M A R I A V A L T O R T A
A N D
H E R E P I C N A R R A T I V E
T H E P O E M OF T H E M A N - G O D1
The Prophetic Charism in the Church Today
IN an important and insightful article published some years ago, Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J., explored the theological significance of the prophetic charism in the Church and its continuity from post-Apostolic times into our own day.2 He sees this charism as a further explication of the deposit of Revelation, and its application for the Church in a particular period of history. According to Rahner, the prophetic charism does not fundamentally modify the economy of salvation as already revealed, nor does it simply affirm, as a kind of 'celestial repetition,' the content of the common Revelation. In its authentic manifestations and further unfolding of that Revelation, it rather brings with it a Divine imperative, a mandate for the conduct to be taken by Christendom, by the Church, in a given historical situation. Thus Rahner cautions that we
should by no means admit too hastily that the charism of prophecy is a privilege, now lapsed, of the primitive Church.... Why could these lights not be that enlightenment and that word of the Lord which we call -- too carelessly perhaps and with a certain disdain -- 'private revelations,' and which we consider as a luxury left to certain pious souls?... To content oneself with affirming that the content of these revelations has only an accessory and quasi-insufficient relationship with the Christian public Revelation, would raise the question: Can anything that God reveals be insignificant? 3Indeed, in contrast to the usual stance of theologians that such 'private revelations' should be given no more than human faith, Rahner goes so far as to say:
In accordance with the principles of habitual theology, we cannot quite see why a 'private revelation' does not impose itself on the faith of all those who have knowledge of it and admit with sufficient certitude that it comes from God; for we cannot demand for a private revelation a greater certitude than what is judged sufficient to guarantee an official revelation.In our highly cerebral, rationalistic mindset of today one usually encounters a typical reaction of patronizing smiles, if not what Rahner called outright "disdain", toward such manifestations of the prophetic charism in private revelations -- an attitude that has justly been called "Ecclesiological Deism".5 However, in one of his later works on this subject, Rahner warns:
For the authenticity of the Divine origin of private revelations posterior to Christ, it is unjustified, illogical and dangerous to demand -- as is often done -- a degree of certitude such that if it were demanded for the official revelation, all reasonable basis for faith in Christian revelation would be rendered impossible.
But if, in order to admit the certitude of the existence of a revelation posterior to Christ, no more is demanded than for the common Christian revelation, we cannot understand why the Divine origin of a number of these private revelations could not be recognized by everyone; nor why this recognition would not entail, for all, the right and duty of an adherence of faith, Divine faith [fide divina]. 4
Anyone who absolutely rejects the possibility of special revelations offends against faith; and anyone who denies that they may occur, even since the apostolic age, offends against a doctrine which is theologically certain... Everyone, then, who wishes to be a Christian must ask himself whether he does not live in dispositions which a priori exclude such revelations from God; and whether he does not seem to believe and approve of the visionary events in Scripture only because he is used to them, but not because they would not instantly rouse him to rationalistic protest should he encounter them for the first time....In the escalating confusion and rebellion rife in society and the Church today, we ought not be surprised, then, if the Lord of the Church and of history should initiate a corresponding escalation of the prophetic charism in our times to serve as a guiding beacon for His Church and for all men of good will. Since, says Rahner:
Even in these last times there are revelations of God, not only to individuals as such but also to the Church, at least in the sense that the charisma of the individual should redound to the blessing of the whole Mystical Body. 6
Private revelations are essentially imperatives showing how Christianity should act in a concrete historical situation: not new assertions, but new commands. What they affirm is already known from faith and theology. Yet they are not superfluous.... Because what God wishes to be done in certain given circumstances cannot be logically and unequivocally deduced from the general principles of dogma and morals, even with the help of an analysis of the given situation. 7Obviously whenever such a charism manifests itself, prudence and discernment as to its authenticity are always necessary, as well as submission to the judgement of the Church. But in the absence of any official judgement of the Church, Christ has left us in the New Testament definite criteria for discernment. Principal among these are His sayings that His own sheep recognize His Voice and follow Him, and that the tree is known by its fruits.8 We should then be wary, as Rahner seems to suggest, of an excessive prudence that in fact becomes imprudence based on an a priori rejection of and closed-minded incredulity toward clear evidence of this charism at work in the Church today.
A Contemporary Mystic for Our Times
One of the most outstanding manifestations of this prophetic charism in our own times is that of the modern Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta. Born originally in Caserta, Italy, March 14, 1897, she lived successively at Faenza in Romagna, in Milan, Monza and Florence, due either to relocation of the family home or the requirements of her own schooling. Eventually, however, the Valtorta family settled at Viareggio in October, 1924, where, except for a short period in 1944, Maria lived from then on. But in April of that year, a forced evacuation of Viareggio due to aerial bombardments of the War compelled her to relocate to St. Andrew in Compito, in the province of Lucca. She returned to Viareggio in December of that same year, where she remained until her death on October 12, 1961.
