The Poem of the Man-God
|Original title||Il Poema dell'Uomo-Dio|
|Publisher||Centro Editoriale Valtortiano|
The Poem of the Man-God (Italian title: Il Poema dell'Uomo-Dio) is a multi volume book of about five thousand pages on the life of Jesus Christ written by Maria Valtorta. The current editions of the book bear the title: The Gospel As Revealed to Me.
The book was first published in Italian in 1956 and has since been translated into 10 languages and is available worldwide. It is based on the over 15,000 handwritten pages produced by Maria Valtorta between 1943 and 1947. During these years she reported visions of Jesus and Mary and claimed personal conversations with and dictations from Jesus. Her notebooks (published separately) include close to 700 detailed episodes in the life of Jesus, as an extension of the gospels.
Valtorta's handwritten episodes (which had no chronological order) were typed into separate pages by her priest and reassembled as a book. The first copy of the book was presented to Pope Pius XII, and the three Servite priests who attended the 1948 papal audience stated that he gave his verbal approval to "publish this work as is; he who reads will understand." However, the Holy Office forbade publication and, when in spite of that prohibition publication followed, placed the book on the Index of Forbidden Books. The Index of Forbidden Books was formally abolished by the Vatican in 1965, but "kept its moral force, inasmuch as it taught Christians to beware, as required by natural law, of those writings that could endanger faith and morality".
In 1992, at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi asked the publisher to ensure that "in any future reprint of the volumes, each should, right from its first page, clearly state that the 'visions' and 'dictations' referred to in it cannot be held to be of supernatural origin but must be considered simply as literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus". The publisher maintained that this was an implicit declaration that the work was free of doctrinal or moral error.
Maria Valtorta was bedridden in Viareggio, Italy, for most of her life due to complications from being struck in the back at random while walking on a street. Valtorta was a member of the Third Order Servites of Mary, affiliated to the order to which her spiritual director, Fr. Romuald Migliorini, O.S.M. belonged.
On the morning of Good Friday 1943 she reported having a vision in which Jesus appeared and spoke to her. While Valtorta did not begin writing The Poem of the Man-God until 1944, pre-Poem writings included various topics such as Mariology, Darwinism, and suffering. She reported having many more visions and conversations with Jesus and the Virgin Mary and said that Jesus had asked her to record her visions in writing. She continued to write her visions in her notebooks until 1947.
The sentences attributed to Jesus in the reputed visions had a distinct and recognizable tone and style that was different from the rest of the text.
The Poem of the Man-God is not a sequential transcription of Valtorta's notebooks, because her reported visions (which were dated in her notebooks) were not in the same order as the flow of time in the narrative she wrote. For instance, she reported having a vision of The Last Supper on March 9, 1945 while another on the Beatitudes during the Sermon on the Mount was written more than two months later on May 24, 1945. The book as transcribed by her priest however, follows the life of Jesus in chronological form, with footnotes referring to the dates on which she wrote each episode.
Valtorta first describes a scene, often with details of the background, the trees, the mountains and the weather conditions on that day in the Holy Land. For instance, her prelude to the Sermon on the Mount written on May 22, 1945 depicts the road on which Jesus is walking, states that it was a clear day on which Mount Hermon could be seen by Jesus but Lake Merom could not be seen. In some episodes she mentions the colors of the clothing worn by Jesus or the Apostles.
Valtorta's accounts include detailed conversations. In the Sermon on the Mount episode written on May 22, 1945 Jesus is met on the road by Saint Philip the Apostle and they converse. The scene then describes how the other Apostles come down the mountain to greet Jesus and how the Sermon on the Mount begins. While the Gospel of Matthew refers to the Beatitudes in a few paragraphs (Matthew 5:3-12), the text for the single Beatitude "poor in the spirit" spoken by Jesus in her vision is one and a half pages long. The full text of the Sermon on the Mount that she wrote in her notebook and attributed to Jesus takes three episodes from May 24 to 27, 1945, and is over 30 pages long. The fact that her text of the Beatitudes still has the same eight or ninefold structure as the Beatitudes in the Gospel, but is far more detailed, is characteristic of her writings.
