Anne Catherine Emmerich

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Bl. Anna Katharina Emmerick or Anne Catherine Emmerich (English). Early painting.
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Birthplace of Anne Catherine Emmerich in Coesfeld-Flamschen
Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (German: Anna Katharina Emmerick, born September 8, 1774 - died February 9, 1824) was a Roman Catholic Augustinian nun, stigmatic, mystic, visionary and ecstatic. She was born in Flamschen, a farming community at Coesfeld, in the Diocese of Münster, Westphalia, Germany and died in Dülmen, aged 49. She was beatified on October 3 2004, by Pope John Paul II.

Early life

Her parents were very poor. At twelve she was bound out to a farmer, and later was a seamstress for several years. She was sent to study music, but finding the organist's family very poor she gave them the little she had saved to enter a convent, and waited on them as a servant for several years.

Religious life

In 1802, aged 28, she entered the Augustinian convent at Agnetenberg, Dülmen. Her sisters came to believe that she had received supernatural favors, mostly as a result of multiple ecstasies she appeared to experience. When Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia suppressed the convent in 1812 she found refuge in a widow's house. There, the sick and poor came to her for help, and according to contemporaries she supernaturally knew what their diseases were, and prescribed cures.

Stigmata

In 1813 she was confined to bed, and stigmata were reported on her body. Her life and the claims regarding her miraculous signs were examined by an episcopal commission. The vicar-general, the Overberg, and three physicians conducted the investigation. They were reportedly convinced of her sanctity and the genuineness of the stigmata.

At the end of 1818 Emmerich stated that God granted her prayer to be relieved of the stigmata, and the wounds in her hands and feet closed, but the others remained, and on Good Friday all were wont to reopen.

In 1819 Emmerich was investigated again. She was forcibly removed to a large room in another house and kept under strict surveillance day and night for three weeks, away from all her friends except her confessor.

Alternative explanations for the stigmata

At the onset of her mystical visions, Emmerich experienced what she described as severe head pain, visualised as Christ's crown of thorns from the crucifixion. If her afflictions were not induced by self-neglect and her own obsessiveness, then it might be argued that Emmerich had undiagnosed neurological problems, which might also explain haemorrhaging. However, there is not such a disease with continuous blood flow described in medicine. She also related subcutaneous crosses at her chest, which may suggest some form of cardiovascular malformation: an alternative explanation might be subcutaneous lesions caused by the development of cancer. These might provide a conventional explanation for her poor health throughout her life. However, most cancers would kill somebody in a few years.

To state this should not be considered as necessarily impugning the purported sanctity of her life. Instead, some might consider it as a tribute to her endurance and faith that she was able to fulfill her vocational duties as a nun for a prolonged period, despite her increasing infirmity.

Visions

Holy Trinity as seen by Anne Catherine Emmerich in her visions


Anne Catherine Emmerich said that as a child she had had visions, in which she talked with Jesus, had seen the souls in Purgatory, for whom she prayed, and also the Holy Trinity in the form of three concentric interpenetrating full spheres - the biggest but less lit sphere represented the Father, the medium sphere the Son, and the smallest and most lit sphere the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church later came to accept her claims as factual.

Clemens Brentano and the publication of the visions

At the time of her second examination in 1819, the famous poet Clemens Brentano was induced to visit her; to his great amazement she recognized him, and he claimed she told him he had been pointed out to her as the man who was to enable her to fulfill God's command, namely, to write down for the good of innumerable souls the revelations made to her. Brentano became one of Emmerich's many supporters at the time, believing her to be a "chosen Bride of Christ".

From 1819 until her death in 1824 Brentano recorded her visions, filling forty volumes. According to his account, he took down briefly in writing the main points, and, as she spoke the Westphalian dialect, he immediately rewrote them in standard German. He would read what he wrote to her, and made changes until she gave her complete approval. According to modern research, he however intermingled her utterances with poetical passage, making it hard to judge the exactitude of the records. Brentano gave detailed scenes and passages from the New Testament and the life of the Virgin Mary. The published visions go into slight details, which enhance their vividness and hold the reader's interest as one graphic scene follows another in rapid succession as if visible to the physical eye.

After 1824, Brentano edited his records for publication and in 1833 he published his first volume, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich. Brentano then prepared The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary From the Visions of Anna Catherine Emmerich for publication, but died in 1842. The book was published posthumously in 1852 in Munich.

