This June I read The Path to Rome as I always do during the anniversary of Belloc’s great walk but in a slightly different way. Instead of simply reading the book I read it out aloud. Every morning, I join my mother for breakfast. While she eats, I read for her. We take it in turns to decide on a book and, after we finished her choice of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe in May, I began my choice: The Path to Rome. I knew from my previous readings of the book how important friendship was to Belloc but reading it aloud really brought the fact home. When you speak words, you dwell on them that little bit longer, and as a result, give them an opportunity to make a home in you that bit more. If you ask why was it Belloc and friendship that stuck with me, above and beyond anything else that he talks about, I would reply that it is because (the idea of) friendship is important to me, too, so the passages came as seed onto fertile ground.

Here are a few times that Belloc mentions friendship, or as he puts it, companionship:

On arriving in Flavigny: ‘There, by a special providence, I found the entertainment and companionship whose lack had left me wrecked all these early hours.” (p.37)

Belloc reflects on his friendship with two soldiers: ‘… I never see a powder-magazine without being filled at once with two very good feelings – laughter and companionship.’ (p.112)

On the way to Radicofani: ‘… not far from the climb up to Radicofani… I saw lights shining in a large farmhouse, and though it was my business to walk by bight, yet I needed companionship, so I went in.’ (p.407)

Before finishing, I should add that the page numbers relate to the 2003 Ignatius Press edition of The Path to Rome.

I have admired Hilaire Belloc’s faith and writing

… for over twenty years. To my shame, however, I have in that time only read a handful of his books. To be fair, I have for the last five or six years read The Path to Rome every year (during the period that Belloc undertook his famous pilgrimage) but given how much I like him, I could and should have read more.

Therefore, as I set out to read The Path to Rome again this year – June 2020, if you are reading this from 2021 onwards – I decided that enough was enough: it was time to start reading more of his books – not just every so often but regularly, perhaps as often as one book a month.

To prepare myself for this, I spent July 2020 reading Old Thunder, Joseph Pearce’s 2002 biography of Belloc. In August, I got going properly with the latter’s Europe and the Faith (1920).

It’s one thing to start reading, entirely another to keep at it. To motivate myself to do so, therefore, I started a Twitter account so that I could provide updates to anyone who might be interested regarding how I was getting on. That Twitter account is @SineAuctoritate.

I haven’t yet decided how I will use this blog. I hope that in time it will find its place. I don’t know how long I will keep it or the Twitter account going. I do know that I am burning to read more by Belloc so I hope both will be around for a while. I’m going to set myself a target, though: a minimum of one post a week between now and the end of August 2021. If I can make it to September next year, I’ll sit down with myself then and decide on the next move.

Back to the present, I would like to write posts about The Path to Rome, Old Thunder, and Europe and the Faith. I need to think about what shape they will take so I will go away and do that now. Thank you for reading. Please pray for me.