Behind Film Endorsed By Both Catholics And Protestants Is A Stigmatic Whose Life And Revelations Continue To Amaze
By Michael H. Brown
It's not something making the mainstream press. While newspapers focus on the vivid portrayals of Christ's Crucifixion, the involvement of a Hollywood star, and the controversy with Jews as reasons why there is so much "buzz" about the upcoming movie on Christ's Passion, there is a hidden, mystical element, and that's the charisma attached to the stigmatic whose revelations contributed significantly to the film and whose life continues to astonish.
The mystic is Anne Catherine Emmerich, and when one reads her life story, one sees that all her writings -- all her revelations -- carried the kind of power -- and caused the kind of controversy -- now being generated by the movie.
I'm reading another book about Emmerich, and it is really something. Actually, I should say "books." It's really two big volumes. Hundreds of pages -- and yet packed with information that I personally find fascinating.
The famous work of hers is a book of visions called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That's the one tied to the movie. The work I'm referring to is The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich by the Very Reverend Carl E. Schmoger and all I can say is that I knew this was a major mystic; I knew she had incredibly detailed visions; I knew she suffered the stigmata. But I had no idea of the extent of what this remarkable German woman reportedly experienced.
We always say "reportedly"; it is for your discernment.
She herself never pushed her revelations on anyone -- recorded them only out of obedience, even struggling to remain anonymous, with warnings that they were often her own views. And yet at many junctures they leap out with what can only be called an anointing. As Schmoger says, reading her revelations leaves one feeling that he has undergone an "unusual influence" -- similar to what is now reported with those who see the movie.
It's no surprise that there is a special "something" around a movie that taps into them. It's no surprise that the movie's director, Mel Gibson, is said to carry one of her relics. The visions may not be perfect; no mysticism is; but they are extremely potent. Her entire life was potent.
And highly mysterious.
As it turns out, Anne Catherine Emmerich was born on the feast of the Virgin's own nativity: September 8, 1774, the fifth of nine children, in conditions startlingly similar to the manger. Never was she heard to cry, notes Schmoger. Never was she in "fretful" humor. When poet Clement Brentano, who logged many of her visions, went to search for the cradle of Emmerich's infancy, he writes: "I found it in an old barn, with mud walls and a moss-covered thatch roof. In it stood a rude loom belonging to one of the brothers. Several old chests blackened by smoke displayed when opened the novel sight of straw beds furnished with feather pillows. Opposite this room was the still more novel spectacle of the cows behind their stacks."
This was in Flamske, Germany, and the older she got, the more one sensed what Msgr. Schmogen describes as a "mysterious power that emanated from her." Her visions began early in life. By the tender age of four she often prolonged her prayer for two to three hours. She claimed to see her guardian angel on a nearly constant basis.
She levitated. When she entered a cloister, she was frequently seen inexplicably above the ground. She was said to "bilocate." In vision -- or bilocation -- she saw the execution of King Louis XVI, and "visited" Marie Antoinette, queen of France, in prison. As a child, she was taken to see the suffering souls in purgatory. So frequent were Anne's visions that she thought everyone had them.
Historic pictures flashed before her eyes -- images like those that would spawn The Dolorous Passion, and serve to fill in details (like those in the upcoming movie) that are not recorded in Scripture.
At the village school, Emmerich was said to have described the Resurrection as it was "shown" to her in a vision and was reprimanded severely for her "imagination" -- a rebuke that frightened her and caused her to refrain from then on from communicating what she was "seeing."
It was only later, under the prodding of priests and bishops, that she revealed in detail what she saw, and these visions not only carried an enormous gravity (with details that draw the reader as if into the actual events) -- but also facts that led scholar to discover the house now recognized as the Virgin Mary's last residence (in Ephesus), as we have previously reported.
"She contemplated the creation of Heaven, the fall of the angels, the creation of the earth, and paradise," notes Schmoger. "In successive visions, she followed, through ages and generations, the development of the holy mysteries of the Incarnation and the Redemption. The scenes of sacred history and the personages of the Old Testament were better known to her than those of her own life."
It was said that she saw more of history than anyone else known and that Jesus Himself conducted her through many visions. Communion came at the age of 12, but from the day of her baptism, she was strongly attracted to the Blessed Sacrament. "When before it, her joy shone exteriorly," writes Father Schmogen. "She never entered the church without her angel-guardian who taught her by his own example the homage due to the Eucharistic God. Our Lord Himself had made known to her in vision the grandeur and magnificence of His mysteries. This inspired her with such reverence for the priesthood that no dignity appeared to her comparable to it."
