Sister Emmerich had herself denominated the Pilgrims notes, A pathless, overgrown garden. In March, 1820, she related the following vision, remarkable on account of its fulfillment: I was in a garden which the Pilgrim cultivated. A mass of vegetation was springing up thick and green; but the Pilgrim had planted it so close that there was no room for a path. He took me into a little summerhouse around which he had raised bitter-cress. Later on she several times repeated: I saw the Pilgrims garden. It is very luxuriant, but it is pathless, it is all overgrown. Still he must go on with his work. Again: I saw the Pilgrims garden so overgrown that only he could pick his way through it; others complained of not being able to enter it. It lay blooming and flourishing near a wilderness and at the entrance stood a rosebush covered with thorns. The Pilgrim and others would have wished to pluck the roses, but they priced themselves with the thorns. I saw one trying to get them; but they scratched him till he cried out.
These pictures could not be more striking. The path which only the Pilgrim could find through his thickly overgrown garden, is symbolical of the seven days of the week during which he wrote down indiscriminately what he saw of Catherine Emmerich, what she related to him of her visions, together with his own impressions, his sympathy with or aversion for those who surrounded her or the visitors who flocked to her sickbed, and in fine, his own private affairs and those of his intimate friends. These miscellaneous materials formed the contents of his manuscripts, from which the author has selected what he deemed necessary for the present biography. The Pilgrim had no other idea at the time, than that of relating as faithfully and circumstantially as possible whatever he observed. Sister Emmerichs interior life was to him a mystery of which she alone could furnish the key, with permission from her spiritual directors, Dean Overberg, and Father Limberg; yet he took note of all, as circumstances permitted, reserving what was obscure and unintelligible for a closer investigation at some future time. These the author has reproduced as faithfully as possible in their original form. Sister Emmerich was able to relate and the Pilgrim to write but few visions at one time; consequently, notes, additions, corrections succeeded one another in rapid succession regardless of order or time. The key to some vision was frequently found only after long and wearisome research, and then, perhaps, in some little word of the invalid preserved as if by chance, or in a careful comparison with proceeding or following ones.
This was particularly the case with the grand vision which she termed the Nuptial House and which seems to be the center to which all her labors tended. The Pilgrim appears never to have clearly comprehended this vision; but, fortunately, he preserved so many of the Sisters communications on the subject as to enable the author to penetrate more deeply into its signification. Then only did he seize the order and import of this privileged souls immense task of prayer for the Church as a body, as well as for her individual members; then only did he feel that he might attempt the history of her life. The first volume has been drawn mostly from Dr. Weseners notes, as also the Pilgrims, of whatever they could glean from the invalid herself, from her confessor, her companions, her relatives, respecting her past life. The Pilgrim during his five years sojourn in Dülmen kept up a large correspondence with his dearest and most confidential friends. These unpublished letters were placed at the authors service, and he has made use of them with the greatest discretion. He looks upon them as one of the greatest proofs of the blessed influence exercised by Sister Emmerich over her amanuensis. Only two of those that were honored by Sister Emmerichs special affection and confidence are living (1870): Misses Apollonia Diepenbrock and Louise Hensel, both of whom kindly aided the author with their communications.
In 1931, the Pilgrim had revised the record of only the first months of his stay at Dülmen; of this, however, the author has not availed himself, as it does not faithfully accord with the original notes. To avoid copying, the Pilgrim corrected his journal after having recorded some visions; but he seems to have grown discontented with the task, and abandoned any further attempts of the kind. His interspersing the above with all sorts of notes and remarks, many of them quite irrelevant, contributed to the greater confusion of the whole. If, for instance, Sister Emmerich were prevented from communicating her visions, complaints filled his journal against her confessor or anyone else who had been, according to him, the cause of these intolerable interruptions.
These complaints he repeated in his private letters and, as they were published after his death, the author feels that a word of explanation on the subject is necessary. They to whom his letters were addressed were fully aware of his irritable temperament and also of the circumstances attendant on his penning them; consequently, they bore not for them that tone of asperity with which they could not fail to impress the general reader. The author, therefore, feels it a duty to expose clearly, justly, and conscientiously, the true state of affairs, that a correct and unbiased opinion may be formed of Sister Emmerichs position and her surroundings so frequently subjected to the Pilgrims harsh criticism. The author himself was tempted, at first, to sympathize with the Pilgrim, and it was only after a long and close examination that he was able to discover the truth.
In this he feels convinced that he conforms to the Pilgrims own intentions, since ten years before his death he had nourished the thought of entrusting the arrangement of his notes to someone in whose discretion he might perfectly confide; he thought of handing over to such a person his manuscripts just as they were, without retrenching a single line, and of allowing him to estimate their contents conscientiously and impartially. As time glided on and the Pilgrim himself began to cast a cooler, more impartial glance upon the years spent in Dülmen, the more averse did he become to encountering anew the thorns that human frailty had led him to plant around the roses in his garden. He would then have erased from his journal his captious remarks, had he not feared that by so doing he might suppress what was both important and necessary to the clear understanding of Sister Emmerichs position. With rare uprightness and moral courage, he preserved what he had written that even the dispraise thereby accruing to himself might render its own peculiar testimony to the chosen of God.
In conclusion, the author submits unreservedly to the decrees of Urban VIII,
and declares that he attributes only purely human belief to the extraordinary
facts and incidents recorded in the present volume.
P. SCHMÖGER, C.SS.R.
CONVENT OF GARS, BAVARIA
Feast of St. John Baptist, 1870
SPIRITUAL LABORS AND SUFFERINGS FOR THE CHURCH. THE NUPTIAL HOUSE. ACTION IN VISION.
In November, 1820, Sister Emmerich remarked: It is now twenty years since my Spouse led me into the Nuptial House and laid me upon the hard bridal bed on which I still lie; thus did she designate her labors for the Church, labors imposed upon her from her entrance into Agnetenberg. No account had ever been demanded of this hidden operation, no director had even been willing to listen to her on the subject, and it is only now, toward the close of her career, that she testifies to the ways by which God had led her for the good of the Church; now, for the first time, does she raise the veil which conceals that mysterious action which, though operated in contemplation, derives its origin and merit, its importance and results from the divine virtue of faith.
Before her entrance into religion, her principal task consisted in expiatory sufferings referring to the religious vocation and vows; but, when she had embraced the conventual life, her action was extended to the whole Church. What this task embodied she characterized by these striking words: My Heavenly Bridegroom brought me into the Nuptial House, for such is the relation that the Church holds with Jesus Christ, her Spouse and Heada relation which was shown to Sister Emmerich as an immense sphere, embracing the most varied and opposite states, for whose individual failings she was to supply by her sufferings. Jesus is continually renewing His indissoluble union with the Church, His Spouse, and that he may present her spotless to His Father, He incessantly pours out upon her the torrents of His graces. But every grace must be accounted for, and few among those who receive them would be found ready for this, if the Heavenly Spouse did not at all times prepare chosen souls to gather up what others waste, to utilize the talents that others bury, and to discharge the debts contracted by the negligent.
Before manifesting Himself in the flesh, in order to ratify the New Alliance with His Blood, He had by the Immaculate Conception of Mary prepared her to be the immaculate type of the Church. He had poured upon her the plenitude of His graces, that her prayers might hasten the Messiahs advent, her purity and fidelity retain Him among the very men who received Him not, who resisted and persecuted Him. When Jesus, the Good Shepherd, began to gather His flock together it was Mary who cared for them, particularly for the poorest, the most abandoned, in order to lead them into the way of salvation; she was the faithful stewardess, she was the support of all. After the return of her Son to His Eternal Father, she remained many years upon earth to strengthen and protect the infant Church.
And until the second coming of her Son, the Church will never be without members who, following in her footsteps, will be so many sources of benediction to their brethren. It is Mary, the Mother of Mercy, who assigns to these privileged souls their tasks for the ecclesiastical year; and, in accordance with this order, Sister Emmerich received, in what she denominates the Nuptial House, her yearly portion of expiation for the Church. Every detail was made known to her, all was to be finished in a certain time, for choice and duration of suffering are at the option of none. This order was indicated by the different parts of the Nuptial House, which had both a symbolical and historical signification. It was the house of Jesse near Bethlehem, the house in which David was born, in which he had been trained by God Himself for his future career as a prophet. It was from this house, also, that the Divine Spouse Himself had sprung in His Holy Humanity. It was the house of the royal race of the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Church, and the paternal house of St. Joseph.
It was fitting that Sister Emmerich should contemplate therein the present state of the Church and receive her mission for it, since its former holy occupants had hailed in spirit the advent of the Redeemer, had gazed upon the Churchs career through coming ages, and had received their share in the good works that were to hasten Redemption. This house with its numerous apartments, its spacious surroundings of gardens, field, and meadows, was a symbol of the spiritual government of the Church; with its various parts, its functionaries, with the intruders who laid it waste, it presented to the soul allowed to contemplate it a perfect representation of the Church in her different relations with the state and the country, with certain dioceses and institutions, in fine, with all the affairs connected with her government. The wrongs done her in the hierarchy, rights, and treasures, in the integrity of her faith, discipline, and morals, by the negligence, slothfulness and disloyalty of her own children; all that intruders, that is, false science, pretended lights, irreligious education, connivance with the errors of the day, with worldly maxims and projects, etc., endanger or destroyall were shown to Sister Emmerich in visions of wonderful depth and simplicity.
