Dante and the Blessed Virgin is distinguished philosopher Ralph McInerny’s eloquent reading of one of western literature’s most famous works by a Catholic writer. The book provides Catholic readers new to Dante’s The Divine Comedy (or Commedia) with a concise companion volume. McInerny argues that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to Dante. She is behind the scenes at the very beginning of the Commedia, and she is found at the end in the magnificent closing cantos of the Paradiso. McInerny also discusses Dante’s Vita Nuova, where Mary is present as the object of the young Beatrice’s devotion.
McInerny draws from a diverse group of writers throughout this book, including Plato, Aristotle, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, and George Santayana, among others. It is St. Thomas, however, to whom McInerny most often turns, and this book also provides an accessible introduction to Thomistic moral philosophy focusing on the appetites, the ordering of goods, the distinction between the natural and the supernatural orders, the classification of capital vices and virtues, and the nature of the theological virtues. This engagingly written book will serve as a source of inspiration and devotion for anyone approaching Dante’s work for the first time as well as those who value the work of Ralph McInerny.
“The book’s distinguishing feature is its focus on the role played by the Blessed Virgin in the Commedia’s account of Dante’s journey of salvation. . . . McInerny also gives careful and deserved attention to Dante’s depictions of Mary’s virtues that grace the terraces of the Purgatorio and provide the hope-sustaining counterpoint to the sins being expiated there. And he fittingly celebrates the glorification of the Virgin in canto XXIII of the Paradiso.” — America
“Serving as both a uniquely focused companion to the Divine Comedy and a treatise on the enigmatic, central role of Mary in the poem, this offering by the late Ralph McInerny, a noted philosopher, allows the Catholic reader in particular to recognize Dante’s ‘devotion to the Blessed Virgin in warm continuity with his or her own beliefs and practices.’ . . . Viewing Mary as the moral and philosophical key that unlocks the deepest criticism, McInerny writes with clarity, rigor, and élan.” — Choice
“The late McInerny’s final book provides an accessible, skillfully written, and erudite introduction to reading Dante for theological and philosophical content. …McInerny illuminates the religious and philosophical geography that surrounds the Commedia. In doing so, he provides the reader, especially the novice, with a veritable compendium to philosophy in the Commedia.” — Religious Studies Review
“ ’The Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to Dante’ — thus begins the reader’s journey into this beautifully structured and compelling volume by the late Professor Ralph McInerny. Under his skillful guidance, the world of Dante’s creative output is lucidly explored . . . his prose style is captivating. . . . An epilogue to the volume, containing the searing and intimate revelation of Pascal’s mystical words in his Memorial, provides a fitting close to this exceptional and delightful book.” — Parergon
“Dante and the Blessed Virgin exemplifies the faith and scholarship of recently deceased Ralph McInerny. In it, he demonstrates how a prolific and highly respected scholar and professor can use his analytic skills to define the devotional elements in a centuries-old work of literature. Inherent in his study of Dante’s work is his ability to see beyond the purely literary and linguistic aspects of the Divine Comedy to make this often studied work an inspiration for prayer.” — Catholic Library World
“This is a joyful and moving book, highly readable and recommendable to all of Dante’s readers, from the beginner to the most sophisticated ones, who sometimes get lost in their own dark wood. McInerny shows a clear, meaningful path to the ascension of the mountain. The epilogue adds a note of intellectual, spiritual, and earthly joy all at once.” — Sixteenth Century Journal