We’re coming to Washington DC and Notre Dame University this fall …
After the publication of God’s Gamble, we had hoped that Gil could visit a number of the places where the book’s core premises were first explored in dialogue with the people who attended the Emmaus Road Initiative talks he gave around the country from 2005 to 2009. Work on the next book and the limitations of time and resources kept us from following through on those plans. Alternatively, we now hope to use the occasional conferences Gil attends as opportunities for reconnecting with our old friends and supporters. Two such conferences will occur this fall when Gil attends the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars conference in the Washington, DC area in September and the Fall Conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture in November. If you live in proximity to Washington, DC or Notre Dame University, we hope to see you there. We will host a small gathering the night before the FCS conference at a convenient Washington location on Thursday evening, September 21st. At Notre Dame, we will be at the Angelico Press book table during the conference – November 9-11.
Randy Coleman-Riese, Executive Director
After completing the transition to our virtual office in April (as we reported in our Spring 2017 newsletter), I arrived in the Washington DC suburbs in May. My CF office now resides on a laptop and travels with me. The highlight of my stay in Maryland has been the birth of a grandson in mid-June. So, along with trying to keep up with my duties at the Cornerstone Forum, I have been assisting my daughter’s family with the many chores of a family with a toddler, a newborn, and two working parents. By October I will be back home in California and eager to give more focused attention to the Cornerstone Forum.
Earlier this summer and in short order, I learned of the sudden death of our Cornerstone Forum friend Robert Glass in Southern California, the equally sudden death of my cousin in Tennessee, and the passing of my old friend Fr. Arne Panula, under whose inspired leadership the Catholic Information Center became the intellectual and spiritual center of Catholic life in Washington, D.C. The memorial for Robert Glass and the funeral for my cousin in Tennessee prevented me from attending Fr. Arne’s funeral Mass. However, Randy Coleman-Riese carried my condolences to the people at the CIC at Fr. Arne’s wake.
All three of these friends – each in his own way – enriched my life, and for the most part, they did so by extending to me the gift of receptivity. At his memorial, I tried to express my gratitude for the gift of attentive receptivity that Robert gave me. In his memory – and in remembrance of my cousin, Bill McDonald, and Fr. Arne Panula – I want to share a poem I quoted at Robert’s memorial.
W. H. Auden reminds us of how inherently collaborative our lives are and how dependent we are on those who offer the gift of attentive receptivity.
I shall recall a single incident,
No more. I spoke of mining engineering
As the career on which my mind was bent,
But for some time my fancies had been veering;
Mirages of the future kept appearing;
Crazes had come and gone in short, sharp gales,
For motor-bikes, photography, and whales.
But indecision broke off with a clean-cut end
One afternoon in March at half-past three
When walking in a ploughed field with a friend;
Kicking a little stone, he turned to me
And said, ‘Tell me, do you write poetry?’
I never had, and said so, but I knew
That very moment what I wished to do.
Four words – “Do you write poetry?” Auden’s collected works run to almost a thousand pages. His friend made all that possible with 4 words.
Our lives are not our own. None of us chose to be born or to have the parents and formative influences that we have had. These things are, as we say, given. Life itself is a gift, but we, alas, are exiles from the Garden, who tend to snatch at the gift as though it were ours to do with as we please. Only slowly and sometimes painfully do we discover that the gift has contours all its own. Life consists of trying to discover one’s true calling in the context of circumstances that often seem at odds with it, and we never do so without the help of others.
The gift that goes largely unremarked is that of Auden’s friend. We do not know his name, but if we love Auden’s poetry he deserves our gratitude. His was the still small voice to which Auden himself may have otherwise remained oblivious. I have been given the gift he gave Auden countless times in my life, and I am grateful beyond words to those who have given me such a precious gift – some of whom are reading these words at this moment.