The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
From the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich
Copyright Notice: This ebook was prepared from the 20th edition of this book, which was published in 1904 by Benziger Brothers in New York. The copyright for that edition is expired and the text is in the public domain. This ebook is not copyrighted and is also in the public domain.
PREFACE TO THE FRENCH TRANSLATION. BY THE ABBE DE CAZALES.
The writer of this Preface was travelling in Germany, when he chanced to meet with a book, entitled, The History of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, which appeared to him both interesting and edifying. Its style was unpretending, its ideas simple, its tone unassuming, its sentiments unexaggerated, and its every sentence expressive of the most complete and entire submission to the Church. Yet, at the same time, it would have been difficult anywhere to meet with a more touching and lifelike paraphrase of the Gospel narrative. He thought that a book possessing such qualities deserved to be known on this side the Rhine, and that there could be no reason why it should not be valued for its own sake, independent of the somewhat singular source whence it emanated.
Still, the translator has by no means disguised to himself that this work is written, in the first place, for Christians; that is to say, for men who have the right to be very diffident in giving credence to particulars concerning facts which are articles of faith; and although he is aware that St. Bonaventure and many others, in their paraphrases of the Gospel history, have mixed up traditional details with those given in the sacred text, even these examples have not wholly reassured him. St. Bonaventure professed only to give a paraphrase, whereas these revelations appear to be something more. It is certain that the holy maiden herself gave them no higher title than that of dreams, and that the transcriber of her narratives treats as blasphemous the idea of regarding them in any degree as equivalent to a fifth Gospel; still it is evident that the confessors who exhorted Sister Emmerich to relate what she saw, the celebrated poet who passed four years near her couch, eagerly transcribing all he heard her say, and the German Bishops, who encouraged the publication of his book, considered it as something more than a paraphrase. Some explanations are needful on this head.
The writings of many Saints introduce us into a new, and, if I may be allowed the expression, a miraculous world. In all ages there have been revelations about the past, the present, the future, and even concerning things absolutely inaccessible to the human intellect. In the present day men are inclined to regard these revelations as simple hallucinations, or as caused by a sickly condition of body.
The Church, according to the testimony of her most approved writers, recognises three descriptions of ecstasy; of which the first is simply natural, and entirely brought about by certain physical tendencies and a highly imaginative mind; the second divine or angelic, arising from intercourse held with the supernatural world; and the third produced by infernal agency. (See, on this head, the work of Cardinal Bona, De Discretione Spirituum.) Lest we should here write a book instead of a preface, we will not enter into any development of this doctrine, which appears to us highly philosophical, and without which no satisfactory explanation can be given on the subject of the soul of man and its various states.
The Church directs certain means to be employed to ascertain by what spirit these ecstasies are produced, according to the maxim of St. John: 'Try the spirits, if they be of God.' (1 Jn 4:1). When circumstances or events claiming to be supernatural have been properly examined according to certain rules, the Church has in all ages made a selection from them.
Many persons who have been habitually in a state of ecstasy have been canonised, and their books approved. But this approbation has seldom amounted to more than a declaration that these books contained nothing contrary to faith, and that they were likely to promote a spirit of piety among the faithful. For the Church is only founded on the word of Christ and on the revelations made to the Apostles. Whatever may since have been revealed to certain saints possesses purely a relative value, the reality of which may even be disputed—it being one of the admirable characteristics of the Church, that, though inflexibly one in dogma, she allows entire liberty to the human mind in all besides. Thus, we may believe private revelations, above all, when those persons to whom they were made have been raised by the Church to the rank of Saints publicly honoured, invoked, and venerated; but, even in these cases, we may, without ceasing to be perfectly orthodox, dispute their authenticity and divine origin. It is the place of reason to dispute and to select as it sees best.
With regard to the rule for discerning between the good and the evil spirit, it is no other, according to all theologians, than that of the Gospel. A fructibus eorum cognoscetis eos. By their fruits you shall know them. It must be examined in the first place whether the person who professes to have revelations mistrusts what passes within himself; whether he would prefer a more common path; whether far from boasting of the extraordinary graces which he receives, he seeks to hide them, and only makes them known through obedience; and, finally, whether he is continually advancing in humility, mortification, and charity. Next, the revelations themselves must be very closely examined into; it must be seen whether there is anything in them contrary to faith; whether they are conformable to Scripture and Apostolic tradition; and whether they are related in a headstrong spirit, or in a spirit of entire submission to the Church.
Whoever reads the life of Anne Catherine Emmerich, and her book, will be satisfied that no fault can be found in any of these respects either with herself or with her revelations. Her book resembles in many points the writings of a great number of saints, and her life also bears the most striking similitude to theirs. To be convinced of this fact, we need but study the writings or what is related of Saints Francis of Assisi, Bernard, Bridget, Hildegard, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius, John of the Cross, Teresa, and an immense number of other holy persons who are less known. So much being conceded, it is clear that in considering Sister Emmerich to have been inspired by God's Holy Spirit, we are not ascribing more merit to her book than is allowed by the Church to all those of the same class. They are all edifying, and may serve to promote piety, which is their sole object. We must not exaggerate their importance by holding as an absolute fact that they proceed from divine inspiration, a favour so great that its existence in any particular case should not be credited save with the utmost circumspection.
With regard, however, to our present publication, it may be urged that, considering the superior talents of the transcriber of Sister Emmerich's narrations, the language and expressions which he has made use of may not always have been identical with those which she employed. We have no hesitation whatever in allowing the force of this argument. Most fully do we believe in the entire sincerity of M. Clement Brentano, because we both know and love him, and, besides, his exemplary piety and the retired life which he leads, secluded from a world in which it would depend but on himself to hold the highest place, are guarantees amply sufficient to satisfy any impartial mind of his sincerity. A poem such as he might publish, if he only pleased, would cause him to be ranked at once among the most eminent of the German poets, whereas the office which he has taken upon himself of secretary to a poor visionary has brought him nothing but contemptuous raillery. Nevertheless, we have no intention to assert that in giving the conversations and discourses of Sister Emmerich that order and coherency in which they were greatly wanting, and writing them down in his own way, he may not unwittingly have arranged, explained, and embellished them. But this would not have the effect of destroying the originality of the recital, or impugning either the sincerity of the nun, or that of the writer.
The translator professes to be unable to understand how any man can write for mere writing's sake, and without considering the probable effects which his work will produce. This book, such as it is, appears to him to be at once unusually edifying, and highly poetical. It is perfectly clear that it has, properly speaking, no literary pretensions whatever. Neither the uneducated maiden whose visions are here relate, nor the excellent Christian writer who had published them in so entire a spirit of literary disinterestedness, ever had the remotest idea of such a thing. And yet there are not, in our opinion, many highly worked-up compositions calculated to produce an effect in any degree comparable to that which will be brought about by the perusal of this unpretending little work. It is our hope that it will make a strong impression even upon worldlings, and that in many hearts it will prepare the way for better ideas,—perhaps even for a lasting change of life.
In the next place, we are not sorry to call public attention in some degree to all that class of phenomena which preceded the foundation of the Church, which has since been perpetuated uninterruptedly, and which too many Christians are disposed to reject altogether, either through ignorance and want of reflection, or purely through human respect. This is a field which has hitherto been but little explored historically, psychologically, and physiologically; and it would be well if reflecting minds were to bestow upon it a careful and attentive investigation. To our Christian readers we must remark that this work has received the approval of ecclesiastical authorities. It has been prepared for the press under the superintendence of the two late Bishops of Ratisbonne, Sailer and Wittman. These names are but little known in France; but in Germany they are identical with learning, piety, ardent charity, and a life wholly devoted to the maintenance and propagation of the Catholic faith. Many French priests have given their opinion that the translation of a book of this character could not but tend to nourish piety, without, however, countenancing that weakness of spirit which is disposed to lend more importance in some respects to private than to general revelations, and consequently to substitute matters which we are simply permitted to believe, in the place of those which are of faith.
We feel convinced that no one will take offence at certain details given on the subject of the outrages which were suffered by our divine Lord during the course of his passion. Our readers will remember the words of the psalmist: 'I am a worm and no man; the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people;' (Ps 22:6) and those of the Apostle: 'Tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.' (Heb 4:15). Did we stand in need of a precedent, we should request our readers to remember how plainly and crudely Bossuet describes the same scenes in the most eloquent of his four sermons on the Passion of our Lord. On the other hand, there have been so many grand platonic or rhetorical sentences in the books published of late years, concerning that abstract entity; on which the writers have been pleased to bestow the Christian title of the Word, or Logos, that it may be eminently useful to show the Man-God, the Word made flesh, in all the reality of his life on earth, of his humiliation, and of his sufferings. It must be evident that the cause of truth, and still more that of edification, will not be the losers.
The following meditations will probably rank high among many similar works which the contemplative love of Jesus has produced; but it is our duty here plainly to affirm that they have no pretensions whatever to be regarded as history.1 They are but intended to take one of the lowest places among those numerous representations of the Passion which have been given us by pious writers and artists, and to be considered at the very utmost as the Lenten meditations of a devout nun, related in all simplicity, and written down in the plainest and most literal language, from her own dictation. To these meditations, she herself never attached more than a mere human value, and never related them except through obedience, and upon the repeated commands of the directors of her conscience.
The writer of the following pages was introduced to this holy religious by Count Leopold de Stolberg. (The Count de Stolberg is one of the most eminent converts whom the Catholic Church has made from Protestantism. He died in 1819.) Dean Bernard Overberg, her director extraordinary, and Bishop Michael Sailer, who had often been her counsellor and consoler, urged her to relate to us in detail all that she experienced; and the latter, who survived her, took the deepest interest in the arrangement and publication of the notes taken down from her dictation. (The Bishop of Ratisbonne, one of the most celebrated defenders of the faith in Germany.) These illustrious and holy men, now dead, and whose memory is blessed, were in continual communion of prayer with Anne Catherine, whom they loved and respected, on account of the singular graces with which God had favoured her. The editor of this book received equal encouragement, and met with no less sympathy in his labours, from the late Bishop of Ratisbonne, Mgr. Wittman. (Mgr. Wittman was the worthy successor of Sailer, and a man of eminent sanctity, whose memory is held in veneration by all the Catholics of the south of Germany.) This holy Bishop, who was so deeply versed in the ways of Divine grace, and so well acquainted with its effects on certain souls, both from his private investigations of the subject, and his own experience, took the most lively interest in all that concerned Anne Catherine, and on hearing of the work in which the editor of this book was engaged, he strongly exhorted him to publish it. 'These things have not been communicated to you for nothing,' would he often say; 'God had his views in all. Publish something at least of what you know, for you will thereby benefit many souls.' He at the same time brought forward various instances from his own experience and that of others, showing the benefit which had been derived from the study of works of a similar character. He delighted in calling such privileged souls as Anne Catherine the marrow of the bones of the Church, according to the expression of St. John Chrysostom, medulla enim hujus mundi sunt, and he encouraged the publication of their lives and writings as far as lay in his power.
The editor of this book being taken by a kind friend to the dying bed of the holy Bishop, had no reason whatever to expect to be recognised, as he had only once in his life conversed with him for a few minutes; nevertheless the dying saint knew him again, and after a few most kind words blessed and exhorted him to continue his work for the glory of God.
Encouraged by the approbation of such men, we therefore yield to the wishes of many virtuous friends in publishing the Meditations on the Passion, of this humble religious, to whom God granted the favour of being at times simple, ingenuous, and ignorant as a child, while at others she was clear sighted, sensible, possessed of a deep insight into the most mysterious and hidden things, and consumed with burning and heroic zeal, but ever forgetful of self, deriving her whole strength from Jesus alone, and steadfast in the most perfect humility and entire self-abnegation.
We give our readers a slight sketch of her life, intending at some future day to publish her biography more in full.
The Life Of Anne Catherine Emmerich,
Religious Of The Order Of St. Augustine,
At The Convent Of Agnetenberg, Dulmen, Westphalia.
Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich2 was born at Flamske, a village situated about a mile and a half from Coesfeld, in the bishopric of Munster, on the 8th of September 1774, and was baptised in the church of St. James at Coesfeld. Her parents, Bernard Emmerich and Anne Hiller, were poor peasants, but distinguished for their piety and virtue.
The childhood of Anne Catherine bore a striking resemblance to that of the Venerable Anne Garzias de St. Barthelemi, of Dominica del Paradiso, and of several other holy persons born in the same rank of life as herself. Her angel-guardian used to appear to her as a child; and when she was taking care of sheep in the fields, the Good Shepherd himself, under the form of a young shepherd, would frequently come to her assistance. From childhood she was accustomed to have divine knowledge imparted to her in visions of all kinds, and was often favoured by visits from the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, who, under the form of a sweet, lovely, and majestic lady, would bring the Divine Child to be, as it were, her companion, and would assure her that she loved and would ever protect her. Many of the saints would also appear to her, and receive from her hands the garlands of flowers which she had prepared in honour of their festivals. All these favours and visions surprised the child less than if an earthly princess and the lords and ladies of her court had come to visit her. Nor was she, later in life, more surprised at these celestial visits, for her innocence caused her to feel far more at her ease with our Divine Lord, his Blessed Mother and the Saints, than she could ever be with even the most kind and amiable of her earthly companions. The names of Father, Mother, Brother, and Spouse, appeared to her expressive of the real connections subsisting between God and man, since the Eternal word had been pleased to be born of a woman, and so to become our Brother, and these sacred titles were not mere words in her mouth.
While yet a child, she used to speak with innocent candour and simplicity of all that she saw, and her listeners would be filled with admiration at the histories she would relate from Holy Writ; but their questions and remarks having sometimes disturbed her peace of mind, she determined to keep silence on such subjects for the future. In her innocence of heart, she thought that it was not right to talk of things of this sort, that other persons never did so, and that her speech should be only Yea, yea, and Nay, nay, or Praise be to Jesus Christ. The visions with which she was favoured were so like realities, and appeared to her so sweet and delightful, that she supposed all Christian children were favoured with the same; and she concluded that those who never talked on such subjects were only more discreet and modest than herself, so she resolved to keep silence also, to be like them.
Almost from her cradle she possessed the gift of distinguishing what was good or evil, holy or profane, blessed or accursed, in material as well as in spiritual things, thus resembling St. Sibyllina of Pavia, Ida of Louvain, Ursula Benincasa, and some other holy souls. In her earliest childhood she used to bring out of the fields useful herbs, which no one had ever before discovered to be good for anything, and plant them near her father's cottage, or in some spot where she was accustomed to work and play; while on the other hand she would root up all poisonous plants, and particularly those ever used for superstitious practices or in dealings with the devil. Were she by chance in a place where some great crime had been committed, she would hastily run away, or begin to pray and do penance. She used also to perceive by intuition when she was in a consecrated spot, return thanks to God, and be filled with a sweet feeling of peace. When a priest passed by with the Blessed Sacrament, even at a great distance from her home or from the place where she was taking care of her flock, she would feel a strong attraction in the direction whence he was coming, run to meet him, and be kneeling in the road, adoring the Blessed Sacrament, long before he could reach the spot.
She knew when any object was consecrated, and experienced a feeling of disgust and repugnance when in the neighbourhood of old pagan cemeteries, whereas she was attracted to the sacred remains of the saints as steel by the magnet. When relics were shown to her, she knew what saints they had belonged to, and could give not only accounts of the minutest and hitherto unknown particulars of their lives, but also histories of the relics themselves, and of the places where they had been preserved. During her whole life she had continual intercourse with the souls in purgatory; and all her actions and prayers were offered for the relief of their sufferings. She was frequently called upon to assist them, and even reminded in some miraculous manner, if she chanced to forget them. Often, while yet very young, she used to be awakened out of her sleep by bands of suffering souls, and to follow them on cold winter's nights with bare feet, the whole length of the Way of the Cross to Coesfeld, though the ground was covered with snow.
