Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Divine Comedy for the Year of Mercy w/ DOR’s Department of Evangelization and Catechesis

January 18th, 2016, Promulgated by b a

I guess I’m a little late in posting this, but for those who missed this and want to catch up check out

Welcome! During this Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015-November 20, 2016) Pope Francis has asked us to use Dante’s Divine Comedy as a “spiritual guide.” Knowing how intimidating this project sounds, the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis of the Diocese of Rochester has put together a reading plan along with a group of theologians, literary scholars, and other lovers of Dante’s work to help us all mine the riches from one whom Pope Benedict XV called “the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea.”

read more here


4 Responses to “Divine Comedy for the Year of Mercy w/ DOR’s Department of Evangelization and Catechesis”

  1. Diane Harris says:

    Most sincerely, I do not intend the following to be facetious questions. I just simply ‘don’t get it’ and I am seeking further explanation, and clarification.

    WHY are we being advised to read Dante? If I understand correctly, he is not a canonized saint, nor is he apparently being considered for canonization. What is the connection between reading a work about a spiritual subject, and engaging in spiritual reading?

    There is quite a commitment of time and energy to delve into Dante (I only dabbled a bit in college); but I never remember it being suggested as a substitute for Lives of the Saints, or for the Fathers of the Church, or such momentous works as Imitation of Christ. And certainly not instead of Holy Scripture.

    So, WHY should we invest so much time — for what purpose? And what about the resources needed to bring us a condensate of some kind?

    Further, I don’t ‘get’ the endorsement by Pope Benedict XV, who reigned 1914-22 and was unsuccessful in preventing World War I, much to his own disappointment. Apparently, Pope Benedict XV, now nearly 100 years later, is also not a candidate for canonization. He did write an encyclical of praise of Dante, which can be found here: I am not at all sure why Dante was a suitable subject for an Encyclical, and I wonder at the connection to “mercy” which seems absent at least in this writing.

    The following are some highlights from an Encyclical which is about the length of 3 Sunday homilies, reduced to about one homily in length:


    “Among the many celebrated geniuses of whom the Catholic faith can boast … highest stands the name of Dante Alighieri, the sixth centenary of whose death will soon be recorded. … Italy, justly proud of having given him birth…. surely we cannot be absent from this universal consensus of good men; rather should We take the lead in it as the Church has special right to call Alighieri hers.”

    “… We promoted the restoration of the temple where the ashes of the poet lie, so now, to initiate the cycle of the centenary celebrations … to show even more clearly than before the intimate union of Dante with this Chair of Peter, and how the praises showered on that distinguished name necessarily redound in no small measure to the honour of the Catholic Church.”

    “…Dante lived in an age which inherited the most glorious fruits of philosophical and theological teaching and thought, and handed them on to the succeeding ages with the imprint of the strict scholastic method…. Indeed, his Commedia … deservedly earned the title of Divina, while it uses various symbolic images and records the lives of mortals on earth, has for its true aim the glorification of the justice and providence of God who rules the world through time and all eternity and punishes and rewards the actions of individuals and human society.”

    “If the progress of science showed later that that conception of the world rested on no sure foundation, that the spheres imagined by our ancestors did not exist, that nature, … though this earth on which we live may not be the centre [re: geocentrism] of the universe as at one time was thought, it was the scene of the original happiness of our first ancestors, witness of their unhappy fall, as too of the Redemption of mankind through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.”

    “We think that these things may serve as teaching for men of our times. That Christians should pay highest reverence to the Sacred Scripture and accept what it contains with perfect docility he proclaims when he says that “Though many are the writers of the Divine Word nevertheless there is but one Dictator, God, Who has deigned to show us His goodwill through the pens of many ….”

    “No need to recall Alighieri’s great reverence for the authority of the Catholic Church, the account in which he holds the power of the Roman Pontiff as the base of every law and institution of that Church. Hence the outspoken warning to Christians: You have the Old and the New Testament: the Pastor of the Church as Guide; Let that suffice for your salvation. He felt the troubles of the Church as his own….”

