Monday, February 15, 2016

Dante's Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise (Catholic Courses)

Have you ever read through The Divine Comedy? Did you understand it all? Do you wish you understood more of it, but don't really want to read another book explaining it all? Well, you're in luck! Catholic Courses has released a three-part series! Three parts means there is one for the Inferno, one for Purgatory, and of course, one for Paradise! Each course is taught by the brilliant Dr. Anthony Esolen and is comprised of eight lessons! That means you get 24 lessons on Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy, which if we are being honest still might feel like not enough. The individual lessons then walk us through three to five cantos. At approximately thirty minutes a lesson, you are looking at about five to ten minutes per canto. It's not enough time to give you a super in-depth explanation on each canto, but it's long enough to help you grasp the main concepts.

In the first lesson of the Inferno, we learn about the three beasts Dante first encounters - a spotted leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Most commentators associate these with lust, pride, and avarice. Dr. Esolen says they could also represent the sins of the flesh, the sins of the devil, and the sins of the world. Lesson Two then begins by Dante entering Limbo and the nine circles of Hell. One of the really interesting things I learned about The Divine Comedy is that it is very precisely constructed. "We have the ten-square number of cantos; the division of the poem into three realms; the age of Jesus at his Passion, thirty-three; determining the number of cantos in each (one too many or one too few for Hell, depending on how we regard it)."

Walking through this poem and course invoked a lot of emotions. In the Inferno we feel pity, fear, despair. Purgatory was probably the most eye-opening. We know a lot about Heaven and Hell from Scripture, but Purgatory is not one we read a lot about. Dante does a masterful job of demonstrating the humbling experience that Purgatory is. We are bent over and crooked with sin, but Purgatory straightens us out. It is not easy and pleasant, but we are not shackled there. We are free to move around and it is in this place that we are cleansed of our sins and climb the mountain to enter Paradise.

With 24 lessons, one can spend six months to a whole year going through all three courses. Catholic Courses also provides several methods to study these courses including MP3 audio download, MP4 video download, audio CDs, and video DVDs. I prefer the video DVDs, because they come with a lecture guide book, and because it forces me to sit down, watch and focus. If I'm just listening to audio, I might get distracted and zone out on the lecture. Others might listen to these on the commute to and from work, and if that works for you, great! We all learn in different ways. The important thing is to keep learning. I can't afford to take college courses now, but Catholic Courses is an amazing alternative, because you get great instructors who are faithful to the teachings of the Church. Be sure to check out their other selections, which include topics like J.R.R. Tolkien, books of the Bible, and Church History, just to name a few. If you're looking for something to study, there's a good chance they'll have what you're looking for.

These courses were provided to me for free by Catholic Courses in exchange for an honest review.