From her infancy to the day of her death she was indefatigable in relieving the sick, and in dressing and curing wounds and ulcers, and she was accustomed to give to the poor every farthing she possessed. So tender was her conscience, that the slightest sin she fell into caused her such pain as to make her ill, and absolution then always restored her immediately to health.
The extraordinary nature of the favours bestowed on her by Almighty God was no hindrance in the way of her devoting herself to hard labour, like any other peasant-girl; and we may also be allowed to observe that a certain degree of the spirit of prophecy is not unusually to be found among her country men and women. She was taught in the school of suffering and mortification, and there learned lessons of perfection. She allowed herself no more sleep or food than was absolutely necessary; passed whole hours in prayer every night; and in winter often knelt out of doors on the snow. She slept on the ground on planks arranged in the form of a cross. Her food and drink consisted of what was rejected by others; she always kept the best parts even of that for the poor and sick, and when she did not know of anyone to give them to, she offered them to God in a spirit of child-like faith, begging him to give them to some person who was more in need than herself. When there was anything to be seen or heard which had no reference to God or religion, she found some excuse for avoiding the spot to which others were hastening, or, if there, closed her eyes and ears. She was accustomed to say that useless actions were sinful, and that when we denied our bodily senses any gratification of this kind, we were amply repaid by the progress which we made in the interior life, in the same manner as pruning renders vines and other fruittrees more productive. From her early youth, and wherever she went, she had frequent symbolical visions, which showed her in parables, as it were, the object of her existence, the means of attaining it, and her future sufferings, together with the dangers and conflicts which she would have to go through.
She was in her sixteenth year, when one day, whilst at work in the fields with her parents and sisters, she heard the bell ringing at the Convent of the Sisters of the Annunciation, at Coesfeld. This sound so inflamed her secret desire to become a nun, and had so great an effect upon her, that she fainted away, and remained ill and weak for a long time after. When in her eighteenth year she was apprenticed at Coesfeld to a dressmaker, with whom she passed two years, and then returned to her parents. She asked to be received at the Convents of the Augustinians at Borken, of the Trappists at Darfeld, and of the Poor Clares at Munster; but her poverty, and that of these convents, always presented an insuperable obstacle to her being received. At the age of twenty, having saved twenty thalers (about 3l. English), which she had earned by her sewing, she went with this little sum—a perfect fortune for a poor peasant-girl—to a pious organist of Coesfeld, whose daughter she had known when she first lived in the town. Her hope was that, by learning to play on the organ, she might succeed in obtaining admittance into a convent. But her irresistible desire to serve the poor and give them everything she possessed left her no time to learn music, and before long she had so completely stripped herself of everything, that her good mother was obliged to bring her bread, milk, and eggs, for her own wants and those of the poor, with whom she shared everything. Then her mother said: 'Your desire to leave your father and myself, and enter a convent, gives us much pain; but you are still my beloved child, and when I look at your vacant seat at home, and reflect that you have given away all your savings, so as to be now in want, my heart is filled with sorrow, and I have now brought you enough to keep you for some time.' Anne Catherine replied: 'Yes, dear mother, it is true that I have nothing at all left, because it was the holy will of God that others should be assisted by me; and since I have given all to him, he will now take care of me, and bestow his divine assistance upon us all.' She remained some years at Coesfeld, employed in labour, good works, and prayer, being always guided by the same inward inspirations. She was docile and submissive as a child in the hands of her guardian-angel.
Although in this brief sketch of her life we are obliged to omit many interesting circumstances, there is one which we must not pass over in silence. When about twenty-four years of age, she received a favour from our Lord, which has been granted to many persons devoted in an especial manner to meditation on his painful Passion; namely, to experience the actual and visible sufferings of his sacred Head, when crowned with thorns. The following is the account she herself has given of the circumstances under which so mysterious a favour was bestowed upon her: 'About four years previous to my admittance into the convent, consequently in 1798, it happened that I was in the Jesuits' Church at Coesfeld, at about twelve o'clock in the day, kneeling before a crucifix and absorbed in meditation, when all on a sudden I felt a strong but pleasant heat in my head, and I saw my Divine Spouse, under the form of a young man clothed with light, come towards me from the altar, where the Blessed Sacrament was preserved in the tabernacle. In his left hand he held a crown of flowers, in his right hand a crown of thorns, and he bade me choose which I would have. I chose the crown of thorns; he placed it on my head, and I pressed it down with both hands. Then he disappeared, and I returned to myself, feeling, however, violent pain around my head. I was obliged to leave the church, which was going to be closed. One of my companions was kneeling by my side, and as I thought she might have seen what happened to me, I asked her when we got home whether there was not a wound on my forehead, and spoke to her in general terms of my vision, and of the violent pain which had followed it. She could see nothing outwardly, but was not astonished at what I told her, because she knew that I was sometimes in an extraordinary state, without her being able to understand the cause. The next day my forehead and temples were very much swelled, and I suffered terribly. This pain and swelling often returned, and sometimes lasted whole days and nights. I did not remark that there was blood on my head until my companions told me I had better put on a clean cap, because mine was covered with red spots. I let them think whatever they liked about it, only taking care to arrange my head dress so as to hide the blood which flowed from my head, and I continued to observe the same precaution even after I entered the convent, where only one person perceived the blood, and she never betrayed my secret.'
Several other contemplative persons, especially devoted to the passion of our Lord, have been admitted to the privilege of suffering the torture inflicted by the crown of thorns, after having seen a vision in which the two crowns were offered them to choose between, for instance, among others, St. Catherine of Sienna, and Pasithea of Crogis, a Poor Clare of the same town, who died in 1617.
The writer of these pages may here be allowed to remark that he himself has, in full daylight, several times seen blood flow down the forehead and face, and even beyond the linen wrapped round the neck of Anne Catherine. Her desire to embrace a religious life was at length gratified. The parents of a young person whom the Augustinian nuns of Dulmen wished to receive into their order, declared that they would not give their consent except on condition that Anne Catherine was taken at the same time. The nuns yielded their assent, though somewhat reluctantly, on account of their extreme poverty; and on the 13th November 1802, one week before the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, Anne Catherine entered on her novitiate. At the present day vocations are not so severely tested as formerly; but in her case, Providence imposed special trials, for which, rigorous as they were, she felt she never could be too grateful. Sufferings or privations, which a soul, either alone or in union with others, imposes upon herself, for God's greater glory, are easy to bear; but there is one cross more nearly resembling the cross of Christ than any other, and that is, lovingly and patiently to submit to unjust punishment, rebuffs, or accusations. It was the will of God that during her year's novitiate she should, independently of the will of any creature, be tried as severely as the most strict mistress of novices could have done before any mitigations had been allowed in the rules. She learned to regard her companions as instruments in the hands of God for her sanctification; and at a later period of her life many other things appeared to her in the same light. But as it was necessary that her fervent soul should be constantly tried in the school of the Cross, God was pleased that she should remain in it all her life.
In many ways her position in the convent was excessively painful. Not one of her companions, nor even any priest or doctor, could understand her case. She had learned, when living among poor peasants, to hide the wonderful gifts which God had bestowed on her; but the case was altered now that she was in familiar intercourse with a large number of nuns, who, though certainly good and pious, were filled with ever-increasing feelings of curiosity, and even of spiritual jealousy in her regard. Then, the contracted ideas of the community, and the complete ignorance of the nuns concerning all those exterior phenomena by which the interior life manifests itself, gave her much to endure, the more so, as these phenomena displayed themselves in the most unusual and astonishing manner. She heard everything that was said against her, even when the speakers were at on end of the convent and she at the other, and her heart was most deeply wounded as if by poisoned arrows. Yet she bore all patiently a lovingly without showing that she knew what was said of her. More than once charity impelled her to cast herself at the feet of some nun who was particularly prejudiced against her, and ask her pardon with tears. Then, she was suspected of listening at the doors, for the private feelings of dislike entertained against her became known, no one knew how, and the nuns felt uncomfortable and uneasy, in spite of themselves, when in her company.
