Commitment, Continuity, and Conversation

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
  • Athanasius; by Peter J. Leithart
  • The Confessions; by Saint Augustine
  • Major Works; St Anselm of Canterbury
  • Dante’s Divine Comedy; Anthony Esolen
  • Fifteen Plays; by William Shakespeare
  • Poems; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Collected Poems & Prose; Robert Frost
  • Oxford Book of English Verse; Ricks
  • Major Works; Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • Mere Christianity;  by C. S. Lewis
  • Jesus of Nazareth; Pope Benedict XVI
  • Splendor of Truth; Saint John Paul II
  • Why the Church;  Luigi Giussani
  • John 13-17, Ephesian; A. Von Speyr
  • St Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal
  • Enchiridion Symbolorum; Denzinger
  • 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.   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

Christian Perspectives

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, and Shakespeare  and I think of the books as being in, and for me more or less defining, three categories:

  • History
    • Bible
    • Liturgy of the Hours
    • Enchiridion Symbolorum
  • Literature
    • Dante’s Divine Comedy
    • Shakespeare’s plays
    • Longfellow
    • Oxford Book of English Verse
    • Gerard Manley Hopkins
    • Robert Frost
  • Philosophy
    • Augustine’s Confessions
    • John 13-17 & Ephesians
    • Mere Christianity
    • Athanasius
    • Why the Church
    • Anselm’s works
    • Jesus of Nazareth
    • Splendor of Truth
    • St Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal
    • 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.

Global Matters

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.

A living organism needs each stage of its development. The organism is injured if any stage is stunted or accelerated. In fact, the development curve of an organism is part of what distinguishes it from a mere material assemblage (of course, we use ‘stage’ here as a convenient conceptual simplification). While the development curve of an organism is part of its essential nature, it is also the case that the nature of this curve, as of the the organism itself, has a complex relationship with the environment in which the organism lives. Nevertheless, the crucial observation is that a living organism needs all of its life-cycle.  The Church is a living organism.


Our culture is largely gone, destroyed perhaps inadvertently from results of recent technology: television, birth control pills, educational and social stratification. Mostly dead husks remain although, of course, there are living remnants.

It is time to build. While in some sense it is easy to cope with television and birth control by just saying no, dealing with stratification is more challenging.  Families have a crucial role here: insist whenever possible on doing things together. Resist age and ethnic segmentation and build on deep historical foundations, in Christ. Love one another.

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Melancholy Mood

 has posted an article on Dylan’s upcoming Melancholy Mood:

The singer’s soul is “stranded high and dry,” all he can see is “grief and gloom / till the crack of doom.” Still, he prays for release from his melancholy mood, and in Bob’s voice it seems to me this has less the sense of a boy praying for his girl to come back and more the sense of the creature praying to his Creator for an infinitely greater kind of release.

Dylan’s gift to these songs is to show just how deep they can go, without changing a note or a word.

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On Romney

As U.S. real output grew 13 percent between 2002 and 2006, Massachusetts trailed at 9 percent.
* Manufacturing employment fell 7 percent nationwide those years, but sank 14 percent under Romney, placing Massachusetts 48th among the states.
* Between fall 2003 and autumn 2006, U.S. job growth averaged 5.4 percent, nearly three times Massachusetts’ anemic 1.9 percent pace.
* While 8 million Americans over age 16 found work between 2002 and 2006, the number of employed Massachusetts residents actually declined by 8,500 during those years.
“Massachusetts was the only state to have failed to post any gain in its pool of employed residents,” professors Sum and McLaughlin concluded.
In an April 2003 meeting with the Massachusetts congressional delegation in Washington, Romney failed to endorse President Bush’s $726 billion tax-cut proposal.”

[Cato Institute annual Fiscal Policy Report Card – America’s Governors, 2004.]

“The Massachusetts Republican Party died last Tuesday.
The cause of death: failed leadership.

The party is survived by a few leftover legislators
and a handful of county officials and grassroots activists
who have been ignored for years.
Services will be public and a mass exodus of taxpayers will follow.
In lieu of flowers, send messages to Republican voters
warning them about a certain presidential candidate named Romney.”
– Boston Herald, 11/12/2006

“In 2006, while Romney was chairman of the National Republican
Governors Association – a group dedicated to electing more
Republican governors – his own hand-picked Republican successor
as governor lost badly to the Democrat, despite the fact that Republicans
have held the governorship in Massachusetts since 1990. Romney largely
ignored the Massachusetts elections and spent most of the time
during the campaign out of state building his presidential campaign.
He came back and publicly campaigned for the Republican candidate
the day before the general election!
“Locally, this is a rebuke to Mitt Romney and checking out within six months
after being elected and having accomplished almost nothing,”

[Jim] Rappaport [former chairman of the state Republican Party].”
– Boston Globe, 11/8/2006

