THE MARTYRDOM OF
THE DEATH OF
– From the Mystical Revelations of Maria Valtorta –
– INTRODUCTORY NOTE –
Maria Valtorta (1897-1961†), a Catholic daughter of the 20th century Church and acclaimed one of Her greatest mystics, has given us not only her great masterwork The Poem of the Man-God,1 but many other Visions and Locutions granted to her, she affirms, like The Poem..., by Christ for His Church of today.
Most of these revelations are contained in her large three-volume series: I Quaderni del del 1943, ...1944, ...1945-1950 (Notebooks for 1943, ...1944, ...1945-1950). Among these are often found Valtorta's eye-witness accounts of the martyrdom of some of the known and also unknown early Church martyrs.
Of these latter, Valtorta recounts in the presentation given here, the Vision of the martyrdom of St. Fenicola, and the ecstatic death of her friend and mentor, St. Petronilla, followed by a Commentary of Christ on the Vision.
Though making only a brief appearance at the beginning of the account, St. Petronilla figures prominently in Christ's subsequent Commentary on the Vision. Petronilla, we learn, was the first Roman convert of St. Peter himself, and hence his spiritual daughter and comfort in the sorrows of his Roman evangelization. Even her name, "Petronilla" -- a feminine diminutive of "Peter" meaning "little Peter" -- hints at her esteem and close spiritual relationship to her father in Christ, Peter, who begot her through the Gospel.2
This translation of the death of St. Petronilla and the Martrydom of St. Fenicola, Petronilla's spiritual daughter, is taken from Valtorta's still untranslated 2nd volume of her "Notebooks for 1944": I Quaderni Del 1944.3 Preceding this Vision is an explanatory note by Valtorta to her spiritual director, Fr. Romualdo Migliorini, O.S.M. (in smaller type), and interpolated here from the Italian edition of The Poem of the Man-God,4 Vol. 2, Chapter 273, (though this note is omitted in the English version of The Poem). The note concerns a fragmentary Vision and inner name Valtorta heard in the early morning hours of the same day on which she had this Vision. The complete Vision as recounted here was subsequently given to her later the same day, March 4, 1944.
[To her spiritual director]: "...The torment began again, until toward 2:00 a.m., after the contemplation of the Passion of the Lord ended and my terrible headache had calmed down a little bit (a little, you know?), there sounded within me a name: 'Saint Fenicola.' Who is she? Unknown. Did she truly exist? Bah! Who ever heard of her! And I was trying to sleep. Useless! 'Saint Fenicola.' 'Saint Fenicola.' 'Here there is no sleeping,' I told myself, 'until I know who she is.' And thanks to the diminished pain which allowed me now to move myself -- while from 3:00 p.m. till midnight and beyond as my body, which suffered intermittently, yet I could not even open my eyes -- had disheartened me and made me inert..., I took an Index of the saints and found that, along with St. Petronilla (virgin), it carries St. Felicola (virgin-martyr). I heard it said as "Fenicola", but perhaps I misunderstood. Simultaneous with this discovery, I saw a young naked woman bound to a pillar in an atrocious manner. More later..."4 ]
"I see two young women in prayer. A very ardent prayer which must truly penetrate into the heavens. One is more mature; she seems about 30 years old. The other must be just passed 20. Both of them seem in perfect health. Then they rise and prepare a little altar upon which they lay precious linens and flowers.
A man enters, clothed like the Romans of that era, whom the two young women greet with greatest veneration. He removes from his breast a pouch from which he draws out all that is necessary to celebrate a Mass. Then he vests himself with priestly vestments and begins the Sacrifice.
I do not understand the Gospel very well, but it seems to me it is that of Mark: 'And they presented to Him some babies... who will not receive the Kingdom of God as a child will not enter there.' 5 The two young women, kneeling near the altar, pray ever more fervently.
The Priest consecrates the Species and then turns to give Communion to the two faithful women, beginning with the eldest, whose face is seraphic with ardor. Then he gives Communion to the other one. She, after receiving the Species, prostrates on the ground in deep prayer, and they seem to remain thus from pure devotion.
