Life of Anne Catherine Emmerich, by Clemens Brentano

The Life Of Anne Catherine Emmerich,
Religious Of The Order Of St. Augustine,
At The Convent Of Agnetenberg,
Dulmen, Westphalia.


Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich 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.

Desire to become a nun
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.

Sufferings of the Passion
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 Città 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.
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
3 In more modern times, holy persons who also had the stigmata include: Audrey Marie Santo (Worcester,
Massachusetts), Venerable Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, Venerable Anna Maria Taïgi, Theresa Neumann, and
many others.
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 29h 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
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 Goërres 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.
One day a friend in deep affliction was sitting by her bedside, when she suddenly fell into
a state of ecstasy, and began to pray aloud: ‘O, my sweet Jesus, permit me to carry that
heavy stone!’ Her friend asked her what was the matter. ‘I am on my way to Jerusalem,’ she
replied, ‘and I see a poor man walking along with the greatest difficulty, for there is a large
stone upon his breast, the weight of which nearly crushes him.’ Then again, after a few
moments, she exclaimed: ‘Give me that heavy stone, you cannot carry it any farther; give it
to me.’ All on a sudden she sank down fainting, as if crushed beneath some heavy burden,
and at the same moment her friend felt himself relieved from the weight of sorrow which
oppressed him, and his heart overflowing with extraordinary happiness. Seeing her in such a
state of suffering, he asked her what the matter was, and she looking at him with a smile,
replied: ‘I cannot remain here any longer. Poor man, you must take back your burden.’
Instantly her friend felt all the weight of his affliction return to him, whilst she, becoming as
well again as before, continued her journey in spirit to Jerusalem.
We will give one more example of her spiritual exertions. One morning she gave her
friend a little bag containing some rye-flour and eggs, and pointed out to him a small house
where a poor woman, who was in a consumption, was living with her husband and two
little children. He was to tell her to boil and take them, as when boiled they would be good
for her chest. The friend, on entering the cottage, took the bag from under his cloak, when
the poor mother, who, flushed with fever, was lying on a mattress between her half-naked
children fixed her eyes bright upon him, and holding out her thin hands, exclaimed: ‘O, sir,
it must be God or Sister Emmerich who sends you to me! You are bringing me some ryeflour
and eggs.’ Here the poor woman, overcome by her feelings, burst into tears, and then
began to cough so violently that she had to make a sign to her husband to speak for her. He
said that the previous night Gertrude had been much disturbed, and had talked a great deal
in her sleep, and that on awaking she had told him her dream in these words: ‘I thought that
I was standing at the door with you, when the holy nun came out of the door of the next
house, and I told you to look at her. She stopped in front of us, and said to me: “Ah,
Gertrude, you look very ill; I will send you some rye-flour and eggs, which will relieve your
chest.” Then I awoke.’ Such was the simple tale of the poor man; he and his wife both
eagerly expressed their gratitude, and the bearer of Anne Catherine’s alms left the house
much overcome. He did not tell her anything of this when he saw her, but a few days after,
she sent him again to the same place with a similar present, and he then asked her how it
was she knew that poor woman? ‘You know,’ she replied, ‘that I pray every evening for all
those who suffer; I should like to go and relieve them, and I generally dream that I am
going from one abode of suffering to another, and that I assist them to the best of my power.
In this way I went in my dream to that poor woman’s house; she was standing at the door
with her husband, and I said to her: “Ah, Gertrude, you look very ill; I will send you some
rye-flour and eggs, which will relieve your chest.” And this I did through you, the next
morning.’ Both persons had remained in their beds, and dreamed the same thing, and the
dream came true. St. Augustine, in his City of God, book 18, c. 18, relates a similar thing of
two philosophers, who visited each other in a dream, and explained some passages of Plato,
both remaining asleep in their own houses.
These sufferings, and this peculiar species of active labour, were like a single ray of light,
which enlightened her whole life. Infinite was the number of spiritual labours and
sympathetic sufferings which came from all parts and entered into her heart—that heart so
burning with love of Jesus Christ. Like St. Catherine of Sienna and some other ecstatics, she
often felt the most profound feeling of conviction that our Saviour had taken her heart out of
her bosom, and placed his own there instead for a time.
