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
  • Plato: Complete Works; ed. John Cooper
  • Vergil’s Aeneid; Sarah Ruden translation
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Summa Theologica; St Thomas Aquinas
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Seventeen Plays;  William Shakespeare
  • Collected Poetry & Prose; Robert Frost
  • Dylan’s Vision of Sin; Christopher Ricks
  • Mansfield Park; by Jane Austen
  • Great Expectations; Charles Dickens
  • Age of Innocence; Edith Wharton
  • Several Novels; William Faulkner
  • The Everlasting Chesterton; Ian Ker
  • Vagabonds: Edison & Ford; Jeff Guinn
  • Justice on Trial; Hemingway & Severino
  • Isaiah: the Church’s Bible; R L Wilken
  • Compendium of the Catholic Catechism

The Appalachian Riders For Our Lady have a particular interest in the season of Ascensiontide, which we consider nearly as important as Advent and Lent.  My particular interest is: That ecclesial bodies with very different ecclesiology seem to have very similar Christology.  Emphasis on “seem”. 

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 soteriologically. 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 the Nicene creed.  God is able to sustain what was initially established (..I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it) and it is wrong-headed to try to start over on one’s own.

Technology is very important and clearly the most important technology is language. The people who know the most about language are not the philosophers but the poets, broadly defined.

““Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” (Richard Feynman)

“Don’t get involved in partial problems, but always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (William Faulkner)

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

 

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The Glen at Maude’s Tavern

The hills of Appalachia are wrinkled deep in time. Some places there, as the saying goes, you can’t get to from here. At least, if the here were televised America. And if not….

There are three large structures in the Glen at Maude’s Tavern: the chapel, the abbey, and of course, the tavern. As to which is oldest, well, that has been the heart of many a heated argument by the bar at Maude’s Tavern – especially since nobody around here puts much value in being new. The tavern looks the newest, what with Joe Turner coming down from Northern Virginia back in the 70s to renovate it; however, his taking Sue Wesley as his wife, ‘as part of the renovation’ he’s fond of joking since she grew up at the tavern, and her roots being Cherokee ‘as are the mountains! Sue says’ give grounds for the tavern being oldest.

Certainly, none of the groups have been very particular about keeping written records and much is hard to make out in the fog of time. The chapel folks, the people of the Mt Zion Freewill Sanctified Baptist Chapel, going back to Scots settlers (refugees from the losing side of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar in the 3rd English Civil War), are what most folks associate with old-time Appalachian mountain culture. And then the abbey Riders, the Abbey of the Appalachian Riders for Our Lady, with their immediate roots in what some think a humorous convolution of Francis Asbury inspired Methodist circuit-riding with Francis Assisi inspired devotion to renewal of the Catholic Church, trace their roots all the way back to the first century after Our Lord’s rising from the dead. So, depending on one’s view of what counts as evidence and as connection, the abbey and the chapel and the tavern each have grounds for claiming to be the true foundation of the Glen.

Myself, Tom White, I’m a lapsed Unitarian, coming from a family of lapsed Unitarians. My mom lapsed from Unitarianism into Methodism and I continued the lapse all the way back into the Catholic Church (and into the Riders, in spite of or perhaps, because of their limiting brothers to two dozen books).

And, though I keep forgetting, since this might be read by someone outside the Glen, I really need to start with that, since it holds them all – the tavern, the abbey and the chapel. What with its geography, which kept it free from the reach of television’s invasion and of thoroughfares from elsewhere in the United States, it is in many ways a world of its own, a sociological laboratory of sorts, one might say. Any reader will, I trust, appreciate my reticence regarding the specific location and features of the Glen, in order to preserve its privacy. The crucial fact, both geographical and geological, is that it is fairly well isolated from the rest of the country. In fact, my descriptions of land and environment will often be of a similar, though larger, regions far to the west: the Uinta Basin in Utah and the Flathead regions in Montana and Idaho.

The first white men to set eyes on the Uinta Basin and Uinta Mountains were members of the small Spanish expedition from Santa Fe headed by Fray Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez. The expedition crossed into Utah and the Uinta Basin several miles northeast of present day Jensen [see the chapter ‘Las Llagas – San Andres’ in The Dominguez-Escalante Journal, University of Utah Press]. These explorers opened the Uinta Basin and the eastern portion of the Great Basin to Spanish, and later Mexican, American, and British fur-trappers and traders.