But after the celebration of the rite --which is the same as that of Paul in the Tullianum,6 only here the celebrant speaks very softly, given that there are only these two faithful [present]; this is why I understand the Gospel less -- when the Priest turns, blesses and descends from the altar placed on a wooden platform, after he descends from the altar only one of the two young women move. The other remains prostrate as before. Her companion calls her and shakes her. Even the Priest bends down. They lift her. Already the pallor of death is on her face, her half-lifeless eye sinks beneath her eyelid, her mouth breathes with difficulty. But what bliss on that face!
They lay her down on a kind of long seat that is near a window opened onto a courtyard in which a fountain sings, and they seek to help her. But, gathering up her strength, she raises one hand and points toward the sky and says but two words: 'Thank you...Jesus,' and without an agony, she expires.
All that does not explain to me how it pertains to the young woman tied to the pillar whom I saw tonight and who, however much more pale and emaciated, disheveled and tortured, seems to me so much like the survivor who now weeps near the dead woman. And I remain thus, in my uncertainty, for some hours.
Only now that it is evening do I again find the weeping young woman of earlier, now standing near the fountain of the stern courtyard in which only some small flowerbeds of lilies are cultivated, and upon the walls rise some rosebushes all in bloom.
The young woman speaks with a young Roman:
'It is useless for you to insist, O Flaccus. I am grateful to you for your respect and remembrance that you have for my dead friend. But I cannot console your heart. If Petronilla is dead, it was a sign that she should not be your bride. But neither should I. There are so many young girls of Rome who would be happy to become the ladies of your house. Not I. Not on your account. But because I have decided not to contract marriage.'
'Have you too caught the foolish craze of so many followers of a handful of Hebrews?'
'I have decided -- and I believe I am not a fool -- not to contract marriage.'
'And if I wanted you?' '
If it is true that you love and respect me, I do not believe that you would force my liberty as a Roman citizen. But you would leave me follow my desire, [continuing] to have for me the good friendship that I have for you.'
'Oh no! Already one [of you] has escaped me. You will not escape me.'
'She died, Flaccus. Death is a force superior to us, not a flight of someone from their destiny. She did not kill herself. She died.... '
'Through your sorceries! I know you are Christians and I should have denounced you to the Tribunal of Rome. But I preferred to think of you as my brides. Now for the last time I ask you: Do you want to be the wife of the noble Flaccus? I swear to you that it is better for you to enter as the lady of my house and leave the demonic worship of your poor god, rather than to know the severity of Rome which does not permit its gods to be insulted. Be my bride and you will be happy. Otherwise....'
'I cannot be your bride. I am consecrated to God. To my God. I cannot adore idols: I who adore the true God. Do with me what you will. You can do everything to my body. But my soul is God's and I do not sell it for the joys of your house.'
'This is your last word?'
'You know that my love can be changed into hate?'
'God forgive you for that. On my part I will love you always as a brother and pray for your good.'
'And as for me, I will hurt you. I will denounce you. You will be tortured. Then you will call on me. Then you will understand that the house of Flaccus is better than the foolish teachings with which you nourish yourself.'
'I will understand that the world has need of these teachings, so as not to have any more Flaccuses. And I will do you good by praying for you from the Kingdom of my God.'
'Accursed Christian! To the prisons! To starvation! Let your Christ satisfy you if he can.'
I have the impression that the prisons are near enough to the house of the virgin because the road is short; and also that the noble Flaccus is more or less a detective for the Supervisor of Rome because, when the vision (changing its appearance) brings me back to the room already seen above, with the young woman tied to a pillar, I see that it is a tribunal like that in which Agnes7 was judged. There are very few differences, and even here there is an ugly mug who judges and condemns, and for whom Flaccus acts as a helper and goad.
Fenicola, taken out of the cage where she was, is brought into the middle of the room. Her strength seems exhausted, but she is still so dignified. As much as the light dazzles her, and weak as she is and habituated now to the dark prison, she holds herself erect and smiles.
The usual questions and the usual offerings followed by the usual responses: 'I am a Christian. I do not sacrifice to another god who is not my Lord Jesus Christ.'
She is condemned to the pillar. They snatch off her garments and, naked in the presence of the people, they tie her hands and feet behind one of the pillars of the Tribunal. To do this they dislocate her hips and also dislocate her arms. The torture must be atrocious. And even that is not enough: but they twist the cords at her wrists and at her ankles, they strike her on her breast and on her naked belly with rods and whips, they twist her flesh with pincers, and other tortures so atrocious I cannot stand to repeat them.