Victim for Christ
As a member of the Third Order Franciscans, as well as of the Third Order Servites of Mary to which her spiritual director, Fr. Romuald Migliorini, O.S.M. belonged, Maria seems to have been a pious Catholic and lover of the Church from her early childhood. This was perhaps due in part, we may suspect, to a fortunate compensatory reaction to the callous and irreligious attitude of her despotic mother, who tried in vain to indoctrinate Valtorta with her own views. Maria's mother was jealously possessive of her, and apparently deemed Maria as little more than a servant to care for her in her often imaginary illnesses. Thus, she twice succeeded in breaking up two successive relationships with young men with whom Maria was in love.
But then, in 1920, at the age of 23, Maria was attacked in the street by a delinquent who struck her in the back with an iron bar, confining her to bed for three months and presaging her life's mission of complete immolation as a victim soul for Christ.
Inspired by the autobiography of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, she had offered herself in 1925, as a victim to Merciful Love. In 1930, having already taken private vows of virginity, poverty and obedience, she further offered herself as a victim to Divine Justice, realizing that her mission was "to expiate, to suffer and to love." The Lord soon took her at her word. Not only did her mother's tyranny and religious indifference cause Maria increasing mental duress and spiritual sufferings, but in 1934 her own deteriorating health finally 'nailed' Maria to her bed never again to leave it.
Valtorta's Ecumenical Interests
No stranger to today's ecumenical interest in Unity among Christian churches, Valtorta came to that interest through her admiration and devotion to another 'Maria': the Cistercian nun and patroness of Unity, Blessed Maria Gabriella. Like Maria Gabriella, Maria Valtorta was led to pray for Church Unity even before she knew that this was already being prayed for in a special way in the Church. In her other writings containing additional Visions and Dictations and some of her correspondence of 1943, she refers to Sister Gabriella at length -- this is the same year she began to receive her Visions for The Poem of the Man-God. In a letter probably written to her spiritual director, Fr. Migliorini, she says:
The Abbess of the Trappistines writes to me and I have written to her. I am pleased to have prayed and to pray thus for the unity of the Church. I did not know this was being prayed for. Jesus, my only Master, has guided me as always even in this, just as He has guided me toward his servant Sister M. Gabriella. I just have the sensation of being held by His Hand which leads me where I can find the good, or to souls who, by being already in glory, can help me with their teaching of holiness to augment my work of sanctification.It is not clear who the Trappistine abbess is with whom Valtorta was corresponding, whether Gabriella's abbess of Grottaferrata or another, nor how she knew of Valtorta. But Valtorta herself clearly felt a deep kinship with Blessed Maria Gabriella, and thus with the cloistered Cistercians.
I can say that never has it befallen me to seek to know a Life in which I have not found a likeness with mine. A much greater and more perfect likeness, but which is always: a likeness. I have read an infinite number of Lives but, for myself, I have always acquired those which have points of contact with my paltry life, and from the repercussions which they have in me -- while the others awake in me a sufficient but sterile admiration -- I understand that I, too, am on the same track (although much behind) of the ardor of love, of immolation, of trust.
I find in the Life of Sister M. Gabriella phrases, down to the smallest words, like mine. And this moves me so much. I feel that where Jesus reigns, absolute Owner of our 'I', souls, like harps touched by the same Hand, give the same sound more or less strong according to their perfection, but always in the same notes. 9
Valtorta's Great Opus
Sufficiently well-educated, industrious, intelligent and gifted, Maria seemed also to be a born writer with a facility and fluency in descriptive writing. Having received premonitions of the gravity of the times in which she was living, she eventually received from the Lord a pressing invitation and request to place at His disposal her faculties and gifts, so that He might use them as He wished for a renewed and modern-day presentation of His Gospel. As suffering was a great part of her mission also, the success of this Work would thus be the fruit of her sufferings -- His Cross, the Sign that always marks His authentic Communications:
You are a nothing. But I have called you to this mission. I formed you for this, watching over even your mental formation. I have given to you an uncommon faculty for composition, because I needed to make you the illustrator of My Gospel....Thus it was that, reminiscent of the "Showings" of a Juliana of Norwich, or the Visions of a St. Gertrude, Maria Valtorta began to receive a series of consistently coherent, progressive Visions and Dictations from 1943 until 1953. These Christ directed her to write in notebooks that would form the astounding literary output of this simple, pious woman -- an output that would eventually total some 15,000 handwritten pages. On ordinary school notebook paper supported on her knees with cardboard as she sat propped up in bed, she recorded from 1944 to 1947-- the most intense period of her literary activity -- the Visions and Dictations which would constitute her major Work with which we are concerned here: Il Poema Dell' Uomo-Dio:11 The Poem of the Man-God, the Work that accounts for nearly two-thirds of her total writings. Translated in whole or in part as of 1997 into French,12 Spanish, English, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Croatian, Korean, Tamil, Swahili, Slovenic, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch and Malayalam, the English translation of Valtorta's great Opus made its debut in the United States in 1986, under the title that heads this article:The Poem of the Man-God, and is now complete in five volumes. 13 Translated from the critical Italian edition published and edited by Valtorta's exclusive publisher, Emilio Pisani, the readable English includes a few abridged selections of the many explanatory and doctrinal footnotes appended to the Italian edition by her principal commentator, Fr. Corrado Berti, O.S.M., for the Second Italian Edition approved for publication in 1962 by the Holy Office. 14
I have crucified you in heart and flesh for this. So that you could be free of any bondage of affection, and would be the mistress of many more hours of time than anyone who is healthy could have. I have suppressed in you even the physical needs of nourishment, of sleep, and of rest, reducing them to an insignificant minimum, for this.
