MARIA VALTORTA ?
— INTRODUCTORY NOTE —
From time to time the question of Maria Valtorta's Cause for
Beatification and Canonization is directed to this web site. Apparently it
is asked much more frequently also of her devoted editor and publisher, Dr.
– I –
THE MOST FREQUENT question that our readers are asking us (from Italy and from abroad) is for news about the cause of Maria Valtorta's beatification, which they take almost for granted.
We cannot do otherwise than to answer that her cause has not been introduced1, but we take into account that readers would want to know more about it and that sometimes they have no clear ideas. Therefore we now treat the question with our Bulletin which, by presenting publications and giving some prominent news about Valtorta, serves to support a subject solicited by our readers.
We do not speak, however, of a cause (that of Maria Valtorta) of which there is none yet, but of a cause in general, without at all neglecting the possibility that her hoped for cause will be introduced. And we do it with the simple and informal language of one who knows certain things by experience and not from competence.
* * *
At the risk of giving the impression of wanting to start far afield, we wish to recall that holiness should be not the exception but the rule for a Christian.
The custom, consolidated down the centuries, of solemnly proclaiming explicit saints and inserting their names in a liturgical calendar, has almost made us forget that in the primitive Christian communities all the faithful were called "saints". In the last decades, with the multiplication of processes of beatification, bringing us to venerate not only certain spiritual giants already known when they were in life, but also common persons who otherwise would have remained unknown, the idea of holiness as the privilege of a few has been weakened. In reality, the holiness that nurtures the terrain of the Church will always remain f or the most part hidden.
Countless are the saints to whom the Church owes much but who have not been singled out, or who have not however been proclaimed or even considered for a canonical process [of canonization]. In many cases, then, this hiddenness is more fruitful than recognition.
* * *
Normally, the process of beatification and canonization is introduced by the bishop of the diocese in whose territory the subject has closed his/her earthly life. It is necessary to make a formal request for it, which can be advanced by a religious Order, for example, or promoted with a collection of signatures. Generally the request is presented to the bishop by a Postulator who is the competent ecclesiastic in the matter.
The whole process, which has a preliminary character, unfolds before the diocesan bishop who has introduced it. He must have investigations carried out and gather proofs on the exemplary character of the subject's Christian life, on his or her virtues practiced in a heroic degree, on the orthodoxy of the subject's writings. It can last for years and even become stranded, but it is sufficient to have begun it for the subject to be called a "Servant of God".
The acts of the process are transmitted to Rome, to the Congregation for the Cause of the Saints, to which any decision belongs. If no additions to the investigations are requested, one can get as far as a decree of the recognized heroism of the subject's virtues. This decree is read before the Pope and in the presence of the cardinals in a solemn act. Thus the "Servant of God" becomes "Venerable".
At this point a miracle is required (a wondrous and unexplainable healing), asked and obtained through the intercession of the Venerable even when he orshe was only a "Servant of God". The authenticity of the miracle must be assured by the proper medical commission and validated as well by the theological commission. The decree of the miracle, also proclaimed in the presence of the Pope, concludes the process. On the same occasion, or shortly thereafter, the data of the beatification is communicated. This is almost always done at Saint Peter's in the course of a solemn Mass celebrated by the Pope.
The "Blessed", proposed as a model of sanctity, receives in the Church a limited cult for a territory or religious institution. To be venerated in the universal Church, it is necessary that his or her name be inserted in the official list of saints, which is called the "canon". The definitive act of canonization, following after the beatification, which is the result of a process, should require a more streamlined procedure; still there are "Blesseds" who have remained such from time immemorial. It is again the Pope who proclaims the "Saint" with a solemn rite.
The Pope —let us recall—is above all these norms. He can shorten a procedure
or dispense with a formality. He can even proclaim a "Saint" by dispensing with
the process, that is, by his own initiative (moto proprio), from personal
conviction. It has never happened in modern times, but it is not on that account
to be held inadmissible.
* * *
Beatification is without doubt a lofty recognition, and canonization is the greatest recognition that can be obtained in the Church for a person and for his or her work. Still, when we hear it conjectured for Maria Valtorta, our (controversial) viewpoint presents itself again.
We hold that the Work2
is more important than the person. This obtained even from its first edition,
appearing without the name of the writer, who did not want to be known while she
was still living. It has been spreading in the Catholic world uninterruptedly
for half a century and has not failed to conquer even non-Catholics and
non-believers, thereby achieving conversions.
Well now, it is true that ecclesiastical recognition [of the Work] would pacify those readers who are still hesitant. But it could also cause suspicion and inhibit actual or potential readers of other confessions, or no confession, who perhaps approach the Work and receive spiritual benefit from it, just because an ecclesiastical power (not the Church) has rejected it.