Every so often they ask her if she wants to sacrifice to the gods. Fenicola, with an always weaker voice, responds:
'No. To Christ. To Him only. Now that I begin to see Him, and every torture brings Him nearer, you want me to lose Him? Complete your work. That I may have my complete love. Sweet nuptials in which Christ is the Bridegroom and I His bride! The dream of all my life!'
When they untie her from the pillar, she falls as if dead on the ground. Her limbs dislocated, perhaps even broken, do not support her anymore, do not respond to any command of her mind. Her poor hands, sawed at the wrists by the cords which have made two little bracelets of living blood, hang down as if dead. Her feet, also torn at the ankles, even to showing the nerves and tendons, seem clearly to be broken from the way they are bent back in an unnatural manner. But her face is full of an angelic happiness. Tears descend on her bloodless cheeks, but her eye laughs, absorbed in a vision which enraptures her.
Her jailers, or better her executioners, kick her with their feet, and as if she were a sack so unclean it cannot be touched, they push her with their feet toward the predella of the Supervisor.
'Are you still alive?'
'Yes, by the Will of my Lord.''
'You still insist? You truly want death?'
'I want Life. Oh! my Jesus, open Heaven to me! Come, eternal Love!' '
Throw her in the Tiber! The water will calm her ardors.'
The executioners pick her up rudely. The torture of her broken limbs must be atrocious. But she smiles. They wrap her in her garments, not out of modesty but to prevent her from controlling herself in the water. A useless concern! With one's limbs in that state, one does not swim! Only her head emerges from the tangle of the garments. Her poor body, thrown over the shoulder of an executioner, hangs as if already dead. But the light of the torches (since it is now evening), she smiles.
Having reached the Tiber river, they seize her like an animal to be killed and, from the height of the bridge, hurl her into the dark water, in which she re-surfaces twice, and then sinks without a shout."
COMMENTARY ON THE VISION
"I wanted to make My martyr Fenicola known to you in order to give to you and to all some instruction.
You saw the power of prayer in the death of Petronilla -- who was the much older companion and teacher of Fenicola -- and the fruit of their holy friendship. Petronilla, spiritual daughter of Peter, had absorbed from the living word of My Apostle the spirit of Faith. Petronilla: the joy, the Roman pearl of Peter. His first Roman conquest: she who, through her respectful and loving devotion to the Apostle, consoled him for all the sorrows of his Roman evangelization.
Peter, out of love for Me, had left house and family. But He who does not lie had caused him to find in this young woman and in a manner that was superabundant, heaped up, pressed down, according to My promises:8 comfort, care, feminine sweetness. As I did at Bethany, he in the house of Petronilla found help, hospitality and, above all, love. Under all the heavens and in all epochs, woman is the same in her good and in her evil. Petronilla was the Mary9 of Peter, with the addition of her purity of a young girl whom Baptism, received while her innocence had not yet known any abuse, had brought to angelic perfection.
Maria, listen: Petronilla, wanting to love her Master with all of herself without her attractiveness and the world being able to disturb this love, had prayed her God to crucify her. And God heard her. Paralysis crucified her angelic limbs.10 In her long infirmity in a land bathed with sorrow her virtues blossomed, and especially her love for My Mother.
Listen again, Maria: When it was necessary, her sickness knew a pause. To show that God is Master of the miracle. And afterward, when that moment was ended, it returned to crucify her.
Do you know no other, Maria, to whom her Master, like Peter to Petronilla, does not say when He needs her: 'Rise, write, be strong,' and when the Master's need has ceased, she turns back into a poor infirm woman in perpetual agony? 11
After the Apostle had died and Petronilla was healed, she found that her life was no longer her own. But Christ's. She was not of those who, after obtaining the miracle, use it to offend God. But she used her health for the interests of God.
Your lives are always Mine. I give them to you. You should all remember that. I give them to you as animal life, causing you to be born and keeping you alive. I give them to you as spiritual life with Grace and the Sacraments. You should remember that always, and make good use of them. When later I restore your health, when I cause you to be reborn as after a fatal sickness, you should remember still more that that life, blossoming again when the flesh already knew the tomb, is Mine. And through this grateful recognition use it in the Good.
Petronilla knew how to do that. It was not uselessly that she absorbed My Doctrine. It is like salt that preserves from harm, from corruption; It is a flame that warms and illumines, It is food that nourishes and fortifies, It is faith that gives security. There comes a trial, the assault of temptation, the threat of the world. Petronilla prays. She calls God. She wants to be God's. The world wants her? God defends her from the world.