The following fragment will give some idea of the mysterious symbolism by which she
was interiorly directed. During a portion of the year 1820 she performed many labours in
spirit, for several different parishes; her prayers being represented under the figure of most
severe labour in a vineyard. What we have above related concerning the nettles is of the
same character.
On the 6th of September her heavenly guide said to her: ‘ “You weeded, dug around, tied,
and pruned the vine; you ground down the weeds so that they could never spring up
anymore; and then you went away joyfully and rested from your prayers. Prepare now to
labour hard from the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin to that of St. Michael; the
grapes are ripening and must be well watched.” Then he led me,’ she continued, ‘to the
vineyard of St. Liboire, and showed me the vines at which I had worked. My labour had
been successful, for the grapes were getting their colour and growing large, and in some
parts the red juice was running down on the ground from them. My guide said to me:
“When the virtues of the good begin to shine forth in public, they have to combat bravely, to
be oppressed, to be tempted, and to suffer persecution. A hedge must be planted around the
vineyard in order that the ripe grapes may not be destroyed by thieves and wild beasts, i.e.
by temptation and persecution.” He then showed me how to build a wall by heaping up
stones, and to raise a thick hedge of thorns all around. As my hands bled from such severe
labour, God, in order to give me strength, permitted me to see the mysterious signification
of the vine, and of several other fruit trees. Jesus Christ is the true Vine, who is to take root
and grow in us; all useless wood must be cut away, in order not to waste the sap, which is to
become the wine, and in the Most Blessed Sacrament the Blood of Christ. The pruning of
the vine has to be done according to certain rules which were made known to me. This
pruning is, in a spiritual sense, the cutting off whatever is useless, penance and
mortification, that so the true Vine may grow in us, and bring forth fruit, in the place of
corrupt nature, which only bears wood and leaves. The pruning is done according to fixed
rules, for it is only required that certain useless shoots should be cut off in man, and to lop
off more would be to mutilate in a guilty manner. No pruning should ever be done upon the
stock which has been planted in humankind through the Blessed Virgin, and is to remain in
it for ever. The true Vine unites heaven to earth, the Divinity to humanity; and it is the
human part that is to be pruned, that so the divine alone may grow. I saw so many other
things relating to the vine that a book as large as the Bible could not contain them. One day,
when I was suffering acute pain in my chest, I besought our Lord with groans not to give me
a burthen above my strength to bear; and then my Heavenly Spouse appeared, and said to
me, … “I have laid thee on my nuptial couch, which is a couch of suffering; I have given
thee suffering and expiation for thy bridal garments and jewels. Thou must suffer, but I will
not forsake thee; thou art fastened to the Vine, and thou wilt not be lost.” Then I was
consoled for all my sufferings. It was likewise explained to me why in my visions relating to
the feasts of the family of Jesus, such, for instance, as those of St. Anne, St. Joachim, St.
Joseph, etc., I always saw the Church of the festival under the figure of a shoot of the vine.
The same was the case on the festivals of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Sienna, and
of all the saints who have had the stigmas.
‘The signification of my sufferings in all my limbs was explained to me in the following
vision: I saw a gigantic human body in a horrible state of mutilation, and raised upwards
towards the sky. There were no fingers or toes on the hands and feet, the body was covered
with frightful wounds, some of which were fresh and bleeding, others covered with dead
flesh or turned into excrescences. The whole of one side was black, gangrened, and as it
were half eaten away. I suffered as though it had been my own body that was in this state,
and then my guide said to me “This is the body of the Church, the body of all men and
thine also.” Then, pointing to each wound, he showed me at the same time some part of the
world; I saw an infinite number of men and nations separated from the Church, all in their
own peculiar way, and I felt pain as exquisite from this separation as if they had been torn
from my body. Then my guide said to me: “Let thy sufferings teach thee a lesson, and offer
them to God in union with those of Jesus for all who are separated. Should not one member
call upon another, and suffer in order to cure and unite it once more to the body? When
those parts which are most closely united to the body detach themselves, it is as though the
flesh were torn from around the heart.” In my ignorance, I thought that he was speaking of
those brethren who are not in communion with us, but my guide added: “Who are our
brethren? It is not our blood relations who are the nearest to our hearts, but those who are
our brethren in the blood of Christ—the children of the Church who fall away.” He showed
me that the black and gangrened side of the body would soon be cured; that the putrefied
flesh which had collected around the wounds represented heretics who divide one from the
other in proportion as they increase; that the dead flesh was the figure of all who are
spiritually dead, and who are void of any feeling; and that the ossified parts represented
obstinate and hardened heretics. I saw and felt in this manner every wound and its
signification. The body reached up to heaven. It was the body of the Bride of Christ, and
most painful to behold. I wept bitterly, but feeling at once deeply grieved and strengthened
by sorrow and compassion, I began again to labour with all my strength.’
