“Blessed are they who persecute the righteous, for they shall be called the children of God.”

The estimable translator and teacher Anthony Esolen has a wickedly biting commentary piece at Crisis today.  Read it in the context of controversy over the upcoming Synod on the Family in October, namely, there are those who suggest that Christ didn’t really mean what Scripture says he said about adultery.


A Modern Translation

The Church, I’ve been hearing, has to change, if she is going to have any leverage with men and women of our time. What that means, of course, is that they would like a sexual permission slip. It’s the only thing they care about. What’s it to them, after all, if the Church does not change her teachings, even if she could? They don’t obey them anyway.

But perhaps they are setting their revisionary sights too low. Why change the Bride of Christ, when you might as well go for Christ Himself? Why trick out the bride in lingerie from Astarte’s Secret, you can put new words on the lips of the bridegroom, or give him a new interest?

The Lord says that He comes not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. He is the true and only agent of moral evolution. He reveals the truth that had lain hidden in the shadows, or encrusted with local or tribal customs. He is the refining fire, making ore into gold. So His teachings stretch our dust to infinity.


So we need a Jesus who will fit; a god we can put in the cave to stay. I translate His words accordingly:

“You have heard me say, let your yes be yes and your no be no. What’s the use? Consider the clods of the earth, how they crumble. Are not your words worth less than they? Be content with maybe. Say what you will, to make your days comfortable, because they are few, and they will pass.”

“You have heard me say, he who will not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. What’s the use? I accomplished nothing on the cross. I have no baptism of fire for refining the earth. Don’t bother. Be not too eager to cause other people to suffer, but at the same time be not too eager to expose yourself to suffering.”

“Blessed are the modestly well off, for theirs are the good schools and the suburbs.”

“Blessed are they who chuckle, for they need not give a damn.”

“Blessed are they who believe in themselves, for they shall cover the earth.”

“Blessed are they who scoff at righteousness, for they shall be less than hypocrites.”

“Blessed are the indifferent, for they shall be left alone.”

“Blessed are the sly of heart, for they shall see porn.”

“Blessed are the compromisers, for they shall win elections.”

“Blessed are they who persecute the righteous, for they shall be called the children of God.”


There’s more of this amusing but mind-chewing stuff which you can read over there.

Fr. Z kudos.

You might recall that he wrote the piece How to kill vocations – Feminize everything! with which he scored a direct hit.

Also, check out his translation of the Divine Comedy, one of the most important things every penned by man.  If you have read Dante then… well…. pffffft.


You could start with Esolen (Part 1, Inferno HERE) or perhaps with Dorothy Sayer’s fine version (Part 1, Inferno, HERE).  There are many renderings to choose from.  I would very much like to teach on Dante someday.  Maybe it’ll happen.

When you make the excellent choice to read the Divine Comedy, here are a couple tips.  First and foremost, make the decision that you will read the whole thing.  Don’t read just the Inferno.  The really great stuff comes in Purgatorio and Paradiso.  Also, read through a canto to get the line of thought and story and then go back over it looking at the notes in your edition.  Sayers has good notes.  Dante was, I think, the last guy who knew everything.  Each Canto is dense with references.  You will need notes to help with the history, philosophy, cosmology, poetic theory, politics, theology, etc.

In any event, Esolen did a good job.

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  1. Priam1184 says:

    I think that Mr. Esolen has nailed it.

  2. Pingback: “Blessed are they who persecute the righteous, for they shall be called the children of God.” | Fr. Z’s Blog | Deaconjohn1987's Blog

  3. Matt Robare says:

    I second Esolen’s translation. Not only is it a fantastic translation, but the notes are just as absorbing and the appendiuces are packed with information. I’m reading it for Lent and I had to slow down in Paradise in order not to finish too quickly.

  4. John V says:

    “You will need notes to help with the history, philosophy, cosmology, poetic theory, politics, theology, etc.”

    If you’re like me, you may need notes to help with the notes.

  5. Imrahil says:

    Don’t read just the Inferno. The really great stuff comes in Purgatorio and Paradiso.

    Amen to that.

    I might add the following suggestions.

    4. If it isn’t a matter of life and death to read the Divine Comedy now, then read some informative and entertaining account of the Greek mythology, not necessarily in the original, first. As a German I think of Gustav Schwab’s “Tales out of Classical Antiquity”. I do not know what is used in the English-speaking world.

    5. If possible at any rate, use a two-language edition with the original Italian – even if it was only Latin that you learnt in school. I’m not suggesting you should try to translate if that requires effort – that would spoil the fun. However, I think it’s better of you have the original rhythm of it somewhere to enjoy at an unregular side-glance – which, on the contrary, would be fun.

