intend not to argue for them but rather to chew on them. The difference between a primarily individual perspective and a primarily ecclesial perspective also has a significant political component since the State desires no competitor to its hegemony (see, for example, Alan Jacobs biography of The Book of Common Prayer which documents how this worked out in England) and hence is inclined to favor an individual perspective which it can divide and conquer.
I’m also assuming that the more alive an entity, the more applicable the principle that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In addition, whenever possible I’d like to phrase matters sociologically rather than ecclesiologically. A major advantage of a perspective more social than individual is that one can ‘check one’s answers’ — the boredom of, for example, discussion about end-time scenarios or sectarian doctrine being that one can not check one’s theory in one’s day to day life and interactions with others as one can, on the other hand, regarding ethics and how to live in community.