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Anne Catherine Emmerich

Anne Catherine Emmerich (8 September, 1774 - 9 February, 1824) was a Catholic Christian Augustinian nun, alleged stigmatic, and ecstatic. She was born in Flamsche, near Coesfeld, in the Diocese of Münster, Westphalia, Germany and died in Dulmen.


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.

In her twenty-eighth year (1802) she entered the Augustinian convent at Agnetenberg, Dulmen. Her sisters came to believe that she had supernatural powers, 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.

Catholic legend states that she foresaw the downfall of Napoleon twelve years in advance, and that she counseled in a mysterious way the successor of St. Peter.

As a child she had delusions in which she talked with Jesus as a child; the Catholic Church later came to accept her claims as factual, i.e. that she really did have supernatural conversations with Jesus in heaven.

The sick and poor came to her for help, and according to contemporaries she supernaturally knew what their diseases were, and precribed infallible cures. There is no documented evidence to support such claims.

She prayed for the souls of those people who she believed were condemned to Purgatory; she had many mental episodes in which she claimed to see the souls.

By 1813 she was confined to bed, and stigmata appeared on her body. While these are now believed, without any basis, to be self-inflicted wounds, the credulous nuns of her convent believed that this was a miracle from God.

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 were all wont to reopen. Again, as with stigmatics in general, these wounds are now thought to have been self-inflicted.

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".

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). These visions include grotesque anti-Semitic characterizations of Jews.

Brentano prepared for publication "The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary", but this appeared at Munich only in 1852. From the MS. of Brentano Father Schmoeger 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 her life in two volumes.

Her visions go into details, often slight, which give them a vividness that strongly holds the reader's interest as one graphic scene follows another in rapid succession as if visible to the physical eye.

In 2003 actor Mel Gibson wrote and directed a movie, The Passion of Christ, which raised a pre-release contoversy about parts of the screenplay apparently based on Emmerich's meditations on the New Testament.

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