Today we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, mystic, visionary, stigmatist, and prophet. This is not a memorial which will be celebrated in most churches, so I thought I’d write a bit about her for your learning and mine.
I knew little about Anne Catherine Emmerich, but her name always caught my eye because we share the same first and middle name – same spelling and everything. A couple of other facts – that she had visions of Jesus and that she lived on the Eucharist alone for many years summed up my complete incomplete knowledge. I do know that when the movie, The Passion of the Christ, was written and directed, researchers used her writings.
Anne was born on Our Lady’s birthday, September 8, 1774, to a poor family in Westphalia, Germany. A pious, but not particularly healthy child, she received prophesies and visions so frequently that she thought all children could see them – Jesus, Our Lady, their guardian angles, the saints, and the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Seems funny to us regular folks, but it must have been quite perplexing for that little girl.
At 28 she entered the Augustinian convent. Her frequent ecstasies in church or in her cell bothered the sisters around her. Nonetheless, and in spite of poor health, she carried out her duties faithfully and with joy. When the King of Westphalia, Jerome Bonaparte, closed the convent in 1812, she was forced to leave and found lodging at a poor widow’s house.
Endowed with great spiritual gifts, she blessed those around her. Sick people who came to her received an accurate diagnose of their illness and a presecription for what they needed to do to get better. She had great compassion for those who suffered, and she prayed and sacrificed much for them, especially for the souls in Purgatory who visited her often. She even prophesied of the downfall of Napoleon 12 years before it happened!
One year after finding quarter with the widow, she became bedridden and soon received the stigmata, including the crown of thorns and crosses on her breast. All wounds were visible, and as much as she tried, she was unable to hide them. Naturally, the local church inquired, and after a thorough investigation affirmed her holiness and the authenticity of the stigmata. In 1818, the Lord answered her prayer and closed the wounds on her hands and feet, but the others stayed. On Good Fridays, all wounds opened up again.
The following year, the government decided they needed to investigate. The commission treated her badly, insulting and threatening her and separating her from others. At the end of three weeks, they drew no conclusion and disbanded the commission. The locals taunted the officials who refused to publish a verdict.
Around the same time, she met a well-known poet, Klemens Brentano, who came to visit her. Although she had never met him, she recognized him and called him by name. God had pointed him out to Anne as the person who would write down God’s revelations to her. He became a very effective and efficient scribe, and in the process was won over by her purity, humility, and patience in suffering.
In 1833, Brentano published “The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich” and readied “The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary” for publication, but it was delayed until 1852.
Her visions go into details, often slight, which give them a vividness that strongly holds the reader’s interest as one graphic scene follows another in rapid succession as if visible to the physical eye. Other mystics are more concerned with ideas, she with events; others stop to meditate aloud and to guide the reader’s thoughts, she lets the facts speak for themselves with the simplicity, brevity, and security of a Gospel narrative. Her treatment of that difficult subject, the twofold nature of Christ, is admirable. His humanity stands out clear and distinct, but through it shines always a gleam of the Divine. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Brentano’s writings spread quickly though Germany, France, and Italy, without any controversy attached to them – quite unusual.
After living only on the Eucharist and water for more than 10 years, Blessed Anne Catherine died on February 9, 1824. A rumor that her body had been stolen caused officials to open her grave six weeks after she died. Not only was her body in the grave, but it was found incorrupt. Pope John Paul II beatified her on October 3, 2004.
Because Our Lord told Anne that her gift of seeing the past, present, and future in mystic vision was greater than that possessed by anyone else in history, I thought you might like to see some of the things she wrote. (source)
All over the world I saw numberless infusions of the Spirit; sometimes, like a lightning-stroke, falling on a congregation in church, and I could tell who among them had received the grace; or again, I beheld individuals praying in their homes, suddenly endowed with light and strength. The sight awoke in me great joy and confidence that the Church, amid her ever-increasing tribulations, will not succumb; for in all parts of the world I saw defenders raised up to her by the Holy Ghost. Yes, I felt that the oppression of the powers of this world serves but to increase her strength.
She (Our Lady) said what is most painful for me to repeat, that if only one priest offered the Unbloody Sacrifice as worthily and with the same sentiments as the Apostles, he could ward off all calamities from the Church.
The poor souls suffer inexpressibly.
Many stay a long time in purgatory who, although not great sinners, have lived tepidly.
The prayer most pleasing to God is that made for others and particularly for the poor souls. Pray for them, if you want your prayers to bring high interest.
She describes the nature, extent and power of victim souls, and their role in the life of the Church. She describes the condition of St. Lydwine of Schiedam, a victim soul during the time of “three popes,” and how her body came apart into three pieces, joined only by the slenderest of sinews. She saw only 6 victim souls in her time working like herself on behalf of the Universal Church, and about 100,000 Catholic people worldwide who were great in their faith.
I don’t know about you, but that last one is sobering.
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, pray for us! Anne
For your further reading: