The Early Church

Christian communities sometimes get enthused about being like the ‘early Church’. For me, the most significant aspect of this is gathering daily for prayer and public worship (see Acts 2:46), which is difficult to find outside the Catholic Church. Just saying :)


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On Reading Aquinas

The last book added to my reading list was Aquinas’ Selected Writings, both because the Summa, etc are daunting and due to not being able to decide on the right volume. However, the Penguin Classics’ Selected Writings of Thomas Aquinas, selected with an introduction by Ralph McInerny is just right: a wide-ranging survey of Aquinas’ writings arranged chronologically and with a focus on Aquinas as philosopher. All that’s missing is his eucharistic hymns and I’ve got that in an appendix of Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Paradisio.

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On the Hatred of God

A translation of a sermon, in Latin, which Elisabeth Anscombe delivered at the University of Oxford.

On the Hatred of God

The great philosopher Spinoza denied that God could be hated by men. He relied on false arguments. For he thinks that the idea of God that exists in the human mind is always perfect and adequate. Certainly if we were to mount to an insight into the divine nature itself, we would necessarily love God as the supreme good and source of all goodness, but at present we see through a glass darkly, as the Apostle says, and we only know God by his works in this world. Of these his effects, some are intrinsically lovable and delightful, nor can God be hated on account of them; but to human nature corrupted by sin the divine law repressing vices seems intolerable, and much more the punishments which are to be inflicted on us for our offenses. On account of such effects, as is said by the Angelic Doctor, God is hated by some, inasmuch as he is apprehended by them as forbidder of sins and inflicter of punishments.

From such hatred of God some have fallen into open atheism: they do not want God to exist, hence they do not acknowledge God. For nearly two hundred hears now philosophers have been entangling themselves in involved arguments that they may believe there cannot be one supreme and infinite divinity: in fact on this account they reject the worship of God as being unworthy of a free spirit; they despise the worshippers of God and mock them as slaves. Yet others publicly profess to love God, but do not any the less hate the true God: as in former times rebels who wished for revolution began by attacking not the king but the king’s ministers, so these men praise God, but pour abuse on the saints and prophets. These false worshippers of God are easily known by the following sign: they condemn the fear of God; further, they do not know the divine law compelling virtue; they think the divine love towards men consists in men’s leading a pleasant life and having the fleshly desires of their hearts satisfied, that virtue is ‘to believe in man’; that such a faith is supremely manifested in the life of Christ. Where then is the severity and mercy of God (of which the Apostle speaks)? Severity is held to be a myth; mercy they do not understand; for they think that punishments cannot be justly inflicted, if they can be remitted without injustice. About such there are words from the mouth of the Lord in the prophecy of Ezekiel: “You are become to them like a musical song, which is sung with a sweet and pleasant sound”. But there comes: “When what was predicted shall have happened (for behold, it is coming) then they will know that there was a prophet in among them.”

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Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

The particular spirituality of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is based on our three foundational principles of commitment, continuity and conversation:

The Riders are committed to faithful and sympathetic submission to papal authority while striving to work out traditional vows of obedience, poverty, chastity, and stability in a largely lay context. For example, while stability for Benedictine monastics means lifelong attachment to a particular monastery, for Riders stability means attachment to a particular parish and its daily Mass (in my case, St Ambrose in Salt Lake City).

The Riders work in continuity with the entire Catholic Church, extended in both space and time, with each Rider limiting their reading and study to two dozen books. These books are settled upon by a Rider, in coordination with the abbot and their particular focus, at the time of taking permanent vows and all Riders share a core of books: the Bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Compendium to the Catholic Catechism. I’m inclined to prefer books which show a writer’s development over time and my patron saint is Thomas Aquinas, whose clarity and fairness in stating views with which he disagreed is exemplary.

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 the 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 is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • Isaiah: A Commentary; Brevard Childs
  • Letters; Pope Clement & St. Ignatius
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; tr. Sarah Ruden
  • The Confessions; Saint Augustine
  • Selected Writings; St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Purgatory & Paradise; A. Esolen
  • Sonnets & 11 Plays; William Shakespeare
  • Complete English Poems; John Donne
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • Collected Works; Flannery O’Connor
  • Sober Intoxication; Cantalamessa
  • Lumen Christi: A Simple Gradual
  • Defending Marriage; Anthony Esolen
  • Jesus of Nazareth; Pope Benedict XVI
  • Enchiridion Symbolorum; Denzinger
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

The booklist was finalized during the 2014 liturgical year. Insofar as this list differs from what I would have expected several years ago, the change is largely due to participation with daily Mass at St Ambrose parish in Salt Lake City, along with regular interactions with folks in other ecclesial bodies. The books center around the topic of cultural history, with varying levels of authority, and mostly refer to earlier times. Cultural history is, I think, far more interesting than the political history that is so dominant nowadays. Essential to the culture of the Appalachian Riders for our Lady is participation at daily Mass at our particular parishes.


Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Not so fast; DAILY MASS

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Brubeck documentary

Wonderful documentary at

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On The Fourth

Chief Sitting Bull

…instead of two thousand words…

Chief Sitting Bull

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The Three Most Important Questions

Who is God?

What is the kingdom of God?

How then should we live?

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