In some cases, such as the Passion, her descriptions are very detailed and graphic. In 1952, an endocrinologist, Dr. Nicholas Pende, expressed surprise at the level of detail in which Valtorta depicted Christ's spasms in Crucifixion, saying that she described "a phenomenon which only a few informed physicians would know how to explain, and she does it in an authentic medical style".[not in citation given]
An extended story
In the synoptic Gospels, Luke places the trial after daybreak, while Matthew and Mark refer to it as taking place at night. Robert Miller points out that a secret night session, as described in the Gospel of Mark, is out of keeping with what is known from Jewish procedure.
Valtorta's version has two trials, one at night and the other after daybreak. The second trial is prompted by Gamaliel's insistence that the time and place of the night trial is against Jewish judicial procedures, and his demand for a new trial after daybreak. Thus Valtorta reconciles the version in the Gospel of Mark with that in the Gospel of Luke.
Another example is the episode she wrote on February 28, 1946. It reports that in preparation for his Passion, Jesus visited the town of Kerioth to say farewell and performed a miracle, curing Anne of Kerioth on her deathbed. In this episode Jesus instructs the cured Anne of Kerioth to forever tend to and comfort Mary of Simon, the mother of Judas Iscariot who will be heartbroken upon the betrayal by her son and the deaths of Jesus and Judas in the near future.
The fact that Valtorta wrote each multi-page episode as a much more detailed version of an episode in the New Testament and her inclusion of unreported events in the life of Jesus generated both interest and controversy from the moment the book was offered for publication.
The narrative of the Poem of the Man-God includes a number of observations of the positions of the heavenly bodies. For instance, in episode written on December 11, 1945 Valtorta wrote of a night Jesus spent at Gadara:
"the sky is glistening with countless stars... with its springtime constellations and the magnificent stars of Orion: of Rigil and Betelgeuse, of Aldebaran, of Perseus, Andromeda and Cassiopeia and the Pleiades united like sisters. And Sapphirine Venus covered with diamonds, and Mars of pale ruby and the topaz of Jupiter..."
In 1994 Purdue University physicist Lonnie VanZandt analyzed these events to estimate a date for the event described. Using a computer simulation, VanZandt noted that the only possibilities for the observation Valtorta described during the month of March would be AD31 and AD33, and after considering other elements in the narrative concluded that March AD33 was the only possibility. According to VanZandt the estimation of the joint observability of these three stars and the position of the moon during that time would have been almost impossible without a computer system.
Maria Valtorta was at first reluctant to have her notebooks published, but on the advice of her priest,[who?] in 1947 she agreed to their publication. The handwritten pages were typed and bound by Father Romuald Migliorini OSM and fellow Servite Father Corrado Berti, OSM.
Shortly after April 1947, Father Berti presented the first copy of the work to Pope Pius XII, who on 26 February 1948 received Fathers Migliorini and Berti, along with their prior, Father Andrea Checchin, in special audience, as reported on the next day's L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.
At the meeting, Pius XII reportedly told the three priests; "Publish this work as it is. There is no need to give an opinion about its origin, whether it be extraordinary or not. Who reads it, will understand. One hears of many visions and revelations. I will not say they are all authentic; but there are some of which it could be said that they are.", After the audience, Father Berti wrote these words as best he remembered them. In his 8 December 1978 account of the events concerning Maria Valtorta's writings, he summarized the Pope's words as "Publish this work as it is."
Bishop Roman Danylak says that Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, writing on 31 October 1987 to the Maria Valtorta Research Center, spoke of "the kind of official Imprimatur granted before witnesses by the Holy Father in 1948", while writer David Michael Lindsey reports Cardinal Gagnon as saying: "This judgment by the Holy Father in 1948 was an official Imprimatur of the type given before witnesses."
The permission of the author's ordinary or of the ordinary of the place of publication or of printing was required for publishing such books and had to be given in writing, According to Bishop Danylak, the publishers of the first edition purporting to present private visions and revelations, had not submitted the work to prior ecclesiastical approval. Apparently assuming that he had a verbal papal approval, Father Berti presented the work for publication to the Vatican Printing Office, A year later, in 1949, the Holy Office summoned Father Berti and ordered him to surrender all copies and promise not to publish the work. Father Berti handed over his typed copies, but returned the original handwritten text to Maria Valtorta.
In 1950, Maria Valtorta signed a contract with the publisher Michele Pisani, who between 1956 and 1959 printed the work in four volumes, the first of which was titled "The Poem of Jesus" and the others "The Poem of the Man-God".