In your body, tormented and consumed by five grave and painful major illnesses, and by another ten minor ones, I have increased your energy in order to bring you to be able to do that which a healthy and well-nourished person could not do, for this. And I would wish this to be understood as an authentic sign. But this arid and perverse generation understands nothing.
...You are a nothing. But into this, your "nothing," I have entered and said: "See, speak, write." That "nothing" has become My instrument. 10
Whenever Valtorta would write, it was done all at a single stroke without revision or correction, and without rereading what she had written -- often not even understanding the things she wrote. Sometimes in the text she will address her spiritual director, Fr. Migliorini, O.S.M., without naming him, a fact of which the reader is advised by a footnote in the Italian edition but not, unfortunately, in the English. After completing some pages, Maria would send them to Fr. Migliorini both for his evaluation, and to type them. He had offered her his service as typist in order to put the manuscripts into a more readable form, having soon become aware of the Divine treasure he was being granted to share. Indeed, Maria always steadfastly insisted that the Work was not hers, but was of Divine origin from beginning to end. She was but the "mouthpiece", the secretary or feeble "pen" of the Lord.
Nor did the Lord spare her. Her Visions and Dictations would often come when she would least have wanted them: in the midst of excruciating physical sufferings, or awakening her from the fitful sleep she could sometimes manage, or even during aerial bombardments of the War which at one time necessitated her evacuation to Compito -- the Master would nonetheless require her to write down immediately what she saw or was told by Him. In addition, He would often give her precise directions as to the sequential arrangement and redaction of the Visions or Dictations with a view to their eventual publication and diffusion.
Nature of Valtorta's Work
What then is The Poem of the Man-God? First of all, it is not a poem in the usual meaning of that term. It is rather an epic narrative of poetic beauty: a great Life of Christ. But unlike so many other portrayals of the Life of Christ produced by man, this one claims to be the work of Christ Himself. The first volume begins with the Conception of Mary; the last volume culminates with her Assumption into Heaven. Between these two events, the Work encompasses the principal facts and deeds of Christ's life and Mary's, along with the attendant circumstances and personages that surrounded them. In the critical Italian edition, the Valtorta Opus therefore comprises ten large volumes, most averaging 500 pages or more. (The English edition, by using smaller print and omitting Footnotes, compresses these ten volumes into only 5 volumes, each of around 800 pages. Thus each English volume contains two volumes of the Italian edition.)
The Poem, then, is the Gospel: the Good News of Jesus Christ as it was experienced and proclaimed at the beginning. As such it is nothing "new,", nothing that would basically modify the present economy of salvation, as Rahner expresses it.15 And yet it is new: a new look at old truths for twentieth-century man: a gift from Him Who knows how to bring forth from His Treasures things at once old and new. 16
With Valtorta's permission, the Master employed her human faculties and "recorded" His life in them, much as a video camera on its receptive video tape. We who read the Work "replay" that tape, so to speak, and are thus made virtual eye-witnesses of the Gospel at its very beginnings. Through Valtorta's fluent pen, we are able to step through a "time-warp," as it were, twenty centuries into the past, to find ourselves walking with the apostles and first disciples of the new Galilean Rabbi. We see His miracles: not only those recorded in the Gospels along with their surrounding circumstances, but many others not recorded there, yet in complete continuity with the Gospel's miracles and accomplished with the same sobriety and salvific purpose. Nothing here of the bizarre, sensational miracles found in the apocryphal gospels.
In this "video-replay" we also listen to, even "see," the Master's parables: again, not only a more ample and probably original version of those recorded in the Gospels, but many other beautiful parables created with the consummate ease that only the Master of parables could have. And we hear Him interpret them according to His exegetical method in the Gospel for the parable of the sower,17 a method He there implied was the key to understanding all the parables.18
Through Valtorta's eyes we are admitted into intimate glimpses of the first model and exemplar of Christian life lived in community -- doubtless the inspiration for the later life in common described in chapters two and four of Acts, and which in its turn would beget subsequent forms of monastic and religious community life. At a small place near the Jordan, about nine miles northeast of Jericho, called Acqua Speciosa or "Beautiful Water" in the Italian (rendered "Clear Water" in the English), Jesus lives with His apostles in a small servants' quarters loaned to Him by Lazarus of Bethany at the beginning of His public ministry. It was indeed a community life in common, with Christ, the Master and Superior, assigning each apostle his own task and responsibility in the household. It also functioned as a kind of mission base from which Christ would send the apostles forth into the surrounding districts or hamlets to proclaim that the long-awaited Messiah was in their midst, and to inform the people there of what day and time He would come to speak to them and heal their sick.
Through Valtorta's eyes we also see the different temperaments, strengths and character defects of the apostles, particularly of Judas Iscariot. We listen in on some of the Master's moving confrontations with Judas, trying to forestall the tragic end He foresaw for this vain, proud, lascivious and arrogant man in quest of purely human glory. The character traits of Judas, portrayed in many episodes, figure prominently in the Work and merit a study in itself.
