To discover the real Jesus, a
member of the Society of Jesus who was a personal friend of the writer of
this booklet reads the gospels every day.
A fellow member of the Society one day remarked to him:
"Since you read the new testament every day, you will surely write a Life
of Our Lord. It happens all the time." And he did.
I was in charge of AMI Press at the time. When my
friend eagerly presented the manuscript, the product of years of
enlightened and scholarly work, I knew how much it meant to him.
In his eyes it was little less than a minor revelation of the life and
times of Our Lord.
How could I protest that many others before him had
done the same? My own small library (which would fill a wall 40 feet long
from floor to ceiling) had almost an entire shelf full of
biographies of Jesus. All those many books searched the scanty details of
the gospels to understand His Person, at once human and divine. Was He
born in ignorance, even though as God He was omniscient? What was He really like?
My whole shelf of books never gave me a clear answer. I
marveled at the erudition of the scripture scholars and at the brilliance
of their deductions. But that is all they were: deductions.
In the end, all these books told me nothing more
than what the authors themselves had deduced from the Gospels. And
too often, to the bewilderment of an average person, one authorís
deductions were different from anotherís.
My Jesuit friend went into the Divine Light before I
had to make the publishing decision. His book was indeed great. It was
written by a man of holiness and faith and it was his personal discovery
of Jesus. But who, in two thousand years, has been able to flesh out the
gospels with sufficient enlightenment and realism?
In my book "You, Too, Go Into My Vineyard" (published
by LAF, Jan. 1995, 225pgs.) I tell how I came to discover The
Poem of the Man-God by
Discovery of the Poem
I happened to he in Rome with the Most Rev. John
Venancio, the Bishop of Fatima, when he sought out a special bookstore to
purchase the ten volumes of the Italian edition. It had been recommended
by a highly esteemed friend in Paris, the celebrated author-editor, Abbey
Years later, after Bishop Venancio retired, whenever I
visited him our conversation seemed to turn to the Poem. In his
last years the Bishop read
from it every day. He must
have read all ten volumes over and over. I
began to wonder what could be so special about it. The
Bishop was widely read and had a sizable library. He had been a professor
of dogmatic theology in Rome before becoming the Bishop of Fatima. Yet
now, when he had ample time to read anything he wished, he seemed to spend
all his time on this one book.
At the time it was available only in Italian, which was
not my best language. But I found my way back to the same bookstore in
Rome and bought the ten volumes. Next I bought each volume in French (my
"second" language) as it came out. Finally I read the entire work a third
time (3,327 pages) when the English edition became available. Today I
continue, like Bishop Venancio, to read it over and over.
A First Hand Account
The Poem is
unique in that it is a first
hand account of visions of
the life of Jesus, recorded by a naturally gifted writer named Maria
Valtorta. She personally wrote down descriptions of the visions as
she saw them. She
describes actual scenes, and records - word for word - the conversations
The gospels, in
these vivid scenes and conversations, come
alive. There has never been
a book like it.
A Victim Soul
Maria Valtorta was severely injured by a wanton act of
violence when she was 23 years old. While walking with her mother, a crazy
youth struck her in the back with an iron bar. Suffering became her
constant companion. Five years later, after reading the autobiography of
St. Therese of Lisieux, she offered herself as a victim soul. She renewed
the offering every day.
Her health deteriorated until she was barely able to
walk. After April 1, 1934, she was bedridden for the remaining 27 years of
Ten years later began her visions of the life of Our
Lord. Recording them was a colossal work during which she was often in
physical pain, often exhausted. Before she died she wrote her own epitaph: "I
have finished suffering, but l will go on loving."
