— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
"It is not only through the sacraments and Church ministries that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the People of God and enriches it with virtues. Allotting His gifts "to everyone according as He will" (1 Cor. 12:11) He distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. He makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks or offices advantageous for the renewal and upbuilding of the Church... These charismatic gifts, whether they be the most outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are exceedingly suitable and useful for the needs of the Church." [Lumen Gentium, No. 13]1
Thus spoke the Second Vatican Council in its Decree on the Church, Lumen Gentium. In his theological observations on the subject elsewhere on this site, Karl Rahner, S.J., treats Private Revelations as one of the charismatic gifts mentioned above in Lumen Gentium: specifically as a prophetic charism. Now prudence and discernment are always necessary when dealing with "private revelations". Yet despite the Vatican Council's declaration above, rarely do we find a member of the clergy who does not smugly disdain and reject the charism of private revelations when it occurs. This attitude is doubtless due to the highly rationalistic seminary formation of the clergy today, and perhaps to a perceived threat to their clerical status and authority. Further, though the lion's share of the Bible originated as private revelations, it is rarer still, ironically, to find a biblical scholar who is both open-minded and even enthusiastic about private revelations: and specifically about the revelations of the great Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta. Yet, amazingly, such is the case with the biblical scholar and missionary, Fr. Gabriel Allegra, O.F.M.: now "Blessed" Gabriel Allegra.
That Fr. Gabriel's Cause had been opened already in 1984, just 8 years after his death in 1976, attests to the virtues and holiness of this Franciscan priest. And then only 10 years later, on December 15, 1994, Pope John Paul II elevated him in the Church to the status of "Venerable". Now, in the article presented here and translated from his semi-annual Bollettino Valtortiano [Valtorta Bulletin], Dr. Emilio Pisani, Valtorta's devoted editor and publisher, informs us that on April 23rd of this year , the Holy Father raised Ven. Gabriel Allegra to the honors of the altar by declaring him a "Blessed". In his article, Dr. Pisani interpolates quotes from several other prestigious authorities endorsing Valtorta's revelations, then gives us a number of excerpts from Blessed Gabriel's personal notes and letters revealing his learned and enthusiastic endorsements of this modern mystic. Let us thank God for giving us Blessed Gabriel in Heaven as such an enthusiastic advocate of Valtorta's works, and pray that he will soon be canonized as "Saint Gabriel Allegra" and will help Maria Valtorta to join him in the ranks of the canonized saints!
January-June 2002, No. 63
On April 23rd, 2002, at the Vatican and in the presence of the Pope, the Decree was promulgated which concludes the Cause for the Beatification of Gabriel M. Allegra, O.F.M.: great Franciscan figure, missionary in China, translator of the Bible into Chinese, reader and admirer of the Work of Maria Valtorta.2
How had he known Valtorta's Work? What did he think of it?
The chapter which we have reserved for him from pages 63 to 88 of the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta3 ["For and Against Maria Valtorta"] relates biographical hints of this new "Blessed" and all that he wrote with regard to [Valtorta's] Work, about which he gave the following conclusive opinion: "Gifts of nature and mystical gifts harmoniously joined explain this masterwork of Italian religious literature, and perhaps I should say [a masterwork] of the world's Christian literature."
We hold that Father Allegra saw in the Work of Maria Valtorta a "masterwork"
both for its literary form (which is explained with his words "gifts of nature",
cultivated in study) and for its content (which is explained with his words
"mystical gifts", acquired in ascesis), noting that the former and latter
"gifts" are "harmoniously joined."
Other Historical Endorsements :
Nicholas Pende :
The first to define Valtorta's work as a "masterwork" was the illustrious [medical] clinician, [Dr.] Nicholas Pende, who wrote:
"...for me, it is a true masterwork both from the aspect of its style as from the beauty of its language and form."
lingering then on one detail, [he says]:
"...What has aroused in me, a physician, the greatest admiration—and amazement for the expertise with which Valtorta describes a phenomenology which only a few consummate physicians would know how to explain—is the scene of the agony of Jesus on the cross... Pity and the greatest emotion invade the Christian reader on reading this astonishing page, with its truly medical style, of Maria Valtorta's manuscript."
Pende's statement forms part of the historical endorsements of 1952. In that year the Work was not yet published, but was available in typewritten fascicles which learned and authoritative persons read, later on recording their own impressions. These are integrally related in the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta. From those famous endorsements, let us take some other passages:
Fr. Augustin Bea, S.J. :
"...the archeological and topographical descriptions are proffered with notable exactness..., 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. [Fr. Augustin Bea, S.J.: was then Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and a future cardinal.]