Governor Mitt Romney, who touts his conservative credentials to out-of-state Republicans,
has passed over GOP lawyers for three-quarters of the 36 judicial vacancies he has faced
instead tapping registered Democrats or independents — including two gay lawyers who
have supported expanded same-sex rights, a Globe review of the nominations has found.
Of the 36 people Romney named to be judges or clerk magistrates, 23 are either registered Democrats
or unenrolled voters who have made multiple contributions to Democratic politicians
or who voted in Democratic primaries, state and local records show.
In all, he has nominated nine registered Republicans, 13 unenrolled voters,
and 14 registered Democrats.”
– Boston Globe 7/25/2005

Romney Rewards one of the State’s Leading Anti-Marriage Attorneys by Making him a Judge
Romney told the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2004, that the “real threat to the States is not the
constitutional amendment process, in which the states participate,
but activist judges who disregard the law and redefine marriage . . .”
Romney sounds tough but yet he had no qualms advancing the legal career of one
of the leading anti-marriage attorneys.
He nominated Stephen Abany to a District Court.
Abany has been a key player in the Massachusetts Lesbian and Gay Bar Association which,
in its own words, is “dedicated to ensuring that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision
on marriage equality is upheld, and that any anti-gay amendment or legislation is defeated.”
– U.S. Senate testimony by Gov. Mitt Romney, 6/22/2004 P>

Romney announces he won’t fill judicial vacancies before term ends
Despite his rhetoric about judicial activism, Romney announced that
he won’t fill all the remaining vacancies during his term – but instead
leave them for his liberal Democrat successor!

Governor Mitt Romney pledged yesterday not to make a flurry of lame-duck
judicial appointments in the final days of his administration . . . David Yas,
editor of Lawyers Weekly, said Romney is “bucking tradition” by resisting the urge to
fill all remaining judgeships. “It is a tradition for governors to use that power to appoint judges
aggressively in the waning moments of their administration,” Yas said.
He added that Romney has been criticized for failing to make judicial appointments.
“The legal community has consistently criticized him for not filling open seats quickly enough
and being a little too painstaking in the process and being dismissive of the input of the
Judicial Nominating Commission,” Yas said.
– Boston Globe 11/2/2006

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Palin’s endorsement speech

Here’s a link to Sarah Palin’s speech endorsing Donald Trump. It is about 20 minutes long and will no doubt be trashed by various barking betas who’ve not even listened to it.

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The Questions That Matter

In the introduction to his recent book, Life Under Compulsion, Anthony Esolen writes about:

The Questions That Matter

How to raise children who can sit with a good book and read? Who are moved by beauty? Who delight in innocence? Who can walk outdoors and enjoy the beauty of weeds and sparrows? Who still possess youth, which lends them both a frolic childlikeness and a wisdom beyond their years?  Who have no compulsions–who don’t have to attend to the constant buzzing of a smartphone, or click on the next link and the next link and the next link, or buy the latest gadget, or submit to the instant urge?

These questions pass unnoticed by technocratic utilitarians left and right, by the “progressives” who have to move, move, move, who knows where, and even by lovers of the humanities, who don’t wish to acknowledge the disease, because we are all infected.

But they are the questions that matter.  Even more to the point: What sort of child shall you raise, my readers?

To resist Life Under Compulsion, to raise children who can throw off the shackles and enjoy truly free, and full, lives, we must affirm the old meaning of the English word free, which is related to joy and greatness of heart–associations now dim in English but still clear in our German cousins: freude, joy; frieden, peace, “Freely ye have received,” says Jesus to His disciples: “freely give.”  He does not mean that the apostles should charge no fees for their teaching. He means to invite them into relationships of love.  They have received the love of God freely; it is not compelled.  He wants them to be free with themselves, to have free hearts for the love of others, bringing a peace that is full and alive, not merely the absence of war.

This older, fuller meaning points to the practical contradiction at the heart of the vision of freedom as noninterference.  Unless we are to live as beasts ranging the fields, we must have order.  But order implies hierarchy, those who must govern and those who must be governed.  These groups may overlap considerably in one respect or another: even a senator is not supposed to cheat on his taxes, and even a day laborer can (still) tell his small son when it is time to go to bed.  Obedience is inevitable.  Satan himself says, when it suits his purposes, that “Orders and Degrees / Jar not with liberty, but well consist.”

Freedom, in the end, is an intrinsic virtue, not an extrinsic condition, an accident of politics.  It is not a negative–freedom from, instead it is a positive- freedom for.  This freedom is not for oneself but for others.  Our bonds and responsibilities do not constrict our freedom but rather define our very humanity.

When the pilgrim Dante stands upon the shores of the Mountain of Purgatory, he looks to the heavens and sees the beautiful morning star in the East:

The radiant planet fostering love like rain,
made all the orient heavens laugh with light,
veiling the starry Fishes in her train.