One has the impression that Maria Valtorta would prefer
to be forgotten, like a pencil laid aside. But from now until the end of
the world, readers of The
Poem of the Man-God will
bless the day she offered herself as a victim soul and became what Jesus
liked to call her: ĎMy little John"... likening her to St. John the
As was said above, what is special about the work of
Maria Valtorta is that it is first
The visions of Therese Neumann and Catherine
are as told to someone else, and
therefore incomplete and
perhaps even somewhat distorted. (The latter may especially apply to
Brentanoís accounts of the visions of Catherine Emmerich.) Consider this
THERESE COULD NOT REMEMBER
During Therese Neumannís vision of the annunciation,
Father Naber (her pastor and confessor) could not write down quickly
enough what Therese said. He interrupted to ask her what word followed
another. Therese (and this was only a few words later!) said: "You should
have written it down faster, Father, I
donít know anymore."
So we can imagine how much conjecture may have been
necessary, for writers who had to fill out
the description of visions not exactly remembered.
We know there are no such distortions in the Poem, which
was written while the visions were being heard and seen. But even so, they
are not always meant to be taken literally. As the Holy See warned in
approving the Poem forgeneral
reading, historical and geographical data are not always to he taken
literally, as we shall explain in a moment.
A CELEBRATED ADVOCATE
Father Gabriele Roschini, O.S.M., was an old man when
he wrote his masterpiece on Our Lady as he had discovered Her "a
real person" in the Poem. He
was an advisor to the Holy Office, founder of the Marianum (a Pontifical
Faculty of Theology in Rome), and author of 130 books.
This celebrated author and theologian had been a
skeptic about the Poem, and
finally "discovered" it during a holiday in the mountains. "Wow!" is
probably the best word to describe his reaction. In the preface of the
book mentioned above he wrote:
"I have been studying, preaching, and writing Mariology
for over half a century. I had read innumerable works and articles of all
kinds on Mary - a veritable
library. And I must
candidly admit that not even
the sum total of EVERYTHING I HAVE EVER READ AND STUDIED gave me as clear,
as lively, as complete, as luminous, or as fascinating an image..."
Speaking only of the reality of Our Lady as found in
the Poem (which
is not a book about Our Lady but about the life of Jesus!), the learned
theologian exclaimed: "It seems to me that the conventional image of the
Blessed Virgin, portrayed by myself and my fellow Marioligists, is merely
a paper-mache Madonna,
compared to the living and vibrant Virgin Mary envisioned by Maria
Valtorta... If any one believes my declaration to be one of those ordinary
hyperbolic slogans abused by publicity, I will say this only: "Let them
read before they judge!"
One tends to become childlike in old age, and I
sometimes wonder if it is not necessary to be like children, to grasp the
wonder of Jesus as we find Him in the Poem... truly
a man, while at the same time God,
After I wrote this booklet I asked the opinion of two
life-long friends. The first was
Father Vernard Poslusney, O.Carm., a
Carmelite specialist in mystical theology who had spent many years in a
contemplative hermitage in Austria. He was in his seventies before he
discovered the Poem. He
became so enthralled, that he began recording a commentary of the entire
work on audio tapes. Over and over on the tapes one hears him exclaim:
"Oh! How could anyone think that this work was not supernatural!"
I eagerly sought his opinion because: 1) He was well
schooled in theology; 2) He had read the Poem over
and over and was well acquainted with all the criticism. Indeed, he
himself had answered much of it. His only suggestion was that I write
more. His comment: "This is what we need!"
The second person whose criticism I eagerly sought was
the superioress of a religious community I had long known and respected,
but who - unlike
Fr. Vernard - had never wholeheartedly accepted the Poem. I thought
that perhaps the size of the work could have intimidated her, since she
was the busy superioress of a community. But she had read substantial
To my surprise, I learned in discussing this booklet,
that it was not the size of the work, but the
very work itself which had
proved intimidating. The Poem reveals
Jesus to be really man. And it
is possible to feel that our utter faith in His Divinity is tested, when
we admit that He was a Man. Many
of us have so constantly affirmed His Divinity, that we cannot dare to
think of Him as a Man born in human ignorance, even though as God He was
But if we read the Poem through,
we do not have to dare. Little by little we come to SEE
the reality of Jesus as a Person, with two very real natures. And
that is the WONDER of the Poem.