Archbp. Alphonsus Carinci:
"...it seems impossible to me that a woman of a very ordinary theological culture, and unprovided with any book useful to that end, had been able on her own to write with such exactness pages so sublime." [Archbishop Alphonsus Carinci: then Secretary of the Congregation of Rites, which was later called the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints]
"...I have never found [such] an ensemble of science, of art, of piety and of adherence to the traditional teachings of the Church as in the Work on the Gospels of Signora Maria Valtorta." [Camillus Corsánego: then dean of the consistorial advocates, and professor at the Pontifical Lateran University.]
George La Pira:
"...there are no theological improprieties, and it is a matter of very singular interest." [George La Pira: university professor, deputy and mayor of Florence, now "Servant of God"].
Msgr. Hugo Lattanzi:
"...these are truly splendid pages both in thought and in form; descriptions of psychological situations worthy of Shakespeare, dialogs conducted in a Socratic manner worthy of Plato, and descriptions of nature and the environment worthy of the most imaginative writer." [Msgr. Hugo Lattanzi: Professor of fundamental theology at the Lateran Pontifical University].
Msgr. Angelo Mercati:
"...I well remember the very good impression that remained with me from the reading of the hundreds of different pages communicated to me..." [Msgr. Angelo Mercati: Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archive].
Msgr. Maurice Raffa:
"...I found therein incomparable riches...Wanting to express a judgment on its intrinsic and aesthetic value, I point out that to write just one of the many volumes composing the Work, it would need an Author (who today does not exist) who would be at once a great poet, an able biblical scholar, a profound theologian, an expert in archeology and topography, and a profound connoisseur of human psychology."
[Msgr. Maurice Raffa: Director of the International Center of Comparison and Synthesis]
Professor Vitorio Tredici:
"...From a critical angle, what struck me most profoundly in the Work, was the perfect knowledge which the writer had of Palestine and the Places where the Preaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ unfolded. A knowledge which in so many passages surpasses normal geographic or panoramic knowledge, directly becoming topographical and, still more, geological and mineralogical knowledge." [Professor Vitorio Tredici, mineralogist]
In line with these 1952 endorsements of which we have reported some passages, there is a letter from Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, archbishop of Genoa, who, on the date of March 6, 1956, expressed himself thus:
Giuseppe Cardinal Siri:
"...my impression from reading the typescript is excellent... I would willingly read some more. A larger volume would further substantiate a judgment, even if it be modest as mine."
In the same year, 1956, the first printed volume of the Work2 appeared and began its diffusion, which has never been interrupted.
Further Endorsements by Blessed Gabriel Allegra, O.F.M. :
Father Allegra, missionary to Hong Kong, knew the Work nine years later, in 1965, when publication was under way of its new edition in ten volumes (still called "The Poem of the Man-God", a title which would be changed in 19934). He spoke of it with true enthusiasm in letters which he sent to confreres, to relatives and friends.
In the first letter that we have collected in the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta, he wrote:
"I do not believe [even] a genius could thus accomplish [this] Gospel narration: the Finger of God is here!"
In another of his letters we read:
"...its language, more than dignified, is fascinating, and when it speaks of the Madonna there is a sweetness and a truly heavenly enchantment."
And in a letter from Jerusalem:
"As you desire, I want to write so many things to you about Our Lord [as] seen by one who lives in His land, but time fails me... However I assure you that The Poem of the Man-God immensely surpasses whatever descriptions — I do not say of mine, because I do not know how to write — but of any other writer... It is a Work which makes one grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus and of His Holy Mother."
At least up till the end of 1970 many pages of Father Allegra's diary are dedicated to the Work of Maria Valtorta, and in the end he draws up a true and proper account of it. The reader will find all this in the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta. We take some passages from it here and there:
"Certain of the Lord's discourses, whose principle subject is only hinted at in the Gospels, are developed in this Work with a naturalness, with a linking of thought so logical, so spontaneous, so coherent with the time, the place and the circumstances, as I have never found in the most famous exegetes..."
"In this Work I find so many 'revelations' which are not contrary to, but which instead complete the Gospel narrative..."
"Regarding Valtorta's exegesis, it would be necessary to write a book; here I limit myself to reaffirming that I find no other works of eminent scripture exegetes which complete and clarify the Canonical Gospels so naturally, so spontaneously, with such liveliness as does The Poem of Valtorta."
"What amazes me more is that Valtorta never falls into theological errors; on the contrary, she renders revealed mysteries easier for the reader, transposing them into a popular and modern language."
"The dogmas which the Church continues defending in the course of the ages...are a solemn affirmation of the faith of the Apostles. Through an ineffable charism, Valtorta had been plunged again into the tender, moving, spontaneous faith of the Apostles, especially of St. John."
