Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (September 8, 1774 - February 9, 1824) was a Roman Catholic Augustinian nun, stigmatic, 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.
On October 3, 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified her, thereby giving her the title "Blessed". (Her writings were not considered in the beatification process, since they were all dictated to well-known poet Klemens Brentano, who, by opinion of Vatican authorities, may "have taken liberties" in his translation and recording of her words, but with verifying and confirming each "liberty" with Anne Catherine Emmerich.)
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.
Supposed supernatural favors
At age twenty-eight (1802) she entered the Augustinian convent at Agnetenberg, Dülmen. Her sisters came to believe that she had supernatural favors, mostly as a result of multiple ecstasies she appeared to experience. When Jerome Bonaparte closed the convent in 1812 she found refuge in a widow's house. In 1813 she became bedridden.
The sick and poor came to her for help, and according to contemporaries she supernaturally knew what their diseases were, and prescribed infallible cures. There is no documented evidence to support such claims.
Alternative explanations for Emmerich's '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. It might be plausible to suggest that Emmerich had undiagnosed neurological problems, which might also explain haemorrhaging, otherwise described as a continuous blood flow. 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. Again, this might provide a conventional explanation for her poor health throughout her life.
To state this should not be seen as impugning the purported sanctity of her life. Instead, some might view 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.
By 1813 she was confined to bed, and stigmata appeared on her body.
Then followed an episcopal commission to inquire into her life, and the claims surrounding miraculous signs. The examination was very strict. The vicar-general, the famous Overberg, and three physicians conducted the investigation with scrupulous care and became convinced of the sanctity of the "pious Beguine", as she was called, and the genuineness of the stigmata.
At the end of 1818 Emmerich claimed 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 the strictest surveillance day and night for three weeks, away from all her friends except her confessor. About this time Klemens Brentano, the famous poet, 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. He took down briefly in writing the main points, and, as she spoke the Westphalian dialect, he immediately rewrote them in ordinary German. He would read what he wrote to her, and made changes until she gave her complete approval. Brentano became one of Emmerich's many supporters at the time, believing her to be a "chosen bride of Christ".
Holy Trinity as seen by Anne Catherine Emmerich in her visions
As a child she claimed to have had visions in which she talked with Jesus; the Catholic Church later came to accept her claims as factual, i.e. that she really did have supernatural conversations with Jesus in heaven.
She prayed for the souls of those people who she believed were condemned to Purgatory; she had many episodes in which she claimed to see the souls.
She supernaturally saw that Holy Trinity itself is in form of three full and concentrical spheres, that are permeating themselves. Big (less lit) sphere is Father, middle (mid lit) sphere is Son, and small (most lit) sphere is Spirit.
The Dolorous Passion
In 1833 appeared the first-fruits of Brentano's toil, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich (Sulzbach). The work has been criticized for anti-Semitic depictions of Jews; however, it is uncertain whether these are due to Emmerich or Brentano. There is disagreement about the anti-Semitism of the book as well.
Anti-Semitism and The Dolorous Passion
Whether Brentano or Emmerich was responsible for these passages, however, they attribute supernatural motivation for Jewish antagonism toward Christ during the crucifixion, and alleges that this antipathy has intrinsic demonic grounds that pervade their very beings. However, such referrals can be read as referring of human nature in general, and not to some intrinsic "Jewish" way. Nevertheless, this led to expressions of concern (150 years later) from both the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith and concerned Catholics who noted that its depiction of Jews conflicted with current United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Vatican guidelines on Catholic/Jewish relations.
Another point of view may be that there is no anti-semitism in the book, as it refers to the nature and weaknesses of human beings in general, and not to a particular people or faith.
Current Catholic statements on Catholic/Jewish relations
These include Vatican II's Nostra Aetate (1965), which advised Catholics to pay attention to contemporary scriptural scholarship when engaging in representations related to the Passion, and repudiated medieval anti-Semitic nostrums. Later, the Pontifical Biblical Commission added further documents that clarified Nostra Aetate, and provided instruction that reinforced the message from the Vatican and Catholic hierarchies.
Nostra Aetate states that: "Neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time...or today...can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion...Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from Holy Scripture."
More recently, Pope John Paul II stated at an address to the Mainz Jewish community in Germany that he and the Catholic hierarchy sought respectful dialogue between the church and "the people of God of the Old Covenant that had never been revoked by God." (See Lawrence Frizzell, 2006: 79, in bibliography).
Shortly before the opening of Passion of the Christ, the US Catholic Bishops released a series of documents that reflected the institutional church commitment to repudiation of its anti-Semitic past, and collected Vatican and past US Catholic hierachy statements on this issue. As well as Nostra Aetate, it included the Pontifical Biblical Commission's Religious Relations With the Jews: Guidelines for Implementing Nostra Aetate No 4 (1974):II, as well as the Commission's Interpretation of the Bible in Church (1988), which also stated that Catholics should: "...avoid absolutely any [contemporary applications] of the New Testament which could provoke or reinforce unfavourable attitudes toward the Jewish people."
Finally, they concluded with a statement from the US Catholic Bishops own Committee for Ecumenical and Religious Affairs, which noted that: "Scriptural interpretation should refer to contemporary scholarship and avoid any representations of avarice, bloodthirstiness or enemies of the Christ."
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Anne Catherine Emmerich's subsequent life
Brentano prepared for publication The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary, but this appeared at Munich only in 1852. From the manuscript of Brentano, Father Karl Schmoger published in three volumes The Life of Our Lord (Ratisbon, 1858-80), and in 1881 a large illustrated edition of the same. The latter also wrote about her life in two volumes, which have been republished in English language editions.
Her visions go into slight details, which enhance their vividness and strongly hold the reader's interest as one graphic scene follows another in rapid succession as if visible to the physical eye.
Her visions allegedly led to the discovery of the house of Mary traditionally supposed to be the home of Jesus' mother until she was assumed into heaven, located on a hill near Ephesus, Turkey.
In 2003 actor Mel Gibson wrote and directed a movie, The Passion of the Christ, which raised a pre-release controversy about parts of the screenplay apparently based on Emmerich's meditations on Jewish culpability for the events of the Passion, as well as extra-canonical elements that are not reflected from the conventional four synoptic Christian gospels, or historical accounts.
As Helen Bond noted in one recent critical collection, for example, the role of Pontius Pilate has been sanitised so that his own culpability for a Roman Imperial massacre earlier in Palestinian history has been ignored, so that Emmerich can lay responsibility for the Passion at the hands of Caiaphas and the Temple hierarchy.
Anne Catherine's Visions for the Church, as written down by Brentano, described the future of the Roman Catholic Church as seen by Emmerich by 1820. It attacked supposed Freemasonry of certain members of the Catholic hierarchy, as well as syncreticism and ecumenism, while she saw the Vatican undermined by members of the clergy themselves and hostile political forces. The remedies given in these visions to cure the undermined Roman Catholic Church, by the visionary, are the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration.
Currently, Emmerich's visions receive particular veneration from Traditionalist Roman Catholics. However, some mainstream Catholics have hastened to assure offended Jews that its imprimatur seal of orthodox approval does not mean that it is mandatory reading for Catholics. Many Catholics find its attributions questionable, whether Emmerich or Brentano is ultimately responsible for them.
Bibliography (English editions only)
- 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.
Previous Editions: London: Burns and Oates: 1954.
- 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.
(Consolidated collection of above titles)
Prior editions of The Dolorous Passion
- Clyde, Missouri: The Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration, 1914
- London: Burns, Oates and Wishburn: 1942
- New York: Golden Press: 1981: ISBN 0-8490-3100-1
- Atlanta: Anvil: 2005: ISBN 0-9749721-1-8 [This edition incorporates a biography of Emmerich (p.2-92).]
- El Sobrante: North Bay Books: 2003: ISBN 0-9749098-0-7.
- Karl Schmoger: Life of Anna Katherina Emmerich: Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publications: 1974: ISBNs: (Set):089555061X: Volume 1: 0895550598: Volume 2: 0895550601
Prior Editions: New York: F.Pustet and Company: 1865: Dublin: Clonmore and Reynolds: 1950.
- Jay Tolson and Linda Kulmen: "The Other Jesus: How a Jewish Reformer lost his Jewish identity" in Paula Frederickson (ed) On the Passion of the Christ: Los Angeles: University of California Press: 2006.
- Paula Frederickson: "Gospel Truths: Hollywood, History and Christianity" in Paula Frederickson (ed) On the Passion of the Christ: Los Angeles: University of California Press: 2006.
- Lawrence Frizzell: "The Death of Jesus and the Death of the Temple" in Paula Frederickson (ed) On the Passion of the Christ: Los Angeles: University of California Press: 2006.
The Ad Hoc Scholars Group: "The Bible, the Catholic Church and the Jews" in Paula Frederickson (ed) On the Passion of the Christ: Los Angeles: University of California Press: 2006.
- John Dominic Crossan "Hymn to A Savage God" in 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
- Helen Bond: "Pilate and the Romans" in Kathleen Corley and Robert Webb (ed) Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ: The Film, the Gospels and the Claims of History: London: Continuum: 2004: ISBN 0-8264-7781-X
- Robert Webb: "Passion and the Influence of Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" in Kathleen Corley and Robert Webb (ed) Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ: The Film, the Gospels 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.
References and further reading
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatisations of the Passion: 1988:
- Walter Abbott (ed)/Joseph Gallagher (translator): Documents of Vatican II: Chicago: Association Press: 1966.
- Phillip Cunningham: "Gibson's Passion of the Christ: A Challenge to Catholic Teaching;"
Other bibliographic topics
- Sussanah Heschel: Transforming Jesus from Jew to Aryan: Protestant Theologians in Nazi Germany: Tucson: University of Arizona Press: 1995: Albert Bilgray Lecture: 1995.
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