Thursday, May 25, 2023

The Tortured Soul of Léon Bloy

 From Angelus:

Although he is considered the father of the “Catholic” novel, Bloy is more famous for quotations extracted from them and from his brilliant and controversial journals published during his lifetime.

One journal was titled “Pilgrim of the Absolute,” which also became Bloy’s honorary title. Another, called “Bloy Before the Swine,” included a harsh depiction of his life in a Paris suburb. Those whom he’d turned to in his abject poverty and helped him probably agreed with another honorific, “The Ungrateful Beggar,” which was the title of another volume. His thought was that he could not compromise his writing or vocation, and expected others to support him in what publishers and the public refused to do.

It is a cliché that a prophet’s mission is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. But that seems to have been Bloy’s modus operandi.

France had responded with enthusiasm to the 1846 apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to two young visionaries in the hamlet of La Salette. Its message of repentance was embraced by many but became controversial, even though the local bishop and the Vatican supported the claims.

But one of the visionaries, Melanie Calvat, felt that the message of Our Lady was not being correctly reflected and prophesied a coming disaster for the French Church. Her ideas resonated with Bloy, who became Calvat’s advocate and challenged the French hierarchy and the congregations who served as chaplains on the mountain where pilgrims visited the shrine built to mark the apparition. In his typical absolutist style, he said what had started with the charism of repentance associated with La Salette was now a matter of “hoteliers and merchants of soup,” because of the guesthouses run by the congregation on the “holy mountain.”

His identification with the cause of Calvat was a reflection of Bloy’s sympathy with those who were on the losing side of life. He also published defenses of Columbus and Napoleon, both of whom he judged maligned by historians. (Read more.)

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