"After the Gospels, I do not know another life of Jesus that can compare to the Poem, as I do not know any other lives of St. Peter and St. John which make the characters of these two Apostles so alive."
"In treating the mystery of Mary's Compassion, it seems to me that Valtorta through her breadth, profundity and psychological probing of the Heart of the Virgin, surpasses even St. Bonaventure and St. Bernard."
"In her tragic destiny, a powerful and moving figure in the Poem is Mary of Simon, the mother of Judas, and who was so loved by Jesus. No poet or dramatist has ever thought up a profile so robust, so delicate and at the same time so pitiful, as that unfortunate and gentle woman."
"Worthy of note is the manner in which Jesus explains the Old Testament, applying it always to the present, to the messianic era already in progress, and which is about to be fulfilled."
"From the time that I read and reread the Poem of the Man-God of Maria Valtorta, I have no more taste for biblical-gospel novels."
"I would say that in this Work the Palestinian world of the time of Jesus comes out before our eyes; and the best and worst elements of character of the chosen people — a people of extremes and slaves of every mediocrity — leap out vividly before us."
"...I invite readers of the Poem to read the pages consecrated to the Resurrection, to the reconstruction of the events of the day of the Pasch, and they will ascertain how all is bound together harmoniously there, just as so many exegetes tried to do, but without fully succeeding..."
"A book of great size, composed in exceptional circumstances and in a relatively very short time: here is an aspect of the Valtorta phenomenon."
"In the dialogues and in the discourses which form the framework of [Valtorta's] Work , besides an inimitable spontaneity (the Dialogues), there is something of antiquity and at times of the hieratic (the Discourses); in a word, an excellent translation of a spoken Aramaic, or Hebrew, in a vigorous, polymorphous, robust Italian."
"I hold that the Work demands a supernatural origin... [...] Now, without anticipating the judgment of the Church which to this moment I accept with absolute submission, I permit myself to affirm that, ... with the Poem producing good fruits in an ever increasing number of persons, I think that it comes from the Spirit of Jesus.
The opinions of Father Allegra, of which we have related only some "cuttings", have been shared by other scholars of a certain caliber. From the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta we have already taken some short passages of historical endorsements from 1952, beginning with that of Augustin Bea, S.J., rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and future cardinal.
Almost twenty years later, in 1971, another noted biblical scholar, Gianfranco Nolli, in a letter which Pro e contro... relates integrally, wrote on the subject of Valtorta's Work:
"I read it with much interest, and I perceived that she really describes places, customs, costumes with a precision that one could rarely encounter even in someone who is familiar with them: it is a true pleasure to read it and one draws great profit from it."
In 1973, the illustrious Mariologist, Gabriel M. Roschini, O.S.V., expressed himself thus:
"...the Mariology that emerges from the writings of Maria Valtorta has been for me a true revelation. No other Marian writer, and not even the sum total of Marian writings that I have read and studied, had been able to give me so clear, so living, so complete, so luminous and so fascinating an idea — simple and yet sublime — of God's Masterwork [Mary]."
One of the greatest philosophers of our day, Cornelius Fabro, in a letter of 1979, spoke of [Valtorta's Poem] as
"a spiritual work and style among the most singular in the contemporary Church for renewing, from within, our faith and love of the Redeemer of the world;"
and in another letter of 1981 he noted:
"...having to live amid philosophical aridity, this reading opens for me a gleam of light even in our time of agony of spirit."
It seems impossible that beside such authoritative and favorable confirmations there have been opposing positions, as our title of the book Pro e contro Maria Valtorta shows, and which gathers all [such positions] together. It is a question at times even of violent attacks. We leave to the reader the "relish" of discovering, in the above mentioned book, the enemies of Maria Valtorta's Work, their argumentation and the spirit of their critiques — without forgetting that this contradiction has a Gospel matrix.
— NOTES —
1. The Documents of Vatican II, Ed., Walter M.
Abbott, S.J. Trans. Ed., Very Rev. Msgr. Joseph Gallagher, [Guild Press, New
2. "...the Work of Maria Valtorta" — refers here primarily to her masterwork: The Poem of the Man-God. —Trans.
3. Op. cit. Centro Editoriale Valtortiano, 030356 Isola del Liri (FR). This is a new edition for the year 2002, which we recommend to our readers to acquire and disseminate. [N.B.: Pro e contro Maria Valtorta is presently available only in Italian. —Trans.]
4. "...title...changed in 1993" — [The title of the new 2001 Italian edition of The Poem, has been changed to L'Evangel come me č stato rivelato ("The Gospel as it was revealed to me" —Trans.).