Surprise…

Last Sunday I happened to watch an hour long CSPAN interview with Robert P. George and Cornel West. It was not what I expected; which was verbal combat between scholars occupying opposite ideological perspectives. Over the years I had read a number of articles by Professor George, who teaches at Princeton, and knew him as a gifted Catholic scholar whose outspoken pro-life, natural law, politically conservative positions have influenced my own thinking. Professor West of Harvard, on the other hand, I knew only from news media accounts, having never read anything he had written that I can recall. However, by his reputation as a political progressive of the left I felt the CSPAN program would provide some verbal fireworks, at least.

What transpired surprised me. I encourage anyone who despairs of high level respectful discourse between ideological opponents to click on the image above to watch the program. It will not be lost on the viewer that both of these men are Christians whose views have been formed by their faith. But it is also evident that the manner in which they hold their differing views on many issues is saturated by a grace that enables them to live and work together as brothers in Christ.

Merry Christmas!

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Autumn & Advent

 

In preparing the digital audio for part 4 of Gil Bailie’s Reflections on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans I heard Gil recite the Rilke poem ‘Autumn’…

 

The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
as though above were withering farthest gardens;
they fall with a denying attitude.
And night by night, down into solitude,
the heavy earth falls far from every star.
We are all falling. This hand’s falling too —
all have this falling-sickness none withstands.
And yet there’s One whose gently-holding hands
this universal falling can’t fall through.

I will leave it to the reader to ponder how the poem relates to St. Paul’s understanding of the ‘new aeon’. For those intrigued by this, the downloadable MP3 will be available in mid-December in our web store…and as we are in the midst of our Fall Appeal, for our friends who support our efforts with gifts of $60/year or more – a complimentary MP3 of Part 4 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans will be sent via email around the same time. And for those contributing $300+/year – in addition to the MP3 we will mail a  complimentary CD of the audio materials. If you find our work of value please help us by supporting our efforts with your tax-deductible donations.

The Rilke poem at first reminded me of the song ‘Autumn Leaves’, a lament of lost love and longing, not really in ‘tune’ with Rilke’s more metaphysical direction. However, it was the last lines that brought another image to mind, one that had been in the news recently on account of the astounding price for which someone paid to possess it. The image, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci entitled ‘Salvator Mundi‘…

  Because Christ’s visage and gaze are what strikes the viewer most powerfully it is easy to miss, in the lower right corner, the universe is depicted, held in its creator’s hands…

And yet there’s One whose gently-holding hands
this universal falling can’t fall through.

As we enter into the Advent season this Sunday we will have opportunity to reflect on how it was that the creator of this universe became a helpless infant, born of a woman on a cold night in a cattle shed on the dusty fringes of the Roman empire two millennia ago and how this event has changed everything since.

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Making Friends & Supporting Our Efforts

The recently concluded conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture was a wonderful time for us to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

The conference explored the perennial problem of good and evil, the significance of this distinction for human flourishing and the common good, and the place of good and evil in the theory and practice of various academic disciplines. Featured speakers included Gilbert Meilaender, Alasdair MacIntyre and John Finnis among others. The theme of the conference, “Through Every Human Heart” was taken from Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago:

“…the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.”

Gil’s talk at the conference was well received, and he attended a number of outstanding presentations over the 3 days of the conference. Meanwhile, Randy was promoting Gil’s latest book, God’s Gamble, at the Angelico Press table in the book publishers display area. We sold almost all the books we brought with us.

It was especially encouraging to meet representatives of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and learn how they are using Cornerstone Forum materials in curricular resources intended for schools. Taking part in this and other conferences like it is only possible with the generous support from our donors and supporters.

In the coming days, our Fall Appeal will be going out to those who have shown an interest in our work. We ask that you look kindly on our request for support. If you find our work helpful, please enable us to continue our efforts by making a tax deductible donation. Thank You!

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Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture

 

We will be attending the annual Conference of the Center for Ethics and Culture this week at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. Gil Bailie will be presenting a paper entitled, “The Enthusiastic Assent of the Catholic Conscience”.

Meanwhile, Randy Coleman-Riese will be representing Angelico Press and promoting Gil’s latest book, God’s Gamble, at the conference book publisher display table.We would like to invite any of our friends who are in the South Bend area and would like to come by and say ‘hello’ to do so. We will be at Notre Dame from Thursday, November 9th through Saturday, November 11th. Let us know if you will be coming by sending a note.

 

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Gratitude and Sorrow

Our street on Monday morning

Looking down our street yesterday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday my wife and I awoke to the news of a fast spreading fire in our home town of Santa Rosa. We are 2,500 miles away visiting our daughter and her family in Maryland. There was nothing we could do but watch and pray. We were comforted to hear from friends that we were being supported in their prayers as well. As of today the fire still is raging in the hills but our home and those of our neighbors are safe for now. However, we have learned from many other local friends that their homes were completely destroyed. There is no inherent justice or meaning in this. It is just what fires driven by 50 mph winds do in lush wooded hillsides and valleys.  After we return we will be living in a very different town from the one we left.