Successive Church statements
By a decree of 5 January 1960, published on instructions of Pope John XXIII, the Holy Office condemned the published work and included it in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. The decree was published also on L'Osservatore Romano of 6 January 1960, accompanied by a front-page unsigned article under the heading "A Badly Fictionalized Life of Jesus". The book was placed on the Index because of its claim to supernatural guidance.
The Vatican newspaper republished the content of the decree on 1 December 1961, together with an explanatory note, as mentioned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in his letter 144/58 of 31 January 1985, in which he entrusted to Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, Archbishop of Genoa, the decision whether to inform a priest of his archdiocese that the Valtorta work had indeed been placed on the Index, which keeps its moral force, and that "a decision against distributing and recommending a work, which has not been condemned lightly, may be reversed, but only after profound changes that neutralize the harm which such a publication could bring forth among the ordinary faithful".
On 14 June 1966, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a notification stating that, although the moral force of the guidance provided by the Index still held good, the legal prohibition and the sanctions that were attached to it were abrogated. In response to enquiries, it issued a decree on 15 November 1966 in which it stated that canon 1399 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which automatically banned various classes of books, including those that, if published without observing the rules of canon law, recounted new revelations or visions or introduced new devotions, no longer had the force of ecclesiastical law, while at the same time it stressed the validity of the moral law that altogether prohibits the endangering of faith and good morals.
The current (1983) Code of Canon Law states that "the pastors of the Church... have the duty and right to demand that writings to be published by the Christian faithful which touch upon faith or morals be submitted to their judgment and have the duty and right to condemn writings which harm correct faith or good morals."
In 1992 Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, directed the publisher of the work to state clearly at the beginning of each volume that the "visions" and "revelations" referred to in it "cannot be held to be of supernatural origin but must be considered simply as literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus". His directive, communicated by letter 324/92 of 6 January 1992, was made at the request of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His letter also recalled the notes about the matter that appeared on L'Osservatore Romano of 6 January 1960 and 15 June 1966.
In 1993 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote to Bishop Raymond James Boland of Birmingham, Alabama that his Congregation had made that request to the Italian Bishops Conference to ask the publisher to have a disclaimer printed in the volumes that "clearly indicated from the very first page that the 'visions' and 'dictations' referred to in it are simply the literary forms used by the author to narrate in her own way the life of Jesus. They cannot be considered supernatural in origin."
The purported Medjugorje visionairies Marija Pavlovic and Vicka Ivankovic have stated that Maria Valtorta's records of her conversations with Jesus are truthful. According to a statement Ivankovic made on January 27, 1988, in 1981 the Virgin Mary told her at Medjugorje: "If a person wants to know Jesus he should read Maria Valtorta. That book is the truth". However Fr. Philip Pavich, OFM, an American Croatian Franciscan priest stationed in Medjugorje, sent a circular letter to the Medjugorje fans, questioning the purported visions of Maria Valtorta and the subsequent book. A 2009 Yale University report further detailed the intricate connection between the Medjugorje apparitions and the writings of Maria Valtorta.
The Poem of the Man-God is also mentioned in the writings of Archbishop Don Ottavio Michelini, from Mirandola, who reported a series of Dictations and Visions given to him by Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary from 1975 to 1979.
Mariologist, and the author of many books on the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Gabriel M. Roschini, professor at the Pontifical Faculty of Theology in Rome, advisor to the Holy Office and founder of the Marianum, wrote of Valtorta:
- "I must candidly admit that the Mariology found in Maria Valtorta's writings, whether published or not, has been for me a real discovery. 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."
When providing his "imprimatur" in 2002, Bishop Danylak wrote: "Is there anything against faith or morals in her writings? All her critics begrudgingly have acknowledged that there is nothing against faith and morals… there is nothing objectionable in The Poem of the Man-God and all the other writings of Valtorta."
Archbishop George Hamilton Pearce, S. M. wrote: "I find it tremendously inspiring. It is impossible for me to imagine that anyone could read this tremendous work with an open mind and not be convinced that its author can be no one but the Holy Spirit of God."