The scenes of these visions were the Nuptial House and its dependencies, and thither was she conducted by her angel to receive her expiatory mission. Before considering the details of this action in vision, let us first glance at its hidden nature and signification. We have already remarked that what Sister Emmerich did and suffered in contemplation was as weal and meritorious in itself and its results, as were the actions and sufferings of the natural waking state. This double operation sprang from one common source; but for the perfect understanding of it, we must study her gift of contemplation. Her own communications will throw the greatest light upon the question, since they are both numerous and detailed. We can compare them with the testimony of others favored with the same graces, with the decisions of the holy Doctors, and with the principles that guide the Church in her judgment of such phenomena.
Sister Emmerich tells us that the gift of contemplation had been bestowed upon her in Baptism and that, from her entrance into life, she had been prepared in body and soul to make use of it. Once she denominated this preparation, A mystery of a nature very difficult for fallen man to comprehend, one by which the pure in soul and body are brought into intimate and mysterious communication with one another. The undimmed splendor of baptismal grace is then according to her the first, the chief condition for the reception of the light of prophecy, for the developing of a faculty in man, obscured by Adams fall: viz., capability of communicating with the world of spirit without interrupting the harmonious and natural relation of body and soul. Every man possesses this capability; but, if we may so speak, it is hidden in his soul; he cannot of himself overleap the barrier which separates the regions of sense from those beyond God alone by the infusion of superior light, can remove this barrier from the path of His elect; but seldom is such light granted, for few there are who rigorously fulfill the conditions exacted.
We may here remark that, according to the teachings of the great theologians, the principles and theory of contemplation laid down by Pope Benedict XIV to serve as a basis for the judgment of the Church, there exists no such thing as natural contemplation. Pope Benedict in no way requires a natural disposition thereto as a favorable condition for the infusion of prophetic light, the light of prophecy.
There is no such thing as the development of a natural faculty into the so-called clairvoyance. All phenomena produced in this region are, without exception, either simply the result of morbid perturbations, as in animal somnambulism, and consequently, in themselves something extremely imperfect or even abnormal; or they are an over excitation of the mental powers and, thereby, an extension of the sensible faculty of apperception artificially produced by the action of mesmerism at the expense of the more elevated powers of the soul; or, in fine, we may recognize in them a demoniacal clairvoyance to which mesmeric clairvoyance necessarily and inevitably tends, since the dangerous illusion and profound degradation into which the human soul is plunged by mesmeric influence can have no other result. It is only in abandoning the truth: viz., the doctrine of the human soul, as set forth by the great Doctors, upheld and followed by the Church in her process of canonization, that we can fall into the erroneous and dangerous hypothesis of natural clairvoyance and support false theories upon facts less certain, less positively attested.
Before considering Sister Emmerichs physical training in preparation for her action in vision, we shall glance at St. Hildegarde, that great mistress of the mystical life, since there exists so striking a resemblance between them. The latter, being directed by Almighty God to reduce her visions to writing, heard these words: I who am the Living Light enlightening all that is in darkness, have freely chosen and called thee by My own good pleasure for marvelous things, for things far greater than those by Me to men of ancient times; but, that thou mayest not exalt thyself in the pride of thy heart, I have humbled thee to the dust. The world shall find in thee neither joy nor satisfaction, nor shalt thou mingle in its affairs, for I have shielded thee against proud presumption, I have pierced thee with fear, I have overwhelmed thee with pain. Thou bearest thy sorrows in the marrow of thy bones, in the veins of thy flesh. Thy soul and thy senses are bound, thou must endure countless bodily pains that false security may not take possession of thee, but that, on the contrary, thou mayest regard thyself as faulty in all thou dost. I have shielded thy heart from its wanderings, I have put a bridle upon thee thy spirit may not proudly and vaingloriously exalt itself, but that in all things it may experience more fear and anxiety than joy and complacency. Write, then, what thou seest and hearest, O thou creature, who receivest not in the agitation of delusion, but in the purity of simplicity, what is designed to manifest hidden things.
Her contemporary and biographer, the Abbot Theodoric renders this testimony:4 From her youngest years her purity shone so conspicuously that she seemed exempt from the weakness of the flesh. When she had bound herself to Christ by the religious vows, she mounted from virtue to virtue. Charity burned in her breast for all mankind, and the tower of her virginity was protected by the rampart of humility, whence sprang abstinence in diet, poverty in clothing, etc. As the vase is tried in the furnace of the potter, as strength is made perfect in infirmity, so from her earliest infancy, frequent, almost continual sufferings were never wanting to her. Very rarely was she able to walk and, as her body ever seemed near its dissolution, her life presented the picture of a precious death. But in proportion as her physical strength failed, was her soul possessed by the spirit of knowledge and fortitude; as her body was consumed, her spiritual fervor became inflamed.
Hildegarde herself laid down as a law established by God, that the prophetic light was never received without constant and extraordinary sufferings. The soul by its nature tends toward eternal life, but the body, holding in itself this passing life, is not in accordance with it; for, though both unite to form man, yet they are distinct in themselves, they are two. For this reason, when God pours His Spirit out on a man by the light of prophecy, the gift of wisdom, or miracles, He afflicts his body by frequently sufferings, that the Holy Spirit may dwell in him. If the flesh be not subdued by pain, it too readily follows the ways of the world, as happened to Samson, Solomon, and others who, inclining to the pleasures of the senses, ceased to hearken to the inspirations of the spirit; for prophecy, wisdom, and the gift of miracles give birth to delight and joy. Know, O thou poor creature, that I have loved and called by preference those that have crucified their flesh in spirit. St. Hildegarde continues: I seek not repose, I am overwhelmed by countless sufferings, whilst the Almighty pours upon me the dew of His grace. My body is broken by labor and pain, like clay mixed with water.
And again, It is not of myself that I utter the following words; the veritable Wisdom pronounces them by my mouth. It speaks to me thus: Hear these words, O creature, and repeat them not as from thyself. But as for Me, and taught by Me, do thou declare what follows:In the moment of my conception, when God awoke me by the breath of life in my mothers womb, He endowed my soul with the gift of contemplation. My parents offered me to God at my birth and in my third year I perceived in myself so great a light that my soul trembled; but unable yet to speak, I could say nothing of all these things.
In my eight year I was again offered to God and destined for the religious life, and up to my fifteenth year I saw many things that I recounted in all simplicity. They who listened asked in amazement whence or from whom I had received them. Then I began to wonder within myself at this that, although seeing everything in my inmost soul, yet at the same time I perceived exterior objects by the sense of sight, and, as I never heard the like of others, I commenced to hide my visions as best I could. I am ignorant of many things around me, on account of the state of constant sickness in which I have lain from my birth to the present moment, my body consumed, my strength utterly wasted. When inundated with the light of contemplation, I have said many things that sounded strange to my hearers; but, when this light had grown a little dim, and I comported myself more like a child than one of my real age, I became confused, I wept, and longed to be able to keep silence. The fear I had of men was such that I dared not impart to anyone what I saw.
How strikingly do not the above words characterize Sister Emmerich! Her body was from her birth a vessel of sufferings and like Hildegarde, she too was told by the Celestial Spouse why she endured them: Thy body is weighed down by pain and sickness that thy soul may labor more actively, for he who is in good health carries his body as a heavy burden. And when, during the investigation, the Vicar-General expressed astonishment that she could have received a wound in the breast unknown to herself, she replied simply: I did feel as if my breast had been scalded, but I never looked to see what it was; I am too timid for that. From my childhood I have always been too timid to look upon my person. I have never seen it, I never think of it, I know nothing about it.
This was literally true, for Sister Emmerich had never thought of her body excepting to mortify it and burden it with suffering. In vain do we strive to understand her great love for penance and mortification. We may form some idea of it as witnessed in a monk in all the vigor of manhood, or in one advanced in years to whom but little sleep and food are necessary, or in the cloistered contemplative; but in a young and delicate child, lively and ardent, employed in hard labor from her earliest years, having no example of the kind before her, it is truly astonishing! How powerful must have been the strength infused into her young heart by the grace of the Holy Ghost! We are prone to represent the saints to ourselves at immeasurable heights above us, and not amid weakness and miseries such as our own.
We see their sanctity, without reflecting on their heroic efforts in its attainment; we forget that the nature of these valiant conquerors was the same as our own, that they reached the goal only by patient struggling. The practice of heroic virtue was as difficult for Sister Emmerich as for Blessed Clair Gambacorta, of Pisa (1362-1419), who tells us that fasting was so painful to her that once in her childhood she struck herself in the stomach with a stool, in order to benumb the pangs of hunger by pains of another kind. Like all children, she was exceedingly fond of fruit; to abstain from it cost her the greatest efforts. And have we not seen our own little Anne Catherine struggling against nature until penance and renunciation became, as it were, her only nourishment and the gift of angelic purity natural to her?
By pain and mortification her body became in a measure spiritualized, dependent on the soul for its support, and endued with the capability of serving the latter as an instrument in the labors accomplished in vision. The following truth cannot be too strongly insisted upon: in those regions, to which intuitive light opens the way, the soul acts not alone as if separated from the body, but soul and body act together, according to the order established by God. This truth flows of necessity from faith, which teaches that man can merit, expiate, suffer for another only as long as he is a viator acting in and with the body.
