God’s Gamble – now available on Amazon

We are pleased to announce the publication of Gil Bailie’s new book God’s Gamble – The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love

We are very grateful to John Riess at Angelico Press for the fine work he and his team have done in publishing this book in such an elegant and attractive format.

Click on the image above to order your copy!

The Cross of Christ has left a crater at the center of history, an inflection of sacrificial love toward which everything before and after this event is ordered and properly understood. That Christ is the Alpha and Omega–the logic, the meaning of creation itself, from whom the drama of salvation emanates and toward whom it moves–is a central but often neglected doctrine of Catholic Christianity. Though it is a mystery that will ever elude rational explication, sufficient traces of it can be found. Drawing primarily on the insights of René Girard and Hans Urs von Balthasar, Gil Bailie’s new book is a work of reconnaissance, an effort to locate and explicate some of these traces. He presents a narrative of both rich and subtle textures–the story of God’s gamble in and on history.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ten Years Ago….


The Cornerstone Forum Board – Sonoma, August 2006 LtoR George Wesolek (d. 2014), Dr. Pat Tinker, William Shea, Tom Olp, Gil Bailie, Randy Coleman-Riese, (Elizabeth Ely not present)

August 27, 2006 marked the beginning of The Cornerstone Forum’s foray into what was then already a large and growing online “weblog” phenomenon with the launch of Reflections on Faith and Culture. In 2006 Facebook was mostly a feature of college and high school life and the iPhone was a year away from being released to the public. In the days prior to the new ‘blog’ Gil Bailie had been posting short reflections on an early iteration of the Cornerstone Forum (nee Florilegia Institute) website. That old website is no longer available online. However, we do have pieces of it stuck away on backup hard drives. And as with most of Gil’s writing it has withstood the vagaries of changing times pretty well. So, I will be dusting off some of these pieces and, as with our ‘audio archives’, making them available again to what we hope are new or more recent followers of the Cornerstone Forum’s work. This is not meant to be merely an exercise in nostalgia. (Though it certainly is nostalgic for me.) It is also a demonstration of the comprehensive and insightful nature of Gil Bailie’s work over the years, and of why we believe it is important to keep these materials available for years to come. René Girard alluded to just this aspect of Gil’s work in the foreward  to Violence Unveiled:

Such is the talent of Gil Bailie and the power of his analyses that he can bring together Bob Dylan and the Aztec myth of Tezcatlipoca without giving an impression of disharmony or discontinuity….He can make Aeschylus accessible through Rodney King and purify Rodney King of journalistic clichés by placing his affair in an Aeschylian light.

Here is a re-post from that August 2006 blog launch:

“Isaac reopened the wells dug by the servants of his father Abraham and blocked up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death, and he gave them the same names as his father had given them” (Gen. 26:18).

For years, The Cornerstone Forum has had as its principle theme the phrase “Keeping Faith and Breaking Ground.” The term has its value, and we will almost surely continue to invoke it here and there. It comes to mind today, as we are experimenting with the idea of launching a weblog. It seemed only natural to include the phrase on the blog as we have so often included it on other of the things we have done. I am the person responsible for the use of the phrase, but there has always been something about it that didn’t quite sit right with me. In a word: the subtle presumption involved in proposing to break new ground.

It is, I think, unquestionably true that the work of René Girard throws enormous light on what I variously call Christological Anthropology or the Perichoretic Anthropology, and it is likewise the case, I believe, that as we look through the lens that Girard’s work provides we will be able to recognize the universality and uniqueness of Christianity with tools not before available to us and in ways that will contribute significantly to our ability to evangelize our weary world and catechize the young. Speaking from experience, I can predict that those who peer through the anthropological lens Girard’s work provides will experience Christianity and the Christian truth claims as if for the first time. The experience will be a kind of ground-breaking experience. In truth, however, it will simply be another instance of what has happened ever and again throughout history.

Christian faith is ever-ancient, ever-new. As Eliot reminded us, we are always having to return to where we started and know the place for the first time. It was also Eliot who reminded us that this recovery takes places today “under conditions that seem unpropitious.” So my mind turns to Isaac, who was indeed “breaking ground,” but who would probably have omitted the claim to have been doing so, inasmuch as he was simply re-digging the wells of Abraham that the Philistines had filled with the desert sand. What is particularly poignant to me about this one-sentence allusion in the Book of Genesis is the notation that Isaac gave these wells the same names that his father had given them. There is something there for us today, it seems to me; a sense of our humble place in the scheme of things, a degree of anonymity that is proper to the transmission of the mysteries of faith.