Again, through Valtorta's pen we see Christ's persistence at the beginning of His public ministry, in seeking out the twelve shepherds who were originally present at His birth in Bethlehem. Though He learns that some by then had died, He succeeds in finding the remaining ones, who were to become His first evangelizers. Among those remaining, we discover that it was the shepherd Tobias -- he had by then changed his name to Matthias -- who was subsequently to be chosen to replace Judas among the twelve apostles, as related in the first chapter of Acts.
In the Poem then, we have a "fleshing out" with so many more of the rich details that surely surrounded the "bare bones"-- the skeletal essentials of the Gospels as we have received them. And that there was so much more besides those essentials, St. John himself reports in the final verse of his Gospel:
There are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. 19Though St. John may have indulged in some hyperbole here, the Valtorta Opus certainly has made a valiant attempt to record many more of them! --or at least a good part of what till now has been unknown.
Purpose of The Poem
And the reason for so vast and voluminous a Work? To what purpose such a cost of labor and words -- and sufferings -- if we already possess the essentials in the Gospels, however skeletal?
In the final chapter of Volume Ten of the Italian edition, the Master Himself gives an ample reply to this question. As often occurs throughout the Work, if there is any need for clarification of a particular Vision or episode, or its existential meaning for us today, it is immediately followed by a Commentary dictated to Valtorta by Christ or by Mary. So too for this question of the purpose of The Poem. It is answered at length by a Dictation from Christ as a final "Farewell" of the Work, far too lengthy to quote here in full. But by way of a brief answer to that question now, we can listen to the Master's answer to Valtorta from an earlier part of the Work:
Do you know, Maria,... what I am doing by showing you the Gospel? I am making a stronger attempt to bring men to Me.... With so many books dealing with Me and which — touch them up, retouch them, change, embellish them — have [nonetheless] become unreal, I want to give those who believe in Me a vision brought back to the truth of My mortal days.... I will no longer confine Myself to words. They tire men and detach them. It is a fault, but it is so. I will have recourse now to Visions also of My Gospel, and I will explain them to make them more attractive and clear.Ecclesiastical Approbations
I give you the comfort of seeing them. I give every one the possibility of wanting to know Me. And if it be of no avail and they, like cruel children, throw away the gift without understanding its value, you will be left with My present, and they with My indignation. I shall be able once again to repeat the ancient reproach: "We played for you and you would not dance; we sang dirges and you would not weep." 20
Publish this work as it is. There is no need to give an opinion on its origin, whether it be extraordinary or not: whoever reads it will understand.Because of its obvious importance as an endorsement of the authenticity of Valtorta's Work by the Supreme Head of the Church, recent critics of the Poem now attempt to impugn this Papal audience as a "fabrication" of its promotional literature. The fact that the Pope did grant this audience, however, is historically documented. 23 Indeed, no less a personage than Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, writing to the Maria Valtorta Research Center from the Vatican on October 31, 1987, referred to Pope Pius XII's action as:
[These days] we hear of so many visions and revelations. I am not saying that all of them would be true, but there can be some of them that are authentic. 22
the kind of official Imprimatur granted before witnesses by the Holy Father in 1948. 24As a result of this "Official Imprimatur" of the Supreme Authority of the Church, Fr. Conrad Berti and Valtorta's publisher, Emilio Pisani, felt authorized to bring out the first Italian edition of her Poem of the Man-God in four volumes from 1956-1959. However this was done as an anonymous work at Valtorta's request, and without the theological annotations of later editions to clarify ambiguous passages. It was perhaps for these reasons that in 1959, the Holy Office, apparently ignorant of the Official Imprimatur granted earlier by Pius XII, thus invalidly 25 placed the Poem on the former Index of Forbidden Books. This was in effect to overturn the hierarchical structure of the Church, while at the same time violating Canon Law which outlaws any such reversal of a decision of the Supreme Head of the Church by a subsidiary Vatican Congregation, or even by appeal to an Ecumenical Council. 26
This censure was perhaps due also to the Holy Office's ignorance of the favorable impressions made by Valtorta's Poem on Cardinal Joseph Pizzardo, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and expressed by him in a spirit of affection and of friendship to Father Conrad Berti. However, the Cardinal Secretary's favorable views were apparently never communicated to his subordinates or their successors in the Holy Office. 27
Nevertheless, with courageous hope Valtorta's publisher and editor, Emilio Pisani, together with Fr. Berti, "found a system for resuming the publication of the Work with such criteria as would not exclude the respect due toward the authority of the Church." Moreover, after the first volumes of the 10-volume 2nd Edition had already gone out, now under Valtorta's name and with Fr. Berti's theological annotations, he was summoned anew to the Holy Office in December, 1961, where he was able, in an atmosphere of serene dialogue, to relate the previous words and approbation of Pius XII of 1948, and to exhibit the favorable certifications of other authorities. Among these were three consultants to the Holy Office itself: Father (later Cardinal) Augustine Bea, S.J., Pius XII's confessor and Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute; Msgr. Alfonsus Carinci, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites; and Fr. Gabriele Roschini, O.S.M., theologian and Mariologist, whose certifications favorably impressed Cardinal Pizzardo, then Secretary of the Holy Office. 28
