VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Anna Katharina Emmerick, the newly beatified Augustinian nun, endured long physical sufferings. Her reputation, too, suffered for years after her death.
Emmerick, whose writings inspired Mel Gibson in the making of “The Passion of the Christ,” had nine siblings.
She was baptized on Sept. 8, 1774, the day of her birth in a modest farm in the village of Flamske, in Coesfeld, in the Diocese of Muenster, in what is now northwestern Germany.
By the time she was 4 years old, she had frequent visions of the history of salvation. In 1802, after many difficulties due to the family’s poverty and opposition to her choice of the religious life, she joined the Canonesses Regular of St. Augustine, in the Agnetenberg convent in Duelmen.
She made her religious vows the following year. She participated in community life with great earnestness, although “the cloistered life was quite hard” because the other “canonesses did not fail to point out her low social status,” according to the postulator of her cause of beatification, Andrea Ambrosi.
Moreover, the religious’ health “began to decline rapidly,” he told Vatican Radio.
“Ever since she was little she suffered from rickets which became so accentuated once she was in the convent, that she spent years in bed,” Ambrosi said. In fact, the biography issued by the Holy See emphasizes the great pains Emmerick suffered.
When in 1811 the authorities suppressed the convent of Agnetenburg — it had been influenced by secularism — the future blessed was forced to leave the area.
Father Lambert, a French refugee priest living in Duelmen, took her in as a housekeeper. From 1813 onward, sickness immobilized her, so her younger sister Gertrude took her place as housekeeper.
“By the end of 1812, when supernatural gifts were already manifested in her, she had the added phenomenon” of “the appearance of the stigmata,” postulator Ambrosi noted.
“At the beginning she did everything she could to hide them, but then her case became known and everyone wanted to see her, not only because of the stigmata, but because of her goodness and her gift to penetrate the souls that suffered most, those that were most lacerated, leading them to peace,” Ambrosi said.
Last July, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, publicly read the decree of recognition of a miracle attributed to Emmerick’s intercession.
“She bore the stigmata of the Lord’s passion and received extraordinary charisms that she used to console numerous visitors,” the cardinal said in the presence of John Paul II. “She carried out her great, fruitful apostolate from her bed.”
From 1812 onward, Emmerick’s only nourishment was the Eucharist. She had to endure three exhaustive investigations by the diocese, Napoleon Bonaparte’s police, and the authorities.
During the last years of her life, she lived every day the preaching and passion of Jesus. She died on Feb. 9, 1824, consumed by her illnesses and penances.
Emmerick “lived perfectly attuned to the mystery of the life, passion and death of Jesus. Her stigmata is a very clear testimony of her existential union with Jesus,” Ambrosi said on Vatican Radio. “Her willingness to suffer had no other motive than her love for the crucifix and concern for her neighbor.”
Emmerick, who was forced from the cloister because of the Napoleonic invasion, was a stigmatized invalid. She tried to write in her Low German dialect the daily visions of the supernatural which she herself thought were indescribable.
On learning this, Clemens Brentano, a notable German writer, met the ex-nun, was converted, and remained at the foot of her sickbed writing down the visionary’s accounts from 1818 to 1824.
The result of his work is “The Bitter Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Brentano died before finishing the visions of the “Life of Mary.” Subsequently, various specialists edited the “Diaries” and compiled, each in his own way, Emmerick’s purported visions on the Church, the Old Testament, Jesus’ public life and the nascent Church.
Shortly after the German mystic’s death “her fame for sanctity was so alive among all the population and also the clergy” of the Muenster Diocese, that there was an intense “desire to promote her cause of beatification,” postulator Ambrosi explained.
However, obstacles arose because of the difficult historical and religious times Germany was going through. There was also a lack of clarity in the nun’s writings, some texts “bordering on the limit of ‘orthodox’ Catholicism,” Ambrosi said.
The Holy Office intervened several times to block the cause and asked for further opinions from theologians, the postulator added. After “manipulations” of Emmerick’s revelations by Brentano were identified, “the cause took on a faster pace,” he said.
At the end of the 19th century, Emmerick was declared venerable. Her process of beatification was resumed in 1972. The heroic degree of her virtues was declared in 2001.
Her life was characterized by profound union with Christ, and an ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy See says in its biography.
Ambrosi added that the new blessed can serve as a model for the faithful today in her commitment to “the work of salvation through faith and love.”