Just a thought.


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

After having spent the past two and a half years editing and transferring Gil Bailie’s cassette recordings of Reflections on Dante’s Divine Comedy to the world of digital audio, I am now ready to take on the next transition task. The backlog of material is substantial but what came to mind during this US presidential election’s political season was Gil Bailie’s reflections on Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Below are a couple of short excerpts from the first part of this series which I think may pique your interest:

During the period prior to making these presentations Gil had been participating in the episodic seminars held Friday afternoons on the Stanford campus with René Girard and his students. Professor Girard had been preparing a compilation of articles on the bard’s work that was published in 1991 as A Theatre of Envy: William Shakespeare (Odeon). Five of the 38 chapters in his book deal with Julius Caesar. And for those familiar with Shakespeare’s plays it offers a wealth of practical insights into both Shakespeare and Girard’s mimetic theory.

The entire first part of Gil’s series is available on our webstore HERE. Forthcoming episodes of Julius Caesar and other Shakespeare plays will be posted to our store monthly. If you would like to follow these talks and have them sent to your email address each month, please consider becoming a regular monthly donor to the Cornerstone Forum. For a one time annual donation of $60 ( or a subscription of $5 per month for 12 months) we will add your email address to our list of supporters to our mendicant work and send you a monthly link to our complimentary downloadable MP3 file. Although CDs are quickly passing over the technological horizon, we still provide these without cost (via USPS) to those generous souls who sustain our efforts at the $300 per year level (or a subscription of $25 per month for 12 months). Our sustaining donors will also receive the monthly complimentary downloadable MP3 as well. Note: complimentary mailed CDs are only available to our supporters in the US due to the high cost of postage for non-US customers.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

As an account of our fallen condition and the perennial temptation to escape into a utopian future, has Shakespeare’s sonnet 129 ever been improved upon?

Th’ expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight,
Past reason hunted; and, no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so,
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129

Unlimited Sovereignty of the Individual

“We are probably the first, and we will surely remain the only, people in history to give over all elements of social life and all contents of human life to the unlimited sovereignty of the individual. … It is easy to see that, if humanity had begun its adventure by embracing such principles, neither families, nor cities, nor religious communities would ever have been created. Strangely, our regime has taken on the task of drawing support more and more exclusively from a principle upon which it happens to be impossible to found anything at all.”

Beyond Radical Secularism: How France and the Christian West Should Respond to the Islamic Challenge
by Pierre Manent

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Unlimited Sovereignty of the Individual

Ties That Bind vs individualism?

4thofJulySome thoughts on the 240th anniversary of the founding of the United States of America.

The ideas underlying the democratic principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States had their earliest known instantiation in the Athenian democratic experience during the period from the 6th to the 4th century BC finally ending, after a rather bumpy ride, with the world conquering rule of the Macedonian tyrant Alexander the Great. I recall a college Greek history professor commenting on the failures of Athenian democracy saying that prior to the rule of Alexander and his successors, the citizens of Athens had succumbed to a kind of creeping ‘individualism’ that rendered them fractious and ill disposed to any common societal center of gravity. The ties that bound the citizens to their families, clans, tribes and the city state were thought to have loosened over time. Why this happened was not well understood.

The American version of democracy, corseted as a representative republic, with its appeals to Divine Providence and the common good so as ‘to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their descendants’ would seem at this pass to have similarly succumbed to a loosening of the ties that bind us together as a nation. What is at the heart of this failure to come together? Are the ties that bind so irksome to us that we despise them and willfully throw them off? And then what…? Without the communion of our compatriots we become isolates; true individuals ‘free’ from family and the grounding of faith in creed or even custom. Perhaps more strangely, we redefine ‘family’ and any other cramping concept to allow each of us individuals to make up or own identity without respect to any given in nature or culture. The blessings of liberty have morphed into the curse of a freedom to be or do anything. I may be wrong, but I don’t think this will end well.

So, on this anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence I will again  celebrate with my family and friends confessing my own complicity in rending our common fabric while working for the healing of the nations. God have mercy on us.

Randy Coleman-Riese

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Ties That Bind vs individualism?