Nothing throws more light upon this subject than the facts recorded in the life of St. Lidwina: When Lidwina, says an eyewitness, returned from visiting the Holy Places, Mt. Olivet or Mt. Calvary, for instance, her lips were blistered, her limbs scratched, her knees bruised, her whole person bore not only the wounds made by her passage through briers, but even the thorns themselves remained in the flesh. Her angel told her that she retained them as a visible, palpable proof that she had been to the Holy Places not merely in dreams or in imagination, but really and truly bearing with her the faculty of receiving sensible, coporeal impressions. Once in vision she had to cross a slippery road on which she fell and dislocated her right limb and, when returned to consciousness, she found one eye bruised and inflamed. The pain in the limb and other members was violent for several days. In these far-off journeys she wounded sometimes her hands, sometimes her feet, and the marvelous perfume exhaled by her person betrayed to her friends whither she had been conducted. By a divine dispensation her soul not only communicated to her body the superabundant consolations it experienced, but it also employed the latter as an instrument, as a beast of burden in its journeys, and made it a sharer in the fatigue and accidents resulting therefrom.
The soul of the saintly virgin struggled in her body, and her body struggled in conjointly with her soul up to the moment of her last agony. They ran together the same career; they endured together the same hardships, like companions under the same roof. We must not, then, be surprised if they journey together, rejoice together in the Lord and, during the pilgrimage of this earthly life, receive together a foretaste of the glory that is to come, the first fruits of the Spirit, the abundant dew that falls from Heaven. In all her supernatural journeys the angel was her companion and she treated with him as a friend with a friend. He constantly appeared to her surrounded by a wonderful light which surpassed the brilliancy of a thousand suns.
On his forehead shone the sign of the cross, that Lidwina might not be deceived by the evil one, who often appears as an angel of light. At first she used to experience so great an oppression on her chest that she thought herself dying; but the feeling passed as she became accustomed to the ecstatic state. She lay like a corpse perfectly insensible to external impressions whilst her spirit obeying the angelic voice, after a short visit to the Blessed Virgins altar in the parish church or Schiedam whither the angel always led her first, set out on the journey imposed upon her. Now, Lidwinas sufferings were such as never to allow her to leave her bed; and yet many circumstances combined to certify to the truth of her spiritual and corporeal ravishment.
She tells us that more than once she was raised, bed and all, to the ceiling of her room by the force of the spirit; and the bruises she bore on her person after her journeys lend strength to her angels testimony that her body, as well as her soul, had shared in the rapture. How this was effected the angel alone knew.
There can, however, be no question here of the material body, no question of the pious virgins being caught up in her state of ordinary life. The angel only intended to say that her soul in its flights or, as St. Hildegarde expresses it, when it flashed through the realms of space like a ray of light, separated not from the body, ceased not its communication with that infinitely subtle fluid which we term the vital spirits which, in truth, belong to the body, but which are at the same time so closely connected with the nature of the soul as to form the first and chief instrument of its vital activity.
The more spiritualized the physical organism of Gods chosen one becomes
(a result which follows extra-ordinary mortification), the more penetrating
become also the vital spirits, like unto fire and, consequently, the nearer
do they approach to the nature of the soul; so that the latter, the soul, acting
in vision as if out of the body and without the body, is rendered capable of
communication with the world of spirit without really separating from the body,
without actually loosening the natural and necessary bond that holds them together.
It may be said, therefore, to act in a corporeal manner. Freed from
the confines of space and the obstacles opposed to it by the weight of the body, it can act in and with the body, effect that for which the senses serve as instruments and receive impressions through their medium. The interior senses, now become spiritualized, no longer offer resistance to the workings of the soul, but follow it withersoever it leads.
Thus, the whole man, body and soul, acts in contemplation, suffers and operates, although the exterior organs of sense remain inactive and, as it were, closed, and the body, owing to its weight, cannot really follow the soul into the far-off regions through which it journeys. We entirely reverse the natural relation existing between the soul and the body when we fancy that the former can receive without the intervention of the latter, impressions of material objects, impressions so powerful that they are forced, so to speak, to find an exit out of it into the body on which they exercise an action wholly new.
If we now consider the spiritual and supernatural preparation of a soul to dispose her for the reception of prophetic light, we shall see that, besides sanctifying grace, it is the infused virtue of that renders her capable of receiving and making use of this gift. And yet, infused faith is not a simple condition, it is the proper cause and end, by virtue of which God bestows the gift of contemplation. For man to attain beatitude, the first, the most necessary of Gods gifts, is the light of faith. All extraordinary gifts of grace relate to faith as the inferior to the superior, the means to the end, although the visible effects of these gifts are often more striking, more wonderful than the invisible, which are, however, incomparably more elevated. Faith, and not visions, is the source, the root of justification. No one can draw near to God or be pleasing to Him without faith. It is by faith that Jesus Christ dwells in the heart, and it is faith, and not visions, that seizes upon and appropriates the salvation offered with Him. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, calls faith the substance, that is the real and essential possession of things hoped for, the real sign of invisible goods.
Although faith gives not a clear, precise intuition of the facts and mysteries of our Redemption, yet it excludes even the possibility of error or doubt, and enables the believer to acquire the immense treasures contained in Gods revelations and promises to His infallible Church. The believer by virtue of his faith, possesses actually the goods acquired for him by the Redemption, however multiplied or admirable they may be; but, owing to his imperfect intelligence they are veiled from him just as the appearance and form of the future plant are concealed in the germ. To arrive at a clear perception of his treasures, to appreciate them as they deserve, he needs light to penetrate what is hidden, to read at a glance the history of bygone ages, or the unfulfilled promises of the future. This Almighty God communicates by the angel-guardian of the soul, who sustains its weakness and renders it capable of supporting its brilliancy. The angels assistance is necessary; without it, the soul could never rise to the marvelous regions of contemplation. The first effect of the angelic teaching is an awakening to the practices of the theological virtues; for the soul receives this light, not to find in it a source of joy, but an increase of intelligent faith.
Therefore, in Sister Emmerich faith was never inactive. From her Baptism, it manifested itself in uninterrupted acts of love, so much the more perfect as her soul never rested on sensible goods. St. Thomas teaches that faith holds the first rank in the spiritual life, since it is by faith alone that the soul is bound to God, the foundation and source of its life. As the body lives by the soul, the soul lives by God, and that, which gives life to the soul is that which binds it to God, namely faith. This light made known to Sister Emmerich through the angel the signification of the Twelve Articles of the Creed, which is a summary of the mysteries of salvation hidden in God from all eternity, revealed first as a promise and, in the fullness of time, accomplished in Jesus Christ. The whole history of Redemption, with all its circumstances of time, place, and actors, passed before her soul in pictures. Thousands of years could not separate her from these different events. She saw all by faith and penetrated into the interior and mutual relation between the most remote and the most recent facts connected with our Redemption, standing face to face with one another, the promise and the fulfillment. Every outward sign of faith renewed its effect in her soul. Did she witness the administration of a Sacrament, its supernatural effects were revealed to her by floods of light which either flowed in upon the soul of the recipient or were repelled in their course, thus making known to her his spiritual disposition.
Were a pious picture placed under her eyes, she instantly perceived a representation infinitely more faithful than the one before her, since faith awakened in her soul a perfect image of the original. Pious reading, holy conversation, the breviary, the chanting of psalms, everything, in fine, connected with religion, awoke in her emotions so strong and lively that, to resist absorption in vision, she was often obliged to use violence with herself. Sister Emmerich tried several times to give the Pilgrim some idea of her contemplation, but in vain; she could never satisfactorily explain the spiritual activity of her visions. We quote what the Pilgrim was able to write on different occasions:
I see many things that I cannot possibly express. Who can say with the
tongue what he sees not with the bodily eyes? . . .
I see it not with the eyes. It seems as if I saw it with my heart in the midst of my breast. It makes the perspiration start! At the same time I see with my eyes the objects and persons around me; but they concern me not, I know not who or what they are. I am in contemplation even now whilst I am speaking . . .
For several days I have been constantly between the state of vision and the natural waking state. I have to do violence to myself. In the middle of a conversation I suddenly see before me other things and pictures and I hear my own words as if proceeding from another, as if coming out of an empty cask. I feel as if I were intoxicated and reeling. My conversation goes on coolly and often more animatedly than usual, but when it is over I know not what I have said, though I have been speaking connectedly. It costs me an effort to maintain this double state. I see passing objects dimly and confusedly like a sleeper awaking out of a dream. The second sight attracts me more powerfully, it is clearer than the natural, but it is not through the eyes . . .
After relating a vision one day, she laid aside her work, saying: All this day have I been flying and seeing; sometimes I see the Pilgrim, sometimes not. Does he not hear the singing? It seems to me that I am in a beautiful meadow, the trees forming arches over me. I hear wondrously sweet singing like the clear voices of children. All around me here below is like at troubled dream, dim and confused, through which I gave upon a luminous world perfectly distinct in all its parts, intelligible even in its origin and connected in all its wonders. In it the good and holy delight more powerfully since one sees his way from God to God; and what is bad and unholy troubles more deeply as the way leads from the demon to the demon in opposition to God and the creature. This life in which nothing hinders me, neither time nor space, neither the body nor mystery, in which all speaks, all enlightens, is so perfect, so free that the blind, lame, stammering reality appears but an empty dream. In this state I always see the relics by me shining, and sometimes I see little troops of human figures floating over them in a distant cloud. When I return to myself, the boxes and caskets in which the shining relics lie reappear.