I wish Fr. Roschini were still alive, to tell us what
prevented him for years from accepting the Poem, and
then, at the end of his life, becoming perhaps its greatest proponent of
the 20th century.
(There may be a greater in the 21st!)
But I think he would have told us that he began by
reading "parts." And perhaps he did not have the example of someone more
learned than himself, as I did in the case of Bishop Venancio (to me both
theologian and saint), the joy of whose old age was discovering Jesus in
Another benefit I had was to read the Poem before
it was published in English, my native tongue, in which words seem often
like weathered coins, while those in a second or third language seem quite
often to sparkle like new, not clouded by the same range of different
While editor of Soul Magazine
(which at the time had some 240,000 subscribers) I had introduced the Poem to
the English public. Later one reader wrote and told me that a priest
denounced the Poem because
he had read it in French, and it said Jesus died on a "St. Andrew" cross.
And he mentioned one or two other contradictions.
I knew at once this was not true. But I went back to
the French edition to make sure. I could not imagine that a priest would
want to defame the Poem with
lies. But indeed what he said was just not true.
Another person wrote that a certain passage seemed to
say that Jesus favored women priests. And sure enough, at least out of
context, that seemed to be the case... But it was due to an ambiguity in
the English translation. Moreover the following paragraph made the true
position perfectly dear.
One can find fault here and there in almost any work, including
scripture, by taking words
too literally or taking them out of context.
It is interesting that Father Slavko Barbaric of
Medjugorje said: "If we want
to know and love the Gospels, read The Poem
of the Man-God." (We are
told that Our Lady said that
the City of God by
Mary of Agreda and the Poem
were "true", according to the visionary Marija, speaking on a live
But another priest - who was a guide and interpreter at
Medjugorje - is one the of Poemís major critics. To him, oddly enough, we
owe a great debt, because his criticisms have elicited a scholarly defense
written by Bishop Roman Danylak of Toronto, which has become widely
diffused. His Excellency wrote:
"My initial reaction (to this criticism) was one of
apprehension. I went back to the original Italian... and reviewed again
the major work of Fr. Gabriel Roschini... It soon became evident to me
that the criticism stems from interpretations of hearsay comments,
and interpretation of episodes in
Testimony of Ven. Gabriel Allegra
The Ven. Gabriel Allegra, O.F.M., whose process for
canonization was opened in 1984 just 8 years after his death, was a
theologian and a biblical exegete. He wrote:
"The Poem never
contradicts the Gospel but admirably completes it, making it living, and
powerful, tender and demanding... the crowds move, shout, are agitated.
The miracles you would say are SEEN. The discourses of Our Lord, even the
most difficult in their conciseness, become of solar clarity... Whoever
reads this work breathes at
last the atmosphere of the Gospel and
almost becomes one of the crowd which follows the Master."
So say we all: The gospels come alive.
Answering a critic in 1961, the Venerable Father
Allegra realized that the critic had
never read the entire work. He wrote: "When completed the Poem makes
us better understand the Gospel, but does not contradict it. I still do
not know how to explain to myself, and perhaps I will never know, how the
Lord had ever shown His earthly life to a soul of the 20th century,
but I believe in the Love which can do all..."
In one of my books I suppose I was expressing the same
thought when I called the Poem a
special gift from God to our time... and perhaps especially for the time
that is coming, the time of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
when the world will be very different. It will be the time of the reign of
Jesus, and it is near.
Fr. AI Winshman, SJ., of the Marian Renewal Ministry in
Boston, wrote: "The Poem has
not only opened the life of Jesus, Mary and the apostles to me, but has
challenged me through the life
and preaching of Jesus, and His training of the apostles, to
follow Him more closely. Using
this work, I have enjoyed being with Jesus in prayer in a the way a
teenager insightfully described prayer as "hanging around with Jesus."
Thatís it! That is what is WONDERFUL about the Poem. We
enjoy being like a child "hanging around with Jesus"...and Oh! how we come
to love Him!