The Christ has said: 'If you have as much faith as a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain: "Arise and go further over".' 12 Peter said it to her so many times. She does not ask for the mountain to be moved. She asks God to take her from the world before a trial beyond her strength crush her. And God listens to her. He makes her die in an ecstasy. In an ecstasy, Maria, before the trial crushes her. Remember this fact, My little disciple.13
Fenicola was a friend. More than a friend: a daughter or sister, given the little difference of about 10 years in age. Nor did she live with the holy Petronilla without being sanctified herself. As one may not [necessarily] be spoiled by living with one who is spoiled. If the world would only remember this truth! But the world instead disregards the saints or brutalizes them, and follows the satans, becoming always more itself a Satan.
You saw the firmness and sweetness of Fenicola. What is hunger for one who has Christ as his food. What is torture for one who loves the Martyr of Calvary? What is death for one who knows that death opens the gate to Life?
My martyr Fenicola is unknown to Christians of today. But she is well known to the angels of God who see her joyous in Heaven behind the Divine Lamb. I wanted to make her known to you [Maria], so as to be able to talk to you also of her spiritual teacher [Petronilla], and to encourage you to suffer.
Repeat with her: 'Now indeed amid these sorrows I begin to see my Spouse Jesus, in Whom I have placed all my love,' --and think that for you also I raised up another Nicomedes14 to save from the waters of your passions your I [i.e., ego, self], which I wanted for Myself, and to gather up as much of you as merits to be preserved: that which is Mine, that which can work for the good of the souls of your brethren."
† † †
– N O T E S –
1. Maria Valtorta, The Poem of the Man-God, trans., Nicandro Picozzi and Patrick McLaughlin (Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, 1986-1990), 5 Volumes, hardbound, $35.00 U.S. Distributed (among others) by Saint Raphael's Publications Inc., 31 King St. W., Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, J1H 1N5, and in select bookstores in the U.S. See also links to other Valtorta Sites given on this Web Site.
2. 1 Corinthians 4:15
3. Maria Valtorta, I Quaderni Del 1944 (Edizioni Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri Fr, Italia, 1985), pp. 89ff.
4. Maria Valtorta, Il Poema Dell'Uomo-Dio, (Pisani / Centro Editoriale Valtortiano srl, Via Po 95, I 03036 Isola del Liri FR, Italia, 1975), IV, pp. 969-970.
5. Mark 10:15.
6. "Paul in the Tullianum:" i.e., St. Paul in the Vision of February 29, 1944 (See The Circus, privately translated, 1992.)
7. That is, the martyr St. Agnes, in a Vision given Valtorta on January 13, 1944.
8. Luke 6:38.
9. That is, Mary Magdalen, consistently asserted in all Valtorta's revelations, and especially thoughout The Poem of the Man-God, to be the sister of Lazarus and Martha of Bethany, contrary to current theories of modern biblical scholarship which deny this relationship.
10. Note how Christ evokes Maria's attention here: "Maria, listen:..." --because he knows that for Valtorta, also paralyzed and an invalid for so many years, Petronilla's paralysis would be of particular significance and comfort.
11. Again, a frequent experience of Valtorta's: her sufferings were suddenly mitigated or ceased while she was having or writing a Vision or Dictation from Christ. When the task was finished, she was again overwhelmed with here sufferings and weakness.
12. Matthew 17:19.
13. As stated earlier (see Note 10 above), Maria Valtorta, whose life as a paralyzed invalid paralleled that of Petronilla's, died after a long period of psychic isolation which, for many, remained mysterious.
14. "Nicomedes": The name of the priest who recovered the body of the holy martyr "Felicula" or "Felicola" [See Butler's Lives of the Saints, Ed., Herbert Thurston, S.J. and Donald Attwater (P.J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1956), under September 15, for a "Nicomedes," where reference is made to a martyr called "Felicula"]. This historical reference seems to correspond with the account of the martyr Fenicola presented here. The Nicomedes of this Vision is probably also the priest shown offering Mass for Petronilla and Fenicola at the beginning of the Vision above. Valtorta's own "Nicomedes," raised up for her own spiritual recovery by Christ, was her spiritual director, Fr. Romualdo Migliorini, O.S.M.