Once the Pilgrim gave her a little parcel into which without her knowledge he had slipped a relic. She took it with a significant smile, as if to say she could not be so deceived, and laying it on her heart, she said: I knew directly what you were giving me. I cannot describe the impression it produces. I not only see, I feel a light like the will-o-thewisp, sometimes bright, sometimes dull, blowing toward me as if directed by a current of wind. I feel, too, a certain connecting link between the light and the shining body, and between the latter and a luminous world, itself born of light. Who can express it? The light seizes me, I cannot prevent it from entering my heart; and, when I plunge in deeper, it seems as if I passed through it into the body from which it emanates, into the scenes of its life, its struggles, its sufferings, its triumphs! Then I am directed in vision as is pleasing to God. There is a wonderful, a mysterious relation between our body and soul. The soul sanctifies or profanes the body; otherwise, there could be no expiation, no penance by means of the body. As the saints whilst alive, worked in the body, so even when separated from it they continue to act by it upon the faithful. But faith is essential to the reception of holy influences.
Often whilst speaking with others on quite different subjects, I see far in the distance the soul of a deceased person coming toward me and I am forced to attend to it at once. I become silent and thoughtful. I have apparitions also of the saints in the same way . . .
I once had a beautiful revelation on this point, in which I learned that seeing with the eyes is no sight, that there is another, an interior sight which is clear and penetrating. But, when deprived of daily Communion, a cloud obscures my clear inward sight, I pray less fervently, with less devotion, I forget important things, signs, and warnings, and I see the destructive influence of exterior things which are essentially false. I feel a devouring hunger for the Blessed Sacrament and, when I look toward the church, I feel as if my heart were about to escape from my breast and fly to my Redeemer . . .
When I was in trouble, because in obedience to my guides orders I refused to be removed to another abode, I cried to God to direct me. I was overwhelmed with trials, and yet I saw so many holy visions that I knew not what to do. In my prayer I was calm. I saw a face, a countenance approach me and melt, as it were, into my breast as if uniting with my being. It seemed as if my soul becoming one with it returned into itself and grew smaller and smaller, whilst my body appeared to become a great massive substance large as a house. The countenance, the apparition in me appeared to be triple, infinitely rich and varied, but at the same time always one. It penetrated (that is, its beams, its regards) into all the choirs of angels and saints. I experienced joy and consolation from it, and I thought: Could all this come from the evil spirit? And whilst I was thus thinking, all the pictures, clear and distinct like a series of bright clouds, passed again before my soul, and I felt that they were now out of me, at my side in a luminous sphere. I felt also that although I was larger, yet I was not so massive as before. There was now, as it were, a world outside of me into which I could peer through a luminous opening. A maiden approached who explained this world of light to me, directed my attention here and there, and pointed out to me the vineyard of the holy Bishop in which I now had to labor.
But I saw too on my left, a second world full of deformed figures, symbols of perversity, calumny, raillery, and injury. They came like a swarm, the point directed toward me. Of all that came to me from this sphere, I could accept nothing, for the just, the good were in the pure, luminous sphere on my right. Between these two spheres I hung by one arm poor and abandoned, floating so to say, between heaven and earth. This state lasted long and caused me great pain; still I was not impatient. At last, St. Susanna13 came to me from the luminous sphere with St. Liborius in whose vineyard I had to work. They freed me, and I was brought again into the vineyard which was uncultivated and overgrown. I had to prune the wild, straggling branches on the trellises that the sun might reach the young shoots. With great trouble I worked at a gap in the lattice. I gathered the leaves and, as I had no fine cloth, I had to take my kerchief. This labor tired me so that I lay on my bed next morning all bruised and sore; I felt as if not a bone were left in my body. My arms still ache . . .
The way in which a communication from the blessed is received, is hard to explain. What is said is incredibly brief; by one word from them I understand more than by thirty from others. I see the speakers thought, but not with the eyes; all is clearer, more distinct than in the present state. One receives it with as much pleasure as he hails a breeze in summer. Words cannot well express it . . .
All that the poor soul said to me was, as usual, brief. To understand the language of the souls of Purgatory is difficult. Their voice is smothered as if coming through something that dulls the sound; it is like one speaking from a pit or a cask. The sense, also, is more difficult to seize. Closer attention is required than when Our Lord, or my guide, or a saint speaks to me, for their words penetrate like a clear current of air, one sees and knows all they say. One of the words say more than a lengthy discourse . . .
KNOWLEDGE OF THE THOUGHTS OF OTHERS
Late one evening in the winter of 1813, Father Limberg returned tired and worn out after a whole day spent in sick calls. As he sat down in Sister Emmerichs room, breviary in hand, the thought occurred to him: I am so tired and I have so many prayers to sayif it were no sin, I would let them go. Hardly had he conceived the thought, seated at some distance from her, than she cried out: O do say your prayers! He asked: What prayers do you mean? Your breviary, she answeredWhy do you ask? This was the first time, remarked the Father, that I was struck by anything extraordinary in her.
On July 25th, 1821, Sister Emmerich spoke as follows to the Pilgrim: The
Pilgrim has no devotion, he prays nervously, mixing things up quickly. I often
see all kinds of bad thoughts chasing one another through his head. They peer
around like strange, ugly, wild beasts! He checks them not, he does not drive
them away promptly; it is as if he were used to them, they run about as over
a beaten path. The Pilgrim remarked: It is, unhappily, only too
From the lips of those that pray I see a chain of words issuing like a fiery stream and mounting up to God, and in them I see the disposition of the one who prays, I read everything. The writing is as varied as the individuals themselves. Some of the currents are all aglow, others are dull; some of the characters are round and full, some running, just like different styles of handwriting.
When Sister Emmerich characterized her contemplations as not seen with the eyes but with the soul, the heart being, so to say, the organ of sight, she intended to indicate not only its beginning and development, but also its supernatural and meritorious character. Every good work originates in the heart; there it is the faithful soul receives the impulse of grace to produce meritorious acts, either interior or exterior. It is in the heart that the Holy Spirit dwells; there He pours out his gifts; there is formed that bond of charity which unites the faithful together, and binds them to their invisible Head, Jesus Christ, as the branches to the vine. Mans value before God is estimated by the dispositions of his heart, its uprightness, its good will, its charity, and not by keenness of intellect or extent of knowledge.
Thus is was that Sister Emmerich saw in her heart the visions vouchsafed her by her God; there it was that she heard her angels voice and her confessors commands, whether expressed in words or only mentally and at a distance. She obeyed instantaneously in either case, returning promptly from ecstasy to consciousness. In her heart also did she hear the distressed cries of those whom she was appointed to succor, even though seas and continents lay between her and them; there too did she feel the agony of the dying whom she was to assist in their last moments by her own sufferings and prayers.
It was her heart that warned her of impending danger either to the Church or individuals. She often endured distress of mind long before she clearly understood the cause. In her heart she saw the thoughts, the dispositions, the whole moral character of those with whom she treated either actually or in spirit; there she heard impious words, blasphemy, etc., for the expiation of which God was pleased to accept the torments of His innocent creature; finally, it was in her heart that she heard the voice that called her to ecstasy. She promptly obeyed the call, and collected together all the powers of her soul to accomplish whatever was demanded of her. She had never known an attachment to perishable goods. Apart from God and His service, she desired nothing, knew nothing. Her soul, delighted by heavenly visions, sought no earthly gratification. Faith and the Commandments were her only measure of created things. St. Hildegarde informs us what rank the heart holds even in the natural order:
When by the mysterious order established by the Supreme Creator, the body is quickened in the mothers womb, the soul like a fiery globe bearing no resemblance to the human form, takes possession of the heart, mounts to the brain, and animates all the members . . . It takes possession of the heart, because glowing with the light of its deep knowledge, it distinguishes different things in the sphere of its comprehension (that is, recognizes the objects that fall under the senses). It takes not the form of the body, because it is incorporeal and immortal. It gives strength to the heart which as the fundamental part governs the whole body, and like the firmament of Heaven it holds together what is below it, hides what is above. It mounts to the brain, because in the wisdom of God it has the power to understand not only what is earthly, but also what is heavenly. It diffuses itself through all the members, because it communicates vital strength to the whole body, to the marrow, the veins, to all the different parts just as a tree transmits sap from its root to its branches that they may clothe themselves with leaves.
The soul dwells in the fortress of the heart, as in a corner of the house, just as the father of a family takes a position whence he can overlook and direct affairs for the good of his household. He turns toward the east and raises his right arm to give his orders. The soul does the same, looking toward the rising of the sun through the ways (the sense) of the whole body.
The soul itself is of a fiery nature. It penetrates the entire body in which it dwells, the veins with their blood, the bones with their marrow, the flesh with its juices; it is inextinguishable. The fire of the soul rises from the reasoning faculties whence comes the word, the speech. Were the soul not of a fiery nature, it could not vivify the cold mass with its heat nor build up the body with its venous streams. The soul, breathing, burning in the reasoning faculties, distributes its heat throughout the body in proper measure that the latter may not be consumed.
