Gil Bailie – an introduction



Educational Background:

Doctor of Jurisprudence, the University of Tennessee Law School, 1968.


  • Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroad, (New York: Crossroad, 1995).
  • “Culture, Spiritual Direction, and a Crossroads: An Interview with Gil Bailie,” Presence: The Journal of Spiritual Directors International, Vol. 3, Number 1, January 1997.
  • “The Vine and Branches Discourse: The Gospel’s Psychological Apocalypse,” Contagion: The Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Vol. 4, Spring, 1997.
  • “Cinema and Crisis: The Elusive Quest for Catharsis,” Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, Number 20, Fall 1998.
  • “René Girard’s Contribution to the Church of the 21st Century,” Communio, Spring 1999.
  • “The Scapegoat and the Cross,” an interview, Forefront, Fall 2000.
  • “Interview: Gil Bailie,” Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, Winter 2003-4, No. 41.
  • “The Imitative Self,” The Self: Beyond the Postmodern Crisis, ed: Paul C. Vitz, Susan M. Felch, ISI Books, 2005
  • “Raising the Ante: Recovering an Alpha and Omega Christology”, Communio, Spring 2008.
  • God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love, (Angelico Press, 2016)
  • “Making Peace through the Blood of His Cross”, Communio, Fall/Winter 2018.


International Colloquia:

  • The Call to Justice: The Legacy of Gaudium et Spes 40 Years Later, March 2005, Rome – contributed paper entitled “Changing the Subject: Gaudium et Spes and the Mystery of the Person”.
  • The Good Company: Catholic Social Thought and Corporate Social Responsibility in Dialogue, October 2006, Rome – contributed paper entitled “Keeping Good Company: The Leavening Influence of Morally Ordered Lives.

Professional Association:

  • Bailie is a founding member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion, an international association of scholars concerned with religious anthropology and with the historical interrelationship between culture, violence, and religion.
  • Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
  • College of Fellows – Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, CA

Gil Bailie grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee the only child of a loving and devoted mother. His father was among the 19,000 American soldiers who were killed in the Battle of the Bulge. Gil’s mother was pregnant with him when his father shipped out to Europe, so he never had the chance to know his father.

His mother, a devout and joy-filled Catholic, saw to it that her son was educated under the sharp and caring eyes of the Sisters of Mercy in their local parochial schools. He graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School in 1962 and matriculated at the University of Tennessee where he completed his studies at the UT College of Law earning a JD degree in 1968.

After graduation from law school, Gil moved to San Francisco where he worked for a few years before moving to Sonoma where he began what has been for the past forty some years his vocation. How does one describe this vocation? It is like a dance with the Holy Spirit always leading, pulling, spinning around – sometimes dizzy – where one often ends up where one began….but now seeing it, knowing it, for the first time. Let’s just say that around this time Gil returned to attendance at daily Eucharist that had been his habit until his college years but had been crowded out of his life during that turbulent period. He acknowledges now that whatever good has come into his life has proceeded from the Eucharist.

So he began, in Sonoma’s small town atmosphere, to gather people together to read and discuss philosophy, literature, poetry, mythology, religion. Mostly self-taught in these disciplines, (as all good lawyers know – the law teaches one how to approach a subject and begin to organize its facts and themes along lines conducive to the client), his approach was always from a spiritual base in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The earliest name for this enterprise was “Temenos”, the Greek word for a sacred place set apart from the profane world. Among those coming to Gil’s talks were some scholars and writers, including a Catholic biblical scholar, from whom Gil learned as he was challenged by their erudition. Being drawn back again into the life of the Catholic Church, Gil was recognized as a valuable teacher in his parish as well as in the surrounding communities.

On a visit to Berkeley in the early 1980’s Gil was looking through the used book stalls of a sidewalk book seller and drew out a title which caught his eye, “Violence and the Sacred” by René Girard. It was here that he began to sense the vertiginous power of Girard’s thought (this phenomenon is not uncommon among those exposed to Girard’s work for the first time). As he stood there reading the book he realized that his worldview would never be the same. From that moment on all of the old categories, he had used to understand human existence and experience came under the searching light of Girard’s thought. After further study of Girard’s work, it became clear that this light was not only the ‘genius’ of Girard but was also the reflected light of the Gospel as it exploded out of the cross on Golgotha.

Reflecting this changed perspective by the late 80’s Gil’s work proceeded under new auspices with a new name, “The Florilegia Institute” (florilegia is a Latin form of the Greek root of the word ‘anthology’), and was officially incorporated as a 501 c 3 non-profit. During this period he began a long-standing and continuing friendship with Professor Girard and regularly participated in the episodic Girard seminars held on the Stanford University campus where Girard taught. Out of this seminar grew the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R), the scholarly organization that explores Girard’s mimetic hypothesis. Gil was one of the founding members of COV&R. Also, from this seminar and his continuing work at the Florilegia Institute Gil produced the material that later would be published by Crossroad as the 1995 book, “Violence Unveiled”, winner of the 1996 Pax Christi USA Book Award.

Gil’s gift for metaphor and his freedom from academic structures allowed for his undertaking explorations of a wide spectrum of material using the Girardian lens as a hermeneutical framework. Much of the audio material recorded at weekly gatherings during this period included reflections on the works of Sophocles, Euripides, Virgil, Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, T S Eliot, W H Auden, Flannery O’Connor, William Golding and Arthur Miller. In his unique style, Gil wove the stories these authors told into a kind of tapestry that displays the one true story to which they are all in some way related – the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Often elements elucidating these stories would come from unexpected sources such as the songs of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, or the antics of Monty Python.

The rich Catholic spiritual and intellectual tradition served Gil well as he deepened his faith and theological understanding through the study of the writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar, SJ, Henri de Lubac, SJ, St. John Paul II, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. From these, he received a love of the Church and its teachings as well as an intellectual understanding of the Church’s doctrines that is greatly enhanced by Girard’s anthropological insights into human nature and culture. This has provided a solid grounding in the reality of human interdividuality – being made in the image and likeness of the triune God of self-donating love. Out of this Gil brings an emphasis on the dignity of the human person, and a concern for the catastrophic this-world consequence of the post-modern denial or subversion of basic truths of human being, such as sexuality and marriage, as well as the dangers facing western culture from resurgent pre-modern forms of sacralized violence.

Again, reflecting a deeper commitment to service to the Catholic Church specifically and Christians in general Gil and the Florilegia board in 2002 changed the name of the organization to the Cornerstone Forum. In the years since he has traveled widely as an invited speaker at retreats, workshops, and conferences including at the Vatican. Starting in 2005 at the suggestion of one of the Cornerstone Forum’s generous donors Gil began a monthly tour, from September to May, of a number of metropolitan centers around the country giving presentations in a series called the Emmaus Road Initiative. This peripatetic project ended in 2009 and was followed by a long term manuscript project that kept him at the writing desk. This culminated in the publication of God’s Gamble: The Gravitational Power of Crucified Love by Angelico Press in 2016. He currently lives in Sonoma, California with his wife Kathleen and near his 3 children and their families, and where he continues to write.

Since 2002 Gil Bailie has been assisted in his work by the Cornerstone Forum’s executive director Randy Coleman-Riese. The Cornerstone Forum’s corporate board consists of Gil Bailie, president; Randy Coleman-Riese, treasurer; and long time friend and fellow lawyer William Shea, secretary.