Required to deliver a report and some documentation, Fr. Berti returned four more times to the Holy Office in January of 1962, and was always able to deal with its Vice-Commissioner, Father Giraudo, O.P. From Fr. Giraudo he finally obtained a sentence which effectively repealed the 1959 censure on the Index. Father Giraudo stated: "We have no objection to your publishing this 2nd Edition," concluding with: "We will see how the Work [the Poem] is welcomed." 29
As noted above, Valtorta's Poem had previously been submitted to several notable ecclesiastical personages among whom were, e.g., Msgr. Alfonso Carinci, then Secretary of the Congregation of Sacred Rites who, in 1946, stated:
There is nothing therein which is contrary to the Gospel. Rather, this work, a good complement to the Gospel, contributes towards a better understanding of its meaning.... Our Lord's discourses do not contain anything which in any way might be contrary to His spirit. 30Later, in 1951, Msgr. Hugo Lattanzi, dean of the Faculty of Theology at the Lateran Pontifical University and consultant to the Holy Office noted:
The author...could not have written such an abundant amount of material...without being under the influence of a supernatural power.31Again in 1952, Msgr. (later Cardinal) Augustine Bea, S.J., Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and also consultant to the Holy Office, was asked to evaluate the exegetical methodology of some of the many commentaries on scriptural texts contained in Valtorta's Work. In responding to this request he stated:
Some years ago [before being named consultant of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office], I read several fascicles of the Work written by the lady, Maria Valtorta, attending particularly in my reading to the exegetical, historical, archeological and topographical parts. As far as its exegesis, I did not find any prominent errors in the fascicles examined by me. Further, I had been much impressed by the fact that her archeological and topographical descriptions were propounded with notable exactness. Concerning some particulars less exactly expressed, the author, questioned by me through an intermediary, had modestly given some satisfactory explanations. Here and there some scenes appeared to me too diffusely described, even with many vivid colors. But generally speaking, the reading of the Work is not only interesting and pleasing, but truly edifying and -- for people less well informed on the mysteries of the life of Jesus -- instructive. 32Yet another ecclesiastical witness to whom Valtorta's Poem was submitted was Fr. Gabriel Roschini, O.S.M., Mariologist, philosopher and professor at the Lateran Pontifical University, consultant to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and one of the participating experts at the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Roschini had also personally met Valtorta, but admitted that like many others, he was a respectful and condescending skeptic. But after carefully studying her writings for himself, he underwent a radical and enthusiastic change of heart, later declaring Valtorta to be "one of the eighteen greatest mystics of all time." He subsequently used her Poem and other writings as material for a course he taught at the "Marianum" Pontifical Theological Faculty in Rome on the Marian intuitions of the great mystics. He also used Valtorta's Work for his own book 33 expounding Valtorta's Mariology, in which he claimed that the Mariology he learned in Valtorta's Poem far surpassed anything he had ever read before on Mary. The Poem, he said, presents
...a Madonna in perfect harmony with the ecclesiastical Magisterium, particularly with the Second Vatican Council, with Scripture and ecclesiastical Tradition.... No other Marian writing has ever been able to give so clear, so living, so complete, so luminous and so fascinating an idea of the Madonna: [an idea] at once simple and sublime. 34We may hope that a similar study will one day be made on the Christology of Valtorta's great Work as well.
Turning now to witnesses in the field of science, two noteworthy examples among many are illuminating for their evaluation of the Poem. In 1952, Dr. Victor Tredici, geologist, mineralogist, and president of the National Miners' Association of Italy, emphasized
...the inexplicable precision of [Valtorta's] geographical, panoramic, topographical, geological and mineralogical knowledge of Palestine -- inexplicable, because Valtorta had never gone to the Holy Land, nor did she have access to the indispensable documentation that would have furnished her with possible sources for such accurate knowledge. 35That same year of 1952, some observations were also offered from the perspective of medical science in the person of Dr. Nicholas Pende, endocrinologist of world renown and consultant to the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Dr. Pende declared his great astonishment at the way in which Valtorta, in depicting Christ's spasms on the Cross:
...describes a phenomenon which only a few informed physicians would know how to explain, and she does it in an authentically medical style. 36Resurgence of the Prophetic Charism Today
Do not allow My future voices to fall into the void. Each of them is a mercy of Mine for your aid, and they will be all the more numerous as I see by Divine reason that Christianity is more in need of them to surmount the storms of the times. 38And indeed, for anyone who has read the complete Work of Valtorta's Poem of the Man-God with an open mind and heart, it is abundantly clear that no mere human being, however gifted -- least of all one in the deteriorated physical condition of Valtorta -- could have written such a Work by human resources alone. A Work of such magnitude and sublime doctrine, written over so long a period and yet with such coherence and consistency both with itself and with the Gospels, surely could only have been conceived and achieved by the Divine Mind and Divine Love: the Good Shepherd seeking again His strayed sheep, man, bewildered and lost in the miasmic mazes and twisted thickets of the twentieth century.