Remembering Ralph Stanley and Bill Cunningham


Ralph Stanley


Bill Cunningham

Among the many who ended their earthly pilgrimages in the past week are the two men pictured here.

Their passing was noted in the media outlets because of their notoriety. Mr. Stanley, a musician, and Mr. Cunningham, a photographer, both were Christians who in their very different lives gave quiet yet profound testimony to their faith.

Mr. Stanley in an interview some  years ago was asked about his unique singing style:

Now, that’s not my voice…. That’s a God-given voice.
If it wasn’t for the lord’s will, I couldn’t — I couldn’t sing that way. He gives everybody everything they have.

As an ‘old timey’ country musician singing with family members as the Clinch Mountain Boys he did not have a wide exposure until the 2000 Coen brothers movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in which Mr. Stanley sang unaccompanied the dirge “O Death”.

There’s never been truer words ever written, because every word in that “O Death” song is going to come. It’s going to come to you and me and everybody else.
And I try my best to make people understand it when I sing that, that it is. I never think about it, but I know every — I sing that every night. And I know that, one day, maybe tomorrow, or maybe 50 years from today, that’s coming to me, see?
It’s already come to a lot of people. And that’s true, a true song.

Just as one would really need to hear Ralph Stanley (and perhaps have an appreciation of country music) to get a sense of the man and his spirit, Bill Cunningham could best be introduced via a documentary done in 2011, Bill Cunningham New York. In this film that follows Mr. Cunningham around Manhattan as he photographs people on the street going about their lives as well as the interviews interspersed throughout the viewer will begin to understand a little of the deep Catholic faith that motivates his life.

Near the end of the film the interviewer asks Mr. Cunningham two questions: ‘Have you ever had a romantic relationship’ and ‘Why he goes to church every Sunday’. To the first he responds, “He wants to know if I’m gay!” and laughs. Beginning his career as a milliner Mr. Cunningham has always been involved in the fashion world in one way or another except for a stint in the Army. In answer to the question he states that he had never been in a ‘romantic relationship’. The second question elicited a different kind of response. When asked, Mr. Cunningham bowed his head remaining silent for about 30 seconds, seemingly in prayer but also almost weeping. Lifting his head, he replied that he believed that it is good to have a guide in one’s life.

In 2008 the French government bestowed on him the Legion of Honor. In accepting the award he ended his speech with, “He who seeks Beauty will find it”.

Requiescant in pacem

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Remembering Ralph Stanley and Bill Cunningham

Father’s Day Thoughts

cPéguyHere is something from Charles Péguy to consider on Father’s Day:

There is only one adventurer in the world, as can be seen very clearly in the modern world, the father of a family. Even the most desperate adventurers are nothing compared with him. Everything in the modern world, even and perhaps most of all contempt, is organized against that fool, that imprudent, daring fool – against the unruly, audacious man who is daring enough to have a wife and family. Everything is against him. Savagely organized against him. Everything turns and combines against him. Men, events, the events of society, the automatic play of economic laws. And, in short, everything else.
Everything is against the father of a family, the pater familias; and consequently against the family. He alone is literally “engaged” in the world, in the age. He alone is an adventurer. The rest are at most engaged with their heads, which is nothing. He is engaged with all his limbs. The rest suffer for themselves. In the first degree. He alone suffers through others.

It would betray the revolutionary character of Charles Péguy to quote him in a spirit of nostalgia, for their author had no patience with the attempt to return to a past which the forlorn tend to romanticize. Be that as it may, the task of fashioning a way of life and a renewed experiment in ordered liberty that does justice to the mystery of the human vocation ought to begin with an assessment of what has been lost.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Father’s Day Thoughts

Freedom exists

Freedom exists, not that one might choose according to his or her passing desires, but that one might move toward the true meaning and mystery of life and, in doing so, make that meaning and mystery uniquely manifest, living it out in a way that no one else in the whole history of the world could.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Freedom exists

Péguy on The Modern World…and Playing Games with God


The modern world as a whole is a world that thinks only about its own old age. It is a monstrous old people’s home, an institution for pensioners. … Avarice in the form of anxiety about tomorrow is the lord of all the world.

God plays with man the children’s game of ‘loser takes all’.

— Hans Urs von Balthasar commenting on and quoting Charles Péguy

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Péguy on The Modern World…and Playing Games with God