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 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, proclaiming Christ crucified, authentically Christian and Catholic, in the midst of a world largely lacking culture of any sort.  Our vows of commitment, continuity, and conversation do not necessarily mean that we have any natural inclination or talent in these areas. My booklist, which is in a way deep in history (each Rider, during their novitiate, settles on at most 24 books of primary importance), is:

  • Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
  • The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
  • World’s Oldest Alphabet; D. Petrovich
  • Exodus commentary; Thomas White
  • 1 Samuel; Francesca Aran Murphy
  • Herodotus: Histories; Tom Holland
  • Ezekiel commentary; Robert Jenson
  • Vergil: The Aeneid; by Sarah Ruden
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Art of War & other Chinese classics
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Sixteen Plays;  by William Shakespeare
  • Reformation Divided; Eamon Duffy
  • Oxford Book of English Verse; Ricks
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • The Lyrics 1961-2012; by Bob Dylan
  • Utah’s History; Richard Poll et al
  • Veritatis Splendor; Saint John Paul II
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

Essential to the culture of the Appalachian Riders For Our Lady is participation in daily Mass at our particular parishes and our encouragement of increasing use of the Liturgy of the Hours.


Thomas Gwyn and MaryAlice Dunbar

Christian Perspectives

The foundation of everything is Christ Jesus, and him crucified. However, beyond the personal aspects of that, what are the implications for our social relationships?

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, the Bride of Christ, extended in spacetime and militantly subsisting in the Catholic Church whose chief steward is the bishop of Rome. Besides 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.

On a personal level, I think the core of the Protestant error centers on the attempt to place faith above love (see Luther’s commentary on Galatians) contra Saint Paul and the Catholic tradition.

The noted Evangelical scholar Mark Noll, in the book ‘Is the Reformation Over’, argues that Catholic and Protestant disagreements really come down to different understandings of the nature of the Church.  I don’t disagree; however, I very much disagree with the view that “well, maybe so but that’s not important to’s my personal relationship with God that is important.”  The nature of the Church is essentially intertwined with the work of the Holy Spirit, as is reflected in both the Nicene and Apostles creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.


Posted in Church, Currents | Tagged | Leave a comment

On America

Growing up in the Shenandoah valley of Virginia, I absorbed a view of America forged by the Revolutionary War.  Since moving west I’ve come to consider that to be more a definition of what the United States is ‘not’.  What the United States ‘is’ was only later forged by the Civil War. Walter McDougall’s book ‘The Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829-1877‘ gives an interesting account of this period, which seems very contemporary.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Two World Wars

Two World Wars: I respond to the rhetorical hyperbole of ‘Trump is Hitler’ with ‘No, Trump is Churchill’. See Sayet’s article on the culture war and Heiden’s article on The Darkest Hour.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Speculative Execution and the Gospel

The recently publicized matter of security issues with modern computer CPU design is very interesting from a Thomist perspective, and in fact from  the viewpoint of any serious Christian philosophical perspective.  Now of course, existentially, the most important matter remains ‘is the Gospel true’; however, leaving that aside for the time being consider instead: if the Gospel is true, what are the implications?  Surely one implication is that to assume one can accurately predict the future is to be heading for a fall and will have serious security risks.

Modern CPU design is deeply pipelined and in order to get the fastest performance out of this has also adopted speculative execution To quote from, “Speculation (also known as speculative loading ), is a process implemented in Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing ( EPIC ) processors and their compilers to reduce processor-memory exchanging bottlenecks or latency by putting all the data into memory in advance of an actual load instruction.”

Inherent in this, I think, is an over confidence in our ability to predict the future which is dangerous and it is to be expected that security risks would arise. Further, given the nature of modern cloud IT structures, these security risks will have major financial implications.

Who would have thought that being an IT Manager would lead one back to Saint Thomas Aquinas?

