Today (Feb. 9) is the feast of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, a truly remarkable woman. Born in 1774 to peasants in Westphalia, Germany, Anne Catherine Emmerich suffered from bad health her whole life, but was also always very pious. Her visions were likewise lifelong, and she received so many as a child that she assumed all children could see Jesus and the souls in Purgatory. She could diagnose illnesses and recommend their cures, and she was also able to see people’s sins. She worked on farms and as a seamstress, then as a servant to a poor organist who taught her to play organ. She entered an Augustinian convent in 1802 and was known for her enthusiasm and her regular religious ecstasies.
But in 1812, the government closed the convent and Anne Catherine became servant to a poor widow. Unfortunately, her weak health went rapidly downhill and by 1813 she was an invalid in bed. She continued to suffer greatly the rest of her life, including from the stigmata (the wounds Jesus had on his hands, feet, and head during his Passion) and a cross on her chest, and she lived on inedia (no food but the Holy Eucharist). She was what the Church calls a “suffering soul,” who suffered for the expiation of sins and the salvation of others. She was also harassed and threatened by the government. But her visions also continued, more frequently than ever, and she had seen visions of the entire lives of Jesus and Mary by the time she died in 1824.
Below is an excerpt from the Life of Jesus Christ (and Mary), written down by the poet Clemens Brentano at the dictation of Bl. Anne Catherine:
“The angel, with hands gently raised before his breast, spoke to Mary. I saw the words like letters of glittering light issuing from his lips. Mary replied, but without looking up. Then the angel again spoke and Mary, as if in obedience to his command, raised her veil a little, glanced at him, and said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to thy word!’ I saw her now in deeper ecstasy. The ceiling of the room vanished, and over the house appeared a luminous cloud with a pathway of light leading up from it to the opened heavens. Far up in the source of this light, I beheld a vision of the Most Holy Trinity. It was like a triangle of glory.”
How privileged was Bl. Anne Catherine to witness one of the most important moments in world history!
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