Whenever the rule (the minutest point of which was sacred in her eyes) was neglected in the slightest degree, she beheld in spirit each infringement, and at times was inspired to fly to the spot where the rule was being broken by some infringement of the vow of poverty, or disregards of the hours of silence, and she would then repeat suitable passages from the rule, without having ever learned them. She thus became an object of aversion to all those religious who broke the rule; and her sudden appearance among them had almost the effect of apparitions. God had bestowed upon her the gift of tears to so great an extent, that she often passed whole hours in the church weeping over the sins and ingratitude of men, the sufferings of the Church, the imperfections of the community, and her own faults. But these tears of sublime sorrow could be understood by none but God, before whom she shed them, and men attributed them to mere caprice, a spirit of discontent, or some other similar cause. Her confessor had enjoined that she should receive the holy communion more frequently than the other nuns, because, so ardently did she hunger after the bread of angels, that she had been more than once near dying. These heavenly sentiments awakened feelings of jealousy in her sisters, who sometimes even accused her of hypocrisy.
The favour which had been shown her in her admittance into the convent, in spite of her poverty, was also made a subject of reproach. The thought of being thus an occasion of sin to others was most painful to her, and she continually besought God to permit her to bear herself the penalty of this want of charity in her regard. About Christmas, of the year 1802, she had a very severe illness, which began by a violent pain about her heart.
This pain did not leave her even when she was cured, and she bore it in silence until the year 1812, when the mark of a cross was imprinted exteriorly in the same place, as we shall relate further on. Her weakness and delicate health caused her to be looked upon more as burdensome than useful to the community; and this, of course, told against her in all ways, yet she was never weary of working and serving the others, nor was she ever so happy as at this period of her life—spent in privations and sufferings of every description.
On the 13th of November 1803, at the age of twenty-nine, she pronounced her solemn vows, and became the spouse of Jesus Christ, in the Convent of Agnetenberg, at Dulmen. 'When I had pronounced my vows,' she says, 'my relations were again extremely kind to me. My father and my eldest brother brought me two pieces of cloth. My father, a good, but stern man, and who had been much averse to my entering the convent, had told me, when we parted, that he would willingly pay for my burial, but that he would give nothing for the convent; and he kept his word, for this piece of cloth was the winding sheet used for my spiritual burial in the convent.'
'I was not thinking of myself,' she says again, 'I was thinking of nothing but our Lord and my holy vows. My companions could not understand me; nor could I explain my state to them. God concealed from them many of the favours which he bestowed upon me, otherwise they would have had very false ideas concerning me. Notwithstanding all my trials and sufferings, I was never more rich interiorly, and my soul was perfectly flooded with happiness. My cell only contained one chair without a seat, and another without a back; yet in my eyes, it was magnificently furnished, and when there I often thought myself in Heaven. Frequently during the night, impelled by love and by the mercy of God, I poured forth the feelings of my soul by conversing with him on loving and familiar language, as I had always done from my childhood, and then those who were watching me would accuse me of irreverence and disrespect towards God. Once, I happened to say that it appeared to me that I should be guilty of greater disrespect did I receive the Body of our Lord without having conversed familiarly with him, and I was severely reprimanded. Amid all these trials, I yet lived in peace with God and with all his creatures. When I was working in the garden, the birds would come and rest on my head and shoulders, and we would together sing the praises of God. I always beheld my angel-guardian at my side, and although the devil used frequently to assault and terrify me in various ways, he was never permitted to do me much harm. My desire for the Blessed Sacrament was so irresistible, that often at night I left my cell and went to the church, if it was open; but if not, I remained at the door or by the walls, even in winter, kneeling or prostrate, with my arms extended in ecstasy. The convent chaplain, who was so charitable as to come early to give me the Holy Communion, used to find me in this state, but as soon as he was come and had opened the church, I always recovered, and hastened to the holy table, there to receive my Lord and my God. When I was sacristan, I used all on a sudden to feel myself ravished in spirit, and ascend to the highest parts of the church, on to cornices, projecting parts of the building, and mouldings, where it seemed impossible for any being to get by human means. Then I cleaned and arranged everything, and it appeared to me that I was surrounded by blessed spirits, who transported me about and held me up in their hands. Their presence did not cause me the least uneasiness, for I had been accustomed to it from my childhood, and I used to have the most sweet and familiar intercourse with them. It was only when I was in the company of certain men that I was really alone; and so great was then my feeling of loneliness that I could not help crying like a child that has strayed from home.'
We now proceed to her illnesses, omitting any description of some other remarkable phenomena of her ecstatic life, only recommending the reader to compare the accounts we have already given with what is related of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi.
Anne Catherine had always been weak and delicate, and yet had been, from her earliest childhood, in the habit of practising many mortifications, of fasting and of passing the night in watching and prayer in the open air. She had been accustomed to continue hard labour in the fields, at all seasons of the year, and her strength was also necessarily much tried by the exhausting and supernatural states through which she so frequently passed. At the convent she continued to work in the garden and in the house, whilst her spiritual labours and sufferings were ever on the increase, so that it is by no means surprising that she was frequently ill; but her illnesses arose from yet another cause. We have learned, from careful observations made every day for the space of four years, and also from what she herself was unwillingly forced to admit, that during the whole course of her life, and especially during that part of it which she spent at the convent, when she enjoyed the highest spiritual favours, a great portion of her illnesses and sufferings came from taking upon herself the sufferings of others. Sometimes she asked for the illness of a person who did not bear it patiently, and relieved him of the whole or of a part of his sufferings, by taking them upon herself; sometimes, wishing to expiate a sin or put an end to some suffering, she gave herself up into the hands of God, and he, accepting her sacrifice, permitted her thus, in union with the merits of his passion, to expiate the sin by suffering some illness corresponding to it. She had consequently to bear, not only her own maladies, but those also of others—to suffer in expiation of the sins of her brethren, and of the faults and negligences of certain portions of the Christian community—and, finally, to endure many and various sufferings in satisfaction for the souls of purgatory. All these sufferings appeared like real illnesses, which took the most opposite and variable forms, and she was placed entirely under the care of the doctor, who endeavoured by earthly remedies to cure illnesses which in reality were the very sources of her life. She said on this subject—'Repose in suffering has always appeared to me the most desirable condition possible. The angels themselves would envy us, were envy not an imperfection. But for sufferings to bear really meritorious we must patiently and gratefully accept unsuitable remedies and comforts, and all other additional trials. I did not myself fully understand my state, nor know what it was to lead to. In my soul I accepted my different sufferings, but in my body it was my duty to strive against them. I had given myself wholly and entirely to my Heavenly Spouse, and his holy will was being accomplished in me; but I was living on earth, where I was not to rebel against earthly wisdom and earthly prescriptions. Even had I fully comprehended my state, and had both time and power to explain it, there was no one near who would have been able to understand me. A doctor would simply have concluded that I was entirely mad, and would have increased his expensive and painful remedies tenfold. I have suffered much in this way during the whole of my life, and particularly when I was at the convent, from having unsuitable remedies administered to me. Often, when my doctors and nurses had reduced me to the last agony, and that I was near death, God took pity on me, and sent me some supernatural assistance, which effected an entire cure.'
