Lady Poverty
Jacques Maritain & Leon Bloy


Bloy was a remarkable French writer of the early years of this century who was responsible for the conversion in 1905 of the Maritains, Jacques and Raïssa. Bloy was, and is still, a much-neglected literary genius - neglected in part because of the vehemence of his writing, which seems to well up from a source as deep as some Old Testament prophet (and we know how popular they were).

The opening passage in blue is from Jacques’ introduction to Léon Bloy: Pilgrim of the Absolute, a selection of his writings by Raïssa Maritain (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1947). The other extracts are taken from the chapter called "The Poor Man".

We can give nothing we have not received, being in the likeness of Him who has received everything from His Father. That is why the more one gives, the more one needs to receive, the more one is a beggar.

Bloy was a fearful beggar who would not put up with mediocrity in men, and whom God was to satisfy only with the vision of His Glory.... A boundless melancholy - both natural and supernatural - weighed on him; a certain number of apperceptions of moral acuteness, such as the mystical gifts can awaken in a soul of this kind, filled his heart.

The crucifying vision of universal forgetfulness for God and his Love; the vision of hatred for the Poor, of the abjectness and cruelty peculiar to a world where the Gospel is no longer known - all this made the passion of the Lord perpetually present to him, fashioning his spiritual life upon the agony and abhorrence of the Mount of Olives.... All his life he hated injustice, loved the poor and the forsaken, hoped - with what impatience! - for the revelation of God’s Glory.

He ardently desired martyrdom, he thought himself destined to it, he expected it in the form of a bloody and extraordinary immolation that was refused him - which does not mean that the heavenly Father did not award him the grace of an invisible martyrdom, inflicted by means of the threefold anguish of silence, in which his cries fell as into an abyss of solitude and destitution endured for the love of God.

He entered, led by the saints, the supernatural depths of Suffering and Abandonment, of all sufferings and all abandonments: the suffering and abandonment of the Poor - who are the image of God; the suffering and abandonment of Israel - the people of God; the suffering and abandonment of Mary - the Mother of God.

Jacques Maritain

"The poor you have always with you." Ever since these abysmal Words were uttered, no man has ever been able to say what Poverty is.

The Saints who espoused her from love and begat many children of her assert that she is infinitely loveable. Those who will have naught of such a companion sometimes die form terror or form despair at her kiss, and the mass of men pass "from the womb to the grave" without knowing what to think of this monster.

When God is questioned, He replies that He is the Poor Man: Ego sum pauper. When He is not questioned, He displays His magnificence.

Creation seems to be a flower of infinite Poverty; and the ultimate masterpiece of Him who is called the Almighty was to have Himself crucified like a thief, in absolute Ignominy. [...]

Were it in the wilderness, he who speaks lovingly of poverty ought to be able to raise up multitudes to hear him, as did the Breath of the Lord who gave life again to the barren and dusty bones of Ezekiel.

For Poverty is nothing less than the Spouse of the Son of God, and when her golden wedding takes place, the barefoot and the starvelings will come running from the ends of the earth, to witness it.

You know this, O Jewish Queen, Mother of the Most Poor God whom the bourgeois of Bethlehem would not receive, and who gave birth, on the straw of animals, to your adorable Child.

I therefore commit to you this book written by a poor man to the glory of Poverty. If bitterness be in it, you mingle therein your Sweetness, and if there be anger, you will abate it with your Sadness. But do not forget it, I am a contemporary of your Appearance on the Mountain of Tears. I was put, then, under your Feet.

By this token, your Indignation and your Seven Swords belong to me. 

The bronze chains seen on your Shoulders you left me as you were leaving, and for sixty-three years now I have been dragging them about the world. 

It is their noise which harasses cowards and sleepers. 

If it yet be possible, make of them a thunderbolt which will once and for all awaken them for Penance or for Terror--O Morning Star of the poor, who "will laugh on the Last Day!"

Léon Bloy
Feast of the Annunciation.
March 25, 1909