An introduction from Father Jorge Fuentes, a Mexican priest
Imagine that, in exchange for a rich prize, some prestigious writer is asked to compose a novel of literary value - of some 250 pages, in 30 chapters - first chapter 7, then chapter 25, then chapters 19, 5, 14 – and so on - so that when finished, there would be a beautiful, coherent and convincing novel.
But for an even larger prize, there would be three conditions:
1. Of not being able to map out a plan or an outline before writing it;
2. Of not being able to correct any of the written words (apart from typographical and grammatical errors); and
3. Of completing it within a certain time frame.
Although it seems incredible, there was already somebody who achieved such a feat! It was a female Italian writer, single, Catholic, who spent the last 27 years of her life unable to get out of a sick-bed, until the day of her death at age 64 in October 1961. This simple woman was taken back in time and recorded visions and dictations – most of which were received between 1943 and 1947 - of the lives of Jesus and Mary, in some 90 exercise books, sitting up with her knees bent… But the most surprising aspect of it all was that this monumental Work doesn't only consist of 30, but 652 chapters!!...
Now let’s see how it happened.
Firstly, the writer didn't know the chapter number when she started recording a particular event. The only thing that she noted was the date in which it was written.
As the Work was progressing - and she wanted to have the chapters arranged in a coherent order later – she had them typed by Fr. Migliorini, Her Spiritual Director, in loose leaves, so as not to have to pull out the leaves of the exercise-books. Those loose leaves were put together in the order indicated by Jesus, and totalled 652 chapters.
At the beginning or the end of the particular chapters, Jesus would instruct Maria to put this chapter here, and put that chapter there.
For example, at the end of the chapter entitled: “Jesus Enters into Jerusalem” – the vision given on 30th March 1947 (which was to become Chapter 588) – Jesus says to Maria:
« ...Put here the vision: "The evening of Palm Sunday" (from 4th March 1945)... »
(This subsequent vision later become Chapter 589)]
Once the chapters were in order, everyone – even the writer – got to know the real chronological order in which the events she was describing occurred. This was, in fact, the true Author's purpose: to prove that nobody but He could have planned it to be written in that total DISorder…
This Work, originally in Italian, was written by a great mystic of our time, María Valtorta, whose writings have been eulogized by experts in many disciplines: geographical, geological, archaeological, botanical - all in relation to the Palestine of Jesus' time – as well as experts in history, psychology and theology. It has since been translated and published in English and in 14 other languages.
The English translation of the Work – called The Poem of the Man-God - consists of five volumes containing more than 4,000 pages.
In this Work there are hundreds of characters - especially those that appear in the gospels - all relating to the wonderful story of the lives of Jesus and Mary – from the time before Mary was born – till after Her Assumption into Heaven.
Maria Valtorta repeatedly stressed that she was only the “spokesperson”, the instrument through which the “Author” wanted to share with us His life, in order to be able to deepen, over time, the knowledge of both the Person and the Word, contained in the four Gospels.
This Work was given Pope Pius XII’s verbal recommendation for publication. In February 1948 He said: “Publish this just as it is – those who read it will understand.” And it has received countless testimonies of its benefits. Among these testimonies, there have been cardinals and bishops – including “Imprimaturs” from at least two bishops, through which the Work is declared free from any error - in faith, and in morals.
(Father Jorge Fuentes concludes his personal testimony by saying:) I don't shelter the smallest doubt that this Work is called to be spread more and more for the whole world, so as to offer - as much to Christian as to non-Christian, and in general to all persons of good will - a deeper understanding of Jesus' life, as well as a strong incentive to live His Word in a more radical way. I pray to God that in spite of the controversies that are always raised with His authentic Works - even inside His Church - many people will end up knowing, enjoying, and benefiting from this Work.
A synthesis of the life and works of Maria Valtorta
This is drawn mainly from the Introduction to Volume 1 of The Poem of the Man-God.
Maria Valtorta was an only child, born in 1897 in Caserta, Italy. Her father, Joseph, was an army officer, and her mother, Iside, was a French teacher.
In 1916, after her schooling, she experienced a vivid dream, described as "a cleansing which completely purified her". And she awoke "with her soul, enlightened by something which was not of this world".
In 1920, while walking along a street accompanied by her mother, she was struck in the back by a young delinquent, with an iron bar. She suffered an infirmity which, thirteen years later, caused her to be bedridden for the rest of her life.
In 1925, after the Valtorta family moved to Viareggio (a coastal resort, due west of Florence), Maria was attracted to Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, whose Autobiography she had read at one sitting. Maria offered herself as a “victim soul” to the merciful Love, renewing this act of offering "every day" afterwards.
January 1933 was the last time Maria was able to leave her house. And from April 1934, she was no longer able to leave her bed. During the following years, Maria became ever more disposed to the will of God - consoling the afflicted, assisting those in spiritual darkness, and receiving painful premonitions about the gravity of the times.