Sinking beneath the weight of life and of the task imposed upon her she often besought
God to deliver her, and she then would appear to be on the very brink of the grave. But each
time she would say: ‘Lord, not my will but thine be done! If my prayers and sufferings are
useful let me live a thousand years, but grant that I may die rather than ever offend thee.’
Then she would receive orders to live, and arise, taking up her cross, once more to bear it in
patience and suffering after her Lord. From time to time the road of life which she was
pursuing used to be shown to her, leading to the top of a mountain on which was a shining
and resplendent city—the heavenly Jerusalem. Often she would think she had arrived at that
blissful abode, which seemed to be quite near her, and her joy would be great. But all on a
sudden she would discover that she was still separated from it by a valley and then she
would have to descend precipices and follow indirect paths, labouring, suffering, and
performing deeds of charity everywhere. She had to direct wanderers into the right road,
raise up the fallen, sometimes even carry the paralytic, and drag the unwilling by force, and
all these deeds of charity were as so many fresh weights fastened to her cross. Then she
walked with more difficulty, bending beneath her burden and sometimes even falling to the
In 1823 she repeated more frequently than usual that she could not perform her task in
her present situation, that she had not strength for it, and that it was in a peaceful convent
that she needed to have lived and died. She added that God would soon take her to himself,
and that she had besought him to permit her to obtain by her prayers in the next world what
her weakness would not permit her to accomplish in this. St. Catherine of Sienna, a short
time before death, made a similar prayer.
Anne Catherine had previously had a vision concerning what her prayers might obtain
after death, with regard to things that were not in existence during her life. The year 1823,
the last of which she completed the whole circle, brought her immense labours. She
appeared desirous to accomplish her entire task, and thus kept the promise which she had
previously made of relating the history of the whole Passion. It formed the subject of her
Lenten meditations during this year, and of them the present volume is composed. But she
did not on this account take less part in the fundamental mystery of this penitential season,
or in the different mysteries of each of the festival days of the Church, if indeed the words to
take part be sufficient to express the wonderful manner in which she rendered visible
testimony to the mystery celebrated in each festival by a sudden change in her corporal and
spiritual life. See on this subject the chapter entitled Interruption of the Pictures of the Passion.

The ecclesiastical year
Everyone of the ceremonies and festivals of the Church was to her far more than the
consecration of a remembrance. She beheld in the historical foundation of each solemnity
an act of the Almighty, done in time for the reparation of fallen humanity. Although these
divine acts appeared to her stamped with the character of eternity, yet she was well aware
that in order for man to profit by them in the bounded and narrow sphere of time, he must,
as it were, take possession of them in a series of successive moments, and that for this
purpose they had to be repeated and renewed in the Church, in the order established by
Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. All festivals and solemnities were in her eyes eternal graces
which returned at fixed epochs in every ecclesiastical year, in the same manner as the fruits
and harvests of the earth come in their seasons in the natural year.
Her zeal and gratitude in receiving and treasuring up these graces were untiring, nor was
she less eager and zealous in offering them to those who neglected their value. In the same
manner as her compassion for her crucified Saviour had pleased God and obtained for her
the privilege of being marked with the stigmas of the Passion as with a seal of the most
perfect love, so all the sufferings of the Church and of those who were in affliction were
repeated in the different states of her body and soul. And all these wonders took place
within her, unknown to those who were around her; nor was she herself even more fully
conscious of them than is the bee of the effects of its work, while yet she was tending and
cultivating, with all the care of an industrious and faithful gardener, the fertile garden of the
ecclesiastical year. She lived on its fruits, and distributed them to others; she strengthened
herself and her friends with the flowers and herbs which she cultivated; or, rather, she
herself was in this garden like a sensitive plant, a sunflower, or some wonderful plant in
which, independent of her own will, were reproduced all the seasons of the year, all the
hours of the day, and all the changes of the atmosphere.