According to Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., "the long speeches of Jesus and Mary starkly contrast with the evangelists, who portray Jesus as 'humble, reserved; His discourses are lean, incisive.' Valtorta's fictionalized history makes Jesus sound 'like a chatterbox, always ready to proclaim Himself the Messiah and the Son of God,' or teach theology in modern terms. The Blessed Mother speaks like a 'propagandist' for modern Marian theology." In addition, Pacwa writes that the poem has "'many historical, geographical and other blunders.' For instance, Jesus uses screwdrivers (Vol. 1, pp. 195, 223), centuries before screws existed."
- Freze, Michael, Voices, Visions, and Apparitions, (Sep 1993) ISBN 087973454X OSV Press p. 251
- Rookey O.S.M., Peter M., Shepherd of Souls: The Virtuous Life of Saint Anthony Pucci, (Jun 2003) ISBN 1891280449 CMJ Marian Press pp. 1-3
- Lindsey, David Michael, The Woman and the Dragon, The: Apparitions of Mary, (Jan 31, 2001) ISBN 1565547314 Pelican pp. 324-326
- Jedin, Hubert; Dolan, John and Adriányi, Gabriel, The Church in the Modern Age, (Volume 10) 1981 ISBN 082450013X, p. 168
- Acta Apostolicae Sedis 58 (1966), p. 445
- Colin B. Donovan, "Poem of the Man-God"
- Lettera dell'arcivescovo Tettamanzi del 6 gennaio 1992
- L'opera di Maria Valtorta e la Chiesa (The work of Maria Valtorta and the Church)[dead link]
- Valtorta Notebooks, Mariavaltorta.com
- Poem of the Man-God Excerpts, Valtorta Publishing
- Sacred Heart of Jesus website
- Miller, Robert. 1994, The Complete Gospels, Annotated Scholars Version Polebridge Press ISBN 0-06-065587-9 "... It is difficult to reconcile much of Mark's picture with known Jewish judicial procedures: a secret court session, at night..."
- "A Puzzle of the Synoptic Gospels solved", Valtorta Publishing
- VanZandt, Lonnie Lee. "Astronomical dating of the Poem of the Man-God", Lonnie Lee VanZandt (1937 - 1995) Reminisces by Friends and Colleagues, Purdue University, September 9, 1995
- Rookey, p. 2.
- L'Osservatore Romano, 27 February 1948, p. 1
- Pacwa, S.J., Mitch. "Is 'The Poem of the Man-God' simply a bad novel?"
- Corrado Berti's 1978 account, Mariavaltorta.net
- Code of Canon Law (1917), canon 1385
- Code of Canon Law (1917), canon 1394 §1
- Website of Bishop Roman Danylak: "Maria Valtorta, Her Life and Work"
- Maria Valtorta: The life of Jesus, intitled 'The Poem of the Man-God', and her other mystical writings
- Acta Apostolicae Sedis LII (1960), p. 60
- English translation of the article
- Maunder, Chris. Our Lady of the Nations: Apparitions of Mary in 20th-century Catholic Europe, Oxford University Press, 2016 ISBN 9780198718383
- Original Italian text
- "Notification" AAS 58 (1966), p. 445
- "Decree" AAS 58 (1966), p. 1186
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-02-28. Retrieved 2014-09-13. Canon Law, Can. 823 §1
- Valtorta Opinions Archived February 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Words from heaven: Messages of Our Lady from Medjugorje: a documented record of the messages and their meanings Saint James Publishing, 1990: ISBN 1-878909-05-3 page 145
- Yale University Publishes Article on the Medjugorje Connection to Maria Valtorta[dead link]
- Gabriel Roschini, O.S.M. (1989). The Virgin Mary in the Writings of Maria Valtorta (English Edition). Kolbe's Publication Inc. ISBN 88-7987-086-6
- Valtorta Quotes, Valtorta Publishing
- Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., "Is 'The Poem Of The Man-God' Simply A Bad Novel?" Note that, though the screw system of raising water was invented in 235 BC, modern screws did not appear until about AD 1400 (Kendall F. Haven, 100 Greatest Science Inventions of All Time (Libraries Unlimited 2006 ISBN 9781591582649), pp. 6–7.)
- Rookey O.S.M., Peter M., Shepherd of Souls: The Virtuous Life of Saint Anthony Pucci, (Jun 2003) ISBN 1891280449 CMJ Marian Press
- Maria Valtorta, The Poem of the Man-God ISBN 99926-45-57-1.
- Maria Valtorta, The Book of Azariah ISBN 88-7987-013-0.