    6. I don’t know if there are any others*, but if there are, then for all sakes, take a translation which is rhymed. If the literalness has to suffer, then the place where to give the exact meaning is the notes. [* I do know that there are unversed translations of Ovid.]

    (And then just think that one certain Milton complained that you couldn’t just make refined poetry if you had to rhyme all the things…)

    And, of course, I especially thank God for the stroke of genius granted to Dante about how the latter would describe God’s own greatness and clarity at the at the end of the Paradiso … though I won’t give away the spoiler here.

  6. Joseph-Mary says:

    I also have Prof. Esolen’s Divine Comedy…
    On another note, I attended one night of our parish ‘mission’ and the priest told us to never stand out. If we attend a church where everyone talks and visits before and after Mass, we should too. If they hold hands at the Our Father, we should too. We should never draw attention to ourselves and always obey everything the pastor says. We should not indulge in individuality or private devotions. It is the community that counts. And when we are individual or stand out we sin against the community and the ‘oneness’ of the Church. We must welcome everyone. And we are not to worry about sodomy or abortion because those things are going to pass away anyway. He gave a great formula for lukewarmness and the people commented that he made them feel good.

    But my thought was that the saints kind of stood out. They were devout and not afraid to be so. And they were ostracized, ridiculed, persecuted, etc. for it. They were not just like every other lukewarm person at all.

  7. Scott Woltze says:

    Esolen’s send-up is at The Catholic Thing and not Crisis. It’s wise and funny stuff.

  8. James says:

    Coincidentally, I am just now reading Prof. Esolen’s Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. It’s great educational and cultural criticism written in his characteristically wry style.

  9. Traductora says:

    I thought this article (which I read at The Catholic Thing) was brilliant and summed up everything in the modernist program…which is being enacted before our eyes.

    As for Esolen’s Dante translation, I downloaded a sample and the notes look fantastic! The translation itself is certainly accurate, but I must say I liked the John Ciardi translation, because Ciardi, assisted by Archibald MacLeish, a now nearly-forgotten poet and playwright, attempted to reproduce Dante’s verse form. He did a good job, especially considering that it doesn’t work very well with English. Translating poetry is a real challenge, and there are only a few wonderful translators…and they have mostly written paraphrases (Ezra Pound, for example).

  10. LOTH says:

    Prof. Esolen has also created a masterful DVD series on the Comedy. These are published by Catholic Courses, a division of St. Benedict Press. Each DVD set (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise) comes with four DVDs for a total of eight lectures each.

    These can be used at the parish level for reading and discussion.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear Joseph-Marie,

    that doesn’t fit but still: l. o. l.

    Which doesn’t mean it’s nice to live in, of course.

    That said, there’s on children’s song around here actually used as a hymn which goes like this: “In one direction / with joyful mood / we are commun’ty / for us that’s good / together are we searching for th’ great aim / for altogether we’re strong, that’s plain” etc. etc.

    Well, I tend to sing that song three octaves deeper, in marching-style. Go figure.

    But seriously. Not even soldiers would like to march to such lyrics; they prefer far more some bucolic landscape-painting about Westerwood Forest, or erikas, or even the beauty of girls between 17 and 18, particularly of forresters’ daughters looking out of windows, or, to change the nationality, about the enemy leaders’ monorchy or the shallowness of big-city life in the absence of one’s bride.

  12. MouseTemplar says:

    I have been reading Prof. Esolen’s translation of The Divine Comedy along with listening to his lectures from Catholic Courses mentioned by LOTH above. Together they provide a “class” easily comparable to any I’ve had in university.

  13. JonPatrick says:

    For Dante, the Mark Musa translation is also a good one. You definitely need the notes in the back, especially if it’s been a while since you learned your Greek mythology. I had to dig out my old Edith Hamilton Mythology book from high school to look up some of the references.

  14. stephen c says:

    One of the best reading experiences of my life was reading Dante from Canto 1 to the end, very slowly … and Sayers’ (and Barbara Reynold’s) notes are superb … although I still have not read a good analysis of why someone so gifted did not take the extra steps necessary to become a Doctor of the Church. His own poetry reflects that he knew many saintly people, and was not rich, and had a rich prayer life; what was it that kept him at the level of a very good writer, with, unfortunately, a few obvious prejudices and unkind views here and there, instead of moving on the level of his fellow geniuses like the later Spanish mystical poets and Newman (to name only poets)? Not that he didn’t do much much better than I would have, but still, one wonders.

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