Mystic and writer
Precisely at the beginning of 1943, when Maria, who had been infirm for nine years, was thinking she had consummated every sacrifice and was close to the end, Father Migliorini, a Servite religious who had been directing her for several months, asked her to write her memoirs. After hesitating, she agreed and, spontaneously, sitting in bed, filled seven notebooks with her own handwriting in less than two months, displaying great talent as a writer, but also opening up her soul in an intimacy without concealment.
She seemed to have freed herself from her past, consigned to those 760 handwritten pages entrusted to her confessor, and was preparing for death with greater trust when a voice already familiar to her spirit dictated to her a page of divine wisdom, which was the sign of an unimaginable turn of events. It was April 23, 1943, Good Friday.
From her room Maria called the faithful Marta and, displaying a sheet in her hands, brought her to understand that something extraordinary had happened. She had her call Father Migliorini, who was not long in coming. No one has ever known the content of the secret conversation which ensued, but it has always been said that the religious reassured the woman he was assisting concerning the supernatural origin of the “dictation” and asked her to write down anything else she “received.” And he went on providing her with notebooks.
She wrote almost every day until 1947 and intermittently in the following years until 1951. The notebooks increased to 122 (in addition to the seven for the Autobiography), and the handwritten pages, to about 15,000.
Always sitting in bed, she would write with a fountain pen in the notebook resting on her knees and placed upon the writing board she had made herself. She did not prepare outlines, did not even know what she would write from one day to another, and did not reread to correct. She had no need to concentrate or to consult books, except for the Bible and the catechism of Pius X. She could be interrupted for any reason, even a trivial one, and resumed writing without losing the thread of the text. The acute phases of her suffering or the impelling need to rest did not cause her to halt, for at times she would have to write even at night. She partook with her whole self in the narrative flowing from her pen as a gifted writer, but if theological subjects were involved, she might not understand their deep meaning. She would often call Marta, taking her away from her household chores, and read to her what she had written.
She did not stop even when, with the fury of the second world war, she was forced to evacuate to Sant’Andrea di Compito (a hamlet in the town of Capannori in the province of Lucca), where she was transplanted with the furniture from her room as an infirm person and with the burden of new sufferings, from April to December 1944.
Especially in Viareggio, her occupation as a full-time writer did not isolate her from the world, and she followed events by way of the press and the radio. Nor did she evade her duties as a citizen, to the point that in the political elections of 1948 she had herself taken in an ambulance to the polling station. She received only friends and later on had some important visitors, but she did not neglect correspondence, which was particularly abundant with a cloistered nun, a Carmelite, whom she regarded as a spiritual mother.
She prayed and suffered, but tried not to let this be seen. Her prayers were preferably secret, and her ecstasies, detectable on the basis of her personal writings, were witnessed by no one. Protected by a healthy appearance, she did not let her harsh and continual sufferings—embraced with spiritual joy out of a longing to redeem—leak out. She requested and obtained the grace of not bearing the manifest signs of her sharing in Christ’s passion impressed upon her body.
She looked like a normal person, though infirm. She offered herself for the womanly or domestic tasks which may be performed while remaining in bed, like embroidering, preparing vegetables, or cleaning the bird cage. She even took care of personal hygiene on her own: it was enough for them to give her the necessary elements. She sometimes sang, and she had a lovely voice.