Monday, July 16, 2012

Hilaire Belloc, RIP

When Belloc ran for Parliament in 1906, his campaign manager begged him not to mention his Catholicism--so Belloc proclaimed during one of his speeches (when heckled for being a "Papist"): "Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This (taking a rosary out of his pocket) is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that he has spared me the indignity of being your representative." Of course, he was elected.

What a lion of the Faith! Hilaire Belloc died on July 16, 1953, eleven days shy of his 83rd birthday.

As Frederick Wilhelmson said of Belloc:

Born and baptized in the Church, a Catholic from childhood, his love and appreciation of the Faith came to him when young, but it came somewhat slowly. Of his inner life he tells us very little. French on his fathers side, Belloc it must be remembered did his military service in the French artillery, thus delaying his entrance into Oxford when he finally made up his mind to remain an Englishman. His spoken French remained that of a rough cannoneer. Latin European culture was the air he breathed in his youth and to which he returned whenever he could, even sailing across the channel to replenish his reserves of wine.

Were I to seek one scriptural passage which sums up Bellocs vision of the Faith, it would be: By their fruits ye shall know them (Mt 6:30). Aided here by a powerful visual imagination which was brought to bear in his many military histories, Belloc could see the Church at work down the ages and he adored what he saw. The Church made Europe and in so doing quickened the old Roman Order, in disrepair but by no means destroyed by the Germanic tribes from the north. All our typical Western institutions were either created by Catholic men from out of nothing or were inherited from our pagan forefathers and then quickened from within by the yeast of Christianity. Although the terms incarnational and eschatological were not current in Belloc's lifetime, he is a prime instance of a man with an incarnational understanding of religious truth. Belloc looked for blessings everywhere, and the whole of Christendom was for him an immense network of actual graces.

In addition to the book pictured above, TAN Books/St. Benedict's Press publishes several of his 153 or so books. A Path to Rome, The Servile State, and Characters of the Reformation are among my favorite works by Belloc! May he rest in peace. He is buried at Our Lady of Consolation Church in West Grinstead, Sussex.

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