Also known as Hilaire Belloc, he was born on 27 July 1870. Today would be his 139th birthday.
I don’t remember exactly when I first encountered Belloc. It was pretty early on in my conversion process. I think I saw his portrait first. I thought he looked like a real bruiser. Not at all what I would have pictured if you’d just told me his name and that he was a Catholic writer and a close friend of G.K. Chesterton. I got the impression that if anybody could really hammer the faith into me, it would be Belloc. I wasn’t wrong!
I remember reading his book, The Great Heresies and being shocked… shocked… by the “political incorrectness” of it. Not only by the “political incorrectness” itself, but by the fact that it was completely forthright and unapologetic. And not only was I shocked, but also very impressed and inspired. Belloc came across as a man of true and consummate conviction and passion, who didn’t give a rat’s rear whether anybody liked it or not.
What Belloc did most for me was help me shake off the remnants of the indifferent, lukewarm, and non-committal attitudes that were clinging to me. He helped me leave behind squishiness in favor of growing a backbone. I couldn’t possibly remain a mere half-Catholic after reading Belloc!
Like or dislike him, agree or disagree with him, you just can’t have a half-hearted reaction to Belloc. He got through to me as nobody else could. Maybe there’s a weakness, or rather a too-hardness, in my own character, so that I often require great force to get through to me. As another example, it took photographs of aborted children’s bodies to fully turn me pro-life. Or maybe we all have areas in which we need to be broken open as brutally as possible in order to “get it.”
That said, in subsequent years, I’ve also come to know and appreciate Belloc’s kinder, gentler, more congenial side. :)
Let’s raise a glass to “Old Thunder”!