Four years before the suppression of her convent she went to Flamske for two days to visit her parents. Whilst there she went once to kneel and pray for some hours before the miraculous Cross of the Church of St. Lambert, at Coesfeld. She besought the Almighty to bestow the gifts of peace and unity upon her convent, offered him the Passion of Jesus Christ for that intention, and implored him to allow her to feel a portion of the sufferings which were endured by her Divine Spouse on the Cross. From the time that she made this prayer her hands and feet became burning and painful, and she suffered constantly from fever, which she believed was the cause of the pain in her hands and feet, for she did not dare to think that her prayer had been granted. Often she was unable to walk, and the pain in her hands prevented her from working as usual in the garden. On the 3rd December 1811, the convent was suppressed, and the church closed. (Under the Government of Jerome Bonaparte, King of Westphalia.) The nuns dispersed in all directions, but Anne Catherine remained, poor and ill. A kindhearted servant belonging to the monastery attended upon her out of charity, and an aged emigrant priest, who said Mass in the convent, remained also with her. These three individuals, being the poorest of the Community, did not leave the convent until the spring of 1812. She was still very unwell, and could not be moved without great difficulty. The priest lodged with a poor widow who lived in the neighbourhood, and Anne Catherine had in the same house a wretched little room on the ground-floor, which looked on the street. There she lived, in poverty and sickness, until the autumn of 1813. Her ecstasies in prayer, and her spiritual intercourse with the invisible world, became more and more frequent. She was about to be called to a state with which she was herself but imperfectly acquainted, and in order to enter which she did nothing but submissively abandon herself to the will of God. Our Lord was pleased about this time to imprint upon her virginal body the stigmas of his cross and of his crucifixion, which were to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles folly, and to many persons who call themselves Christians, both the one and the other. From her very earliest childhood she had besought our Lord to impress the marks of his cross deeply upon her heart, that so she might never forget his infinite love for men; but she had never thought of receiving any outward marks. Rejected by the world, she prayed more fervently than ever for this end. On the 28th of August, the feast of St. Augustine, the patron of her order, as she was making this prayer in bed, ravished in ecstasy and her arms stretched forth, she beheld a young man approach her surrounded with light. It was under this form that her Divine Spouse usually appeared to her, and he now made upon her body with his right hand the mark of a common cross. From this time there was a mark like a cross upon her bosom, consisting of two bands crossed, about three inches long and one wide. Later the skin often rose in blisters on this place, as if from a burn, and when these blisters burst a burning colourless liquid issued from them, sometimes in such quantities as to soak through several sheets. She was long without perceiving what the case really was, and only thought that she was in a strong perspiration. The particular meaning of this mark has never been known.
Some weeks later, when making the same prayer, she fell into an ecstasy, and beheld the same apparition, which presented her with a little cross of the shape described in her accounts of the Passion. She eagerly received and fervently pressed it to her bosom, and then returned it. She said that this cross was as soft and white as wax, but she was not at first aware that it had made an external mark upon her bosom. A short time after, having gone with her landlady's little girl to visit an old hermitage near Dulmen, she all on a sudden fell into an ecstasy, fainted away, and on her recovery was taken home by a poor peasant woman. The sharp pain which she felt in her chest continued to increase, and she saw that there was what looked like a cross, about three inches in length, pressed tightly upon her breast-bone, and looking red through the skin. As she had spoken about her vision to a nun with whom she was intimate, her extraordinary state began to be a good deal talked of. On All Souls' day, 1812, she went out for the last time, and with much difficulty succeeded in reaching the church. From that time till the end of the year she seemed to be dying, and received the last Sacraments. At Christmas a smaller cross appeared on the top of that upon her chest. It was the same shape as the larger one, so that the two together formed a double forked cross. Blood flowed from this cross every Wednesday, so as to leave the impression of its shape on paper laid over it. After a time this happened on Fridays instead. In 1814 this flow of blood took place less frequently, but the cross became as red as fire every Friday. At a later period of her life more blood flowed from this cross, especially every Good Friday; but no attention was paid to it. On the 30th March 1821, the writer of these pages saw this cross of a deep red colour, and bleeding all over. In its usual state it was colourless, and its position only marked by slight cracks in the skin... Other Ecstaticas have received similar marks of the Cross; among others, Catherine of Raconis, Marina de l' Escobar, Emilia Bichieri, S. Juliani Falconieri, etc.
She received the stigmas on the last days of the year 1812. On the 29th December, about three o'clock in the afternoon, she was lying on her bed in her little room, extremely ill, but in a state of ecstasy and with her arms extended, meditating on the sufferings of her Lord, and beseeching him to allow her to suffer with him. She said five Our Fathers in honour of the Five Wounds, and felt her whole heart burning with love. She then saw a light descending towards her, and distinguished in the midst of it the resplendent form of her crucified Saviour, whose wounds shone like so many furnaces of light. Her heart was overflowing with joy and sorrow, and, at the sight of the sacred wounds, her desire to suffer with her Lord became intensely violent. Then triple rays, pointed like arrows, of the colour of blood, darted forth from the hands, feet, and side of the sacred apparition, and struck her hands, feet, and right side. The triple rays from the side formed a point like the head of a lance. The moment these rays touched her, drops of blood flowed from the wounds which they made. Long did she remain in a state of insensibility, and when she recovered her senses she did not know who had lowered her outstretched arms. It was with astonishment that she beheld blood flowing from the palms of her hands, and felt violent pain in her feet and side. It happened that her landlady's little daughter came into her room, saw her hands bleeding, and ran to tell her mother, who with great anxiety asked Anne Catherine what had happened, but was begged by her not to speak about it. She felt, after having received the stigmas, that an entire change had taken place in her body; for the course of her blood seemed to have changed, and to flow rapidly towards the stigmas. She herself used to say: 'No words can describe in what manner it flows.'
We are indebted to a curious incident for our knowledge of the circumstances which we have here related. On the 15th December 1819, she had a detailed vision of all that had happened to herself, but so that she thought it concerned some other nun who she imagined must be living not far off, and who she supposed had experienced the same things as herself. She related all these details with a very strong feeling of compassion, humbling herself, without knowing it, before her own patience and sufferings. It was most touching to hear her say: 'I ought never to complain anymore, now that I have seen the sufferings of that poor nun; her heart is surrounded with a crown of thorns, but she bears it placidly and with a smiling countenance. It is shameful indeed for me to complain, for she had a far heavier burden to bear than I have.'
These visions, which she afterwards recognised to be her own history, were several times repeated, and it is from them that the circumstances under which she received the stigmas became known. Otherwise she would not have related so many particulars about what her humility never permitted her to speak of, and concerning which, when asked by her spiritual superiors whence her wounds proceeded, the utmost she said was: 'I hope that they come from the hand of God.'
The limits of this work preclude us from entering upon the subject of stigmas in general, but we may observe that the Catholic Church has produced a certain number of persons, St. Francis of Assisi being the first, who have attained to that degree of contemplative love of Jesus which is the most sublime effect of union with his sufferings, and is designated by theologians, Vulnus divinum, Plago amoris viva. There are known to have been at least fifty. Veronica Giuliani, a Capuchiness, who died at Citta di Castello in 1727, is the last individual of the class who has been canonised (on the 26th May 1831). Her biography, published at Cologne in 1810, gives a description of the state of persons with stigmas, which in many ways is applicable to Anne Catherine. Colomba Schanolt, who died at Bamberg in 1787, Magdalen Lorger, who died at Hadamar in 1806, both Dominicanesses, and Rose Serra, a Capuchiness at Ozieri in Sardinia, who received the stigmas in 1801, are those of our own times of whom we know the most. Josephine Kumi, of the Convent of Wesen, near Lake Wallenstadt in Switzerland, who was still living in 1815, also belonged to this class of persons, but we are not entirely certain whether she had the stigmas. 3
Anne Catherine being, as we have said, no longer able to walk or rise from her bed, soon became unable also to eat. Before long she could take nothing but a little wine and water, and finally only pure water; sometimes, but very rarely, she managed to swallow the juice of a cherry or a plum, but she immediately vomited any solid food, taken in ever so small a quantity. This inability to take food, or rather this faculty of living for a great length of time upon nothing but water, we are assured by learned doctors is not quite unexampled in the history of the sick.
