MANILA, June 11, 2015—Inspired by the Holy Father’s glowing praise for Dante Alighieri, two young Catholic Filipinos have recently began ransacking shelves for copies of the Italian’s immortal three-part poem, “The Divine Comedy,” ahead of the Year of Mercy set to open on December, inviting others to do the same.
Antidote for secularism
“In Dante, we can find the ‘antidote’ for the increasing secularization happening in today’s society. The media, the education system, and other institutions have already given in to liberal-progressive ideas. What’s more, the pagans are staging a comeback. Many are turning their backs on their Christian roots. Appealing to reason is a thing of the past. Emotions are all most people often resort to,” shared Reth Ellen Se, a Filipina nurse working in Saudi Arabia.
Finishing the Divine Comedy over the weekend, she agreed with Pope Francis that Dante indeed has much to say to the present generation, especially to Catholics.
“Imagine each one of us is in Canto I of the Inferno. We all want to get out of our own ‘dark forest’ but can’t since we have no idea how. Add this to the fact that the only way out of that place is through hell. Do you think we can do it all on our own, without a guide? Can the poet see the stars above using only his ‘feels,’ his own initiative,’ or by simply observing the ‘norms’ of hell. Most likely, he will find himself standing at the bottom of the pit of selfishness and feels. But can he go out?” asked Se.
The Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Iloilo explained that without this guidance, it is unlikely anyone will know why it is necessary to prepare for the end.
“With Virgil, who symbolizes human rationality, the poet—us—walks through hell, purgatory, and the lower heavens. Finally, he finds his heart’s true desire in Beatrice who, in turn, directs him to the higher heavens, where the fullness of Beatific Love resides.
“The Divine Comedy reminds us that there’s more to life than meets the eye. There’s more to this world that all these material things.
For Mark Lloyd Ranque, a civil servant and a convert from Protestantism, reading Dante is a must if one wishes to broaden one’s cultural horizon, as well as to understand more deeply the relationship between faith and reason.
“Dante did a great job showing that faith and reason, in fact, do complement, rather than dismiss, each other … and that together they can both lead people to God,” he said.
According to Ranque, who was introduced to the poem by a friend, Dante made him a better person, noting how humility runs through much of the work.
“[And] what I like most about the Divine Comedy is the arrangement of the three books: ‘Inferno,’ ‘Purgatorio,’ and ‘Paradiso.’ I take this as an allegory that the only way up is by going down. The way to God is by going down to the deepest roots of who we are, with our virtues and vices, acknowledging that the path is crooked, and that change has to be done … and the way to change is a journey from hell, purgatory, and to paradise,” he added.
Dante @ 750
In time for 750th anniversary of poet’s birth last May 4, Pope Francis suggested reading the Divine Comedy, stressing that Dante “still has much to say and to offer through his immortal works to those who wish to follow the route of true knowledge and authentic discovery of the self, the world and the profound and transcendent meaning of existence.”
More than a literary masterpiece, the Holy Father said the poem exhorts all “to rediscover the lost or obscured meaning of our human path and to hope to see again the glowing horizon on which the dignity of the human person shines in its fullness.” (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)