At the end of the ecclesiastical year of 1823, she had for the last time a vision on the
subject of making up the accounts of that year. The negligences of the Church militant and
of her servants were shown to Anne Catherine, under various symbols; she saw how many
graces had not been cooperated with, or been rejected to a greater or less extent, and how
many had been entirely thrown away. It was made known to her how our Blessed
Redeemer had deposited for each year in the garden of the Church a complete treasure of
his merits, sufficient for every requirement, and for the expiation of every sin. The strictest
account was to be given of all graces which had been neglected, wasted, or wholly rejected,
and the Church militant was punished for this negligence of infidelity of her servants by
being oppressed by her enemies, or by temporal humiliations. Revelations of this description
raised to excess her love for the Church, her mother. She passed days and nights in praying
for her, in offering to God the merits of Christ, with continual groans, and in imploring
mercy. Finally, on these occasions, she gathered together all her courage, and offered to take
upon herself both the fault and the punishment, like a child presenting itself before the king’s
throne, in order to suffer the punishment she had incurred. It was then said to her, ‘See how
wretched and miserable thou art thyself; thou who art desirous to satisfy for the sins of
others.’ And to her great terror she beheld herself as one mournful mass of infinite
imperfection. But still her love remained undaunted, and burst forth in these words, ‘Yes, I
am full of misery and sin; but I am thy spouse, O my Lord, and my Saviour! My faith in
thee and in the redemption which thou hast brought us covers all my sins as with thy royal
mantle. I will not leave thee until thou hast accepted my sacrifice, for the superabundant
treasure of thy merits is closed to none of thy faithful servants.’ At length her prayer became
wonderfully energetic, and to human ears there was like a dispute and combat with God, in
which she was carried away and urged on by the violence of love. If her sacrifice was
accepted, her energy seemed to abandon her, and she was left to the repugnance of human
nature for suffering. When she had gone through this trial, by keeping her eyes fixed on her
Redeemer in the Garden of Olives, she next had to endure indescribable sufferings of every
description, bearing them all with wonderful patience and sweetness. We used to see her
remain several days together, motionless and insensible, looking like a dying lamb. Did we
ask her how she was, she would half open her eyes, and reply with a sweet smile, ‘My
sufferings are most salutary.’
At the beginning of Advent, her sufferings were a little soothed by sweet visions of the
preparations made by the Blessed Virgin to leave her home, and then of her whole journey
with St. Joseph to Bethlehem. She accompanied them each day to the humble inns where
they rested for the night, or went on before them to prepare their lodgings. During this time
she used to take old pieces of linen, and at night, while sleeping, make them into baby
clothes and caps for the children of poor women, the times of whose confinements were
near at hand. The next day she would be surprised to see all these things neatly arranged in
her drawers. This happened to her every year about the same time, but this year she had
more fatigue and less consolation. Thus, at the hour of our Saviour’s birth, when she was
usually perfectly overwhelmed with joy, she could only crawl with the greatest difficulty to
the crib where the Child Jesus was lying, and bring him no present but myrrh, no offering
but her cross, beneath the weight of which she sank down half dying at his feet. It seemed as
though she were for the last time making up her earthly accounts with God, and for the last
time also offering herself in the place of a countless number of men who were spiritually and
corporally afflicted. Even the little that is known of the manner in which she took upon
herself the sufferings of others is almost incomprehensible. She very truly said: ‘This year
the Child Jesus has only brought me a cross and instruments of suffering.’