In 1942, at the request of Father Migliorini, she agreed to write her Autobiography, on condition that she would be allowed to tell "all the good and all the bad", in an authentic display of her soul. She had the gift of being a born writer, and prodded by supernatural impulse, on Good Friday, the 23rd of April 1943 - after having completed her Autobiography - she began writing a series of dictations from Jesus and Mary, She dutifully recorded these in an almost sitting position in bed, in ordinary school notebooks which she supported with a piece of cardboard held on her bent knees. She would write at any time, by day or by night, even when she was exhausted by fatigue or tormenting pains. She wrote effortlessly, naturally and without revision. If interrupted, she could leave off writing and then resume later on with ease. She did not consult books, except for the Bible and the catechism of Pope Pius X.
The first dictations received by Maria were to become her formation”, for the major work she was to be given – The Poem of the Man-God (later in this discourse referred to as The Poem, or The Work) - commencing with a series of visions and dictations from December 1943, maintaining intensity in the years till 1947, and diminishing progressively, until 1951. During her continuous work, her living and constant prayer, and her suffering embraced with the joy of the redeemers, Maria begged God not to allow external signs of her intense participation in Christ, Who used her as faithful "spokesman" and "pen", manifesting Himself in the richness of the "visions" and in the depth of the "dictations".
Maria’s notebooks contain almost fifteen thousand pages. Approximately two-thirds of this astounding literary production concerns the monumental work on the lives of Jesus and Mary (The Poem). The minor works, published in five other books, include extensive commentaries on biblical texts, doctrinal lessons, histories of the first Christians and martyrs, and pious compositions.
Maria died in her room at Viareggio on the 12th of October 1961. The few, solemn visitors noticed the brightness of her right hand (the one which had been defined as "pen of the Lord"). And her knees, which had served as her desk, were visibly bent under her white dress.
In July 1973, with civil and Church permissions, her remains were transferred from Viareggio to Florence, entombed in a Chapel dedicated to her alongside the Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation, where these remains – under a slab near the altar - is still venerated.
The first (Italian) editions of Maria Valtorta's writings began to be published, without her name, during the last years of her life. They quickly received an extensive welcome in the world, and have subsequently been translated and published in 14 other languages.
My own personal story of conversion and discovery
In October 1992, I found myself on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. (I was skeptical in going there but very curious – but that’s another story)
One day I just happened to pick up Volume 5 of Maria Valtorta’s The Poem of the Man-God, which half the members of the pilgrimage group were reading.
Back in Australia I began reading The Poem. I read, and I wept; I read more, and I wept again. As a former teacher and a research town planner, I have an academic bent, and in typical style I started taking notes – there was so much there that I wanted to index and to find again.
Like most Catholics I remembered the bits of Scripture I’d heard at Sunday Mass, and It occurred to me that these books were full of Scripture, which needed to be cross-referenced. A little later, when I found that an Abbot in a Monastery in the United States had cross-referencing over 1,600 passages to The Poem – I was overjoyed.
In the years following, and delving into numerous Scriptural references in the 10-volume second Italian edition of The Poem, I’ve been able to build up this list to about 7,000 passages from The Poem which directly and indirectly refer to passages in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Now this is where computer technology takes a hand. Can you imagine a 2-column table of 7,000 lines –The Poem‘s volume-and-page numbers on the left column, and the Scripture book-chapter-and-verse numbers on the right. Poem to Scripture. I transfer the right-hand column to the left, sort these 7,000 lines out alphabetically, from Acts of the Apostles to Zephaniah - and now we have Scripture to Poem !!
In all of this scrupulous discovery and cross-checking, I found no contradiction between the Scripture verses, and what Maria Valtorta had written.
Moreover, I discovered that Maria Valtorta, taken back in time, had actually witnessed 98.5% of all the passages in the gospels that refer to the lives of Jesus and Mary!! I subsequently produced what I’ve called A Pilgrim’s Guide to The Poem., with a comprehensive index and the two-way Scriptural cross-referencing, and from which I can find Maria Valtorta’s eye-witness account of almost every daily Gospel in the Church’s calendar. I’ve been a firm believer in the authenticity of Maria’s writings ever since,
Comments by Church dignitaries and scientists on Maria Valtorta’s writings
Bishop Roman Danylak - formerly of Rome and now living in Toronto, says:
“Reading the texts of The Poem... again and again, I experienced the literary richness of this Life of Christ by a master craftsman: describing - with factual accuracy - the geography and the scenes of Israel and the events of the Gospel. She narrates a story that includes a cast of hundreds of apostles, disciples, friends and enemies of Christ. She weaves a masterful tapestry of the lives of our Divine Savior and His Blessed Mother, against the background of the first century of the Christian era, as a faithful and accurate recorder of the divine drama of salvation history...
“St. John wrote in his gospel: ‘There is much else besides what Jesus did. If all of this were put in writing, I do not think the world itself would contain the books that would have been written.’ (Jn 21:25) This major work of Maria Valtorta is the Gospel expanded, and with her other writings, is in perfect consonance with the canonical Gospels, and with the traditions and magisterium of the Catholic Church.”
On 3rd May 2008, Bishop Danylak formally commended and launched the book from which the text of this audio-book has been drawn.
More briefly, this is what other experts have said:
Dr. Vittorio Tredici, an Italian geologist and mineralogist:”I wish to underline the author’s unexplainably precise knowledge of Palestine in its panoramic, topographic, geological and mineralogical aspects”.