And so it was through childhood until she entered a cloister. Amazingly, Emmerich was later able to recall exact scenes from her own infancy -- confirmed by her parents.
We could slough this all off -- attribute it to a meandering mind of an overly zealous nun -- if it wasn't for the incredible power of the meditations and for the prominence of those who endorsed her. The Bishop of Limbourg approved of her work. So did canons and abbots. Famous Catholics of the day like Abbot Dom Gueranger and the Very Reverend F. Windischmann of Munich spoke about Emmerich in the highest terms. So did Archbishop Clemens Auguste of Cologne, Bishop Michael Sailer of Ratisbon, and the latter's coadjutor, known in the records as Bishop Wittman.
When a renowned author named Father Alban Stolz went to Jerusalem -- comparing what he saw to what Emmerich (who had never been there) described in her visions -- he found that they were "perfectly correct in all their details."
This may not be true of every one of her revelations. She herself warned not to take them as gospel truth. There are very controversial things. No human is one hundred percent. But as the canon of the Cathedral of Loybach put it: "At first I did not believe Catherine Emmerich's statements. I went to work to find out all the falsehood she was telling, and to my surprise, I found that in the light of tradition, geography, topography, and history, Anne Catherine Emmerich knew more than all our so-called savants. After Holy Scripture, there is no book that contains so many words of eternal truth and life than the revelations of A. C. Emmerich."
Such is crucial as a movie based at least partly on her visions is ready to make an international splash and as the Vatican prepares to consider her beatification.
Based on what we have seen thus far, she richly deserves a faster track to canonization.
Those priests who read her meditation on the dolorous Passion, noted another eminent theologian, would be "inflamed with zeal for souls" and "longing for his own salvation" -- reactions we now hear in line with the Gibson movie. Her life was one of constant sickness and suffering in rooms where mice scattered over her coverlet and the cold was such that the straw of her bed froze to the wall.
The stigmata itself was incredible -- studied by both medical experts and ecclesiastical authorities who all left totally sure it was from the supernatural even if they had started out as skeptics.
The wounds, up to half an inch in size, were in her hands, feet, side, and head, and bled profusely, especially on Fridays.
Said one physician, "There can be no question of imposture in this case. The wounds speak for themselves, at least to a man of science. To ascribe them to natural causes such as imagination, induction, analogy, or similar causes, is simply impossible."
That physician was a Protestant -- just as we now see many Protestants backing the Gibson film. Those scientists were sure of Emmerich because they personally wrapped her stigmatic wounds in a way that excluded fraud and then saw the blood continue days after, when they unwrapped them -- much to her excruciation. In fact, if there's one thing that jumps out of these books, it's that the stigmata was not just a sign from above. They caused exquisite pain -- especially the "crown of thorns" puncture holes in her forehead.
On several occasions, the pain caused her to faint.
"At Vesper time," notes Smogen, "the wounds of her head bled so freely that the blood soaked the bandages and flowed down her face."
In 1798 the Crown of Thorns was "laid" upon her brow by her "heavenly spouse" as she prayed toward mid-day before a Crucifix in the organ loft -- nearly precisely what would occur a century later to St. Padre Pio.
More amazing still is that for years she survived by drinking only water and taking for food only the Host.
We'll have more about her shortly. Fascinating it is how she claimed apparitions of John the Baptist and the Blessed Mother. It was said that due to expiation early in life, she "never experienced a movement of sensuality, never had to accuse herself of even a thought against holy purity." She was attacked by the devil. She suffered many illnesses and persecutions. Yet never was she known to exhibit anything but sweetness.
Her fasting and sufferings for the Blessed Sacrament were great, "for no sin cried more loudly to Heaven," wrote Schmogen. Remarkably, she stated that "the evil one succeeded in intruding many of his own servants into Holy Orders, men lost to the faith, members of secret societies who, with the indelible stamp of ordination upon their souls, shrank not from the blackest crimes against Christ and His vicar on earth" -- words that just a couple decades later would find their way into a prophecy from LaSalette, France.
She also said that mortality with cattle was a chastisement from God; preferred Latin Mass over Mass translated into the vernacular; and was constantly in battle with the evil one.