St. Hildegardes explanation of visions is the same as Sister Emmerichs;
they bear testimony to each other:
The way in which contemplation is carried on is hard for a man subject to the senses to understand. I have my visions not in dreams nor sleep, not in the delirium of fever nor through the instrumentality of the external senses, and not in secret places. I receive them by Gods will, in my waking moments, in the untroubled splendor of an unclouded spirit, with the eyes and ears of the inner man, and in places open to all . . . God works where He will for the glorification of His name, not for that of earthly man. I am in constant dread, because I recognize in myself nothing to assure me; but I raise my hands to God to be borne by Him like a feather wafted about by the wind. What I see I cannot perfectly comprehend when I am occupied with outward things and my soul not wholly absorbed in contemplation, for then both states are imperfect. From my infancy, when my bones, my nerves, my veins were yet without strength, I have had in my soul this light of contemplation, and I am now seventy years old. In vision, as God wills it, my soul soars above the firmament through regions of space, and beholds the far, far distant nations. And, as in this way, I see all these things in my soul, I see also the various strata of clouds and other true creatures. That is to say, this spiritual contemplation is not an empty imagination, but an extension of the soul through the farthest space, and nothing that I meet escapes my observation. I see it not with my outward senses; I hear not with my ears; I create it not from the thoughts of my mind, nor by any cooperation of the five senses, but only through the soul, the eyes of the body being open. The latter never failed me in consequence of ecstasy, for I am in contemplation whilst awake by day, as well as by night.
The light that I see is not material light circumscribed by place. It is much brighter than the clouds around the sun; in it I can discover neither length nor breadth, height nor depth. I call it the shadow of the living light. As the sun, moon, and stars are reflected in water, so in this light the writings, the words, the dispositions, the works of men shine out in pictures. What I discover in contemplation I remember long. I see, hear, and know all at once; I comprehend instantaneously all that I ought to know. What I do not see in contemplation I do not understand, for I have not received a learned education. As for what I have to write in vision, I can trace the words only just as I have seen them, nor can I put them into elegant Latin. I hear them not as flowing from the lips of men; but they are like a lambent flame, a luminous cloud floating in a clear atmosphere. I can no more recognize a form in this light that I can look steadily at the suns disc.
In this light I sometimes see another which is named to me as the living light, but I do not see it as often as I do the first and still less can I describe it. When I receive it all sadness and sorrow vanish from my mind, so that I am more like a simple child than an old woman. The first light, the shadow of the living light, never departs from my soul. I see it just as I should see a luminous cloud through the starless firmament, and in it I see that which, out of the splendor of the living light, I say.
Whatever may be the effect of this divine light upon the soul, the practice of the faith can never be superfluous; the former never substitutes anything more meritorious than the latter. On the contrary, the prophetic light like that of infused knowledge, serves but to strengthen faith, and confers clearer intelligence upon the points proposed for its exercise. For the mind of man there can be no more elevated, no more perfect acts than those of the infused theological virtues. God has opened for him no other way to eternal happiness than that of faith. The simple faithful, though destitute of the light of contemplation, can be instruction, prayer, and meditation, by the practice of the precepts of faith, penetrate its mysteries and appreciate its inestimable value. He who has been raised to contemplation, looks not upon faith as inferior to this extraordinary gift; the clearer and more comprehensive his visions, the stronger does it become St. Catherine of Sienna is a proof of this. Treating of the relation of faith to contemplation, she says in her Dialogues, dictated during ecstasy, that the gift of prophecy can be recognized as true only by the light of faith.
O Eternal Trinity, abyss of love, dissolve the cloud of my body! Thou art the fire that dispels all cold! With Thy light Thou enlightenest the mind and teachest all truth! Thou art the light above all light! From Thy light, Thou givest light to the understanding; namely, the supernatural light, in such plenitude and perfection that thereby the light of faith is increased, faith by which I know that my soul lives and that in its light I have received Thy light. In the light of faith I acquire wisdom in the wisdom of the Word, Thy Son; in the light of faith, I am strong, constant, and persevering; in the light of faith, I trust that Thou wilt never suffer me to stray from the right path. The light of faith teaches me the way that I should follow; without its light I should wander in darkness, therefore have I prayed Thee, O Eternal Father, to enlighten me with the light of most holy faith! O Most Holy Trinity, in the light (of contemplation) which Thou hast given me, which I have received through the workings of the light of most holy faith, I have known by many admirable explanations the way of true perfection, that I may serve Thee in light and not in darkness! Why did I not see Thee by the light of most holy, most praiseworthy faith? Because the clouds of self-love obscured the eye of my understanding. But Thou, O Most Holy Trinity, Thou hast dissipated this darkness by Thy light! How can I thank Thee for this immense benefit, for the knowledge of the truth Thou hast given me? This instruction (which I have received from Thee by the light of prophecy) is a special grace (granted only to me) over and above the general one which Thou dost accord to other creatures.
Sister Emmerich also was, like Hildegarde, taught by her angel in infancy how
to practice faith as the foundation of the spiritual life.
When in my sixth year, I meditated on the First Article of the Catholic Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, pictures of the creation passed before my soul. I saw the fall of the angels, the creation of earth and Paradise, of Adam and Eve, and the Fall of man. I thought everybody saw them just as we see other things around us. I spoke to them freely to my parents, my brothers and sisters, and to my playmates, until I found that they laughed at me, asking if I had a book in which all these things were written. Then I began to be more reserved on such subjects, thinking I ought not to mention them, though why I could not tell. I had these visions by day and by night, in the fields, and going about my different occupations. One day at school I spoke with childish simplicity of the Resurrection, using other terms than those taught us. I thought everyone knew the same, I never suspected that I was saying anything strange. The children wondered and told the master, who gravely warned me not to indulge such imaginations, I still had visions, but I kept silence concerning them.
I was like a child looking at pictures, explaining them in its own way, without thinking much upon their meaning. These visions represented the saints or scenes from Sacred History, sometimes in one way, sometimes in another. They produced no change in my faith; I thought them my picturebook. I gazed at them calmly and always with the good thought: All to the greater glory of God! I have never believed anything in spiritual things but what God, the Lord, has revealed and proposed through the Catholic Church for our belief, whether written or not; never have I believed so firmly what I saw in vision, I looked upon them as I devoutly regard, here and there, the various cribs at Christmas, without annoyance at their different style. In each I adore only the same dear little Infant Jesus, and it is the same with these pictures of the creation of heaven, of earth, and of man. I adore in them God, the Lord, the Almighty Creator, I never studies anything from the Gospels, or the Old Testament, for I have myself seen all in the course of my life. I see them every year; sometimes they are alike, or again they are attended by new scenes. I have often been present with the spectators, assisting as a contemporary, even taking part in the scene, though I did not always remain in the same place. I was often borne up into the air and I beheld the scene from on high.
I had an inward consciousness of them, pictures apart from the outward scene. In all cases I saw through and through, one body never hid another, and yet there was no confusion. Whilst a child, before I entered the convent, I had many visions principally from the Old Testament, but afterward they became rare and the life of Our Lord took their place. I knew the whole life of Jesus and Mary from their very birth. I often contemplated the Blessed Virgin in her childhood and saw what she did when alone in her little chamber; I even knew what she wore. I saw that the people of Our Lords time had sunk lower, were even more wicked than those of our day; still, there were a few more simple, more pious than now. They differed as much from one another as tigers do from lambs. Now reign general tepidity and torpor. The persecution of the just in those days consisted in delivering them to the executioner, in tearing them to pieces; now it is exercised by injury, disdain, raillery, patient and constant efforts to corrupt and destroy. Martyrdom is now an endless torment.
Sister Emmerichs communications with the Pilgrim furnished her many opportunities for combating his religious errors and prejudices. One day he maintained in specious arguments that the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi was unnecessary, since on Holy Thursday and in the daily Mass the Holy Eucharist is celebrated. She listened in silence, but next day she said to him:
I have received a severe reproof from my guide. He says I should not have listened to the Pilgrims words, I should not countenance such talk, it is heretical. All that the Church does, even if there should glide in through human weakness views not altogether pure, is done under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God, and for the wants of the times. The Feast of the Blessed Sacrament had become a necessity, since, at the time of its institution, the adoration due to Jesus therein was neglected: therefore, the Church proclaimed her faith by public worship. There is no feast, no worship, no article of faith established by her which is not indispensable, not absolutely requisite at the time for the preservation of true doctrine. God makes use of individuals, even with views less pure, to serve His own adorable designs. The Church is founded on a rock; no human weakness can ravish from her treasures. Therefore, I must never again listen to such denials of necessity in the Churchs decision, for they are heretical. After this severe lesson, I endured cruel sufferings for my condescension.
The Pilgrim here adds a note: This is a warning to me of how wrong it is to speak lightly of what concerns the Church. Sister Emmerich again expressed herself as follows, on the Illuminati, who, rejecting the holy usages of the Church, endeavor to introduce in their stead empty formulas and high-sounding phrases: If the Church is true all in her is true; he who admits not the one, believes not the other. Whoever attributes things to chance, denies the effects of cause and makes them the result of chance. Nothing is mere ceremony, all is substantial, all acts through the outward signs. I have often heard learned priests say: We must not ask people to believe everything at once; if they only get hold of the thread, they will soon draw the whole ball to themselves.
