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
  • Introduction to Hebrew; W. Fullilove
  • Exodus commentary; Thomas White
  • 1 Samuel; Francesca Aran Murphy
  • Herodotus: Histories; Tom Holland
  • Vergil: The Aeneid; by Sarah Ruden
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Art of War & other Chinese classics
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Twenty One Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Poetry and Selected Prose; John Donne
  • Oxford Book of English Verse; Ricks
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • The Lyrics 1961-2012; by Bob Dylan
  • Something Other Than God; J. Fulwiler
  • Beauty of the Infinite; David Bentley Hart
  • 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.

wasatch

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 me..it’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.

 

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Twenty One Plays by Shakespeare

The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Much Ado About Nothing
As You Like It
Twelfth Night
All’s Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure
Hamlet
Macbeth
Othello
King Lear
Richard II
Henry IV, Part One
Henry IV, Part Two
Henry V
Henry VIII
Coriolanus
Julius Caesar
Antony and Cleopatra
Cymbeline
Troilus and Cressida

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No Need for Religion?

When a man tells me “personally, I feel no need for religion” what I hear is “I don’t want to be part of any social structure for which I’m not in charge. Moreover, to the extent that folks are under my authority, I don’t want it for them either.”  This attitude is widespread and even applies to some pastors, especially those with a congregationalist governance.  I try to stay as far away from that attitude as possible; therefore, I am Catholic.

The matter reminds me of the ‘no man is an island’ theme which John Donne rings so well:

PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all; but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness. There was a contention as far as a suit (in which both piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled), which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

Or, as Bob Dylan’s song goes:

Gotta Serve Somebody

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

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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.

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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.

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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 WhatIs.com, “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?

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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

 

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