Jean Aulagnier, specialist in ancient calendars: “Having established a scientific chronology of all events and occurrences in Maria Valtorta’s work, I say it remains unexplainable otherwise than by divine intervention.”
Fr. Dreyfus, of the French Biblical and Archeological School in Jerusalem: "I found in Maria Valtorta's work the names of at least six or seven towns, known but to a few specialists, and through non-biblical sources..."
Fr. Gabriel Roschini, professor at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Rome, a famous Mariologist, author of 130 books, and advisor to the Holy Office. He said: "...No other Marian writing, not even the sum total of all the writings I have read and studied, were able to give me as clear, as lively, as complete, as luminous, or as fascinating an image, both simple and sublime, of Mary, God's masterpiece."
The Ven. Gabriel Allegra, a theologian and a biblical scholar whose process for canonization was opened in 1984, said:
“The Poem never contradicts the Gospel but admirably completes it... the crowds move, shout, are agitated. The miracles you would say are seen. The discourses of Our Lord, even the most difficult in their conciseness, become clear... Whoever reads this work breathes at last the atmosphere of the Gospel, and almost becomes one of the crowd which follows the Master... The gospels come alive...
”The Poem does not replace the gospels, but it enhances them. Indeed, the more we read The Poem the more we feel a real need to read the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New...”
In 1949, the publishers of the first (Italian) edition of The Poem were summoned and reprimanded by some Vatican officials, and not allowed to speak in their defense. The officials were naware of Pope Pius XII’s 1948 pronouncement in front of three priests of the Servite Order, to “publish this just as it is, those who read it will understand…” and The Poem was subsequently placed on the Index of Forbidden Boooks – for (what I believe to have been) disciplinary reasons, and because, as they thought, the language was too flowery and it was deemed to be not of supernatural origin.
In 1961, however, Fr. Marco Giraudo, Commissioner of the Holy Office of the Vatican, said to Fr, Berti, representing the Order of the Servants of Mary, and made responsible for her writings by Maria Valtorta herself: "You have our complete approval to continue the publication of the 2nd edition of The Poem of the Man-God.” This 2nd edition, which Father Berti was working on at the time, contained a virtual gold-mine of his Scriptural references and theological comments, which – as Bishop Danylak says - have enriched the appreciation of Maria Valtorta’s writings in a most significant way.
Two years later, Msgr. Pea qua Ia Macchi, private secretary of Pope Paul VI, said to Fr. Berti in an hour long interview: "When His Holiness (Paul VI) was Archbishop of Milan, he read one of the books of The Poem of the Man-God. He told me how he appreciated it, and had me send the complete work to the Library of the diocesan Seminary." It is pertinent to note that the Index of Forbidden Books was abolished by Pope Paul VI in 1966.
Conformity of Maria’s Writings to Church Doctrine and Morals
There have been many attacks on the authenticity of The Poem: in the years before Maria died in 1961, and subsequently – despite these last two endorsements.
In all these attacks, however, it has never been established that there was anything in Maria’s writings contrary to Church doctrine and morals.
In highlighting this fact, Bishop Danylak reported that the then Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI) in private letters, had acknowledged that this work is free from errors in doctrine or morals. The Conference of Italian Bishops has acknowledged the same in its correspondence with the current editor, Dr. Emilio Pisani. The matter was subsequently referred by the Congregation of the Faith to the Italian Bishops’ Conference (the Bishop was living in Rome at the time), who were “authorized to give a blanket approval” to the publishers for continuing publication of The Poem.
Jesus Himself was well aware of attacks that were already beginning to happen, when He said to Maria in 1949:
"Soul of mine... let us weep together because I once more came 'to my house and was not welcomed or recognized,' and once more 'Jerusalem kills her prophets between the temple and the altar....'
"Since men and angels were created, how many perfect works of God have been frustrated or squandered by man? And did they perhaps not come from God because they did not succeed? On the contrary, precisely because they have come from God, they have been frustrated. I am telling you so, because it is true."
(Notebooks 1945-50, p. 533)
In my opinion, the attacks on Maria’s writings have been nothing more than opinions, of far less substance than are the endorsements of a much greater number of testimonies f rom highly placed dignitaries in the Church and in science, and from the “little people” who have actually read the millions of copies of Maria’s writings. Since 1996, members of our little Maria Valtorta Readers Group – from many countries around the world - have submitted hundreds of testimonies to our quarterly bulletins, describing their reading experiences. Here are just three:
From a man in Pittsburgh, in the United States:
Maria Valtorta’s writings have affected me more than anything I have ever read. I just know the Lord better, as well as all of his friends – the saints in Heaven.
From a woman in Queensland, Australia:
I’m delighted with the insights given to me, as I pray the Rosary with a guide from Maria’s writings. Gone are the days of reading old magazines in waiting rooms, when I have a treasure like this in my handbag.
From a nun in Africa:
With so many of our people dying of AIDS, The Poem has helped many people of good will to die peacefully after reading even a few copied pages. I bless the day I came in contact with The Poem of the Man-God.