Such a speech is bad, erroneous. Most people take very fine thread and wind until it breaks, or is scattered in shreds around. The whole religion of either laymen or priests who speak thus is, in my opinion, like a balloon filled with holy things and sent up into the air, but which never reaches the sky. I often see the religion of whole cities floating over them like a balloon.
I have often been told that God has attached to the holy cross of Coesfield and to all places in which sacred objects are venerated, the power of resisting evil; but miracles depend on the fervor of prayer. I often see the cross venerated in procession and those that receive with faith the graces flowing from it, preserved from evil, and their petitions heard, whilst their neighbors are shrouded in darkness. I have also been told that lively, simple faith makes all things real and substantial. These two expressions gave me great light on the subject of miracles and the granting of prayer.
With such words as the above she strove to combat the Pilgrims inclination to laud the piety of the Moravians whilst he bitterly decried the miseries of the Church. I was sternly rebuked by my guide when I listened silently to such remarks. He pointed out the rashness of such judgments, saying that one falls thereby into the same faults as the first apostates. He told me that I had to supply what is neglected in the Church, otherwise I shall be more guilty than they to whom it is not given to see what I see. I saw the Moravian settlement. They are as restrained in their movements as a person who tries to avoid waking one who is asleep. It is all so formal, clean, and quiet, they appear so pious, but they are inwardly dead and in a far more deplorable state than the poor Indians for whom I have now to pray. Where there is no struggle there is no victory. They are idle, therefore they are poor; their affairs go badly enough, in spite of their fine talk and fair appearance. I saw this in the Nuptial House. Under the picture of two invalids, I saw the difference between souls, and their interior state before God. I saw the Moravian community under the appearance of a sick person who conceals her maladies, who is very agreeable and pleasing in the exterior; opposite to her, as in a far-off vision, I saw another invalid covered with ulcers which sparkled and shone like pearls. The bed on which she lay was bright, the floor, the ceiling, the whole room, were dazzling white like snow. As the sick Moravian drew near this room, she left stains wherever she stepped though she pretended not to see anything of it.
Sister Emmerichs manner of acting was even more significant than her
words. Though so highly privileged; though in almost continual contemplation
of the highest mysteries and truths of religion, the life of our Blessed Lord
and His saints; though admitted to a corporeal participation in His Sacred Passion;
yet her greatest happiness, her most earnest desire was to assist at the celebration
of the feasts and ceremonies of the Church in company with the faithful. Her
infirmities cut her off for years from this consolation, and she felt the privation
most deeply; no ecstasy, no vision could indemnify her for the loss. In this
she resembled Maria Bagnesi and Magdalene di Pazzi; the former of whom begged
so ardently to be allowed to visit one more the miraculous statue in the Church
of the Annunciation, Florence, that God granted her that favor, the last gratification
she had on earth. Marias sufferings were such as to prevent her moving
freely around her little room; yet she managed, though with great pain, to attend
to the altar which it contained and on which Mass was celebrated for her consolation.
Magdalene di Pazzi, though in constant communication with her angel-guardian,
knew no greater pleasure when a child than to listen to the devout conversation
of her mother whom she sometimes embarrassed by her questions; nothing seemed
to her comparable to the
happiness of possessing the truth faith.
As St. Hildegarde could say: In contemplation I am more like a child than an old woman, so, too, did Sister Emmerich in vision often become again a child of five or six years old. This puzzled her, and she once asked her angel what it meant. He replied: If thou wert not really a child, that could not happen. He wished to imply that, if she were not in soul and body as pure as a flower in the morning dew, she never could return to the innocent simplicity of childhood. (One day, Sister Emmerich lay in ecstasy, when suddenly she began to gesticulate like a little child, stretching out her arms and exclaiming: Good day, little mother! It has been a long time since you came with your child. Oh! give Him to me! I have not had Him for so long! Returned to herself, she said joyously: I saw the Mother of God coming to me with the child Jesus. It made me so glad! I wanted to take the child, but she disappeared, and I called after her.)
When Maria Bagnesi in her eighteenth year was about to pronounce her vows as a Tertiary of St. Dominic, she knew not the meaning of the vow of chastity. She questioned her confessor, who told her that it meant to have Jesus Christ alone for spouse. O, said Maria smiling, I have always kept that vow, then, for I have never had any other desire than that of loving Jesus. St. Magdalene di Pazzi also could declare on her deathbed that she had never known anything contrary to purity, nor even in what manner it could be sullied. Here we discover the secret of these privileged souls; no earthly image ever dimmed the mirror of their soul, which should reflect alone the bright beams of prophetic light. And by this, also, we understand why the Church, when passing judgment on extraordinary graces, seeks proofs of their reality in those virtues attained only by constant mortification and detachment.
It would be in contradiction with the sanctity of God for the supernatural light of contemplation to dwell in a soul not wholly dead to itself and creatures; therefore is this gift so rare, for in very few are found that purity and humility which characterized Sister Emmerich. We need no more convincing proof of the latter virtue than the Pilgrims own testimony. From close observation he had drawn the conclusion that her unaccountable maladies arose from causes in the spiritual order quite foreign to her own physical condition; and great was his disappointment, not to say disgust, when he saw her attach no importance whatever to their supernatural origin and pay little attention to their intimate connection with certain evils of the spiritual order which she was called upon to expiate. His journal contains such lines as the following: All goes to waste, the greatest graces are not understood! Her carelessness deprives me of the most important revelations concerning the inward workings of her privileged life, etc., etc. And again, when he saw her, regardless of the particular character of her sufferings, accepting and even calling for Dr. Weseners remedies, his impatience manifested itself.
January 20 and February 3, 1823. Her sufferings increase, her courage decreases. She lay all night in one position groaning with pain, until we turned her on the other side. She was also tormented by fearful visions. She thought herself a child pursued by wild beasts, swimming over stagnant pools to escape them, and unable to call for assistance . . . She endured this state till the vigil of Candlemas. To the terrible hemorrhages of the last few days succeeded a general swelling of her whole body. I am full of pain, she groaned, pain in all my members, even in my heels! This sudden change began at the sound of the evening bells of the Purification, and it was completed when they ceased to ring.
She was quite courageous, though she neither spoke nor seemed to think of the coincidence. This is her usual manner of acting, whatever be her state. She seems unconscious of anything extraordinary; she even begs for help and seems hurt if we do not try to relieve her. Her mysterious life is neither directed nor governedhence result loss, confusion, want of harmony. The Pilgrim failed to reflect that her patient sufferings had obtained for her an increase of fortitude, which proves that her childlike simplicity in receiving them without seeking for a cause, was infinitely more agreeable to God than those around her dared to suspect. Three years previously, when struck by her unalterable peace of soul, the Pilgrim had recorded: She is extraordinarily courageous, full of childlike peace and simplicity. She is always in contemplation, although she tries to resist it. She rejoices only in this, that she lives to suffer. It is impossible to repeat her words, her transition from outward realities to the state of vision, her childlike joy, patience, courage, abandonment, the charm and candor of her whole demeanor. Only they who see her can know it. In this state she is the picture of an innocent, trusting child full not of faith, but of that certainty that sight gives.
What we believe by Gods grace, she knows; it is as real to her as is the existence of her parents and family. She is, consequently, free from all returns upon self; she exhibits, no discontent, no irritation. She has no enemy; she is full of peace, of joy, and of love. There is no assumption of false gravity about her. They are a little disappointed who expect to find in her exterior some striking confirmation of extraordinary graces. Such persons attend rather to the emblems of dignity than to the dignity itself. When the Pilgrim visited her she had a book before her, though indeed she was not reading; she made use of it to prevent her minds becoming absorbed in vision, but such efforts were often useless. At times she joyfully thanked God for letting her live to suffer for her neighbor, for in eternity she could no longer do so. She knows no sadness. Many scenes, forgotten during the past days, have returned to her mind; for instance, these last cold nights, she saw all the people in the neighborhood who were without beds. The sight touched her, and she immediately supplied their need. She saw also a poor widow, her own relative, in the same want. She turned to her angel, begging him to get her brothers angel to inspire him to send the poor woman a bed, and next day she had the consolation of learning that her brother had done so.
False sanctity, as we may easily believe, knows no such consolations, since it turns good into evil and has its root in spiritual pride. It can aspire only to the recompense offered by the father of lies; viz., the satisfaction springing from gratified vanity, the praise of men, and sensual joys. True contemplation grounds the soul in obedience and self-contempt. Its chief characteristic is a disinclination to reveal the graces received, deference to spiritual authority alone being able to break the seal of silence in which it shrouds itself. On the other hand, boasting, vain-glory, and publicity are the marks of a deluded soul; and, as the effects of grace are an increase of light, and of all the theological and moral virtues, so the inevitable consequences of spiritual pride are hypocrisy, heresy, and superstition. One day Sister Emmerich, overwhelmed by suffering, entreated Our Lord to withdraw those visions in which she beheld so much that was incomprehensible to her. But she received the following reply:
I give thee visions not for thyself, but that thou mayest collect and communicate them. The present is not the time for sensible miracles; therefore, I give thee visions. I have done the same at all times to show that I am with My Church to the consummation of ages. But visions alone secure not anyones salvation. Thou must practice charity, patience, and the other virtues. At another time she related what follows: I begged Almighty God to withdraw my visions, that I may not be forced to communicate them, but I was not heard. As usual, I was told to relate all that I could recall, even if I should be laughed at or even if I do not see any use in it. I was again told that no one has ever seen all that I have seen or in the same way, but that that is not my affair, it is the Churchs. So much being allowed to go to waste will entail great accountability and do much harm. They who deprive me of leisure and the clergy who have no faith and who find no one to take down my visions will have to render a severe account of their negligence. I saw, too, how the demon raises obstacles.