She became each day more and more absorbed in her sufferings, and although she
continued to see Jesus travelling from city to city during his public life, the utmost she ever
said on the subject was, briefly to name in which direction he was going. Once, she asked
suddenly in a scarcely audible voice, ‘What day is it?’ When told that it was the 14th of
January, she added: ‘Had I but a few days more, I should have related the entire life of our
Saviour, but now it is no longer possible for me to do so.’ These words were the more
incomprehensible as she did not appear to know even which year of the public life of Jesus
she was then contemplating in spirit. In 1820 she had related the history of our Saviour
down to the Ascension, beginning at the 28th of July of the third year of the public life of
Jesus, and had continued down to the 10th of January of the third year of his public life. On
the 27th of April 1823, in consequence of a journey made by the writer, an interruption of
her narrative took place, and lasted down to the 21st of October. She then took up the tread
of her narrative where she had left it, and continued it to the last weeks of her life. When she
spoke of a few days being wanted her friend himself did not know how far her narrative
went, not having had leisure to arrange what he had written. After her death he became
convinced that if she had been able to speak during the last fourteen days of her life, she
would have brought it down to the 28th of July of the third year of the public life of our
Lord, consequently to where she had taken it up in 1820.4
Her condition daily became more frightful. She, who usually suffered in silence, uttered
stifled groans, so awful was the anguish she endured. On the 15th of January she said: ‘The
Child Jesus brought me great sufferings at Christmas. I was once more by his manger at
Bethlehem. He was burning with fever, and showed me his sufferings and those of his
mother. They were so poor that they had no food but a wretched piece of bread. He
bestowed still greatest sufferings upon me, and said to me: “Thou art mine; thou art my
spouse; suffer as I suffered, without asking the reason why.” I do not know what my
sufferings are to be, nor how long they will last. I submit blindly to my martyrdom, whether
for life or for death: I only desire that the hidden designs of God may be accomplished in
me. On the other hand, I am calm, and I have consolations in my sufferings. Even this
morning I was very happy. Blessed be the Name of God!’
Her sufferings continued, if possible, to increase. Sitting up, and with her eyes closed, she
fell from one side to another, while smothered groans escaped her lips. If she laid down, she
was in danger of being stifled; her breathing was hurried and oppressed, and all her nerves
and muscles were shaken and trembled with anguish. After violent retching, she suffered
terrible pain in her bowels, so much so that it was feared gangrene must be forming there.
Her throat was parched and burning, her mouth swollen, her cheeks crimson with fever, her
hands white as ivory. The scars of the stigmas shone like silver beneath her distended skin.
Her pulse gave from 160 to 180 pulsations per minute. Although unable to speak from her
excessive suffering, she bore every duty perfectly in mind. On the evening of the 26th, she
said to her friend, ‘Today is the ninth day, you must pay for the wax taper and novena at the
chapel of St. Anne.’ She was alluding to a novena which she had asked to have made for her
intention, and she was afraid lest her friends should forget it. On the 27th, at two o’clock in
the afternoon, she received Extreme Unction, greatly to the relief both of her soul and body.
In the evening her friend, the excellent Curé of H___, prayed at her bedside, which was an
immense comfort to her. She said to him: ‘How good and beautiful all this is!’ And again:
‘May God be a thousand times praised and thanked!’
The approach of death did not wholly interrupt the wonderful union of her life with that
of the Church. A friend having visited her on the 1st of February in the evening, had placed
himself behind her bed where she could not see him, and was listening with the utmost
compassion to her low moans and interrupted breathing, when suddenly all became silent,
and he thought that she was dead. At this moment the evening bell ringing for the matins of
the Purification was heard. It was the opening of this festival which had caused her soul to
be ravished in ecstasy. Although still in a very alarming state, she let some sweet and loving
words concerning the Blessed Virgin escape her lips during the night and day of the festival.
Towards twelve o’clock in the day, she said in a voice already changed by the near approach
of death, ‘It was long since I had felt so well. I have been ill quite a week, have I not? I feel
as though I knew nothing about this world of darkness! O, what light the Blessed Mother of
God showed me! She took me with her, and how willingly would I have remained with
her!’ Here she recollected herself for a moment, and then said, placing her finger on her lip:
‘But I must not speak of these things.’ From that time she said that the slightest word in her
praise greatly increased her sufferings.

