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.

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

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 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.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Comments Off on New from the Audio Archives – Paul’s Letter to the Romans


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.”

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Calculus


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

Posted in Blog | Tagged , | Comments Off on Antichrist

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!


Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Communicating Hope

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

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Whence Human Rights?

Summer Newsletter – Fall Plans…

We recently sent out our Summer Newsletter to all those on our newsletter email list.

A link to the latest on what is happening at the Cornerstone Forum appears to the right, just click on the image and read all about it!

As an incentive to reading about Gil Bailie’s upcoming travel and speaking plans and Randy Coleman-Riese’s goings on, we are including a coupon for a complimentary downloadable MP3 file of Gil’s Reflections on Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida Part 5. Use the coupon code ‘summer’ when going through check out in our webstore. (For those too busy to read the newsletter the link to the free MP3 audio file is HERE.)

Finally, for those who do not currently receive our episodic newsletter and would like to, here is a link to our newsletter signup page.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Summer Newsletter – Fall Plans…

Have you thanked God for this failure already?

Arvo Part

Gil Bailie has posted a link on the Cornerstone Forum Facebook page to a short video of an excerpted portion of a speech Estonian composer Arvo Part gave in May 2014 accepting an honorary degree from St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. The link is here, and a transcript follows:

Please allow me some thoughts from my musical diaries.

In the Puhtitsa Monastery, Estonia, “Have you thanked God for this failure already?” These unexpected words were said by a little girl. I remember exactly…it was July 25th, 1976. I was sitting in the monastery’s yard, on a bench in the shadow of the bushes with my notebook.

‘What are you doing? What are you writing there’, the girl who was around ten asked me. ‘I am trying to write music, but it is not turning out well’, I said. And then the unexpected words from her, ‘Have you thanked God for this failure already?’

The most sensitive musical instrument is the human soul. The next is the human voice. One must purify the soul until it begins to sound. A composer is a musical instrument and at the same time a performer on that instrument. The instrument has to be in order to produce sound. One must start with that, not with the music. Through the music the composer can check whether his instrument is tuned, and to what key it is tuned.

God knits man in his mother’s womb, slowly and wisely. Art should be born in a similar way. To be like a beggar when it comes to writing music, whatever, however, and whenever God gives. We shouldn’t’ grieve because of writing little and poorly, but because we pray little and poorly, and lukewarmly, and live in the wrong way. The criterion must be everywhere and only humility.

Music is my friend, ever-understanding. Compassionate. Forgiving. It’s a comforter, the handkerchief for drying my tears of sadness, the source of my tears of joy. My liberation and flight. But also, a painful thorn in my flesh and soul, that which makes me sober and teaches humility.

Thank you. Forgive me, please!

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Have you thanked God for this failure already?

Mortality and The Gift of Fr. Arne Panula

The recent (and all to frequent) hiatus in posting to our weblog has a both a sad and joyous reason. We learned earlier this month of the death of our friend Robert Glass, one of the Cornerstone Forum’s most generous supporters. I had met with Robert and his wife Leslie along with another long time supporter, Jim Steinwedell, in Los Angeles in January. Among many things we discussed how our work could be made available to new audiences. The excitement and enthusiasm generated at our breakfast gathering that day will stay with me as a gift. Gil Bailie attended Robert’s memorial service in the LA area and gave a short homily. While he was there Gil received the news of the death of a dear cousin in Tennessee. Returning from Los Angeles, Gil traveled to the funeral in Tennessee. And while in Tennessee he learned of the passing of our long time friend and supporter, Fr. Arne Panula.

Fr. Arne Panula

Fr. Arne had been for many years the director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, DC. During the Emmaus Road Initiative’s ‘road show’ in 2008-9 Gil made monthly presentations at the CIC. Gil noted Fr. Arne’s death on the Cornerstone Forum Facebook page. In the post Gil linked to an article entitled, “Did You Ever Think You’d Known a Saint?”, that provides a brief introduction to this extraordinary man.

Being close by to Washington, DC while in Maryland, I attended the wake at the CIC chapel and experienced the mysterious mixture of sadness and joy as those gathered recounted the gracious gift of friendship shared with Fr. Arne. Another article, of a more personal nature, was posted on The Catholic Thing by Hadley Arkes entitled, “What Fr. Arne Shaped” This reflection, more than a recounting of acomplishments, gets to the heart of what so many people experienced, whose lives were changed by the encounter with this man. The joy underlying the loss of we feel at the casket of those whose life reflected the life of Our Lord so faithfully is the hope of the resurrection. Requiescant in Pace.



Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Mortality and The Gift of Fr. Arne Panula

An Everlasting Gift…

One of the benefits of working with the Cornerstone Forum is having available the archives of Gil Bailie to draw from. One of the recent reviewers of Gil’s book, “God’s Gamble”, on Amazon says in part, “Anything that Gil Bailie writes has been thought and rethought for decades.” It is true. Gil Bailie’s work often reflects something of a plowman going over the field multiple times to find the rich earth beneath and bringing it to the surface.

During these slow summer months I am recycling some of the postings from our earlier internet blog while Gil continues to work on the text of his next book project and I continue to keep the plates spinning at my multiple jobs.

The following reflection from a decade ago bears on the subject of grace/gift:

“Each of us will be eternally that which we shall have made ourselves on earth.” -Jean Danielou

Now that’s a truly daunting prospect. Here, however, is what saves us from it, (taken from the Eucharistic prayers):

“May He make us an everlasting gift to You.”

So, praise God, it is not entirely what we make of ourselves, but what God in Christ makes of us. Our task is less to make something of ourselves than to open ourselves to Eucharistic assimilation.

Everyone has to pull his or her own weight, but God does the heavy lifting.

To the question, “Well, which is it? My effort, or God’s grace?” The answer is …YES!

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on An Everlasting Gift…