<p>Our Lord Jesus Christ never expected his sheep to be, still less to pretend to be, great theologians, but he did expect them to have enough common sense to be able, in case of somebody or something confusing, to judge them by their fruits. “You will know them by their fruits” – Mt. VII, 15–20. Now the works of Maria Valtorta (bed-ridden Italian spinster, 1897–1961), especially her <i>Poem of the Man-God</i> (1943–1947), are highly controversial, with her defenders being as enthusiastic as her attackers are violent. Then what are her <u>fruits</u>? Here is a testimony received recently by the editor of these “Comments,” adapted as usual for these “Comments”:—</p><p><i>I would like to share with you my astonishment over the</i> Poem of the Man-God <i>by Maria Valtorta, following on my patient reading of all ten volumes, and after arguing with the books’ editor and with writers who support Maria Valtorta</i>. <i>I had already heard you quoting in private this Italian mystic, but then the attack on the</i> Poem <i>by Fr. H. and its subsequent stigmatisation by the Society of St Pius X made me hang back for ten years before actually reading it. However, Providence finally put in my hands a copy of this highly detailed version of the Gospel, and of a biography of Maria Valtorta, both of which I read carefully, with pencil in hand to make notes. After five months of hard labour, I was surprised to find how orthodox the ten books are, and <b>how much good they did to my own soul and to all my family.</b></i></p><p><i>There are Dominicans who condemn it. I find that unfortunate. Have they actually read it? I am made to feel as though it is taboo to talk about it in the open. I have also studied everything about how the work came into existence (it was approved by Pius XII), and I find unjust the way in which Traditionalists have put this noble victim soul on trial and condemned her. I fear for her critics lest her revelations are truly from Our Lord, and are meant for our own times.</i></p><p><i>The back issues of your “Comments” from 2011 and 2012 on the </i>Poem<i> are a true consolation for someone like myself who feels as though he is committing a fault when he uses for his daily spiritual nourishment</i> “The Gospel as it was revealed to me” (the Poem’s alternative title)<i>. We have got hold of a variety of versions of this monumental Life of Jesus: not only the ten full volumes for adults, but also handsomely produced picture books for children from the age of eight years old, and a simplified version for 13-year olds. The result is that <b>the whole family is united in these luminous pages</b> on the Man-God and His relations with the world, with His Mother, and above all for our own times, with Judas Iscariot. His relations with the other eleven Apostles, the holy women and His enemies are equally edifying.</i></p><p><i>To understand today’s Passion of the Church, suffering and dying at the hands of her own ministers, it is particularly helpful to compare the modern character and liberal nature of Judas, traitor within the Church as he is portrayed in the</i> Poem, <i>with our own Conciliar churchmen, but also I would add with the sleepy liberal “Christian” inside each of us. For indeed the drama is playing out not only at the head of the Church but also in and through the families giving up the fight to live in accordance with the Gospel, exactly as it was revealed to Maria Valtorta . . .</i> (Here ends the reader’s testimony)</p><p>In conclusion, the <i>Poem of the Man-God</i> of Maria Valtorta is highly controversial, but it need not be. On the one hand it is not on a par with the four Gospels or with Holy Scripture, nor has it been declared authentic by the Church, nor is it necessary for salvation, nor is it to the taste of all serious Catholics. Nor is it claimed to be any of these things by any Catholic in his right mind. On the other hand, as with the Shroud of Turin or the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the astonishing evidence for the <i>Poem’s</i> authenticity seems only to increase with the passage of time. It has put countless souls on the spiritual path of conversion or perfection, towards salvation. And it has been warmly recommended and approved by numbers of serious Catholics, including theologians and bishops. As Pius XII said about the <i>Poem</i>, “Let him that hath ears to hear, hear.”</p><p>Kyrie eleison.</p>
Tag: Maria Valtorta
When a while back these “Comments” advised readers to fortify their homes in case public bastions of the Faith might, due to the wickedness of the times, prove to be a thing of the past, a few readers wrote in to ask just how homes might be fortified. In fact various spiritual and material means of defending home and family have been suggested in previous numbers of the “Comments,” notably of course the Holy Rosary, but one fortification has gone unmentioned which I think I would try in place of television if I had a family to defend: reading aloud each night to the children selected chapters from Maria Valtorta’s Poem of the Man-God. And when we had reached the end of the five volumes in English, I imagine us starting again from the beginning, and so on, until all the children had left home!
Yet the Poem has many and eloquent enemies. It consists of episodes from the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady, from her immaculate conception through to her assumption into Heaven, as seen in visions received, believably from Heaven, during the Second World War in northern Italy by Maria Valtorta, an unmarried woman of mature age lying in a sick-bed, permanently crippled from an injury to her back inflicted several years earlier. Notes included in the Italian edition (running to over four thousand pages in ten volumes) show how afraid she was of being deceived by the Devil, and many people are not in fact convinced that the Poem truly came from God. Let us look at three main objections.
Firstly, the Poemwas put on the Church’s Index of forbidden books in the 1950’s, which was before Rome went neo-modernist in the 1960’s. The reason given for the condemnation was the romanticizing and sentimentalizing of the Gospel events. Secondly the Poem is accused of countless doctrinal errors. Thirdly Archbishop Lefebvre objected to the Poem that its giving so many physical details of Our Lord’s daily life makes him too material, and brings us too far down from the spiritual level of the four Gospels.