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Nine Dylan CDs and One Song

  1. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – 1964
  2. John Wesley Harding – 1967
  3. Blood on the Tracks = 1975
  4. Senor – 1978
  5. Trouble No More #1 – 1979
  6. Trouble No More #2 – 1981
  7. Oh Mercy – 1989
  8. Dylan Unplugged – 1995
  9. Time Out of Mind – 1997
  10. Tell Tale Signs #2 – 2008


Posted in Church | Leave a comment

The Fundamental Historical Fact

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This is the fundamental historical fact and it changes everything. Among other consequences, it changes the nature and significance of history and historical research in comparison to experimental science.

Many people, both Christians and non-Christians, do not think much about the consequences of this, for various reasons.  And, of course many folks do not consider it to be a historical fact at all. However, IF it is a historical fact, then it certainly warrants very careful consideration and has wide-ranging implications.

This course will be studying Christian reflection on this fact during the period from Saint Athanasius through Pope Saint Gregory — roughly the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries in the Christian calendar.  The previous posting, from Dec. 11th, lists the texts we will be using.

Posted in Church | Leave a comment

Five Early Doctors

Early Doctors of the Church

The text below is from Wikipedia.

Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor “teacher”) is a title given by the Catholic Church to saints whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.

In the Western church four eminent “Fathers of the Church” attained this honour in the early Middle Ages: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, and Saint Jerome. The “four Doctors” became a commonplace among the Scholastics, and a decree of Boniface VIII (1298) ordering their feasts to be kept as doubles in the whole Church is contained in his sixth book of Decretals (cap. “Gloriosus”, de relique. et vener. sanctorum, in Sexto, III, 22).[1]

In the Latin Church, the four Latin Doctors “had already long been recognized” in the liturgy when the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church, John ChrysostomBasil the GreatGregory of Nazianzus, and Athanasius of Alexandria were recognized in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V.


Athanasius (c. 296–298 – 2 May 373) is counted as one of the four great Eastern Doctors of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church.[3] In the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is labeled as the “Father of Orthodoxy”. Some Protestants label him as “Father of the Canon”. Athanasius is venerated as a Christian saint, whose feast day is 2 May in Western Christianity, 15 May in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and 18 January in the other Eastern Orthodox Churches. He is venerated by the Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutherans, and the Anglican Communion.


Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great (330 – 379), was an influential theologian who supported the Nicene Creed and opposed the heresies of the early Christian church, fighting against both Arianism and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea. In addition to his work as a theologian, Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. Basil established guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labour. He is remembered as a father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity.  Basil is considered a saint by the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity. His feast day is January 2nd.


Ambrose (c. 340 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was the Roman governor of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of Milan by popular acclamation in 374.  was one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and is the patron saint of Milan. He is notable for his influence on Augustine of Hippo.


Jerome (c. 27 March 347 – 30 September 420)  is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate), and his commentaries on the Gospels. He is recognised as a Saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.[7]


Augustine (13 November 354 – 28 August 430) is recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, the Eastern Christian Church, and the Anglican Communion and as a preeminent Doctor of the Church. He is also the patron of the Augustinians.


Gregory (c. 540 – 12 March 604) is a Doctor of the Church and one of the Latin Fathers. He is considered a saint in the Catholic ChurchEastern Orthodox ChurchAnglican Communion, and some Lutheran denominations. Immediately after his death, Gregory was canonized by popular acclaim.[5] The Protestant reformer John Calvin admired Gregory and declared in his Institutes that Gregory was the last good pope.[6] 



For the class/discussion, in addition the Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version, we will use the following books:

  1. Athanasius – Khaled Anatolios
  2. Basil – Stephen Hildebrand
  3. Ambrose – Boniface Ramsey O.P.
  4. Jerome – Stefan Rebenich
  5. The Confessions – Augustine  (Everyman Library edition)
  6. Gregory the Great – George Demacopoulos


Posted in Church | Leave a comment