The following days she was worse. On the 7th, in the evening, being rather more calm,
she said: ‘Ah, my sweet Lord Jesus, thanks be to thee again and again for every part of my
life. Lord, thy will and not mine be done.’ On the 8th of February, in the evening, a priest
was praying near her bed, when she gratefully kissed his hand, begged him to assist at her
death and said, ‘O Jesus, I live for thee, I die for thee. O Lord, praise be to thy holy name, I
no longer see or hear!’ Her friends wished to change her position, and thus ease her pain a
little; but she said, ‘I am on the Cross, it will soon all be over, leave me in peace.’ She had
received all the last Sacraments, but she wished to accuse herself once more in confession of
a slight fault which she had already many times confessed; it was probably of the same
nature as a sin which she had committed in her childhood, of which she often accused
herself, and which consisted in having gone through a hedge into a neighbour’s garden, and
coveted some apples which had fallen on the ground. She had only looked at them; for,
thank God, she said, she did not touch them, but she thought that was a sin against the
tenth commandment. The priest gave her a general absolution; after which she stretched
herself out, and those around her thought that she was dying. A person who had often given
her pain now drew near her bed and asked her pardon. She looked at him in surprise, and
said with the most expressive accent of truth, ‘I have nothing to forgive any living creature.’
During the last days of her life, when her death was momentarily expected, several of her
friends remained constantly in the room adjoining hers. They were speaking in a low tone,
and so that she could not hear them, of her patience, faith, and other virtues, when all on a
sudden they heard her dying voice saying: ‘Ah, for the love of God, do not praise me—that
keeps me here, because I then have to suffer double. O my God! how many fresh flowers are
falling upon me!’ She always saw flowers as the forerunners and figures of sufferings. Then
she rejected all praises, with the most profound conviction of her own unworthiness, saying:
‘God alone is good: everything must be paid, down to the last farthing. I am poor and
loaded with sin, and I can only make up for having been praised by sufferings united to
those of Jesus Christ. Do not praise me, but let me die in ignominy with Jesus on the cross.’
Boudon, in his life of Father Surin, relates a similar trait of a dying man, who had been
thought to have lost the sense of hearing, but who energetically rejected a word of praise
pronounced by those who were surrounding his bed.
A few hours before death, for which she was longing, saying, ‘O Lord assist me; come, O
Lord Jesus!’ a word of praise appeared to detain her, and she most energetically rejected it
by making the following act of humility: ‘I cannot die if so many good persons think well of
me through a mistake; I beg of you to tell them all that I am a wretched sinner! Would that I
could proclaim so as to be heard by all men, how great a sinner I am! I am far beneath the
good thief who was crucified by the side of Jesus, for he and all his contemporaries had not
so terrible an account as we shall have to render of all the graces which have been bestowed
upon the Church.’ After this declaration, she appeared to grow calm, and she said to the
priest who was comforting her: ‘I feel now as peaceful and as much filled with hope and
confidence as if I had never committed a sin.’ Her eyes turned lovingly towards the cross
which was placed at the foot of her bed, her breathing became accelerated, she often drank
some liquid; and when the little crucifix was held to her, she from humility only kissed the
feet. A friend who was kneeling by her bedside in tears, had the comfort of often holding her
the water with which to moisten her lips. As he had laid her hand, on which the white scar
of the wound was most distinctly visible, on the counterpane, he took hold of that hand,
which was already cold, and as he inwardly wished for some mark of farewell from her, she
slightly pressed his. Her face was calm and serene, bearing an expression of heavenly
gravity, and which can only be compared to that of a valiant wrestler, who after making
unheard of efforts to gain the victory, sinks back and dies in the very act of seizing the prize.
The priest again read through the prayers for persons in their last agony, and she then felt an
inward inspiration to pray for a pious young friend whose feast day it was. Eight o’clock
struck; she breathed more freely for the space of a few minutes, and then cried three times
with a deep groan: ‘O Lord, assist me: Lord, Lord, come!’ The priest rang his bell, and said,
‘She is dying.’ Several relations and friends who were in the next room came in and knelt
down to pray. She was then holding in her hand a lighted taper, which the priest was
supporting. She breathed forth several slight sighs, and then her pure soul escaped her chaste
lips, and hastened, clothed in the nuptial garment, to appear in heavenly hope before the
Divine Bridegroom, and be united for ever to that blessed company of virgins who follow
the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Her lifeless body sank gently back on the pillows at halfpast
eight o’clock p.m., on the 9th February 1824.
A person who had taken great interest in her during life wrote as follows: ‘After her
death, I drew near to her bed. She was supported by pillows, and lying on her left side.
