Léon Bloy, the peril of pluralism

Prickly Pauper

No one who has read Léon Bloy would dispute what Harold Bordwell writes in his article “A Beggar to the End” (November 9). The article reflects what most of Bloy’s contemporaries, both inside and outside the church, thought of him. Given Bloy’s hyperbolic style, his vicious denunciations, his lack of “respect” and nuance, and his reputation as pamphleteer, one might ask why this self-taught and eccentric pauper had such a tremendous influence on the people who would spark the intellectual and spiritual revival of the French church in the early twentieth century. Bloy had a sense that the uniqueness of his vocation was important to the church and the world; it might also be asked whether this sense was not, in many ways, mysteriously confirmed. Bordwell, however, makes no attempt to answer these questions, or even to pose them.

Bloy was a lonely “fool for Christ,” recognized and respected as such by the Russian immigrants who arrived in France after the Revolution; he was a pilgrim of the absolute in spite of himself, intolerant of mediocrity and phoniness in all their forms, a very imperfect prophet who reminds us of the terrible seriousness of the Christian vocation whether we like it or not. For very many, Bloy was an instrument of the Holy Spirit whose wisdom often manifests itself in...

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