Thatís the bottom line... knowing the tree by
One must pity the critics and the hear-sayers
who keep some of us from this joy. We should pray that more and more will
have the grace (and that is what it is!) of the Poem experience.
But for the sake of the critics, and for our own peace
of mind - as we said before - it is important to realize that the very
real visions of Maria Valtorta are meant to convey a spiritual message,
rather than an historical one.
The Spiritual Realities
To realize that visions sometimes are intended to
convey spiritual realities more than geographical or historical ones,
consider the following example:
Our Lord is seen carrying the entire cross on the way
to Calvary in the Poem.
Maria Valtorta herself seemed surprised. She comments that others say Our
Lord carried only the horizontal
beam. But she had to describe what she saw.
Different visionaries are shown different aspects of
the supernatural realities.
The Venerable Mary of Agreda writes in the
City of God (Vol. 5, pg.
304): "I was made acquainted with the many contrary opinions of
ecclesiastical historians concerning things which I am describing as, for
instance, the departure of the Apostles from Jerusalem... But I have no
commission from the Lord to clear up these and other doubts, or to decide
controversies... If what I write follows naturally and
does not contradict in any way the sacred text, and at the same time
maintains the dignity corresponding to the matter, I cannot undertake to
add to the authenticity of this history, and
Christian piety will ask for no more."
Those who read such works in
a spirit of piety indeed
ask for no more.
If one saint sees Our Lord carrying only one beam, and
another sees Him with the entire cross, one
may be factual and the other symbolical. The
entire cross symbolizes better than a beam the death He was to endure.
Moreover it symbolizes much better His own words: "If I be lifted up I
will draw all men to Myself" That is what He was carrying: ALL of US. That
is why He was going to Calvary. The truth is in the Scriptures. There is
only additional light in the visions, a light clearly seen by those
sincerely seeking to understand what the Scriptures reveal.
One thing is certain: In the Poem
we know that what we read (barring
faults of translation from the original Italian, some of which are
unfortunate) is what Maria
Valtorta heard and saw. She herself,
while seeing and hearing, wrote it down.
Why Different Accountes?
There are at least three reasons why different
visionaries may see the same event, even the same scene, in different ways
(always for our benefit).
1) Some depict unseen truths;
2) God intends that we look
beyond the visible facts to
their meaning; 3) Some visions are symbolical.
In the case of the life of Our Lord, on
the supernatural level, things are happening which we cannot see. If
some vision does not show St. Joseph with Mary at the moment she greeted
her cousin Elizabeth, was he not there in spirit? Indeed, by his love and
in his thoughts, was He ever absent from Her?
Emmerich saw Our Ladyís dormition in Ephesus,
and others in Jerusalem. Could She not have been present spiritually (or
even by bi-location) to all whom She loved at the moment of Her transition
- wherever they were? If bi-location was not uncommon with ordinary
saints, how much more likely in the case of Our Lady! No single vision
could show all that really
But even more, does not the very fact of different images
cry out to us: ĎLook beyond
the images!í Do not read
out of curiosity. Read to understand.
Therese Neumann saw her pastor, Father Naber, at the
foot of the Cross in one of her visions of the crucifixion. Was he really
there? At the actual crucifixion 2,000 years ago, no. At the crucifixion
renewed in the Mass, of course! And all of us have that privilege. That
is the message... so much more important than what is seen.
No Real Contradictions
At first it may be disconcerting to meet apparently
contradictory statements from persons like Therese Neumann or Ven. Mary of
Agreda, whom we know beyond reasonable doubt to be credible. Many of us
have felt confused, because some saints have seen Our Lord nailed through
the Hands, the Shroud shows the nail marks in the Wrist, some mention
ropes, some do not. Whom should one believe?
They are all correct according to the account in the Poem:
Holes had been drilled in the Cross in advance. After
the first Hand of Our Lord was nailed through the Wrist, it was found that
the other Hand did not reach the pre-drilled hole.
