ot so very long ago, when the very first Virginia leaves were turning yellow but it was still very warm outside, I had the opportunity to meet Dawn Eden for a cup of coffee at the little sidewalk cafe next door to the church. Fresh from her lecture tour in England and Ireland, she had the opportunity to rootle around through some Dublin bookstalls and found a great treasure: The Life of Hilaire Belloc by Robert Speaight. Simply knows as "Speaight" among the Bellocian cognoscenti, it is considered the best biography around on this famous apologist. The book, published in 1957, was not one I had ever seen before and when she manifested it from her bag I felt much like my family's black Labrador Retriever when a slab of Virginia ham, unexpectedly and felicitously fell to the floor. Had I a tail to wag, a tongue to hang out and ears to perk, I can tell you that such would have been my reaction. If that weren't enough, included in the book is Monsignor Ronald Knox's Requiem Mass homily for Belloc's like more comestible treasure for the black Lab; spilled Cabernet to lap up with the Virginia ham. Miss Eden graciously gifted me with the good-sized volume and in so doing provided me with more than a book, she provided me with a travel companion.
This is not my first Belloc biography. Like hearing different stories about the same teacher from a variety of pupils each biography has its own nuances. My most recent Hillaire-eous (forgive me) read was called, Sailing with Mr. Belloc, by Durmund McCarthy. Among his many talents, Belloc was also an accomplished yachtsman and one of his fellow sailors put his reminiscences down for posterity. I chose Mr. Belloc as a travel companion not for the sea but for the air.
If you ever have the chance to go to Korea (14 hours nonstop Washington to Seoul) by all means, go. Even if the voyage must be undertaken in a coach-class seat on Korean Air. I believe that there was to be held, somewhere on the Korean Peninsula, a Screaming Toddler Convention, and that all the participants were on my flight making themselves known, like soccer fans en route to the final game of the World Cup. Thanks to this delightful and informative biography I had tolerably good flight. A book like this reminds me why I love the genre of biography so much more than fiction. The fascinating life of this great Edwardian Catholic gentleman is as interesting as any yarn an active imagination could spin, from his earliest days in France, his marriage to his true love, life-long friendship with G. K. Chesterton and his grousing with George Bernard Shaw. For good measure he enjoyed a brief stint in Parliament, shared journalistic endeavors in Abyssinia with Evelyn Waugh and held, above all, a true love for the Holy Roman Church.
Among his many gifts Belloc was also a bit of a bit of a prophet. When everyone else believed that the Middle East was little more than a loose confederation of sleepy Bedouin carpet merchants, he saw, quite clearly the problems and the conflicts with Christianity that would soon morph into the Islamofascism with which we are currently embroiled. Despite the fact that the majority of the Arab world was under European colonial rule at the time, Belloc still saw the greater vision of much of the Islamic world was the annihilation of Christianity and the West. In 1937 Belloc wrote a book entitled The Crusades: The World's Debate which vehemently stated his sentiments on the topic of how a more positive outcome for the crusades for the Christians would have been a far more positive outcome for the world today. The following year Belloc wrote, The Great Heresies which parsed out several of the differences which separate Catholicism from Islam and the threat which the latter poses to the former.
The solutions offered by the wise Mr. Belloc to problems personal or international are still as relevant today as they were when he was a student at John Henry Newman's Oratory School: Faith and prayer. The Faith, for instance, of Catholics that will band us together so that we may not be intimidated by such events as the kidnapping and murder of the Bishop of Mosul and the fervent prayer that the infidel may also come to believe in the One True Church.
Pope Benedict XVI baptizes Italy's most prominent Muslim, Magdi Allam, in St. Peter's Basilica during the Easter Vigil 2008.
"...On my first Easter as a Christian I not only discovered Jesus, I discovered for the first time the face of the true and only God, who is the God of faith and reason My conversion to Catholicism is the touching down of a gradual and profound interior meditation from which I could not pull myself away, given that for five years I have been confined to a life under guard, with permanent surveillance at home and a police escort for my every movement, because of death threats and death sentences from Islamic extremists and terrorists, both those in and outside of Italy..." -Magdi Allam
*The captions and photos were the work of the Editor. Either email complaints to our lawyers or better yet, go on another peace-loving rampage. Burn down their offices and this blog in effigy.