(CNSNews.com) — When he said Mass for the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel on Thursday, newly elected Pope Francis I warned these princes of the church against professing what he called “the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.”
“Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil,” Francis said, quoting Leon Bloy, a French writer who died in 1917, and who converted from agnosticism to Catholicism.
“When we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord,” the pope told the cardinals.
Pope Francis I says his first sermon as pope in the Sistine Chapel on March 14, 2013. (AP Photo)
Here is the complete text of the pope’s Thursday sermon in the Sistine Chapel:
In these three readings, I see a common element: that of movement. In the first reading, it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading, the movement of building the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, the movement involved in professing the faith. Journeying, building, professing.
Journeying. “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Is 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and live blamelessly. Journeying: our life is a journey, and when we stop moving, things go wrong. Always journeying, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with the blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.
Building. Building the Church. We speak of stones: stones are solid; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself. This is another kind of movement in our lives: building.
Thirdly, professing. We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.
Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.
This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.
My prayer for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, will grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ crucified. Amen.
Bloy was born in Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, in the arondissement of Périgueux, Dordogne. He was the second of six sons of Voltairean freethinker and stern disciplinarian Jean Baptiste Bloy and his wife Anne-Marie Carreau, pious Spanish-Catholic daughter of a Napoleonic soldier. After an agnostic and unhappy youth in which he cultivated an intense hatred for the Roman Catholic Church and its teaching, his father found him a job in Paris, where he went in 1864. In December 1868, he met the aging Catholic author Barbey d’Aurevilly, who lived opposite him in rue Rousselet and became his mentor. Shortly afterwards, he underwent a dramatic religious conversion.
Bloy’s works reflect a deepening devotion to the Catholic Church and most generally a tremendous craving for the Absolute. His devotion to religion resulted in a complete dependence on charity; he acquired his nickname (“the ungrateful beggar”) as a result of the many letters requesting financial aid from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers, all the while carrying on with his literary work, in which his eight-volume Diary takes an important place.
Bloy was a friend of the author Joris-Karl Huysmans, the painter Georges Rouault, and the philosopher Jacques Maritain, and was instrumental in reconciling these intellectuals with Roman Catholicism. However, he acquired a reputation for bigotry because of his frequent outbursts of temper; and his first novel, Le Désespéré, a fierce attack on rationalism and those he believed to be in league with it, made him fall out with the literary community of his time and even many of his old friends. Soon, Bloy could count such prestigious authors as Emile Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Ernest Renan, Alphonse Daudet, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Paul Bourget and Anatole France as his enemies.
In addition to his published works, he left a large body of correspondence with public and literary figures. He died in Bourg-la-Reine.
Bloy is quoted in the epigraph at the beginning of Graham Greene‘s novel The End of the Affair, and in the essay “The Mirror of Enigmas”, by the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, who acknowledged his debt to him by naming him in the Foreword to his short story collection “Artifices” as one of seven authors who were in “the heterogeneous list of the writers I am continually re-reading”. In his novel The Harp and the Shadow, Alejo Carpentier excoriates Bloy as a raving, Columbus-defending lunatic during Vatican deliberations over the explorer’s canonization. Bloy is also quoted at the beginning of John Irving‘s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and there are several quotations from his Letters to my Fiancée in Charles Williams‘s anthology The New Christian Year. Le Désespéré was republished in 2005 by Editions Underbahn with a preface by Maurice G. Dantec. Pope Francis quoted Bloy in his inaugural address to the cardinal electors after his election in 2013, saying “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.”
- Le Désespéré (1887) (“Despairing”)
- La Femme pauvre (1897) (“The woman who was poor”)
- Propos d’un entrepreneur de démolitions (1884) (“The Munition Merchant’s Plan”)
- Le Salut par les Juifs (1892) (“Salvation through the Jews”)
- Je m’accuse (1900) (“I accuse myself”)
- Exégèse des lieux communs (1902–1912) (“Exegesis of the Commonplaces”)
- Belluaires et porchers (1905) (“Gladiators and swineherds”)
- Celle qui pleure (1908) (“The crying one”)
- Le Sang du Pauvre (1909) (“Blood of the Poor”)
- L’Ame de Napoléon (1912) (“Napoleon’s Soul”)
- Jeanne d’Arc et l’Allemagne (1915) (“Joan of Arc and Germany”)
- Sueur de sang (1893) (“Sweating blood”)
- Histoires désobligeantes (1894) (“Disagreeable tales”)
- Le Mendiant ingrat (1898) (“The Ungrateful Beggar”)
- Mon Journal (1904) (“My diary”)
- Quatre ans de captivité à Cochons-sur-Marne (1905) (“Four years of captivity in Cochons-sur-Marne”)
- L’Invendable (1909) (“The Unsaleable”)
- Le Vieux de la montagne (1911) (“The Old Man from the Mountain”)
- Le Pèlerin de l’Absolu (1914) (“The Pilgrim of the Absolute”)
- Au seuil de l’Apocalypse (1916) (“On the Threshold of the Apocalypse”)
- La Porte des humbles (posth., 1920) (“The Door of the Lowly”)
A useful study in English is Léon Bloy by Rayner Heppenstall (Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes, 1953).
“Love does not make you weak, because it is the source of all strength, but it makes you see the nothingness of the illusory strength on which you depended before you knew it.” (Auden & Kronenberger, 1966)