Parenthetically we might also note here that besides her great Opus, The Poem of the Man-God, Valtorta has other voluminous writings now in the process of translation. Among these, and of particular importance, are her so-called Notebooks for the years 1943, for 1944, and for 1945-1950. 39
There are numerous other examples besides Valtorta that could be cited here as witnesses to a new resurgence of the prophetic charism today. Their revelations and locutions consistently refer to our times as both a time of grave crisis for the Church and humanity, as well as that time of special grace foretold by the prophet Joel:
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Even upon the menservants and the maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 40Indeed, modern prophecies often claim that our time is a time of special grace, and as such was more the subject of Joel's prophecy than that of the infant Church when St. Peter claimed its fulfillment in Acts.41 For in Acts, the Spirit appears to have been poured out only on the Apostles and disciples of the early Church, whereas in our day revelations and locutions are being increasingly multiplied and reported among nearly all races and on all continents. Hence, the Spirit now seems indeed to be "poured out on all flesh," as Joel says.
Perhaps the most outstanding of these revelations in our time are the Marian apparitions claimed to have occurred, and to be still occurring, at Medjugorje in former Yugoslavia. According to the visionaries there, prayer, sacrifice and penance are being urgently requested by the Virgin Mary to hold back, or at least mitigate, the Hand of outraged Divine Love and Justice poised to fall upon mankind. 42 Though the Church has not yet passed judgment on this phenomenon, and the multiplication of so many similar phenomena around the world calls for caution and discernment, the criterion Christ gave us for that discernment is eminently useful and still valid: if the tree is known by its fruits, and the bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit nor the good tree bad, then the abundant fruits of conversion, penance and prayer resulting from the happenings in Medjugorje attest to their authenticity and Divine origin. 43
Nor is Medjugorje unconnected to Valtorta's Poem, since on separate occasions two of the Medjugorje visionaries, Maria Pavlovich and Vicka Ivankovich were specifically requested to ask the Madonna about it. So in 1985, e.g., Maria Pavlovich upon hearing someone ask about the Poem, stated that two years previously a Franciscan friar had requested her to ask the Madonna about it. The visionary then became serious and said:
Maria Valtorta! All true: The Poem of the Man-God. The Madonna said two years ago: all true! dictated by Jesus! 44Likewise, in an interview with Attorney Jan Connell of the Pittsburgh Center for Peace on January 27, 1988, Connell asked the visionary Vicka Ivankovich if there were any other books Our Lady had told her about. Vicka replied:
Yes. The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta, ten volumes. Our Lady says The Poem of the Man-God is the truth.... Our Lady said if a person wants to know Jesus he should read Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta. That book is the truth. 45Directly pertinent also to Valtorta's Work of the Poem is another modern manifestation of the prophetic charism in the person and writings of an obscure and humble Italian priest, Don Ottavio Michelini, of Mirandola, Italy. In a series of Dictations and Visions which he recorded as given him by Christ and Mary from 1975 to 1979, there are some very important critiques which address the confusion, anarchy and rebellion today in the Church among many bishops, priests and laity. In these Dictations it is pointed out to Don Ottavio that such troubling elements are the direct result of a profound crisis of Faith that pervades the Church today due to a false interpretation of the so-called "spirit of Vatican II", and which consequently causes a serious crisis of the interior life. Available until recently only in a French translation from the original Italian, 46 some of these small volumes of Don Ottavio's writings have now appeared in English also.47
Although there is no internal evidence of any personal, mutual acquaintance between Don Ottavio and Valtorta, apparently Don Ottavio knew of and had probably read The Poem of the Man-God. Thus in a Dictation received by this humble priest in 1975 and 1976 on the Poem, the following excerpts are, he affirms, words dictated to him by Christ:
I have dictated to Maria Valtorta, a victim soul, a marvelous work. Of this work I am the Author. You yourself, Son, have taken account of the raging reactions of Satan.... You have verified the resistance that many priests oppose to this work. This also proves, Son, that he who has not sensed in the Poem the savor of the Divine, the perfume of the Supernatural, has a soul encumbered and darkened. If it were -- I do not say "read" --but studied and meditated, it would bring an immense good to souls. This work is a well-spring of serious and solid culture.... This is a work willed by Wisdom and Divine Providence for the new times. It is a spring of living and pure water. It is I, the Word living and eternal, Who have given Myself anew as nourishment to the souls that I love. I, Myself, am the Light, and the Light cannot be confused with, and still less blend Itself with, the darkness. Where I am found, the darkness is dissolved to make room for the Light.48The "new times" referred to in the quotation above concerns a theme which, with its companion theme of a preceding great Purification, suffuses the prophetic revelations of Don Ottavio. These two themes are the more sobering and unsettling because of their recurrence in so many other disparate and unrelated, yet seemingly authentic manifestations of a resurgent prophetic charism today as, e.g., that of Medjugorje mentioned above. These companion themes consist usually in a reiterated assurance of a now inevitable and imminent universal Purification of the Church and the world entailing catastrophic woes unprecedented in mankind's history, through which both the Church and the world will be 'redimensioned' and greatly reduced in numbers. This will come in the form of a severe Divine chastisement to remedy the spiritual and moral degeneration in both, now become humanly irremediable.