Our Lord was pulled so strenuously that His shoulders
were dislocated, but still the nail had to be put through the Hand ... and
further secured by rope because the Hand could have torn away.
Furthermore, the strain on the other Wrist was so great that the wound
tore down into the base of the Hand. So all were there: Wrist wound (which
shows on the only Hand visible on the Shroud), Hand wound, rope.
And we must always look beyond what is seen. The
stigmata of the saints are comparatively small wounds, not intended to
show the ghastly reality of Calvary, but to be seen as signs of co-
A further illustration of apparent contradiction is
found in the case of Therese Neumannís description of the veil, given to
Our Lord when He was stripped to be crucified. She said:
"A courageous woman takes off her shoulder cloth and
hands it to Him. Ď
That is as much as Father Naber recorded. This seems to
contradict the Poem, which
says that it was Our Lady who
gave Her veil to Jesus. Why would Therese Neumann not say so? Or was there
something Father Faber missed? Why did she exclaim that it was a
These words remind us of the courage of the "Woman", as
Our Lord referred to Her, at the foot of the Gross. She was not, as could
he supposed, immobilised by grief. She was actively
participating with, and in,
the sacrifice of Her Son. How important!
Important to Read With Trust
Reading with trust that God would not deceive His
saints, what might at first appear to be contradictory, becomes profoundly
illuminating. In this case, Maria Valtorta describes the event. Therese
Neumannís exclamation further illuminates it.
Our Lord has revealed Himself more and more during the
past 2,000 years. And now, when there is much confusion, He has given us
this great gift, The Poem of
Until I read the Poem, I had
begun to think it was impossible - this side of Heaven - to really KNOW
Jesus as God and man, both natures operative in one person.
But little by little the Poem reveals
Jesus in action from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour, and we begin
to grasp WHO He is. Little by little we are overwhelmed by the realization
that God truly is LOVE, and that Jesus is God, Who has become incarnate to
redeem us, and to reveal to us Infinite Love.
That having been said, it remains that the reality cannot
be summarized in a paragraph. It is to be found in the more than three
thousand pages of the Poem.
Having struggled - like millions before me - with the
mystery of the dual nature of Jesus, I said one day to Bishop Venancio,
before I myself had begun to read the Poem: "Does it help you to
understand Jesus at once as God and man?"
The holy bishop (and let it he remembered he was a
learned theologian who had taught dogmatic theology at the university in
Rome) seemed to be looking into the Divine Light, as he sighed: " Oh,
more and more"
Most who read the Poem will
have this experience. They will discover Jesus. But how... except by those
more than 3,000 pages... will they he able to tell others what He is
He Grew In Knoweldge
One of the problems most of us face, in trying to
understand Jesus, is the fact that He was omniscient as God, but as a man
He had to learn.
In the Poem, sometimes
when the apostles asked: ĎDo you know this road, Master?", He would reply
that He did not. Yet many times He journeyed to be at a certain place at a
precise time he was needed. Sometimes
He knew. Sometimes He did not. And perhaps
here, more than in any other circumstance, we have the key to
understanding Him, as we see Him living and speaking in the pages of the Poem.
Blessed Anne Marie Taigiís miraculous light gives us an
This saint had constantly at her side what could be
best described as "supernatural television"
(television being from the
Greek word meaning to see what is far away). It was a globe of light
beneath a crown of thorns, framed on both sides by long thorns.
The light was borne by an angel, who apparently told
Anne Marie when to look into it. When she obeyed, she would see events of
the present and the future - sometimes events of world-shaking importance,
and sometimes an event as ordinary as that of a husband and wife
quarrelling, in need of help.
For Jesus, the light was His own Omniscience. As man
(since He came into the world to be like us in everything but sin), He lived
by the Will of his Father. He
looked into the Light of His Omniscience only
when He knew it was His Fatherís Will that
He know something He could not know merely by human faculties.
What Lessons For Us All!