He came to her as a black dog; he frightened her with terrible noises and apparitions and even blows. But none of it could stand up to her prayer.
It was a life of visions and apparitions and the actual pains of what Christ went through in His Passion. When her convent was suppressed in 1811, she went to a private home, where she spent the rest of her life confined to bed until her death on February 9, 1824, at the age of fifty.
"All that is holy, all that is blessed, all that pertains to the Church, was as perfectly intelligible to me then as now," she said, "and I saw marvelous things of the Church's essence. I felt the Presence of God in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I saw the relics shining with light, and I recognized the saint who hovered above them."
[Bookstore resources: The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary]
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Mysterious 'Book' Is Said To Have Been Given To Mystic Linked To Upcoming Movie
By Michael H. Brown
Among the many astonishments in the alleged phenomena around Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich -- who is up for beatification and whose visions contributed, at least in part, to that upcoming Passion movie -- is the claim that she received a mysterious "book" during one mystical event, a book that in fact may have fed some of her visions.
"One day, about noon, the sun was shining through the little window of my room, when I saw a holy man with two female religious approach my bed," the 19th century mystic [see previous story] once told a biographer. "They were dazzling with light. They presented me a large book like a missal and said: 'If thou canst study this book, thou wilt see what belongs to a religious.'"
According to the account, Emmerich -- who died in 1824, but was a young woman at the time of the occurrence -- took the book on her knee and promised to read it immediately.
"It was Latin, but I understood every word," she once recounted. "And I read it eagerly. They left it with me and disappeared. The leaves were of parchment, written in red and gold letters. There were some pictures of the early saints in it. It was bound in yellow and had no clasps. I took it with me to the convent and read it attentively. One day it was lying on the table when several of the sisters came in and tried to take it off with them, but they could not move it from its place.
"More than once it was said to me, 'Thou hast still so many leaves to read.' Years after when I was rapt in spirit to the Mountain of the Prophets, I saw this same book among many other prophetic writings of all times and places."
The mysterious book, claimed Emmerich, contained a volume of prophecies -- and formed a part of the treasure of "sacred writings."
"These writings are transmitted miraculously to those who, by the infusion of prophetic light, have been rendered capable of reading them," this saintly nun asserted. "The book in question treated of the essence and signification of the religious state, its rank in the Church, and its mission in every age."
What Anne Catherine read in this "book," said biographer Carl E. Schmoger, C.S.S.R., in The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, "was afterward unfolded to her in a series of pictures" -- an apparent reference to visions like those of the Passion, which were presented in an entire book called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The more closely Emmerich studied this mysterious book, it was said, the more extended became her visions -- including, possibly, those of the Passion.
On another occasion, "a parchment band with written characters on it was given to me supernaturally," she recalled. This parchment was then given in turn to an ill woman who was hence delivered from her pain.
The alleged materialization of such objects would seem beyond belief if there were not similarly recorded events in Scripture, from manna to the Ten Commandments. Was this a similar manifestation? We'll leave that for your consideration. It certainly strains credulity. But at Medjugorje, Father Rene Laurentin, a Marian expert who has consulted the Pope, asserts that one of the seers, Mirjana Soldo -- who allegedly has also been granted "secret" prophecies -- was given something strikingly similar.
"The secrets are written on a document which Our Lady had delivered to her, not paper, not cloth," noted the famed theologian. "Her cousin, an engineer, was very impressed with this document, but since two other members of the family laughed at it, she no longer shows it to anyone, not even the priests of the parish. The message is written there, but it will be invisible until the day when [her spiritual director] will be authorized to read it in order to reveal it."
While the new movie, The Passion of the Christ, is based chiefly on the Gospels, director Mel Gibson has publicly stated that Emmerich's visions helped fill in gaps and reportedly carries a relic of hers. He also is said to have drawn on the revelations of mystic Mary of Agreda.
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German Seer Had Encounters With Evil In The Form Of Beasts And 'Vapors' Of Dark
By Michael H. Brown
During her life mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich related an incredible battle with the forces of evil -- a struggle replete with vivid, hair-raising manifestations that she easily fended off, however, in the Name of Jesus, Whose power she presented so lucidly in revelations of His Passion.