It is Venus, the star of love. What should that have to do with Purgatory?  Everything, as it turns out, for evil clamps the heart and crushes the soul.  To free oneself from the accumulated sludge of sin is to free oneself for the freedom of heart that is love. “He seeks his freedom,” says Virgil to Cato, the guardian of Purgatory, as he begs to allow Dante to climb the mountain.  Virgil does not mean that Dante is looking for a democratic republic.  He wishes for Dante to learn about sin, but more, to learn about the wonders of love.  He wishes for Dante to grow wings, so to speak.  Without wings, you may say that you are free to fly, and say it all day long, but you will not get one foot off the ground.

On this matter the great pagans and the Christians, the poets and the philosophers, speak with one voice.  In his soaring dialogue of love, the Phaedrus, Plato says that the soul in love grows wings, and that this is actually the purpose of a truly human education.  His pupil and rival Aristotle was less given to poetic flights, as far as we can determine from the lecture notes that have survived, but for him, too, freedom was the unimpeded capacity of a creature to make real the fulfillment that is built into its very nature. For man, that meant the attainment of practical and intellectual virtue: to contemplate what is good and to act in accord with it.  The brave Stoic Epictetus boasted that no one could put fetters upon him.  What enslaves us is not the will of another but our own will when we turn to vice.  when Boethius was in prison, awaiting execution on a charge of treason trumped up by his political, religious, and cultural enemies.  Lady Philosophy came to console him and to remind him that only he had the power to wander away from the true path.

I seek in this book to echo those voices as I look at how we raise our children.  But I caution the reader. Those voices also warn us that virtue is difficult, hard-won.  If freedom is a virtue, and if Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor is right in saying that most people flee in terror from freedom, then you may wish to raise up Contented Cows, placidly chewing their cuds in a field of creature comforts, or Harried Hamsters, racing on the Mill of the World.  If so, you,too, can read this book for profit.  I will show you ten ways in which we are raising up people who enjoy a certain political license (though even that is starting to rasp our wrists and ankles) but who have all the genuine spiritual liberty of an opium addict.  The chains are right here, if you like.

Yes so is the window.









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Loyola Kids Book of Saints

The Loyola Kids Book of Saints by Amy Welborn has 
biographies of the following Saints and Blessed.
I sort by the date of their going to be with God.

polycarp		  155
perpetua		  203
felicity		  203
christopher		  250
george			  303
blaise			  316
helena			  330
nicholas		  350
monica			  387
ambrose			  397
jerome			  420
augustine of hippo 	  430
simeon stylites 	  459
leo the great 	 	  461
patrick			  461
benedict		  547
gregory the great	  604
boniface 	 	  754
cyril			  869
methodius		  885
wenceslaus		  929
bernard of montjoux 	 1081
thomas becket 	 	 1170
hildegard of bingen 	 1179
dominic de guzman 	 1221
francis of assisi 	 1226
elizabeth of hungary 	 1231
anthony of padua 	 1231
thomas aquinas 	 	 1274
celestine v		 1296
catherine of siena 	 1380
joan of arc 	 	 1431
frances of rome 	 1440
fra angelico 	 	 1455
thomas more		 1535
juan diego		 1548
francis xavier		 1552
ignatius of loyola 	 1556
teresa of avila 	 1582
margaret clitherow 	 1586
john of the cross 	 1591
paul miki and companions 1597
francis solano 	 	 1610
camillus de lellis 	 1614
martin de porres 	 1639
isaaac jogues 	 	 1646
peter claver		 1654
vincent de paul 	 1660
kateri tekakwitha 	 1680
louis de monfort 	 1716
carmelites of compiegne  1794
elizabeth ann seton 	 1821
frederic ozanam 	 1853
john neumann 	 	 1860
bernadette soubirous 	 1879
john bosco 	 	 1888
joseph de veuster 	 1889
therese of lisieux 	 1897
francis xavier cabrini 	 1917
miguel pro 		 1927
maximilian kolbe 	 1941
titus brandsma 		 1942
edith stein		 1942
peter to rot	  	 1945
katherine drexel 	 1955
gianna beretta molla	 1962
maria nengapeta 	 1964
padre pio 		 1968
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On The Rich

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, had this to say about the rich (of which group I, like most Americans, am a member I’m afraid):

I know that the most modern manufacture has been really occupied in trying to produce an abnormally large needle. I know that the most recent biologists have been chiefly anxious to discover a very small camel. But if we diminish the camel to his smallest, or open the eye of the needle to its largest —if, in short, we assume the words of Christ to have meant the very least that they could mean, His words must at the very least mean this—that rich men are not very likely to be morally trustworthy. Christianity even when watered down is hot enough to boil all modern society to rags. The mere minimum of the Church would be a deadly ultimatum to the world. For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor.

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