The local parish priest here in Maryland mentioned in his homily on Sunday an incident where a stranger stopped him on the street and asked, “Father, after all these natural disasters that have occurred recently, have you seen more people coming to church?”  He hadn’t noticed any crowding in the pews recently. But he did ask his parishioners to make personal sacrifices to help those who have lost homes, family members, and livelihoods in the recent disasters.

My gratitude for having a home to return to is mixed with sorrow for all those who have lost theirs. We will be working to assist our neighbors who need help through the coming difficult days. And I ask our friends to find ways to share the burden as well.

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New from the Audio Archives – Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Now available in our webstore: Part 1 in an eight-part series of Gil Bailie’s Reflections on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans

We have been continuing to add to the digital Audio Archive each month titles from Gil Bailie’s presentations from the past. Recent additions have been W. H. Auden’s New Year’s Letter, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and Troilus & Cressida.

We hope very soon to make some of these insightful and inspiring talks available on Audible.com where they can be accessed as ‘audio books’ by a much larger audience than visits the Cornerstone Forum website. Also, the Audible audio book format can make listening to these presentations easier for those who enjoy the convenience of listening to audio books on their mobile phones or MP3 players. We will continue to offer these titles here on the Cornerstone Forum webstore as downloadable MP3 files.

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Calculus

The school year has begun and many high school and college students are beginning the study of calculus – the mathematical study of continuous change.

In the present age, if one lives through all the intimate and personal changes from infancy to adulthood, one will continue to experience change in many areas beyond those studied in mathematics.

Much of political rhetoric and personal conversation revolves around the need for ‘change’. Calls for change can be found everywhere. Ideologues of every stripe have a prescription for changes in regime, policy, administration, personnel, et cetera. We all have our opinions about what most needs to be changed.

Even within the Church, we hear calls for change in doctrine or the liturgy, the list goes on and on. Yet one of the foundations of our faith as Christians is the understanding that each of us must change. We are called, like the first disciples, to change from being in one way to being in another. In confessing our sins we are to be prepared to change from sinful ways of life. Repentance reflects this transition.

All of the foregoing was precipitated by my reading the headline in the British magazine website The Catholic Herald, “Catholics Go Out And Change Britian!” It is a bracing piece situated within England’s current cultural and political life. I encourage you to read it not for its subtlety or finer articulation of issues we are unaware of, rather it reminds me of the passion and tone of many of the fundamentalist Baptist sermons I listened to as a youth wherein the Gospel’s saving truth imposes an obligation on each of us as in Jesus’ final words recorded in Matthew’s gospel, “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

I suppose we all know, like Heraclitus, the paradoxical permanence of change.  If you are like me you also know how difficult real change is whether personal or social. We often do not want to change ourselves and do not want others to change. So we focus on the change of fashion in external and ephemeral things that will put on a good show. But even then we can be caught off guard like Rilke, who while regarding the ‘The Archaic Torso of Apollo’, found he could not avoid some internal grace of aesthetic beauty emanating from the headless sculpture’s eyes, “for here there is no place that does not see you. You must change your life.”

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Antichrist

Antichrist by Signorelli

 

He’s the false copy where each feature’s wrong,
Yet so disposed the whole gives a resemblance. …
When he forgives
It is for love of sin not of the sinner. …
His vast indulgence is so free and ample,
You well might think it universal love,
For all seems goodness, sweetness, harmony.
He is the Lie; one true thought, and he’s gone.

From “Antichrist” by Edwin Muir

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Communicating Hope

Christopher Dawson

We find ourselves back in the same situation as that which the Christians encountered during the decline of the ancient world. Everything depends on whether the Christians … are able to communicate their hope to a world in which man finds himself alone and helpless before the monstrous forces which have been created by man to serve his own ends but which have now escaped from his control and threaten to destroy him.

A decade ago Gil Bailie posted the above Dawson quote at the end of a blog entry on our old weblog. As with much of Gil’s older work, it is worth the time to take another look.

Communicating hope to our world is part of our work which we would not be able to continue were it not for those who find our work worthy of support.

Those who have supported our efforts materially over the past years are aware of how relevant  Gil’s presentations from the past remain since they receive monthly complimentary downloadable MP3 audio files (or mailed CDs) of talks from the Cornerstone Forum Audio Archives. Recent materials included Gil’s Reflections on WH Auden’s poetry, and Shakespeare’s plays Julius Caesar and Troilus & Cressida. If you would like to receive these free monthly offerings please consider making a donation HERE on our website. Those supporting our work at the $60/year ($5/month) level receive a monthly emailed link to a free downloadable MP3 audio file, while our Sustaining Donors who are able to contribute $300/year ($25/month) may receive both the downloadable MP3 and a mailed CD.

Thank you for your interest in our work!

 

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Whence Human Rights?

“When there is no agreement about what a human person is, there is no possibility of a shared vision of human rights. John Paul II was aware of this problem. In a speech to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps in 1989 he observed that ‘the 1948 Declaration does not contain the anthropological and moral basis for the human rights that it proclaims’. He then implored his diplomats to work on promoting the Christian understanding of human dignity based on sound anthropological and moral foundations.” — Tracey Rowland

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