— A Challenge to Authors —

Fr. Jorge Fuentes - Mexican Salesian priest




[This article is an offering from Fr. Jorge Fuentes, describing the extraordinary random sequence in which Maria Valtorta received her visions and dictations for The Poem of the Man-God.]


Dear readers, allow me to begin this article with the following question: is there some prestigious writer willing to compose a novel of literary value - of some 250 pages, in 30 chapters - under three conditions: of not being able to map out a sketch or outline before writing it; of not being able to correct any of the written words (apart from typographical errors), and of completing it within a certain time frame.

            Let us be optimistic, and let us suppose that such a writer exists, who is interested in the challenge, and who accepts it in exchange for a juicy prize.

            Now imagine further, that we surprise the writer with the offer of tripling the promised prize, provided he agrees to a further condition: that he/she writes the 30 chapters of this novel in the following order: first chapter 7, then chapter 25, then chapters 19, 5, 14, 12 and 15, and then the remaining chapters in this order: 6, 26, 18, 12, 2, 30, 17, 23, 4, 21; and 24, 16, 1,13,  9; and 11, 20, 3, 8, 10. 29, 28, 22, 27, so that when finished, there would be a beautiful, coherent and convincing novel. Do you believe that this challenge would be accepted? I dare to think that he/she would say something like this: “no writer will ever be able to successfully produce a readable novel with this new condition, which world be contrary to any human logic”.

Well, dear readers, although it seems incredible, there was already somebody who achieved such a feat! It was a female Italian writer, single, Catholic, who spent the last 27 years of her life, unable to get out of a sick-bed, until the day of her death at age 64 in October 1961. This simple woman recorded visions and dictations received of the lives of Jesus and Mary, in some 90 notebooks - sitting up with her knees bent. The 11,000 pages of her monumental Work took from December 1943 to April 1947. She didn't have at hand any bibliography - other than the Sacred Bible and the Catechism of Saint Pius X. And the marvellous thing was that she completed this without correcting any written word, and without any preparatory outline. Of such a feat there were numerous first-hand witnesses, including her Spiritual Director Father P. Romualdo Migliorini - of the Order of María's Servants – and Marta Diciotti, her live-in companion until the day of her death. Also the original notebooks themselves can be checked, to verify that there aren’t any corrections at all – acting as mute witnesses to this feat.) And the most surprising aspect of all was that this monumental Work doesn't only consist of 30, but 652 chapters!!

            Here is the beginning segment of the “lawless” order in which the chapters of this great Work were actually written (some small groups of chapters were written consecutively): 647, 52, 235, 36, 41(first part.), 185, 32, 45, 42, 44, 599 (part.) to 600 (part.), 597, 606 (part.), 609, 612 (part.), 614, 616, 633, 41(part.), 46 to 47, etc., etc. I ask readers this question: who would write chapter 647 first, then chapter 52, then 235, etc., in a literary work? Does this seem madness? However, it was not. Let us see how it happened.

            Those chapters were written - in these 90 or so notebooks - without having any assigned number. That is to say, the writer didn't know what chapter number she was writing. The only thing that she added was the date in which each chapter was written. So as the Work was progressing, and she wanted to have them put in a coherent order, it was seen necessary have them typed by Fr. Migliorini in loose leaves, so as not to have to pull out the leaves of the notebooks. Those loose leaves were put together in the order indicated by the Lord, and totalling 652 chapters. And once in order, everyone – even the writer – got to know the real order in which these chapters were really written in the notebooks (see part of that list above) This was, in fact, the true Author's purpose: to surrender this wonderful Work, in such a form - evident for all - that nobody but He could have planned it and written it in that total disorder.

How were the chapters ordered? By a series of simple notes dictated by the Author, such as that which followed the chapter describing of the Crucifixion:

   « And now, » says Jesus, « pay attention. I spare you the description of the burial, which was well described last year: on 19th February 1944. So you will use that one, and [Fr. Migliorini} at the end of it will put Mary's lamentation, which I gave on 4th October 1944. Then you will put the new visions you see. They are new parts of the Passion and are to be put very carefully in their places to avoid confusion and gaps. »

            This Work, originally in Italian, was written by a great mystic of our time, María Valtorta, whose writings have been eulogized by experts in many disciplines: geographical, geological, archaeological, ethnological, botanical, zoological (all in relation to the Palestine of Jesus' time), besides experts in history, psychology and theology (mentioning the most outstanding). Written with a lucid, vigorous and attractive language, with an interesting captive simplicity for the readers, it has been published by Central Editoriale Valtortiano in 10 volumes.

            The first Italian edition is dated 1956–59, and the third and definitive edition, entitled; “The Gospel as it has been Revealed to Me”, is dated 2001. It has been translated and published - starting from the year 1971 - in eight other languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch-flamenco, Korean and Croatian. It is also being published - cumulatively - in seven other languages: Slovakian, Malayan, Japanese, Hungarian, Tamil, Suahili and Russian. And soon, the first volume of this collection will appear in Polish, Chinese, Arabic, Lithuanian and Albanian.

            The English translation of the Work was given the name The Poem of the Man-God. It consists of five volumes containing more that 4,000 pages.

            In this Work there are hundreds of characters, highlighting those that appear in the gospels, all wrapped within the wonderful plot of Jesus' life. The beauty, depth and astonishing harmony with the Gospels, is in full agreement with the Doctrines of the Church, making it a Work worthy of being well known and diffused for the people of God, and strongly inducing the reader to discover their divine origin. In fact, the writer repeatedly affirmed that she was only the “spokesman”, the instrument through which the “Author” wanted to share with us His life, in order to be able to deepen, over time, the knowledge of both the Person and the Word, contained in the four Gospels.

            This Work has received Pope Pius XII’s verbal recommendation for publication, given in a private audience to three Servite priests – Fr. Romualdo M. Migliorini, Fr. Corrado M. Berti, and Fr. Andrea M. Cecchin – on 26th February  1948. It has been, in the life of countless people, a decisive factor on their way to conversion to God. Like a tree, it is known more for its fruits, than for the depth of its roots. The official bulletin of its publishers has given countless testimonies of benefits from this Work. Among these, there have been cardinals and many bishops – at least two of whom have granted “Imprimaturs”, through which the Work is declared free from error in faith and the morals.

     There have also been renowned theologians and biblical scholars who have left valuable written testimonies, for this exceptional woman's writings. I mention five of these by way of example: 1) Cardinal Agostino Bea, S.J., who was Rector of the Biblical Institute of Rome and confessor of the Pope Pius XII; 2) Mons. Alfonso Carinci who was Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites; 3) Mons. Ugo Lattanzi, professor of the Papal University Lateranense of Rome; 4) Fr. Gabriele María Roschini, O.S.M., Doctor in Philosophy and founder of the theological Ability “Marianum” of Rome, and of the International Magazine “Marianum”; and 5) the Venerable Fr. Gabriele M. Allegra, O.F.M., theologian and bible scholar, being the first to translate the Bible to Chinese, and whose beatification process is under way.

            Personally, I don't shelter the smallest doubt that this Work is called to be spread more and more for the whole world, so as to offer - as much to Christian as to non-Christian, and in general to all persons of good will - a deeper understanding of Jesus' life, as well as a strong incentive to live His Word in a more radical way. I pray to God that, in spite of the controversies that are always raised with His authentic Works - even inside His Church - many people will end up knowing, enjoying, and benefiting from this Work. It will be, for them, a source of inexhaustible spiritual wealth, and of interior happiness.