    “Excellent and wise principle indeed which, if it were observed today as it ought to be, would bring to States abundant fruits of civil prosperity. But, it will be said, he inveighs with terrible bitterness against the Supreme Pontiffs of his times. True; but it was against those who differed from him in politics and he thought were on the side of those who had driven him from his country. One can feel for a man so beaten down by fortune, if with lacerated mind he breaks out sometimes into words of excessive blame, the more so that, to increase his feeling, false statements were being made by his political enemies ready, as always happens, to give an evil interpretation to everything. And indeed, since, through mortal infirmity, ‘by worldly dust even religious hearts must needs be soiled'”

    “… it cannot be denied that at that time there were matters on which the clergy might be reproved, and a mind as devoted to the Church as was that of Dante could not but feel disgust while we know, too, that reproof came also from men of conspicuous holiness. But, however he might inveigh, rightly or wrongly, against ecclesiastical personages, never did he fail in respect due to the Church and reverence for the “Supreme Keys”; and on the political side he laid down as rule for his views “the reverence which a good son should show towards his father, a dutiful son to his mother, to Christ, to the Church, to the Supreme Pastor, to all who profess the Christian religion, for the safeguarding of truth ….”

    “Wonderful, therefore, is the intellectual enjoyment that we gain from the study of the great poet, and no less the profit for the student making more perfect his artistic taste and more keen his zeal for virtue, as long as he keeps his mind free from prejudice and open to accept truth. Indeed, while there is no lack of great Catholic poets who combine the useful with the enjoyable, Dante has the singular merit that while he fascinates the reader with wonderful variety of pictures, with marvellously lifelike colouring, with supreme expression and thought….”

    “There breathes in Alighieri the piety that we too feel; the Faith has the same meaning for us; it is covered with the same veil, “the truth given to us from on high, by which we are lifted so high.” That is his great glory, to be the Christian poet, to have sung with Divine accents those Christian ideals….”

    “If then Dante owes so great part of his fame and greatness to the Catholic Faith, let that one example, to say nothing of others, suffice to show the falseness of the assertion that obedience of mind and heart to God is a hindrance to genius, whereas indeed it incites and elevates it.”

    “Heaven grant that this may be the fruit of the Dante Centenary: that wherever literary instruction is given the great poet may be held in due honour and that he himself may be for the pupils the teacher of Christian doctrine, he whose one purpose in his poem was ‘to raise mortals from the state of misery,’ that is from the state of sin, ‘and lead them to the state of happiness,’ that is of divine grace….”

    “And you, beloved children, whose lot it is to promote learning under the magisterium of the Church, ‘continue as you are doing to love and tend the noble poet

      whom We do not hesitate to call the most eloquent singer of the Christian idea.”‘

    Given at Rome at St. Peter’s, April 30, 1921, the seventh year of Our Pontificate.


  2. Eliza10 says:

    Well, I am not going to read Dante this year. It seems stupid. And a waste of precious time. I would rather follow the lead of a Saint.

  3. Ben Anderson says:

    from wikipedia: “The Divine Comedy… is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature”.

    I don’t think it should be substituted for spiritual reading, but I don’t see that suggested anywhere. Whether one has time to read it or not is circumstantial, but it clearly isn’t stupid or a waste of time. Mozart is also not a canonized Saint. Is listening to his music stupid or a waste of time?

  4. Eliza10 says:

    But why Dante? For the Year of Mercy, ushered in on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, featuring an awful slideshow on the Vatican, which was not about Our Blessed Mother (on her feast day!). 🙁

    For The year of Mercy, why not recommend reading St. Faustina’s Diary? Why not asks Catholic Priests to encourage more Confession, since gets us to Mercy really fast? The choices of this Pope just make no sense. I do not want to follow this suggestion of his, which makes no sense, because I don’t trust his ideas. 🙁

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