During His first thirty years, it was apparently the
Will of His Father that, even though He knew Who He was, He lived most
of His childhood as though blind to
His Omniscience. The people of Nazareth, who must have felt that they
really knew Him, had no idea whatever who He really was. For 30 years!
This included even his four cousins, two of whom were educated with Him.
The older brothers and their father reproached Jesus when He first began
His public life.
The Poem says
that St. Joseph lived by faith, without ever having seen the miracles of
his foster Son. Scriptures confirm that Jesus performed his first miracle
Oh! What lessons for us all! The
ordinary circumstances of life are
our means of sanctification. Holy fulfillment (which is sanctification) of
every-day activities is the alpha and omega of holiness.
Oh! Blessed Poem which
reveals this reality!
Consider again that the Poem remarks
that St. Joseph lived by faith - as do we all - having never seen the
miracles of Jesus. Then note again that the Scriptures say that Our Lordís first
miracle was at Cana. From
this we may gather that Dr. Jerry Falwell was not far from the truth, when
he expressed the belief that Our Lord as a child seemed, and was, like any
normal child of His town. (Although, had he read the Poem, I donít
think Dr. Falwell would have used the word "frolicking.") And Dr. Falwell,
like many enlightened Protestants today, is firmly secure in his belief
that Jesus was God.
The Poem does
not replace the gospels - as almost every scholar who has commented on it
repeats over and over - but enhances them. Indeed, the more we read the Poem the
more we feel a real need to read
the Bible, both the Old Testament and the new. One thousand and six
hundred and thirty five times
in the Poem, Our Lord quotes from the Old Testament. A Benedictine Abbot
in Georgia completed the laborious task of identifying all 1,635
references. Many read the Poem with
the bible and the Abbotís list at hand.
Leads Us To Read Scripture
The Poem often
leads us to a certain moment, and simply adds: "What
followed is as told in the Gospel." And
how very often
(1,635 times!) Jesus, speaking to the people of Judea and Samaria, refers
in detail to passages in the Old Testament, passages with which all Jews
were familiar. How woefully ignorant those who do not read scripture must
feel, as they read these many important references, while recalling that
Jesus said all the
prophecies were marvelously fulfilled in Him.
It is with good reason that, while approving the Poem
for general reading, the
Holy See warns that it is NOT "revelation." It does not replace or even
add to "public revelation." It is essentially like all those other books
about the Life of Our Lord which are approved by the Church as pious
reading, to help us to a better knowledge and deeper love of Him.
But with Fr. Roschini, that learned author of 125
books, we can say that all the other books give us little more than a
paper image of the living, real Person of Jesus we find in the Poem.
We have already suggested that a childlike attitude and
a truly open mind, plus a sincere desire really to know Our Lord, will
best prepare us to experience this great work.
Pope Pius XII, after
reading the Poem, told
the Servite Fathers to publish it, saying: "Those
who read it will understand." His
Holiness further instructed that they "Publish
the work as it is. There
is no need to give an opinion about its origin, whether it he
extraordinary or not. Those who read will understand. One hears of many
visions and revelations. I will not say they are all authentic, but there
are some of which it can be said they are authentic."
Cardinal Gagnon certified that the above was a
papal imprimatur, given before two witnesses (whose
meeting with the Pope was reported in the Vatican newspaper).
As one who first struggled to read the Italian edition,
then read all ten
volumes in French and finally the English edition, over and over, I have
not found it necessary to keep the words of Pius XII in mind. I
experienced them. If there is a passage difficult to understand, or which
seems quite different from what might be expected, it can become clear
with prayerful thought and a sincere desire that Jesus make Himself known
There are some passages (very few) which critics
delight to take out of context. It
is important to read through.
At first, curiosity
will cause you to rush through. You will think you have READ the Poem, and
you will have only sampled it. It is likely that the few critics of the Poem have sampled
not enough. But they must
admit it is a wondrous work, even if it
were not supernatural.
Those of us who read as
Pope Pius XII advised, will find the truth of his words: "Those
who read it (with a sincere desire
to know) will understand."