This "Good Friday" however will then be followed -- and this note of hope is always given -- by a new "Easter Sunday": a resurrection, a new Springtime of peace and moral goodness in the world and in the Church. In this new era of peace and goodness among men the Church will shine with a glory never before seen and will truly take her place as Mother and Teacher of all nations. As at Medjugorje, the fruits sought and often resulting from Don Ottavio's recorded Dictations are prayer, penance and a return to the interior life: the sole means, it is said, of delaying and/or mitigating the severity of this great purifying Chastisement. Here again as Christ counseled: judge the tree by its fruits, to discover its roots. 49
Theologians and teachers today are rediscovering the importance of the story in the pedagogy of man's spirit. Storytelling -- today termed "Narrative Theology" --is that instinctive form of wisdom-teaching that pervades Scripture and, indeed, much of the ancient wisdom literature which man down the ages has handed on to his children and his children's children. In Valtorta's great Work handed on to us also today through her birth pangs of intense labors and sufferings, we have a consummate example of such narrative theology, "produced and directed" by THE Narrative Theologian and Master Storyteller Himself. Hence, for today's follower and disciple of Christ striving for the perfection of discipleship -- and thus all the more for the monk and nun -- this epic narrative is an excellent source of traditional monastic lectio divina: that sacred reading so vital to the nourishment and growth of the spirit, and to one's ongoing Christian and monastic formation. As such, it should be the Pearl of great price, the Treasure hidden in the Field where one sits at the feet of the Master Himself to hear His Teachings on discipleship and the Kingdom. It should be then not only desired, but required reading.
A Sign of Contradiction
But will it be so welcomed? Can it be that so seeming Divine a gift could be ignored --even ridiculed? demeaned? rejected? On this point Christ left Valtorta under no illusions. As the disciple is not above the Master and must share His fate -- which Valtorta did and still does -- so too must the Master's Work: The Poem of the Man-God that she suffered so much to complete, out of obedience and love for Him. Let the Master Himself then, conclude, as He foretells her its destined fate:
Will all this be understood by today's society to which I give this knowledge of Myself, to make it strong against the always stronger assaults of Satan and the world? Today also, twenty centuries later, there will be contradiction among those for whom I reveal Myself. I am once again a sign of contradiction. Not of Myself, but in regard to what I stir up in them. The good: those of good will, will have the good reactions of the shepherds and the humble. The others, will have evil reactions, like the scribes, the pharisees, the sadducees and priests of that time. Each gives that which he has. The good that comes into contact with their evil, unleashes a boiling up of greater evil in them. And a judgment will already be made upon men, as it was on that Friday of the Parasceve, according to how they shall have judged, accepted, and followed the Master Who, with a new attempt of infinite Mercy, has made Himself known once again. To as many as will open their eyes and recognize Me and say: "It is He! --Was this why our heart burned in our breast while He talked to us and explained to us the Scriptures"? 50 --to these I give My Peace....51
— N O T E S —
1. Maria Valtorta, The Poem of the Man-God, trans., Nicandro Picozzi and Patrick McLaughlin (Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, 1986-1990), 5 Volumes, hardbound, $35.00 U.S. Distributed in select bookstores in the U.S. and by Valtorta Publishing Company in Rochester, New York: for On-Line ordering of The Poem and other available Valtorta writings, see their Valtorta Web site No. 1; for mail or telephone orders, go to their Valtorta Web site No. 2.In Canada, distributed by Saint Raphael's Publications Inc., 31 King St. W., Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, JIH IN5.
2. Karl Rahner, S.J., "Les Révélations Privées: Quelques Remarques Theologiques," Revue D'Ascétique et de Mystique, 25 (1949): 506-514. It is noteworthy that, according to an article by Jeannine T.-Blanchette, "A Mighty Mystery Develops Throughout the Ages," published in the English version of the Army of Mary periodical, Le Royaume 116 (January-February 1997): 12-14, segments of Rahner's article on Private Revelations were approvingly quoted by A. Venturoli, in an article in L'Osservatore Romano, (February 28, 1995): 8, 11 (French edition). --Trans.
3. Ibid., pp. 511, 513, 514 passim.
4. Ibid., p. 509.
5. Fidelity, April, 1987, p.34.
6. Karl Rahner, S.J., Visions and Prophecies (Herder & Herder, 1963), pp. 16-17, 25.
7. Ibid., p. 26.
8. Cf. John 10:4-5, Matthew 12:33.
9. Maria Valtorta, I Quaderni Del 1943 (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri FR, Italia, 1985), p. 89.
10. Maria Valtorta, Il Poema Dell'Uomo-Dio, in ten volumes (Edizioni Pisani, / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri FR, Italia, 1975), II, p.152, n.2.
11. Ibid., cf. preceding note 10.
12. Maria Valtorta, L' Evangile tel qu'il m'a été
révélé, trans., Félix Sauvage, in ten volumes
(Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above, 1980-1985). Distributed by Saint
Raphael's Publications Inc., PO Box 492, W., Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada,
JIH 5K2. Tel: 819-822-3979; Fax: 819-823-0322;
13. Op. cit., cf. note 1of the title at the beginning of this article.
14. Bollettino D'lnforrnazione Valtortiana, (Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above), no. 23, January-June, 1981, p.92. And see also especially Fr. Corrado Berti, O.S.M.: A Testimony on Maria Valtorta..., paragraphs 8 and 10.