Some crutches, which had been prepared for her by her friends on one occasion when she
had been able to take a few turns in the room, were hanging over her head, crossed, in a
corner. Near them hung a little oil painting representing the death of the Blessed Virgin,
which had been given her by the Princess of Salm. The expression of her countenance was
perfectly sublime, and bore the traces of the spirit of self-sacrifice, the patience and
resignation of her whole life; she looked as though she had died for the love of Jesus, in the
very act of performing some work of charity for others. Her right hand was resting on the
counterpane—that hand on which God had bestowed the unparalleled favour of being able
at once to recognise by the touch anything that was holy, or that had been consecrated by
the Church—a favour which perhaps no one had ever before enjoyed to so great an extent—
a favour by which the interests of religion might be inconceivably promoted, provided it was
made use of with discretion, and which surely had not been bestowed upon a poor ignorant
peasant girl merely for her own personal gratification. For the last time I took in mine the
hand marked with a sign so worthy of our utmost veneration, the hand which was as a
spiritual instrument in the instant recognition of whatever was holy, that it might be
honoured even in a grain of sand—the charitable industrious hand, which had so often fed
the hungry and clothed the naked—this hand was now cold and lifeless. A great favour had
been withdrawn from earth, God had taken from us the hand of his spouse, who had
rendered testimony to, prayed, and suffered for the truth. It appeared as though it had not
been without meaning, that she had resignedly laid down upon her bed the hand which was
the outward expression of a particular privilege granted by Divine grace. Fearful of having
the strong impression made upon me by the sight of her countenance diminished by the
necessary but disturbing preparations which were being made around her bed, I thoughtfully
left her room. If, I said to myself—if, like so many holy solitaries, she had died alone in a
grave prepared by her own hands, her friends—the birds—would have covered her with
flowers and leaves; if, like other religious, she had died among virgins consecrated to God,
and that their tender care and respectful veneration had followed her to the grave, as was the
case, for example, with St. Colomba of Rieti, it would have been edifying and pleasing to
those who loved her; but doubtless such honours rendered to her lifeless remains would not
have been conformable to her love for Jesus, whom she so much desired to resemble in
death as in life.’
The same friend later wrote as follows: ‘Unfortunately there was no official post-mortem
examination of her body, and none of those inquiries by which she had been so tormented
during life were instituted after her death. The friends who surrounded her neglected to
examine her body, probably for fear of coming upon some striking phenomenon, the
discovery of which might have caused much annoyance in various ways. On Wednesday
the 11th of February her body was prepared for burial. A pious female, who would not give
up to anyone the task of rendering her this last mark of affection, described to me as follows
the condition in which she found her: “Her feet were crossed like the feet of a crucifix. The
places of the stigmas were more red than usual. When we raised her head blood flowed
from her nose and mouth. All her limbs remained flexible and with none of the stiffness of
death even till the coffin was closed.” On Friday the 13th of February she was taken to the
grave, followed by the entire population of the place. She reposes in the cemetery, to the left
of the cross, on the side nearest the hedge. In the grave in front of hers there rests a good old
peasant of Welde, and in the grave behind a poor but virtuous female from Dernekamp.
On the evening of the day when she was buried, a rich man went, not to Pilate, but to the
curé of the place. He asked for the body of Anne Catherine, not to place it in a new
sepulchre, but to buy it at a high price for a Dutch doctor. The proposal was rejected as it
deserved, but it appears that the report was spread in the little town that the body had been
taken away, and it is said that the people went in great numbers to the cemetery to ascertain
whether the grave had been robbed.’
To these details we will add the following extract from an account printed in December
1824, in the Journal of Catholic literature of Kerz. This account was written by a person with
whom we are unacquainted, but who appears to have been well informed: ‘About six or
seven weeks after the death of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a report having got about that
her body had been stolen away, the grave and coffin were opened in secret, by order of the
authorities, in the presence of seven witnesses. They found with surprise not unmixed with
joy that corruption had not yet begun its work on the body of the pious maiden. Her
features and countenance were smiling like those of a person who is dreaming sweetly. She
looked as though she had but just been placed in the coffin, nor did her body exhale any
corpse-like smell. It is good to keep the secret of the king, says Jesus the son of Sirach; but it is
also good to reveal to the world the greatness of the mercy of God.’
We have been told that a stone has been placed over her grave. We lay upon it these
pages; may they contribute to immortalise the memory of a person who has relieved so
many pains of soul and body, and that of the spot where her mortal remains lie awaiting the Day of Resurrection.

Clemens Brentano