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. 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 at most 24 books) is:
- Bible, unabridged Revised Standard Version
- The Liturgy of the Hours, unabridged
- The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
- Practical Theology; St Thomas Aquinas
- Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
- Fifteen Plays; by William Shakespeare
- Complete English Poems; John Donne
- Pride and Prejudice; Jane Austen
- Great Expectations; Charles Dickens
- The Brothers Karamazov; Dostoevsky
- The Age of Innocence; Edith Wharton
- Brideshead Revisited; Evelyn Waugh
- A Burnt Out Case; by Graham Greene
- Oxford Book of English Verse; Ricks
- Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
- Compassion; Nouwen, McNeil, Morrison
- Jesus of Nazareth; Pope Benedict XVI
- Splendor of Truth; Saint John Paul II
- Kids Book of Saints; by Amy Welborn
- 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 in my case) and our encouragement of increasing use of the Liturgy of the Hours. I also participate, as a matter of hospitality, in the RCIA program at St Ambrose. Riders 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.
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.
Back to my booklist, the core is: The Bible, the Liturgy of the Hours, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, and the little book on Compassion and I think of the books as being in, and for me more or less defining, three categories:
- Liturgy of the Hours
- Kids Book of Saints
- Divine Comedy
- Shakespeare’s plays
- John Donne
- Pride and Prejudice
- Great Expectations
- The Brothers Karamazov
- The Age of Innocence
- Brideshead Revisited
- A Burnt Out Case
- Oxford Book of English Verse
- Robert Frost
- Augustine’s Confessions
- Practical Theology
- Jesus of Nazareth
- Splendor of Truth
- Compendium of the Catholic Catechism
Yes, that’s not how the world looks at history or philosophy; however, the resurrection of Christ Jesus changes everything.
I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to give a comprehensive and coherent account of what I consider to be true and important (and the interconnection between truth and importance). I’m not primarily trying to persuade but rather to understand and so expect a certain amount of sympathy for what I only state indirectly.