15. Art. cit., p. 510.
16. Matthew 13:52.
17. Matthew 13:18-23, 37-43.
18. Mark 4:13.
19. John 21:25, and cf. also John 20:30.
20. Matthew 11:17. For this excerpt see The Poem of the Man-God, 1, pp. 238, 245-246.
21. L'Osservatore Romano, Citta Del Vaticano, no. 48, February 27, 1948, p.1. It may be of interest to note here also that in January, 1979, at the urging and through the mediation of a member of the Roman Curia who was a devotee of Valtorta's Poem, the editor, Emilio Pisani, sent a gift copy of Valtorta's ten-volume Work to Pope John Paul II, with accompanying letters from the Curial member and the editor. This initiative, however, seems to have been blocked by the Vatican Secretary of State (cf. Bollettino D'Informazione Valtortiana [Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above], no. 19, June 1979, p.74, and no. 23, January-June, 1981, pp. 91 and 92.)
22. The Valtorta Newsletter (Box 492, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, JIH 5K2), No.6, Winter, 1992, p.4. And cf. also Bollettino D'lnformazione Valtortiana [Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above], No. 23, January-June, 1981, p.91.
23. See note 21 above.
24. The Valtorta Newsletter (Box 492, Sherbrooke, Ouebec, Canada, JIH 5K2), no.6, Winter, 1992, p.4. The word chosen by Pope Pius Xll was actually "Pubblicate," an imperative form, stronger than "Imprimatur".
25. See Gabriel M. Roschini, O.S.M., The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta, Kolbe's Publications Inc., 2464 Forest, Sherbrooke QC Canada, JIK IR4, 1989, p.21, Note 17. Cf. also The Valtorta Newsletter (Box 492, Sherbrooke, Ouebec, Canada, JIH 5K2), no.6, Winter, 1992, pp. 4 and 7.
26. Cf. Canon 333.3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law (Canon 228.2 of the 1917 Code) which states: "There is no recourse or appeal from a decision of the Roman Pontiff."
27. From Fr. Berti's theological annotations to Valtorta's Libro di Azaria (Book of Azaria), [Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above, 1972], footnote 8, pp.125-127, pargraphs 8 and 10.
28. Ibid., paragraphs 8 and 9.
29. Cf. especially Fr. Corrado Berti, O.S.M.: A Testimony on Maria Valtorta..., paragraphs 8 and 10, and also Note 14 above.
30. Bollettino D'Informazione Valtortiana [Edizioni Pisani, as in note 9 above], no. 19, June 1979, p.74.
31. Ibid., p.75.
32. Ibid., p. 75.
33. Gabriele M. Roschini, O.S.M., La Madonna negli scritti di Maria Valtorta, Centro Editoriale Valtortiano, as in note 9 above, 1986. Cf. also note 25 above for the English edition.
34. Op. cit., and cf. also Bollettino Valtortiano, Semestrale del Centro Editoriale Valtortiano as in note 9 above, no. 33 (January-June 1986), p.129.
35. Bollettino D'lnformazione Valtortiana (cf. note 15 above), No. 19, June, 1979, p.75.
36. Ibid., p.75.
37. Art. cit., p. 511.
38. Maria Valtorta, Il Poema Dell'Uomo-Dio (as in note 10 above), X, p.221.
39. Maria Valtorta, I Quaderni Del 1943, ...Del 1944, ...Dal 1945 al 1950, (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, 03036 Isola del Liri FR, Italia) 1985, etc. However in January of 1997, I Quaderni Del 1943: Notebooks for 1943, became available in English.
40. Joel 2:28-29, RSV.
41. Acts 2:17-21.
42. Rene Laurentin and Ljudevit Rupcic, Is the Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje? trans. by Francis Martin (The Word Among Us Press, Gaithersburg, MD, 1984), pp. 170, hardbound $12.95.
43. Cf. Matthew 7:15-18, 12:33.
44. Bollettino Valtortiano (as in note 34 above), no. 34 (July-December 1986), p.135.
45. Queen of Peace Newsletter, (Pittsburgh Center for Peace, P.O. Box 1218, Coraopolis, PA 15108), 1988, vol. 1, no. 2.
46. Don Ottavio Michelini, Confidences de Jésus à ses prêtres et à ses fidéles, in 6 volumes (Editions du Parvis, CH-1631 Hauteville/Suisse, 1979). Distributed by Saint Raphael's Publications, Inc. (as in note 12 above.)
47. Don Ottavio Michelini, A Mandate from Our Lord Jesus Christ to a Priest, Vol. I (Dialectics, Inc., Box 234, Kissimmee, FL 32741, 1986). Distributed also by Saint Raphael's Publications,Inc. (as in note 12 above.)
48. Michelini, Confidences de Jésus..., Saint Raphael's Publications, Inc. (as in note 12 above). The two paragraphs are taken from vol. I, p. 64, and vol. 11, p.l14 respectively.
49. Cf. note 43 above.
50. Luke 24:32.
51. Maria Valtorta, ll Poema... (as in note 10 above), Vll, p. 1862.