Theologians will be perfectly aware that here are many instances of contemplative ascetics, and particularly of persons frequently in a state of ecstasy and who have received the stigmas, remaining long without taking any other food than the Blessed Sacrament; for instance, St. Nicholas of Flue, St. Liduvina of Schiedam, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Angela of Foligno, and St. Louise de l'Ascension. All the phenomena exhibited in the person of Anne Catherine remained concealed even from those who had the most intercourse with her, until the 25th February 1812, when they were discovered accidentally by one of her old convent companions. By the end of March, the whole town talked of them. On the 23rd of March, the physician of the neighbourhood forced her to undergo an examination. Contrary to his expectation, he was convinced of the truth, drew up an official report of what he had seen, became her doctor and her friend, and remained such to her death. On the 28th of March, commissioners were appointed to examine into her case by the spiritual authorities of Munster. The consequence of this was that Anne Catherine was henceforth looked upon kindly by her superiors, and acquired the friendship of the late Dean Overberg, who from that time paid her every year a visit of several days' duration, and was her consoler and spiritual director. The medical counsellor from Druffel, who was present at this examination in the capacity of doctor, never ceased to venerate her. In 1814, he published in the Medical Journal of Salzbourg a detailed account of the phenomena which he had remarked in the person of Anne Catherine, and to this we refer those of our readers who desire more particulars upon the subject. On the 4th of April, M. Garnier, the Commissary-General of the French police, came from Munster to see her; he inquired minutely into her case, and having learned that she neither prophesied nor spoke on politics, declared that there was no occasion for the police to occupy themselves about her. In 1826, he still spoke of her at Paris with respect and emotion.
On the 22nd of July 1813, Overberg came to see her, with Count de Stolberg and his family. They remained two days with her, and Stolberg, in a letter which has been several times printed, bore witness to the reality of the phenomena observed in Anne Catherine, and gave expression to his intense veneration for her. He remained her friend as long as he lived, and the members of his family never ceased recommending themselves to her prayers. On the 29th of September 1813, Overberg took the daughter of the Princess Galitzin (who died in 1806) to visit her, and they saw with their own eyes blood flow copiously from her stigmas. This distinguished lady repeated her visit, and, after becoming Princess of Salm, never varied in her sentiments, but, together with her family, remained in constant communion of prayer with Anne Catherine. Many other persons in all ranks of life were, in like manner, consoled and edified by visiting her bed of suffering. On the 23rd of October 1813, she was carried to another lodging, the window of which looked out upon a garden. The condition of the saintly nun became day by day more painful. Her stigmas were a source of indescribable suffering to her, down to the moment of her death. Instead of allowing her thoughts to dwell upon those graces to the interior presence of which they bore such miraculous outward testimony, she learned from them lessons of humility, by considering them as a heavy cross laid upon her for her sins. Her suffering body itself was to preach Jesus crucified. It was difficult indeed to be an enigma to all persons, an object of suspicion to the greatest number, and of respect mingled with fear to some few, without yielding to sentiments of impatience, irritability, or pride. Willingly would she have lived in entire seclusion from the world, but obedience soon compelled her to allow herself to be examined and to have judgment passed upon her by a vast number of curious persons. Suffering, as she was, the most excruciating pains, she was not even allowed to be her own mistress, but was regarded as something which everyone fancied he had a right to look at and to pass judgment upon,—often with no good results to anyone, but greatly to the prejudice of her soul and body, because she was thus deprived of so much rest and recollection of spirit. There seemed to be no bounds to what was expected of her, and one fat man, who had some difficulty in ascending her narrow winding staircase, was heard to complain that a person like Anne Catherine, who ought to be exposed on the public road, where everyone could see her, should remained in a lodging so difficult to reach. In former ages, persons in her state underwent in private the examination of the spiritual authorities, and carried out their painful vocation beneath the protecting shadow of hallowed walls; but our suffering heroine had been cast forth from the cloister into the world at a time when pride, coldness of heart, and incredulity were all the vogue; marked with the stigmas of the Passion of Christ, she was forced to wear her bloody robe in public, under the eyes of men who scarce believed in the Wounds of Christ, far less in those which were but their images.
Thus this holy woman, who in her youth had been in the habit of praying for long hours before pictures of all the stages of Christ's painful Passion, or before wayside crosses, was herself made like unto a cross on the public road, insulted by one passer by, bathed in warm tears of repentance by a second, regarded as a mere physical curiosity by a third, and venerated by a fourth, whose innocent hands would bring flowers to lay at her feet.
In 1817 her aged mother came from the country to die by her side. Anne Catherine showed her all the love she could by comforting and praying for her, and closing her eyes with her own hands—those hands marked with the stigmas on the 13th of March of the same year. The inheritance left to Anne Catherine by her mother was more than sufficient for one so imbued with the spirit of mortification and sufferings; and in her turn she left it unimpaired to her friends. It consisted of these three sayings:—'Lord, thy will, not mine, be done; ' 'Lord, give me patience, and then strike hard;' 'Those things which are not good to put in the pot are at least good to put beneath it.' The meaning of this last proverb was: If things are not fit to be eaten, they may at least be burned, in order that food may be cooked; this suffering does not nourish my heart, but by bearing it patiently, I may at least increase the fire of divine love, by which alone life can profit us anything. She often repeated these proverbs, and then thought of her mother with gratitude. Her father had died some little time before.
The writer of these pages became acquainted with her state first through reading a copy of that letter of Stolberg, to which we have already alluded, and afterwards through conversation with a friend who had passed several weeks with her. In September 1818 he was invited by Bishop Sailer to meet him at the Count de Stolberg's, in Westphalia; and he went in the first place to Sondermuhlen to see the count, who introduced him to Overberg, from whom he received a letter addressed to Anne Catherine's doctor. He paid her his first visit on the 17th of September 1818; and she allowed him to pass several hours by her side each day, until the arrival of Sailer. From the very beginning, she gave him her confidence to a remarkable extent, and this in the most touching and ingenuous manner. No doubt she was conscious that by relating without reserve the history of all the trials, joys, and sorrows of her whole life, she was bestowing a most precious spiritual alms upon him. She treated him with the most generous hospitality, and had no hesitation in doing so, because he did not oppress her and alarm her humility by excessive admiration. She laid open her interior to him in the same charitable spirit as a pious solitary would in the morning offer the flowers and fruit which had grown in his garden during the night to some way-worn traveller, who, having lost his road in the desert of the world, finds him sitting near his hermitage. Wholly devoted to her God, she spoke in this open manner as a child would have done, unsuspectingly, with no feelings of mistrust, and with no selfish end in view. May God reward her!
Her friend daily wrote down all the observations that he made concerning her, and all that she told him about her life, whether interior or exterior. Her words were characterised alternately by the most childlike simplicity and the most astonishing depth of thought, and they foreshadowed, as it were, the vast and sublime spectacle which later was unfolded, when it became evident that the past, the present, and the future, together with all that pertained to the sanctification, profanation, and judgment of souls, formed before and within her an allegorical and historical drama, for which the different events of the ecclesiastical year furnished subjects, and which it divided into scenes, so closely linked together were all the prayers and sufferings which she offered in sacrifice for the Church militant.
On the 22nd of October 1818 Sailer came to see her, and having remarked that she was lodging at the back of a public house, and that men were playing at nine-pins under her window, said in the playful yet thoughtful manner which was peculiar to him: 'See, see; all things are as they should be—the invalid nun, the spouse of our Lord, is lodging in a publichouse above the ground where men are playing at nine-pins, like the soul of man in his body.' His interview with Anne Catherine was most affecting; it was indeed beautiful to behold these two souls, who were both on fire with the love of Jesus, and conducted by grace through such different paths, meet thus at the foot of the Cross, the visible stamp of which was borne by one of them. On Friday, the 23rd of October, Sailer remained alone with her during nearly the whole of the day; he saw blood flow from her head, her hands, and her feet, and he was able to bestow upon her great consolation in her interior trials. He most earnestly recommended her to tell everything without reserve to the writer of these pages, and he came to an understanding upon the subject with her ordinary director. He heard her confession, gave her the Holy Communion on Saturday, the 24th, and then continued his journey to the Count de Stolberg's. On his return, at the beginning of November, he again passed a day with her. He remained her friend until death, prayed constantly for her, and asked her prayers whenever he found himself in trying of difficult positions. The writer of these pages remained until January. He returned in May 1819, and continued to watch Anne Catherine almost uninterruptedly until her death.