Among Catholics there are not a few who dream of an official approval which finally lets the Work go forth on the roads of the world. We, instead, who remain awake so as not to dream, see with open eyes the slow, silent, intermittent path of the Work, which not only has been able to do without support of whatever nature, but has always recovered from the blows aimed at smashing it.
The day of its proclamation will dawn: of that we are more certain than anything else. It will come not to permit the Work to be able to be spread, but to recognize that it has conquered through a miracle of Heaven.
* * *
No one should occupy himself with asking for the introduction Maria Valtorta's cause, because it has already been done. Not by us, the editors, who however collaborate (setting aside our own views) in whatever is requested of us. But [it was introduced] by someone who wanted to do it and was able to do so in an authoritative and formally correct way. The request has had some development, but its outcome is uncertain.
Meanwhile, we consider the position of the bishop who has received the petition. If he welcomes it, he recognizes for Maria Valtorta the title, binding for him, of "Servant of God". If he rejects it, he is certainly not saved from criticisms. The name of Maria Valtorta is a burning issue. The bishop could claim that he does not have at his disposal the personnel who could dedicate themselves to the complex examination that the cause requires, thus causing the matter to be diverted toward another better equipped curia, and one which is qualified to re-enter with competence into the case. (It would not be a bad thing, in our view, to be able to involve more bishops. And if the Italian Episcopal Conference would occupy itself with it?...)
What counts most, again in our view, is that the bishops be able to see clearly: why has the Work of Valtorta been opposed? With what arguments? Why has it also been much appreciated? By whom and with what criteria? Even if the investigation of a cause for beatification turns on the Christian virtue of the person, the Work is always the reflection also of that virtue. In our case it is a Work that has stirred up an interest of worldwide dimensions lasting for fifty years and still growing slowly.
Without wanting to sin by immodesty, we should say that we editors have foreseen with wide anticipation the need of bringing clarity to this with a book. We have entitled it, Pro e contro Maria Valtorta ["For and Against Maria Valtorta"]. It is in its third edition. The review "Studi Cattolici" ["Catholic Studies"] occupied itself with it in a fine article by Bruno Amadio, appearing in the number for July-August 2002. It would be opportune that our book should reach the Bishops of the 226 Italian dioceses.
– I I –
WITH regard to the cause of beatification, which is the subject of the opening article [Section I above], we often note that the attention of the faithful concentrates on the miracle obtained through the intercession of a Servant of God and not on the virtues practiced by him or her in life. And yet it is upon the virtues that the whole canonical process is organized, reserving to the miracle the function of a final seal.
By a miracle, then, one understands the prodigious healing of a sick person, or any physical cure that transcends human experience and the laws of nature, thus manifesting the power of God. As if God had the power to act only on the human body. Let us try then to recount another class of miracles.
In the month of August of the year 2000, a message by fax and internet reached us from Russia. It was sent by an Orthodox priest, director of a Marian editing house of the Orthodox confession, with its seat in a locality of the region of Moscow. In an incorrect but quite understandable Italian he asked our permission to translate and publish in his own language the first volume of the English edition of the Work2 of Maria Valtorta, expressing a certainty: "this book contributes to overcoming the schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches." The extraordinary thing was not just in the circumstance that the Work had reached Russia and that his reading it had drawn an Orthodox priest's attention to its ecumenical value, but it is also in the fact that all this could happen without the pressured advertising and without any contact of promotional interests.
From Russia to Japan: A lay editor of Tokyo is taking care of the translation of the Work of Maria Valtorta (he has finished the first volume) which he wants to publish integrally in his country where Christians are 1.5% of the population, which is formed above all of Shintoists, followed by Buddhists. The Japanese editor has been able to conclude an agreement with us thanks to the mediation of an Italian an expert in the Japanese language and culture, and who declares that he is greatly in debt to Valtorta. It is a question of an ex-priest, rich in worldly experience, who returned to the Faith after having read Valtorta's Notebooks. After a long wait while living "as a priest", he had obtained reintegration into the priestly state.
We go to Lithuania, one of the ex-Soviet Socialist Republics. During the
Soviet rule, a group of volunteers (formed of doctors, engineers, teachers,
guests, students) received clandestinely from abroad some religious books, which
the group translated and disseminated secretly, working by night and knowing
they risked prison. They also had the volumes of the German edition of Maria
Valtorta 'sWork which they set themselves to translate into Lithuanian, making
"21 copies" with the only means at their disposal: a typewriter. Now they
have a computer and printer, but above all they have freedom, and they want to
contract with us for its orderly dissemination. This, in synthesis, is what has
been communicated by a Mrs. di Kaunas "in the name of all the group".
Here is the class of miracles to which Maria Valtorta has accustomed us.
1. "...her cause has not been introduced" —this
statement, as will be explained further in the last section of this article,
means that the bishop has not formally accepted Valtorta's cause, though the
petition has been submitted to him for it.
2. "We hold that the Work..." —"Work" here refers to Valtorta's masterwork, The Poem of the Man-God.