Incredibly enough, Venerable Emmerich -- who is currently up for beatification, and whose controversial visions added details to the upcoming movie, The Passion of The Christ, which is similarly under attack -- saw spiritual warfare as inherent from the very onset of the human race, with mankind created, she asserted, "to fill the choir of fallen angels."
"Once I had a great and connected vision of sin and the whole plan of Redemption," she wrote in The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations. "I saw sin and its innumerable ramifications from the fall of the angels and from Adam's fall down to the present day, and I saw all the preparations for the repairing and redeeming down to the Coming and Death of Jesus. Jesus showed me the extraordinary blending, the intrinsic uncleanness of all creatures, as well as all that He had done from the very beginning for their purification and restoration."
Those revelations dovetail with Emmerich's own experiences with evil -- a struggle that spanned her entire life, with confrontations that were frequently dramatic. They started when the German stigmatic, who died in 1824, was a little girl -- with a voice ordering her to "go to bed!" when she was trying to pray.
The attacks intensified through her early years and usually occurred, she said, "when I was not thinking of the Presence of God, or when I had negligently committed some fault.
"I never could attribute them to chance," said the stigmatic, whose revelations have also led to discovery of the Blessed Mother's home in Ephesus. "God always protects us if we do not wander from Him. His angel is ever at our side, but we must render ourselves worthy of His care. Like grateful children, we ought never to leave Him."
Those recollections are in a huge tome called The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich. In it she recalls that when she began nocturnal vigils, the attacks of the evil spirits became bolder and more frequent. "He tried to frighten her from her prayers by terrible noises and apparitions, even by blows," notes biographer Father Carl E. Smoger. "She often felt icy-cold hands grasping her by the feet, casting her to the ground, or lifting her high in the air; but, though terror-stricken, the child never lost countenance. She continued her prayer with redoubled fervor till Satan was forced to withdraw."
Many of the attacks were flagrant, occurring at night when Emmerich went to pray before a rustic crucifix in the middle of town called Coesfeld. On the way, the mystic encountered evil on a narrow path "upon which there often stood facing her a horrible beast like a dog with an enormously large head," notes Smogen. "At first she used to shrink back some steps in horror; but quickly summoning courage, she would say to herself, 'Why flee before the enemy?' Then with the Sign of the Cross, she would boldly push by the monster. But she trembled violently, her hair stood on end, and she flew rather than walked over the road that led to the Crucifix, the brute running along by her side, sometimes even brushing up against her."
On at least one occasion, the "dog" issued such a blow to her face that she immediately developed blisters.
This is all fascinating in light of the spiritual war that has broken around the movie -- which is primarily based on the Gospels but is tinged with her influence and which was plagued, according to director Mel Gibson, by a "big, dark force."
It was calling on her angel that often helped Emmerich, notes Smogen -- who adds that evil spirits even manifested as eyes looking over her shoulder. On one field near her home Emmerich said that "a horrible phantom appeared to me in the form of a dog. It stood at my back resting its head on my shoulder. If I turned my head, I could see its snout and flaming eyes. But the evil spirit could not harm me. I began to pray and the horrible figure disappeared. On another occasion, whilst praying in the same place, I was lifted up violently as if about to be cast into the ditch close by. I renewed my confidence in God, and exclaimed, 'Satan, thou canst harm me!' He ceased his attacks, and I went on with my prayers."
Often the mystic felt repugnance for places where there had been pagan graves -- citing dark forces that haunt localities. A short distance from her home, at a sand hill, she said, was one of them. "I never liked to keep my cows there," she recalled, "for I always saw a black, ugly-looking vapor, like the smoke of smoldering rags, creeping over the ground. A strange obscurity hung over the spot, and somber figures, enveloped in darkness, moved here and there and, at last, disappeared underground."
She warned of homes built on such places. She also warned of "secret societies" and men who had lost their faith but had been introduced into the priesthood. She saw devils around those involved in "mesmerism" and the occult. And she had the cure. When she prayed and ridded her fear, said Father Smogen, the enemy "took to flight."
The same was true of sacramentals.
"Blessings not only attract the grace of God, but also dispel the evil influence of a malediction," said Emmerich. "The sound of blessed bells has always been to me like a ray of benediction which banishes hurtful influences wherever it reaches. When I used to pray at night in the fields, I often felt and, indeed, saw evil spirits around me; but as soon as the bells of Coesfeld sounded for matins, they fled."
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