The saintly maiden continually besought the Almighty to remove the exterior stigmas, on account of the trouble and fatigue which they occasioned, and her prayer was granted at the end of seven years. Towards the conclusion of the year 1819, the blood first flowed less frequently from her wounds, and then ceased altogether. On the 25th of December, scabs fell from her feet and hands, and there only remained white scars, which became red on certain days, but the pain she suffered was undiminished in the slightest degree. The mark of the cross, and the wound on her right side, were often to be seen as before, but not at any stated times. On certain days she always had the most painful sensations around her head, as though a crown of thorns were being pressed upon it. On these occasions she could not lean her head against anything, nor even rest it on her hand, but had to remain for long hours, sometimes even for whole nights, sitting up in her bed, supported by cushions, whilst her pallid face, and the irrepressible groans of pain which escaped her, made her like an awful living representation of suffering. After she had been in this state, blood invariably flowed more or less copiously from around her head. Sometimes her head-dress only was soaked with it, but sometimes the blood would flow down her face and neck. On Good Friday, April 19th, 1819, all her wounds re-opened and bled, and closed again on the following days. A most rigorous inquiry into her state was made by some doctors and naturalists. For that end she was placed alone in a strange house, where she remained from the 7th to the 29th of August; but this examination appears to have produced no particular effects in any way. She was brought back to her own dwelling on the 29th of August, and from that time until she died she was left in peace, save that she was occasionally annoyed by private disputes and public insults. On this subject Overberg wrote her the following words: 'What have you had to suffer personally of which you can complain? I am addressing a soul desirous of nothing so much as to become more and more like to her divine Spouse. Have you not been treated far more gently than was your adorable Spouse? Should it not be a subject of rejoicing to you, according to the spirit, to have been assisted to resemble him more closely, and thus to be more pleasing in his eyes? You had suffered much with Jesus, but hitherto insults had been for the most part spared you. With the crown of thorns you had not worn the purple mantle and the robe of scorn, much less had you yet heard, Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him! I cannot doubt but that these sentiments are yours. Praise be to Jesus Christ.'
On Good Friday, the 30th of March 1820, blood flowed from her head, feet, hands, chest, and side. It happened that when she fainted, one of the persons who were with her, knowing that the application of relics relieved her, placed near her feet a piece of linen in which some were wrapped, and the blood which came from her wounds reached this piece of linen after a time. In the evening, when this same piece of linen with the relics was being placed on her chest and shoulders, in which she was suffering much, she suddenly exclaimed, while in a state of ecstasy: 'It is most wonderful, but I see my Heavenly spouse lying in the tomb in the earthly Jerusalem; and I also see him living in the heavenly Jerusalem surrounded by adoring saints, and in the midst of these saints I see a person who is not a saint—a nun. Blood flows from her head, her side, her hands, and her feet, and the saints are above the bleeding parts.'
On the 9th February 1821 she fell into an ecstasy at the time of the funeral of a very holy priest. Blood flowed from her forehead, and the cross on her breast bled also. Someone asked her, 'What is the matter with you?' She smiled, and spoke like one awakening from a dream: 'We were by the side of the body. I have been accustomed lately to hear sacred music, and the De Profundis made a great impression upon me.' She died upon the same day three years later. In 1821, a few weeks before Easter, she told us that it had been said to her during her prayer: 'Take notice, you will suffer on the real anniversary of the Passion, and not on the day marked this year in the Ecclesiastical Calendar.' On Friday, the 30th of March, at ten o'clock in the morning, she sank down senseless. Her face and bosom were bathed in blood, and her body appeared covered with bruises like what the blows of a whip would have inflicted. At twelve o'clock in the day, she stretched herself out in the form of a cross, and her arms were so extended as to be perfectly dislocated. A few minutes before two o'clock, drops of blood flowed from her feet and hands. On Good Friday, the 20th of April, she was simply in a state of quiet contemplation. This remarkable exception to the general rule seemed to be an effect of the providence of God, for, at the hour when her wounds usually bled, a number of curious and ill-natured individuals came to see her with the intention of causing her fresh annoyances, by publishing what they saw; but they thus were made unintentionally to contribute to her peace, by saying that her wounds had ceased to bleed.
On the 19th of February 1822 she was again warned that she would suffer on the last Friday of March, and not on Good Friday.
On Friday the 15th, and again on Friday the 29th, the cross on her bosom and the wound of her side bled. Before the 29th, she more than once felt as though a stream of fire were flowing rapidly from her heart to her side, and down her arms and legs to the stigmas, which looked red and inflamed. On the evening of Thursday the 28th, she fell into a state of contemplation on the Passion, and remained in it until Friday evening. Her chest, head, and side bled; all the veins of her hands were swollen, and there was a painful spot in the centre of them, which felt damp, although blood did not flow from it. No blood flowed from the stigmas excepting upon the 3rd of March, the day of the finding of the holy Cross. She had also a vision of the discovery of the true cross by St. Helena, and imagined herself to be lying in the excavation near the cross. Much blood came in the morning from her head and side, and in the afternoon from her hands and feet, and it seemed to her as though she were being made the test of whether the cross was really the Cross of Jesus Christ, and that her blood was testifying to its identity.
In the year 1823, on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, which came on the 27th and 28th of March, she had visions of the Passion, during which blood flowed from all her wounds, causing her intense pain. Amid these awful sufferings, although ravished in spirit, she was obliged to speak and give answers concerning all her little household affairs, as if she had been perfectly strong and well, and she never let fall a complaint, although nearly dying. This was the last time that her blood gave testimony to the reality of her union with the sufferings of him who has delivered himself up wholly and entirely for our salvation. Most of the phenomena of the ecstatic life which are shown us in the lives and writings of Saints Bridget, Gertrude, Mechtilde, Hildegarde, Catherine of Sienna, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Bologna, Colomba da Rieti, Lidwina of Schiedam, Catherine Vanini, Teresa of Jesus, Anne of St. Bartholomew, Magdalen of Pazzi, Mary Villana, Mary Buonomi, Marina d' Escobar, Crescentia de Kaufbeuern, and many other nuns of contemplative orders, are also to be found in the history of the interior life of Anne Catherine Emmerich. The same path was marked out for her by God. Did she, like these holy women, attain the end? God alone knows. Our part is only to pray that such may have been the case, and we are allowed to hope it. Those among our readers who are not acquainted with the ecstatic life from the writings of those who have lived it, will find information on this subject in the Introduction of Goerres to the writings of Henry Suso, published at Ratisbonne in 1829.
Since many pious Christians, in order to render their life one perpetual act of adoration, endeavour to see in their daily employments a symbolical representation of some manner of honouring God, and offer it to him in union with the merits of Christ, it cannot appear extraordinary that those holy souls who pass from an active life to one of suffering and contemplation, should sometimes see their spiritual labours under the form of those earthly occupations which formerly filled their days. Then their acts were prayers; now their prayers are acts; but the form remains the same. It was thus that Anne Catherine, in her ecstatic life, beheld the series of her prayers for the Church under the forms of parables bearing reference to agriculture, gardening, weaving, sowing, or the care of sheep. All these different occupations were arranged, according to their signification, in the different periods of the common as well as the ecclesiastical year, and were pursued under the patronage and with the assistance of the saints of each day, the special graces of the corresponding feasts of the Church being also applied to them. The signification of this circles of symbols had reference to all the active part of her interior life. One example will help to explain our meaning. When Anne Catherine, while yet a child, was employed in weeding, she besought God to root up the cockle from the field of the Church. If her hands were stung by the nettles, or if she was obliged to do afresh the work of idlers, she offered to God her pain and her fatigue, and besought him, in the name of Jesus Christ, that the pastor of souls might not become weary, and that none of them might cease to labour zealously and diligently. Thus her manual labour became a prayer.