But firstly, how could the modernists have taken over Rome in the 1960’s, as they did, had they not already been well established within Rome in the 1950’s? The Poem, like the Gospels (e.g. Jn.XI, 35, etc.), is full of sentiment but always proportional to its object. The Poemis for any sane judge, in my opinion, neither sentimental nor romanticized. Secondly, the seeming doctrinal errors are not difficult to explain, one by one, as is done by a competent theologian in the notes to be found in the Italian edition of the Poem. And thirdly, with all due respect to Archbishop Lefebvre, I would argue that modern man needs the material detail for him to believe again in the reality of the Gospels. Has not too much “spirituality” kicked Our Lord upstairs, so to speak, while cinema and television have taken over modern man’s sense of reality on the ground floor? As Our Lord was true man and true God, so the Poem is at every moment both fully spiritual and fully material.
From non-electronic reading of the Poem in the home, I can imagine many benefits, besides the real live contact between parents reading and children listening. Children soak in from their surroundings like sponges soak in water. From the reading of chapters of the Poem selected according to the children’s age, I can imagine almost no end to how much they could learn about Our Lord and Our Lady. And the questions they would ask! And the answers that the parents would have to come up with! I do believe the Poem could greatly fortify a home.
A reader of “Eleison Comments” asked me several months ago what made the difference between the repentance of Judas Iscariot flinging his 30 pieces of silver at the feet of the Temple authorities (Mt.XXVII,3), and that of Peter weeping bitterly at the crowing of the cock (Mt. XXVI,75). His question is a good excuse to quote pages from The Poem of the Man-God by Maria Valtorta (1897–1961). Our Lord (if it is indeed him – “In things uncertain, liberty”) here comments on the vision he has just granted her of the last hours of Judas Iscariot. The Italian text is slightly adapted:—
“Yes, the vision is horrendous, but not useless. Too many people think that what Judas did was not all that grave. Some even go so far as to say that it was meritorious, because without him the Redemption would not have happened and so he was justified in the eyes of God. In truth I tell you that if Hell had not already been in existence, perfectly equipped with torments, it would have been created even more horrendous in eternity for Judas, because amongst damned sinners he is the damnedest of them all, nor will his sentence ever be eased through all eternity.
“It is true that he did show remorse for his betrayal, and it could have saved him, had he turned his remorse into repentance. But he did not want to repent, and so in addition to his first crime of betrayal, on which – such is my loving weakness – I could have had mercy, he went on to blaspheme and to resist every impulse of grace which was pleading with him through each trace and memory of me that in his last desperate chase around Jerusalem he ran into, including the encounter with my Mother and her gentle words. He resisted everything. He wanted to resist. Just as he had wanted to betray me. As he wanted to curse me. As he wanted to kill himself. Where a man’s will is set – that is what counts. For good or ill.
“When somebody falls without really wanting to, I forgive him. Take Peter. He denied me. Why? He could not himself tell exactly why. Was he a coward? No. My Peter was no coward. In the Garden of Gethsemane he defied the whole pack of Temple guards to cut off Malchus’ ear in defence of me, at the risk of being killed himself for doing so. Then he fled. With no set will to do so. Then he denied me three times, but again, with no set will to do so. For the rest of his life he succeeded in staying on the blood-stained way of the Cross, my way, until he died on the cross himself. He succeeded in witnessing to me in grand style until he was killed for his unflinching faith. I defend my Peter. His running away and his denials were the last moments of his human weakness. But the set will of his higher nature was not behind those actions. Weighed down by his human weakness, it was asleep. As soon as it awoke, it did not want to remain in sin, it wanted to be perfect. I immediately forgave him. Judas’ will was set in the opposite direction . . .”
At the end of the Poem of the Man-God Our Lord (if it is him – I myself believe it is) dictates to Maria Valtorta the seven reasons for his granting this long series of visions of his life to the modern world. The first reason was to make real again in people’s minds the Church’s basic doctrines, ravaged by modernism. Sounds about right? The seventh reason was – “to make known the mystery of Judas,” how a soul so highly gifted by God could so fall.
I love “The Poem of the Man-God” by Maria Valtorta. It is, in the English edition, five Volumes of visions of the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord, mostly the three years of his public ministry, as seen during the last years of the Second World War by a crippled Italian woman, unmarried, nailed to her sick-bed by an injury suffered many years before in her youth. As a visionary she was always scared of being deceived by the Devil. The fruits of the “Poem” in edification and conversions strongly indicate rather that her visions were a true gift from Heaven.
The “Poem” does not appeal to everybody. It has severe critics. Some find it sentimental. I find it full of sentiment, but a sentiment objective and not self-indulgent. Some find it undoctrinal. I find it questionable perhaps in a few details, but generally the doctrine is astonishingly rich and accurate (the foot-notes in the Italian edition help). Some find the “Poem” too earthy. I find it a marvellous presentation of Our Lord as true God and true man Might these last critics be wishing the Incarnation had been less incarnate? Christ took flesh.
Here is one sample amongst thousands of the concrete reminders of the “Poem” on how human nature works, unrecognized today. To overcome the evil impulses that Judas Iscariot recognizes in himself, he has asked the Mother of God if he can stay with her for a while in Nazareth. As “Refuge of Sinners” she asks Our lord if she may render this service to Judas. Our Lord replies that he is not against, only he knows that it will be useless:—
“Judas is like someone drowning who although he feels he is drowning rejects out of pride the rope being thrown to him to pull him to the bank. He lacks the will to reach the bank. Every now and again the terror of drowning makes him seek and call out for help, which he clutches hold of, but then pride takes over again, he drops the help and pushes it away, as he wants to manage by himself, but all the while he is getting heavier with the muddy water that he is swallowing. However, so that nobody can say I left any remedy untried – go ahead, poor Mamma” (“Poor,” because she has no taste for this rescue attempt).
Every soul in Hell – alas, would that it were empty! – has chosen to be there, as the only alternative to submitting to God. Any submission diminishes my sense of my own excellence. Pride is the sin of sins. From our hidden pride, O Lord, deliver us!