Book Review: "The Poem of the Man-God
By Maria Valtorta
Reviewed by Mrs. Cicily Sunny, M.A., B.Ed., MSE
Maria Valtora was born in a Catholic family in Italy in 1897 and died in 1961 at the age of sixty four. Her father was a military officer and mother was a French teacher.
As her father got several transfers, she moved from place to place. At the age of nineteen, she found herself attracted to Jesus in a dream. At the age of twenty three, she was struck in the back with an iron bar by a young delinquent when she was walking along a street accompanied by her mother. She remained confined to bed for three months. She recovered, and after a few years she pronounced the vows of virginity, poverty, and obedience. At the age of thirty six, she became bedridden. She became "the instrument in the hands of God". Her mission was "to suffer, to expiate, to love".
During her bedridden years, she was fortunate enough to get visions from God. She got visions for three years in a row from 1943 to 1947. The visions start with the life of Virgin Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne. It narrates the birth and life of Virgin Mary and Jesus and ends with the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the assumption of Virgin Mary, and the Acts of the Apostles.
In the visions, Jesus and Virgin Mary asked her to write down everything she saw. Throughout the visions Jesus addresses her as 'Little John' as pet name to place her close to the Evangelist who was the favorite disciple. She used to write in an almost sitting position in bed in ordinary school notebooks, which she supported with a piece of cardboard held on her bent knees.
On August 23, 1943 Jesus said to Maria, "Good sense is needed to use My gift. Not an open and noisy diffusion, but a slow expansion progressively wider and without any name. When your hand is stilled in peace, in the expectation of the glorious resurrection, then and only then will your name be mentioned."
The first editions of her writings began to be published without her name during the last years of her life. They quickly received an extensive welcome in the world. In 1949, Maria offered to God the sacrifice of not seeing the ecclesiastic approval of the Work. The Lord might have accepted her offer because after seeing the work 'blocked', Maria began a slow process of withdrawal into a kind of psychological isolation which started perhaps in 1956.
In English, this book consists of five volumes in 5000 pages. The fact that it is arranged in chapters with titles makes it easy for readers. The language is simple and precise and consists of ordinary dialogue.
Maria Valtorta got her visions on a daily basis. She wrote it down as if she was watching a movie on videotape and narrating even the minute details like the color of clothing, the way people looked, the beauty of the landscape, the color of flowers etc. As she narrated everything she saw, it may be a little boring to read all that. She did it to present a good picture of what she saw.
In the beginning, I was very interested to read all that. Later I skipped it so that I could focus more time on the content. I was not bored to read all the details thinking that it has to do with the areas where Jesus and his Mother lived. In most places, she has quoted the dialogue among people in the direct speech. After most visions, Jesus or Virgin Mary interprets the visions to Maria explaining the meaning and purpose of the vision in which God's mysteries are involved. Their exact words are given in quotations. This is the part I like best because many of my doubts got cleared through their direct presentations. Everything in the New Testament is seen in visions along with its background and circumstances. The Bible is very brief and abstract while this book is more elaborate, concrete, and meaningful for ordinary readers. Jesus did more things in his life than what is mentioned in the Bible. It is said in St. John 21:25,"Now there are many other things that Jesus did. If they were all written down one by one, I suppose that the whole world could not hold the books that would be written."
Jesus explains how happy he was in heaven with God before he came down, how much God rejoiced after creating the perfect spirit of Virgin Mary, how happy Jesus was in the thought of being conceived in the womb of Virgin Mary, how much he had to suffer and humiliate himself in living down on this earth, how much he wants to save the soul of each one, how much he wants everybody to love one another, and how promising is the reward in heaven for the blessed.
Mary and Jesus are pictured as the most perfect example of a mother and son in their relationship. Joseph is pictured as the most loving and caring husband throughout his life, whose example is a model for all husbands of all ages. Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, are pictured as very holy people whom God rewarded with a child in the old age. Anne delivered Mary without any pain. The entire community, including Joseph, remembered the time of the birth of Mary because there was a heavy thunderstorm and the nature itself showed miraculous changes at that moment.
Mary herself explains her relationship with God since she was very little. She did not know that she was a special creation of God, but she always felt very special in her relationship with God. As a child, she talked very wisely about the mysteries of God as if she already knew about it. Her birth, life, death, and assumption are pictured very special. Even though she is the most blessed, no other woman suffered more mental trauma than herself after the birth of a son because she was very knowledgeable about the coming and the death of the Messiah and other mysteries involved in that. Whatever Jesus suffered physically, she suffered more mentally. She joined with her son whole life to redeem the sinners and to lead them to salvation.
The three years of the public life of Jesus was physically devastating for him, bit his mind was always healthy. He walked miles and miles every day in the hot sun and suffered the physical and verbal abuses of the community. The poor and the sick adored him and followed him everywhere he went. He reached his mission everywhere he could and prepared the apostles to continue his mission after his death. The time his disciples rested he spent in prayer in a garden or under a tree or on the terrace. He cared the least about food and sleep.
The very thought about his restless life was an agony for his mother, and whenever she got chance she sent food and clean clothes with messengers who traveled his way. A day with her son, which she got very rarely, was the most delightful time for that mother.
Mary's emotions after the death of Jesus go beyond limits. I could not read that part without tears. The most touching parts of the book are Mary's childhood and departure to the temple, the time around the birth of Jesus, their life in Egypt, Mary's feelings about her marriage, Jesus' counseling of Judas, the passion week, the forty days after resurrection, and Mary's temporary death and assumption. You will live through their emotions, which is not described in the Bible at all. Jesus spent a good amount of his time to make Judas a better person but was in vain. He is a living incarnation of the devil according to Jesus.
I can write pages and pages about this book, but reading the book itself will take you to a different horizon, which will enable you to change your attitude, outlook, and worldly ways of life. Several cardinals, bishops, and priests have given written recommendations for reading this book. I would not have been the same person if I had not read this book. So I advise everybody in the whole world to read this book.
Usually, criticisms come more from people who have not even heard about this book. The negative criticisms I receive from others whenever I advocate for this book fall on me as severe blows often. I can easily understand why Maria turned into a psychological withdrawal when she knew that her work was not going to get ecclesiastic approval during her lifetime. Maria has not added anything on her own other than what she saw and heard in the visions.
At the end of the book, Jesus explains in seven pages the reasons for these visions. He
says, "My desire to help souls in their ascent towards perfection. The knowledge of me helps to ascend. My word is Life. To rouse a keen love for the Gospel and for everything pertaining to the Christ in Priests and laymen. First of all, renewed love for my Mother, in Whose prayers lies the secret of the salvation of the world. She, My Mother, is the
Conqueror of the cursed Dragon. Assist Her power by means of your renewed love for Her and of your renewed faith and knowledge of what pertains to Her. Mary has given the Savior to the world. The world will receive salvation again from
Her. I solemnly tell you that not even after reading and accepting this illustration of My public life will you know everything about Me. And I also solemnly tell you that it would be much more advantageous for you to burn so much useless dusty poisonous science, to make room for My books, than to know so little of Me and worship so much that press that is almost always soiled with lust and
heresy. The thoughts of God are different from those of men, and are always just and not liable to criticism. With this work no addition was made to revelation, but only the gaps, brought about by natural causes and by supernatural will were filled in."
The book is available in many countries for purchase. Canadian and US distributors are: Librsirie Mediaspaul, Qubec, phone: 819 5695535. It costs $199. The book is available in England from Veritas, phone:0926 451730. The book is also translated into several languages.