Long ago I was ordered to tell all, even if I should be looked upon as a fool. But no one wanted to listen to me,and the holiest things that I had seen and heard were so misunderstood and derided that through timidity I shut all up in my own heart, though not without pain. Then I used to see in the distance the figure of a stranger who was to come to write by me. I have found him, I recognized him in the Pilgrim. From childhood I have had the habit of praying every evening for all who are in danger from accidents, such as violent falls, drowning, fire, etc., and I see pictures of such things turning out happily. If I should happen to omit this prayer, I always see or hear of some great disaster; consequently, I understand by this not only the necessity of special prayers, but also the advantage there may be in making it known, since it may incite others to this loving service of prayer, though they see not its effects as I do. The many, many wonderful communications from the Old and the New Testament, the innumerable pictures from the lives of the saints, etc., have been given me, through Gods mercy, not for my instruction alone, for there is much that I cannot understand, but that I may communicate them, that they may revive what is now forgotten.
This duty has again been imposed upon me. I have explained this fact, as well as I could, but no one will take the trouble even to listen to me. I must keep it to myself and forget much of it. I hope God will send me what is necessary. The following communication shows that it was with the shield of faith that Sister Emmerich combated the tempter when he dared approach her in vision: I endured such pain in my wounds that I was forced to scream, I could hardly bear it. The blood flowed in a jerking way toward them. Suddenly Satan stood before me as an angel of light, and said: Shall I pierce thy wounds? In the morning all will be well. They will never again give thee pain, thou wilt never suffer more from them. But I recognized him at once, and said: Begone! I want nothing from thee! Thou didst not make my wounds! I shall have nothing to do with thee! Then he withdrew and squatted like a dog behind the cupboard. After while he came out and said: Do not think thyself so well off with Jesus, because thou dost imagine that thou art always running around with Him. It all comes from me! I show thee all those pictures. I, also, have a kingdom! I chased him again by my reply. After a long time, he came again and said boldly: Why torment thyself with doubts? All that thou hast, all that thou seest, is from me. Things are in a bad state, I have thee. What need of worrying thyself? Again I cried: Begone! I will belong only to Jesus, I will love Him and curse thee! I shall endure such pains as He wills me to suffer! My anguish was so great that I called my confessor. He blessed me and the fiend fled. But this morning, as I was saying my Credo, he again appeared and said: What use is the Credo to thee? Thou dost not understand a word of it; but I will teach thee all things clearlythen shalt thou both see and know. I replied: I want not to know I want to believe. Then he recited a passage from Holy Scripture; but there was one word in it which he could not pronounce, and I said again and again: Say that word, say it distinctly, if thou canst! I trembled in every limb, and, at last, he disappeared . . .
When I see the Communion of Saints in the light of vision, their actions and their love, their interpenetrating one another, how each is in and for the others, how each is all and still one is unending brilliancy of light, I feel unspeakable joy and lightsomeness. Then I see far and near the dark figures of living beings, I am drawn to them by irresistible love, I am urged so sweetly, so lovingly, to pray for them, to beg God and the saints to help them that my heart beats with love. I feel, I see more clearly than day that we all live in communication with the saints, that we are in constant relation with them. Then I grieve over mens blindness and obduracy. I cry out confidently to the Saviour; Thou art all-powerful, Thou art all love! Thou canst do all things! Suffer them not to be lost! Think of Thy Precious Blood!
Then I see how He labors for them so touchingly. Only see, He says, How near I am to help them, to heal them, and how rudely they repulse Me! And then I feel that His justice is full of sweetness and love. My guide often takes me in spirit through all sorts of human miseries: sometimes to prisoners, sometimes to the dying, to the sick, the poor, to the homes of sin and discord. I see bad priests, I see bad prayers, the profanation of the Sacraments, and of holy things. I see disdained by miserable creatures, the graces, the helps, the consolations, the eternal nourishment of the Most Holy Sacrament that the Lord offers them. I see them turning away, driving the Lord violently from them. I see all the saints in a sweet, loving readiness to help them; but lost to them are the graces poured upon them from the treasure of Christs merits confided to the Church. That afflicts me. I gather up all these lost graces into my heart and thank Jesus for them, saying: Ah! pity Thy blind, miserable creatures! they know not what they do! Ah! look not at their offenses, keep these graces for poor, blind sinners! Lord, give them at another time that they may be helped by them. Ah! let not Thy Precious Blood be lost to them! The Lord often hears my prayer, and to my great consolation, I see Him again bestowing His graces.
When I pray in general for the most needy, I usually make the Way of the Cross at Coesfeld, and at each station I pray for a different necessity. Then I have all sorts of visions which show me in pictures right and left of the station, far off in the distance, the distress, the assistance given, and the places in which the scenes are enacted. Today as I knelt at the First Station, I prayed for those who were going to confession before the feast, that God would grant them sincere repentance, and the grace to declare all. Then I saw in various regions people praying in their homes or otherwise occupied, whilst thinking of the state of their conscience. I saw their hearts, and I urged them not to fall again into the sleep of sin. Then I saw those that would come to my confessor, and I was directed to say to him, but in general terms, how to treat this or that person.
At the Second Station, I prayed for those whom poverty or misery deprived of sleep that God would give them hope and consolation. And then I saw into many wretched huts in which the inmates tossed on their straw beds, thinking that morning would find them no better off than the evening had done, and I saw my prayer procuring them rest.
At the Third Station, I prayed against strife and quarrels, and I saw in a cottage a man and wife very angry with each other. I prayed for them; they grew calm, mutually forgave, and joined hands.
At the Fourth Station, I prayed for travelers that they might lay aside their worldly thoughts and go in spirit to Bethlehem to do homage to the dear Christ-Child. I saw around me many journeying along with bundles on their shoulders, and one, in particular, more thoughtless than his fellows. I prayed for him, and suddenly I saw him fall over a stone in his path. He exclaimed: The devil put that stone there for me! But, recovering himself, he took off his hat and began to pray.
At the Fifth Station, I prayed for prisoners who, in their misery, think not of the holy season and deprive themselves of its divine consolations. Here, too, I was consoled. The rest has escaped my memory . . .
As I lay one day thinking: In what a miserable state I am! What a fate is mine! Others can work and do good, whilst I lie her like a cripple. I begged God to give me something that I could do. Then I saw an inn in which some men were quarreling. I prayed with all my heart for them to cease their strife. They became calm, and peace was restored. I thought of poor, helpless travelers, and saw a sorrowful-looking man dragging along the road, not knowing where to turn for food or lodging. I was filled with pity. I prayed for him, when there rode up a horseman who, as he passed the poor man, asked whence he came and in what direction he was going. The man mentioned the cities (but I forget the names). The rider gave him some money and galloped on. The poor man stood in wonder gazing at the money, four whole thalers! He could hardly realize his good fortune; he exclaimed: How wonderful is God! Had I reached the city, I should not have received this money.
Then he began to think of all that he would do with it. I can still see him. My guide then took me to about twenty sick people whose ulcers I sucked. When my guide calls me on such errands, I follow blindly. We pass through walls and doors to the sick, and he tells me what I have to do. I see all distinctly and even if there be a crowd around the sickbed, that does not hinder me, there is always room for me. Whilst he assist the invalids, they seem to sleep or to be unconscious, but they got better. Last night I assisted several at Coesfield. I know one of them, a little fellow twelve years old. I shall make inquires . . .
I give such assistance only in Christian countries. In faroff infidel lands I float above the darkness, earnestly praying for the inhabitants to be enlightened. I think that everyone who prays from his heart for such unhappy creatures, earnestly desirous of helping them all he can, really gives such assistance . . .
I have to heal spiritual maladies also. My guide took me to a spiritual hospital full of sick, of every age and condition, men and women. There were numbers whom I knew, others were strangers. I had no help excepting my guide, who blessed the water that I carried in a little kettle. I had relics also, but I only used them in secret. All the inmates were sick in soul through sin and their passions, their maladies appearing exteriorly in the body. The degree of sin was indicated by their greater or less poverty, especially shown forth in their beds. The poorest lay on the ground on straw, others in beds, either clean or filthy, which bespoke their good or bad surroundings; some were lying on the bare ground, whilst others were sitting up, etc. I spoke not to them, nor they to me; but when I bandaged their wounds or sucked their sores, sprinkled them with the blessed water or secretly touched them with the relics, they were relieved or cured.
They who had sinned through sloth, had sore or lame hands; they who were give to theft and such like practices, had convulsions, cramps in their limbs, and ulcers. Secret evils had their seat in internal ulcers, which had to be dissolved by poultices, or drawn out by blisters. Some were not quite right in their mind from having tormented themselves with useless researches. I beheld them staggering around and suddenly striking their heads against something, which brought them to their senses. I had to attend to many, natives and foreigners, also to Protestants. There was a girl who was suffering from obstinacy. Hard and livid welts ran through her whole body like veins; they looked like the red strokes of a lash. I cured her with holy water. I also raised the dead. They were in a third place and differed from the others in this that they lay quite patient, but utterly incapable of helping themselves. Among them, also, the evil to be cured manifested itself in corporal maladies. I bandaged them. . .
