Fr. Scott A. Haynes
“There will be joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Most of you have heard of the great Italian poet, Dante, who was member of the 3rd Order of St. Francis. His great literary masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is an account of his trip through heaven, hell and purgatory. An artist by the name of Gustave Doré has painted some of the scenes that Dante described.
Gustave Doré painted one powerful scene depicting Dante approaching the entrance to purgatory. At the entrance of purgatory stands a great angel wielding his flaming sword. This angel, acting as warden, refuses entrance to all who are unworthy. Looking more closely at Dore’s depiction of purgatory, we see 3 steps leading up to the entrance of purgatory. But what do these steps represent? These 3 steps represent the 3 steps of making a good confession. Yes, every time you make a good confession you walk up these same 3 steps.
Well what are the 3 steps you may be wondering? Let us turn to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the answer. The Catechism tells us that these 3 steps are 3 acts of the penitent in Confession: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Here is Dante’s description of these steps:
“Thither did we draw nigh, and that first stair
Was of white marble, polished so and clean,
It mirrored all my features as they were.
The second darker than dusk perverse was seen,
Of stone all rugged, rough and coarse in grain,
With many a crack, its length and breadth between.
The third, which o’er the other towers amain
Appeared as if of fiery porphyry,
Like blood that gushes crimson from the vein.”