Fr. Chase Pepper, Dante Scholar
Inside the Core this week, on Wed. evening, we began our semester of celebrations regarding Dante's 700th anniversary, with the presentation, sponsored by the Center of Catholic Studies, of Fr. Chase Pepper on "Dante and the Good Life." This series is sponsored by the Catholic Studies Program, the College of Communication and the Arts, Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology University, and University Libraries, Special Collections, Walsh Gallery. It coincides with the fact that many Core I classes will be reading selections from Dante's Divine Comedy in the next couple of weeks.
Dante is an important part of Core I: Journey of Transformation because, as Fr. Chase said, Dante's whole poem is a depiction of the poet's own spiritual journey, a movement from being lost in sin to wholeness and faith. Fr. Chase made the point, one with which St. Augustine of Hippo (another Core I author) would agree, that all the sins and virtues depicted in The Divine Comedy are rooted in love; however, the sins reflect love mis-used or misdirected (as Augustine puts it, "disordered love"), and the virtues show love purified and redeemed. We see this purification at the end of The Purgatorio, where Dante goes through the wall of fire of purification from lust, and it is only after this experience (painful but healing) that he can see his beloved Beatrice and, with her, proceed onto the final stage of his journey, into Paradise.
William Blake's "Dante Running from the Three Beasts"
Fr. Chase also spoke about how Dante was exiled from his once beloved Florence and spent the last nineteen years of his life unable to return to his home city. He explained how exile is a concept running throughout the poem. Fr. Chase also mentioned the phrase "The Duty of Delight," which is the title of a book by Dorothy Day (yet another author in Core I, her works being optional modern texts). Fr. Chase explained how we are meant to enjoy the good things in this world, but to enjoy them in the freeing and joyful way that God intended, not hoarding them or hating others because of them. Fr. Chase also mentioned that he had a profound experience teaching The Divine Comedy to a group of men in prison, and he was enlightened by their insights into the text. One can tell that Fr. Chase feels, as does the Holy Father Pope Francis, that Dante is a wonderful guide to all of us on our journey of life, not just an author to memorize or quote, but in a deeply personal and spiritual way, touching our hearts.
Father Chase is completing a PhD on Dante and Theology at Cambridge University. He is an '07 Seton Hall alum where he was in the Honors Program and earned degrees in Political Science and Catholic Studies. He entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2009, earned a Master of Divinity from Notre Dame in 2014, and was ordained to the priesthood in 2015. He spent three years in the departments of Campus Ministry, Residence Life, and Theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 2018 he was awarded the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue his PhD. A truly dedicated alum, Fr. Chase said he was so excited about meeting with current students and faculty to discuss Dante, he did not care how late he would have to stay up (in UK time, five hours ahead). This truly is an example of the kind of love and sense of community Dante celebrates in his great poem.
Our next event in the series will be a panel of scholars, presenting on Oct. 28, 7- 9 p.m., in McNulty Hall, room 101, also on Zoom. Our panel consists of the following speakers:
- Dr. Jennifer Newsome Martin, University of Notre Dame
- Dr. Paul Camacho, Villanova University
- Dr. Vittorio Montemaggi, King's College, London.
Please join us!