Toward the close of my task, I was assisted by some maidens, and then I was brought home by my guide, who gravely reproved me for thinking myself useless: for, he said, I had done a great deal. God makes use of everyone in a different way . . .
Again I was taken to a large military hospital. It seemed as if it were under a shedbut where, I know not. Some of the inmates were Germans, and there were others who looked like prisoners who had been brought thither in wagons. Many of the drivers were in rags and wore gray smockfrocks. Some of the sick seemed to be a little elevated in the air; they had moral evils represented, as in the other hospital, by corporeal sickness. I went all around relieving, curing, putting on bandages, making lint. Some saints accompanied me, helping me, hiding from my eyes whatever was not decent, and throwing a veil of darkness over many of the unfortunate beings who were quite naked. At last I came to some who had bodily wounds; they were not suspended in the air, they lay on the ground. The wounds of the morally sick were the most offensive, for their source is in the depths of the heart; exteriorly they do not seem so hideous, though they are really far more horrible. Bodily wounds are not so deep, they have a more healthful odor; but they who do not understand such things think them the more frightful. Moral wounds are often healed by patient endurance.
I gave all I had, I cut up my bedclothes, used all my white linen, and Abbé Lamberts too; but the more I gave away the more need there was. I never had enough. Many good people brought me things. There was a room full of officers, and for them something better was necessary. There lay my enemies, and I rejoiced that I could do them good. There was one whom I could not relieve. He wanted a physician according to his own ideas and such could not be found. His state was fearful. Later I had other patients, my own acquaintances, peasants, citizens, ecclesiastics, and also N. N. I had been commissioned a long time before to tell him something; his state grew daily worse. He sought honors and neglected souls.
It was given to me to see all whom I had cured by sucking their sores, both really and spiritually. My Spouse told me again that such spiritual assistance is real assistance, that I do it in spirit only because I am now not capable of doing it corporally.
When I worked as a child in the fields, or as a religious in the garden, I used to feel myself urged to beg God to do for men what I could do only for the plants. I often have a clear idea of the mutual relations and resemblances between creatures which, like emblems, can explain one another; so also in prayer and communion with God one can do really in desire and affection what he could not do actually on account of external hindrances. As a portrait can make me know the original, so can I exercise charity, render services, bestow care upon the picture or image of the object for whom I can do nothing personally and directly. If I do it in Jesus and for Jesus, He transmits it to the person for whom I do it by virtue of His merits; therefore, the merciful God grants to my earnest prayers and longing to assist my neighbor those lively pictures in which I supplicate for the welfare of this or that person . . .
I have also been shown how unspeakably good it is in God to give such visions, to accept the labor done in them as a full and perfect work and to reckon it as an increase in the treasury of the Church; but, that it may profit the Church, it must be done in union with the merits of Christ. The needy members of the Church can receive help only from the Church herself. The healing power must be awakened in the Church as in a body, and here it is that the co-operation of her members comes in; but this is more easily felt than expressed.
It used to seem strange to me to have to travel so far every night and engage in all sorts of affairs. I used to think: When I am on a journey, when I help others in spirit, all seems so real, so natural! And yet, all the time, I am lying sick and miserable at home! Then I was told: All that a person earnestly desires to do and suffer for Jesus Christ, for His Church, and for their neighbor, he really and truly does in prayer. Now thou canst understand.
These last communications throw light upon Sister Emmerichs action in spirit, or in the symbolical pictures shown her in vision. It is action by prayer accompanied by suffering and sacrifice, and applied by God to determinate ends. It is always heard, and its fruit applied to him for whom it is offered through the instrumentality of him who suffers and impetrates. Such prayer is infinitely more efficacious than any other, it is certain of success; it gathers so to say, fruit already ripe. It is a prayer active, expiatory, and propitiatory in and through Jesus Christ. Sister Emmerich was like to a tree by the side of running waters, upon whose boughs daily hung fresh fruits for the needy; she was like the nursing mother supplying nourishment to multitudes of spiritual children. She often tried to explain in what such prayer consists. The Pilgrims journal records, July 7, 1820:
She has suffered intensely for days. Last night she was steeped in perspiration and the wound in her side bled abundantly. She wanted to change her linen herself, so she took a few drops of St. Walburgas oil which gave her the strength necessary for so painful an effort. She looks like a martyr today. She acknowledges that her pains were so great last night that she cried aloud to God to help her, not to let her suffer beyond her strength. These pains, she said, are my greatest torment, for I cannot bear them in silence. I must groan; and then I always think that, as I have not borne them lovingly, they have not been pleasing to God. It was as if fire had been applied to my person which sent fine currents of pain through my breast, my arms, and my hands.
As she spoke the tears flowed down her cheeks, not so much from her own sufferings, as from those of her Saviour which she constantly contemplated. No human intelligence can comprehend what Jesus endured from His birth to His death, even if it were seen as I see it. His infinite love is manifest in His Passion which He bore like a lamb without a murmur. I was conceived in sin, a miserable sinner, and life has ever been a burden to me from the pain sin causes me; but how much more must the incomprehensible perfection of Jesus suffer, insulted on all sides, tormented to death? Last night in the midst of my own pains, I saw again all that He endured from His conception till His death. I saw also, His interior sufferings, I felt their nature, so intelligible did His grace render them to me. I am so weak, I shall only say what comes to my mind. I saw under the Heart of Mary a glory, and in the glory a bright, shining Child. Whilst I gazed upon It, it seemed as if Mary floated over and around It. I saw the Infant increasing in size and all the torments of the Crucifixion accomplished in Him. It was a frightfully sad spectacle! I wept and sobbed aloud. I saw Him struck, pushed, beaten, crowned with thorns, laid on the cross, and nailed to it. His side pierced. I saw the whole Passion of Christ in the Child. It was fearful! As the Child hung on the cross, He said to me: I suffered all this from My conception till My thirty-fourth year, when it was accomplished exteriorly. (The Lord died at the age of thirty-three years and three months). Go, announce this to men! But how can I announce it?
I saw Him, also, as a newborn Babe, and I saw how many children abuse the Infant Jesus in His crib. The Blessed Virgin was not there to protect Him. The children brought all kinds of whips and rods, and struck His face until it bled. He tried gently to parry the blows with His little hands, but even the youngest children beat Him cruelly, their parents trimming and preparing the rods for some of them. They used thorns, nettles, scourges, switches of all kinds, each had its own signification. One came with a fine switch like a cornstalk, which broke when he tried to strike with it. I knew many of these children. Some strutted about in fine clothes which I took away from them. I corrected them soundly.
Then I saw the Lord walking with His disciples. He was thinking of all He had endured even in His Mothers womb, of all that men had made Him suffer in His infancy and His public life by their blindness and obduracy; but, above all, He thought of what He had undergone from the malice, the envious spying of the Pharisees. He spoke to His disciples of His Passion, but they understood Him not. I saw His interior sufferings like colors and heavy black shadows passing over His grave, sad countenance, through to His breast, and thence to His Heart which they tore to pieces. This sight is inexpressible! I saw Him grow pale, His whole being agonized, for the sufferings of His soul were far sharper than those of His Crucifixion; but He bore them silently, lovingly, patiently.
After this I beheld Him at the Last Supper, and saw His infinite grief at Judas wickedness. He would willingly have undergone still greater torments could He have kept Judas from betraying Him. His Mother, also, had loved Judas, had often spoken with him, had instructed and advised him. The fall of Judas grieved Jesus more than all the rest. I saw Him washing his feet sorrowfully and lovingly, and looking at him affectionately whilst presenting to him the morsel. Tears stood in the Lords eyes and his teeth were clenched in pain. I saw Judas approach. I saw Jesus give him His flesh and blood to eat and I heard Him say with infinite sorrow: That which thou dost, do quickly. Then I saw Judas slink behind and soon after quit the supper-room. I saw all the sufferings of the Lords soul under the form of clouds, colored rays, and flashes of light. I saw Him going to Mt. Olivet with His disciples. He ceased not to weep on the way. His tears flowing in torrents. I saw Peter so bold and self-confident that he thought himself able to crush all his enemies.
That distressed Jesus, for He knew that Peter would deny Him, I saw Him leave His disciples, excepting the three whom He loved most, in a kind of open shed near the garden of Olives. He told them to sleep there. He wept all the time. Then He went further into the garden leaving behind the Apostles who thought themselves so valiant. I saw that they soon fell asleep. I saw the Saviour overwhelmed with sorrow, and sweating blood, and I saw an angel presenting Him the chalice . . .
Evening. She still shudders and trembles with pain; but she is all patience and love, sweetness and gentleness. There is something noble about her in the midst of her pains.
August 30thShe has been racked by inexpressible sufferings. It
was shown her that each has a special signification according to which some
particular members are tormented, also that every kind of pain, piercing, tearing,
or burning has its own meaning. She knows that each one patiently borne in the
name of Jesus, in union with His Passion, becomes a sacrifice for the sins and
negligences for which it was imposed. She thereby regains for the Church that
which mans perversity deprives her.
Taken from The Life and Revelations of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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