The Uinta Basin drew little interest during the initial phase of settlement of the Great Basin. Early in the 1860s Brigham Young did order a small expedition to the Uinta Basin to determine the suitability for locating settlements there. Upon the expedition’s return, the Deseret News reported that the expedition had found little there and that the basin was a “vast contiguity of waste…valueless excepting for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and to hold the world together.”

To hold the world together – that is the purpose of the less traveled places of which I speak.

Chief Sitting Bull

At least two Paleo-Indian cultural sites (12,000-8,500 BC) have been located in the Uinta Basin. These people were primarily hunters of the mammoth, bison, and other big game. During the Archaic period (8,500-2,500 BC), the basin was occupied by Plateau Archaic People who were gatherers as well as hunters. More recently, people identified with the Fremont Culture have occupied the Uinta Basin. The Fremont Culture parallels in time and development the better known Anasazi Culture. People of the Fremont Culture lived in semi-subterranean shelters (kivas) and were dependent primarily upon corn agriculture and hunting of smaller game and fishing.

During the ethno-historical period (A.D. 1300 to present), the Uinta Basin has been occupied by a band of Utes. The basin was also occasionally visited by the Northern and Northwestern Shoshones (hence the picture of Chief Sitting Bull).

And then, there’s Father Pierre Jean De Smet and the tribes of what’s now Washington, Idaho,  and Montana; however, that will have to wait for another posting. I just wanted to introduce all the main characters and set the stage before getting back to Maude’s Tavern.

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A Painting

gospel

From this web posting. The Vocation of the Apostles is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, executed in 1481–1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. It depicts the Gospel narrative of Jesus Christ calling Peter and Andrew to become his disciples.

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The Church

MotherChurch

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How We Do Theology

Members of the Appalachian Riders for Our Lady are encouraged to introduce themselves as theologians. However, we are theologians in the unique style of our order with our work guided by, in addition to the basic character of our order, these four principles:

  1. Do theology for the milieu in which you are embedded.
  2. Ground your work in your particular booklist.
  3. Our theology is based on conversation rather than writing.
  4. Be patient.

 

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Sermons

I’ve listened to, on average, at least one sermon or homily every week for the last forty years. I continue to look forward to: a coherent exposition of the Scriptures, increasing my understanding and actualization of passages with which I have some familiarity and often opening up passages that somehow had not struck me before. While the quality of the homilies have varied widely from my viewpoint, listening is always useful and there is a cumulative weight that is significant, albeit hard to summarize.

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Counterbalancing Politics

If one is an atheist, it seems to me one of the major challenges is to counterbalance politics. Unless, of course, one also thinks that everything is politics; however, that way lies madness and no point in trying to argue in that case.

Now, I’m using atheism in a very broad sense. Buddhism and Confucianism are, to my way of thinking, religions and their adherents are not atheists.  I’m also reminded that the Roman pagans sometimes thought Christians were atheists and that Socrates was sentenced to death for his impiety.

So, if one is an atheist but realizes the need to counterbalance politics, where will one find the counterbalance?  A recent interview with Camilla Paglia gives one common answer:  art or culture in general.  I don’t think that works; nevertheless I admire at least the recognition that there does need to be some sort of major counterbalance to politics. I also note that Paglia has a new collection of essays out:  Provocations: Collected Essays on Art, Feminism, Politics, Sex, and Education

 

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Synodality

It seems clear that the purpose of synodality is to insert an authoritative structure between Pope and Bishops.  Argument can be made that this is needed due to growth of the Church. However, by inserting a bureaucratic organization between the Pope and the Bishop, it would fundamentally alter the nature of the Church in a way that seems to be without Biblical warrant and for that matter without warrant in Christian tradition. Occasionally called Councils are one thing and even then fraught with problems.  However, a bureaucratic structure is not personally and individually responsive to God’s promptings in the way that the individual, chosen by God, has been in the Tradition, both as recorded in Scripture and as expressed in the tradition of the Church.
    Furthermore, the Church’s recent inability to cope with issues of sexuality and fiscal responsibility and Pope Francis’ tendency to cast any criticism as demonic persecution prompts one to be rather skeptical of this major reorganization effort.

Links:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_20180302_sinodalita_en.html

https://laciviltacattolica.com/the-synodal-church/

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/final-draft-of-document-thrusts-the-issue-of-synodality-to-the-fore

 

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