Catholic priest Father Karl Schmoger edited Brentano's manuscripts and from 1858 to 1880 published the three volumes of The Life of Our Lord. In 1881 a large illustrated edition followed, Schmoger also penned a biography of Anne Catherine Emmerich in two volumes, which has been republished in English language editions.

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich had never been to Ephesus, yet visions contained in The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary were used during the discovery of the House of the Virgin Mary, Saint Mary's supposed home prior to her Assumption, located on a hill near Ephesus. The Holy See has taken no official position on the authenticity of the location yet, but in 1896 Pope Leo XIII visited it and in 1951 Pope Pius XII initially declared the house a Holy Place. Pope John XXIII later made the declaration permanent. Pope Paul VI in 1967, Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 visited the house and treated it as a shrine.

The records of her visions of Jesus and Mary as written by Brentano (to which the Vatican is raising no objection) can be contrasted with other cases where visionaries claim “direct dictation” from Jesus, e.g. the writings of Maria Valtorta and Vassula Ryden.

Death and burial

Anne Catherine Emmerich died on 9 February, 1824 in Dülmen and was buried in the graveyard outside the town. In 1975, after her beatification proceedings were reopened, her bones were moved to the crypt of nearby Church of the Holy Cross.

Beatification

A first process of beatification began in 1892, but was delayed mainly because of concerns about historical and theological errors contained in the books published by Clemens Brentano. The process was suspended in 1928, but reopened in 1973 and finally closed in 2004. The commission charged with the proceedings declared that the beatification concerned itself only with the sanctity of the person and not with the veracity of Brentano's books, though these were declared free of dogmatic errors and profitable to read. On October 3 2004 Anne Catherine Emmerich was beatified by Pope John Paul II. [1]

Controversy

Currently, Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions receive particular veneration from Traditionalist Catholics. Some of these, concerned about the present state of the Catholic Church, argue that they describe the future of the Catholic Church lapsing into syncreticism and indifferentism (a "grey church into which all denominations and religions go, a true community of the unholy") and the Holy See subverted by active Freemasons in the hierarchy and hostile political forces, culminating in the destruction of St. Peter's Basilica. They argue that the visions prescribe the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration as remedies. Other Catholics state they find these attributions questionable.

In 2003 actor Mel Gibson, himself a traditionalist Catholic, brought Anne Catherine Emmerich's vision to prominence again as he used the Dolorous Passion as an additional source for his movie The Passion of the Christ. The movie has been subject to some controversy and via a "spill over effect" some controversy has been indirectly attributed to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, at times by those who have not read her visions. Gibson's movie (and by association the Dolorous Passion) have been criticized as anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith. Some Catholics have suggested that the movie's depiction of Jews conflicts with current political guidelines on Catholic-Jewish relations. The irony that can not be escaped, however, is that the said Catholics who are primarily concerned about political correctness can be seen as the "graying of beliefs" trend that Emmerich's visions warned about.

It has also been suggested that in the Dolorous Passion, some passages can be read to attribute supernatural motivation for Jewish antagonism toward Christ during the crucifixion, and allege that this antipathy has intrinsic demonic grounds that pervade their very beings. Yet others point out that such referrals can also be read as referring to human nature in general, and not to some intrinsic "Jewishness". However, the debate about the wording may well be beside the point, since the words used were those of Brentano, and the focus of Emmerich's visions should be the facts expressed rather than the words used to express them.

Notes

1. ^ [1] Zenit News Agency article of 3 October 2004

Bibliography

English editions of Emmerich's visions

  • Emmerich, Anna Catherine: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publications, 1983. ISBN 0-89555-210-8.
  • Emmerich, Anna Catherine: The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Anna Catherine Emmerich: Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publications, 1970.
  • Emmerich, Anna Catherine: The Bitter Passion and the Life of Mary: From the Visions of Anna Catherine Emmerich: As Recorded in the Journals of Clemens Brentano. Fresno, California: Academy Library Guild, 1954.

Literature

  • Karl Schmoger: Life of Anna Katherina Emmerich. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publications, 1974. ISBN 089555061X (set); 0895550598 (volume 1); 0895550601 (volume 2)
  • Paula Frederickson (ed.): On the Passion of the Christ''. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006.
  • Kathleen Corley and Robert Webb (ed.): Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. The Film, the Gospel and the Claims of History''. London: Continuum, 2004. ISBN 0-8264-7781-X
  • Thomas Wegener: Life of Sister Anna Katherina Emmerich: New York: Benziger Brothers: 1898.

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