I will now give a corresponding example of her life of contemplation and ecstasy. She had been ill several times, and in a state of almost continual ecstasy, during which she often moaned, and moved her hands like a person employed in weeding. She complained one morning that her hands and arms smarted and itched, and on examination they were found to be covered with blisters, like what would have been produced by the stinging of nettles. She then begged several persons of her acquaintance to join their prayers to hers for a certain intention. The next day her hands were inflamed and painful, as they would have been after hard work; and when asked the cause, she replied: 'Ah! I have so many nettles to root up in the vineyard, because those whose duty it was to do it only pulled off the stems, and I was obliged to draw the roots with much difficulty out of a stony soil.' The person who had asked her the question began to blame these careless workmen, but he felt much confused when she replied: 'You were one of them,—those who only pull off the stems of the nettles, and leave the roots in the earth, are persons who pray carelessly.' It was afterwards discovered that she had been praying for several dioceses which were shown to her under the figure of vineyards laid waste, and in which labour was needed. The real inflammation of her hands bore testimony to this symbolical rooting up of the nettles; and we have, perhaps, reason to hope that the churches shown to her under the appearances of vineyards experienced the good effects of her prayer and spiritual labour; for since the door is opened to those who knock, it must certainly be opened above all to those who knock with such energy as to cause their fingers to be wounded.
Similar reactions of the spirit upon the body are often found in the lives of persons subject to ecstasies, and are by no means contrary to faith. St. Paula, if we may believe St. Jerome, visited the holy places in spirit just as if she had visited them bodily; and a like thing happened to St. Colomba of Rieti and St. Lidwina of Schiedam. The body of the latter bore tracks of this spiritual journey, as if she had really travelled; she experienced all the fatigue that a painful journey would cause: her feet were wounded and covered with marks which looked as if they had been made by stones or thorns, and finally she had a sprain from which she long suffered.
She was led on this journey by her guardian angel, who told her that these corporeal wounds signified that she had been ravished in body and spirit.
Similar hurts were also to be seen upon the body of Anne Catherine immediately after some of her visions. Lidwina began her ecstatic journey by following her good angel to the chapel of the Blessed Virgin before Schiedam; Anne Catherine began hers by following her angel guardian either to the chapel which was near her dwelling, or else to the Way of the Cross of Coesfeld.
Her journeys to the Holy Land were made, according to the accounts she gave of them, by the most opposite roads; sometimes even she went all round the earth, when the task spiritually imposed upon her required it. In the course of these journeys from her home to the most distant countries, she carried assistance to many persons, exercising in their regard works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, and this was done frequently in parables. At the end of a year she would go over the same ground again, see the same persons, and give an account of their spiritual progress or of their relapse into sin. Every part of this labour always bore some reference to the Church, and to the kingdom of God upon earth.
The end of these daily pilgrimages which she made in spirit was invariably the Promised Land, every part of which she examined in detail, and which she saw sometimes in its present state, and sometimes as it was at different periods of sacred history; for her distinguishing characteristic and special privilege was an intuitive knowledge of the history of the Old and New Testaments, and of that of the members of the Holy Family, and of all the saints whom she was contemplating in spirit. She saw the signification of all the festival days of the ecclesiastical year under both a devotional and a historical point of view. She saw and described, day by day, with the minutest detail, and by name, places, persons, festivals, customs, and miracles, all that happened during the public life of Jesus until the Ascension, and the history of the Apostles for several weeks after the Descent of the Holy Ghost. She regarded al her visions not as mere spiritual enjoyments, but as being, so to speak, fertile fields, plentifully strewn with the merits of Christ, and which had not as yet been cultivated; she was often engaged in spirit in praying that the fruit of such and such sufferings of our Lord might be given to the Church, and she would beseech God to apply to his Church the merits of our Saviour which were its inheritance, and of which she would, as it were, take possession, in its name, with the most touching simplicity and ingenuousness.
She never considered her visions to have any reference to her exterior Christian life, nor did she regard them as being of any historical value. Exteriorly she knew and believed nothing but the catechism, the common history of the Bible, the gospels for Sundays and festivals, and the Christian almanac, which to her far-sighted vision was an inexhaustible mine of hidden riches, since it gave her in a few pages a guiding thread which led her through all time, and by means of which she passed from mystery to mystery, and solemnised each with all the saints, in order to reap the fruits of eternity in time, and to preserve and distribute them in her pilgrimage around the ecclesiastical year, that so the will of God might be accomplished on earth as it is in Heaven. She had never read the Old or the New Testaments, and when she was tired of relating her visions, she would sometimes say: 'Read that in the Bible,' and then be astonished to learn that it was not there; 'for,' she would add, 'people are constantly saying in these days that you need read nothing but the Bible, which contains everything, etc., etc.'
The real task of her life was to suffer for the Church and for some of its members, whose distress was shown her in spirit, or who asked her prayers without knowing that this poor sick nun had something more to do for them than to say the Pater noster, but that all their spiritual and corporal sufferings became her own, and that she had to endure patiently the most terrible pains, without being assisted, like the contemplatives of former days, by the sympathising prayers of an entire community. In the age when she lived, she had no other assistance than that of medicine. While thus enduring sufferings which she had taken upon herself for others, she often turned her thoughts to the corresponding sufferings of the Church, and when thus suffering for one single person, she would likewise offer all she endured for the whole Church.
The following is a remarkable instance of the sort: During several weeks she had every symptom of consumption; violent irritation of the lungs, excessive perspiration, which soaked her whole bed, a racking cough, continual expectoration, and a strong continual fever. So fearful were her sufferings that her death was hourly expected and even desired. It was remarked that she had to struggle strangely against a strong temptation to irritability. Did she yield for an instant, she burst into tears, her sufferings increased tenfold, and she seemed unable to exist unless she immediately gained pardon in the sacrament of penance.
She had also to combat a feeling of aversion to a certain person whom she had not seen for years. She was in despair because this person, with whom nevertheless she declared she had nothing in common, was always before her eyes in the most evil dispositions, and she wept bitterly, and with much anxiety of conscience, saying that she would not commit sin, that her grief must be evident to all, and other things which were quite unintelligible to the persons listening to her. Her illness continued to increase, and she was thought to be on the point of death. At this moment one of her friends saw her, to his great surprise, suddenly raise herself up on her bed, and say:
'Repeat with me the prayers for those in their last agony.' He did as requested, and she answered the Litany in a firm voice. After some little time, the bell for the agonising was heard, and a person came in to ask Anne Catherine's prayers for his sister, who was just dead. Anne Catherine asked for details concerning her illness and death, as if deeply interested in the subject, and the friend above-mentioned heard the account given by the new comer of a consumption resembling in the minutest particulars the illness of Anne Catherine herself. The deceased woman had at first been in so much pain and so disturbed in mind that she had seemed quite unable to prepare herself for death; but during the last fortnight she had been better, had made her peace with God, having in the first place been reconciled to a person with whom she was at enmity, and had died in peace, fortified by the last sacraments, and attended by her former enemy. Anne Catherine gave a small sum of money for the burial and funeral-service of this person. Her sweatings, cough, and fever now left her, and she resembled a person exhausted with fatigue, whose linen has been changed, and who has been placed on a fresh bed. Her friend said to her, 'When this fearful illness came upon you, this woman grew better, and her hatred for another was the only obstacle to her making peace with God. You took upon yourself, for the time, her feelings of hatred, she died in good dispositions, and now you seem tolerably well again. Are you still suffering on her account?' 'No, indeed!' she replied; 'that would be most unreasonable; but how can any person avoid suffering when even the end of this little finger is in pain? We are all one body in Christ.' 'By the goodness of God,' said her friend, 'you are now once more somewhat at ease.' 'Not for very long, though,' she replied with a smile; 'there are other persons who want my assistance.' Then she turned round on her bed, and rested awhile.
A very few days later, she began to feel intense pain in all her limbs, and symptoms of water on the chest manifested themselves. We discovered the sick person for whom Anne Catherine was suffering, and we saw that his sufferings suddenly diminished or immensely increased in exact inverse proportion to those of Anne Catherine.
Thus did charity compel her to take upon herself the illnesses and even the temptations of others, that they might be able in peace to prepare themselves for death. She was compelled to suffer in silence, both to conceal the weaknesses of her neighbour, and not to be regarded as mad herself; she was obliged to receive all the aid that medicine could afford her for an illness thus taken voluntarily for the relief of others, and to be reproached for temptations which were not her own; finally, it was necessary that she should appear perverted in the eyes of men; that so those for whom she was suffering might be converted before God.