Anna Katharina Emmerick, a life devoted to help others

Omaggio a Anna Katharina Emmerick di Zoa Studio

With Anna Katharina Emmerick today we will amaze you. Yes, because we are talking about a nun, a blessed woman receiving visions, a 19th century German mystic whose life inspired religious devotion, but she has also been involved in great controversies.

I think our readers are used to articles with a different vocation from the divine one, rather that of rock and roll with ample examples of the opposite of divinity: let’s think of  Led Zeppelin, Aleister Crowley, Ozzy Osbourne and so on.

However, as just said, today we will amaze you. We had approached holiness by talking to you about Joan of Arc, but today we return to the topic.

Biography Anna Katharina Emmerick

The first years

Anna Katharina Emmerick was born on 8 September 1774 in the agricultural community of Flamschen near Coesfeld (Germany). She grew up in a family of nine brothers. From early childhood she helped with housework and farm work. She only attended school for a while, but she had a good education in religious matters. Her parents soon realized her vocation to religious life.

She worked for three years on a large farm nearby, then she learned to sew and went back to live with her parents. She then asked to be admitted to various monasteries, but she was refused because she did not have a particular gift. However, the Poor Clares of Münster would accept her if she learned to play the organ. Her parents then authorized her to go and live with the family of the organist Söntgen de Coesfeld; but she never had the chance to learn the organ, because the poverty of her family pushed her to work to help them.

In 1802, she finally managed to enter the Agnetenberg monastery, near Dülmen, with her friend Klara Söntgen. She took her vows the following year, participating fervently in the monastic life, always ready to do the hardest work. But, from 1802 to 1811, she often fell ill and had to endure great pain. In 1811 the Agnetenberg monastery was closed, and she became the servant of Abbot Lambert, a priest who had fled the French Revolution and who lived in Dülmen. But she got sick again and never left the bed. She thus asked her younger sister for help, that under her direction, took care of her house.

In 1813 it was said that the former nun carried the signs of Jesus on her body, almost completely gave up food and often had strange visions.

A higher power

It was during this time that he received the stigmata. This fact could not remain hidden; Doctor Franz Wesener examined them and was deeply impressed by them, becoming a faithful friend of her in the following years.

A trait of Anna Katharina Emmerick’s personality was the love she felt for others. She always tried to help others, even without being able to get out of bed, where she sewed clothes for poor children. Many personalities who took part in the movement for the renewal of the Church in the early 19th century tried to meet her. Particularly significant was her meeting with Clemens Brentano. From 1818 Brentano visited her every day for five years, drawing her visions which he then published.

The passion of Christ

Those visions would form the basis for this work, “The dolorous passion of our Lord Jesus Christ“, a detailed account of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ starting a few hours before his crucifixion, first published in 1833.

Mel GIbson, for his film The Passion of the Christ, was inspired by the writings of Emmerick. Here is a rather “cinematic” description of Jesus.

I saw the Virgin wash the head and the bloody face of the Lord, passing the sponge on his hair. She wiped away the blood that filled his eyes, nostrils and ears. Likewise she cleaned his half-open mouth, tongue, teeth and lips.

Anna Katharina Emmerick has had many visions of the events described in the Gospel. Her inner eyes flowed before her and often made her contemplate the events lived by Jesus Christ. To get to know them, she never studied. She could only spend ten years in the Augustinian monastery in Agnetenberg, because in that Napoleonic era the secularization of religious houses forced her to return to the world as well.

While there were many who did not believe her ecstatic visions and stigmatizing marks from her were legitimate, but rather the result of an elaborate hoax, no evidence could ever be conclusively proven that this was the case. As we just mentioned, Emmerick’s thoughts, transcribed by the German poet and novelist Clemens Brentano, have since been a source of great inspiration to those who believe she has truly been visited by a higher power.

Death and legacy of Anna Katharina Emmerick

In the summer of 1823, Anna Katharina’s health declined and, approaching death, she decided to unite her suffering with that of Jesus, offering it for the redemption of men. She died on February 9, 1824. The tomb of the mystic is now located in the crypt of the church of Santa Croce.

Various forms of reverence for Anna Katharina developed in Dülmen as well as in southern Germany and abroad. From 1878 to 1935, for example, the annual procession from Essen to Annaberg to Haltern made a detour to Emmerick’s grave. The Emmerick-Bund, founded in 1921, saw its main task in supporting the ongoing beatification process by promoting its private veneration.

Lexica’s articles are a good indicator of Anna Katharina’s popularity. The Brockhaus of 1895 dedicates 34 lines to her, the Meyers-Lexikon of 1925 another 11 lines, while the Brockhaus edition of 1988 no longer contains an entry on her. Sigmund Freud also met the pious German girl, Anna Katharina Emmerick, in Dülmen in 1912, as evidenced by the mention of her in an essay on the sanctuary of Diana in Ephesus.

During the Nazi era, the memory of Anna Katharina was snatched from Dülmen. While in 1931 the city advertised “Dülmen, die Emmerichstadt” in a one-page prospectus, the new edition of 1939 no longer contained any references.

Starting from 1954/56, the Augustinian order made a new beginning to introduce Anna Katharina to the general public in the new location of the parish church of Maria Königin. A modernized memorial from the inventory of the Emmerick House was also set up in 1956.

Meryem Ana

On October 18, 1881, a group of explorers and archaeologists, on the basis of the indications contained in Emmerick’s diaries, brought to light, 9 km from Ephesus, some remains (perimeter walls and hearth) of a house that they attributed to the 1st century AD.

Scholars identified the site as the ancient dwelling in which the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist had lived after Jesus’ death and named it Meryem Ana.

The site and the ruins they had before their eyes agreed exactly with the detailed description that she had given of it, without having ever seen or known them, the German mystic.

In the penultimate chapter of the diaries we read: “After the ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ to Heaven, Holy Mary  lived about three years in Zion (Jerusalem), three in Bethany and nine in Ephesus. When Our Lady received the inner warning to leave the country, John took her to Ephesus along with other people. “

Meryem Ana

Beatification of Anna Katharina Emmerick

The resumption of the beatification process by Bishop Tenhumberg since 1973 has had a lasting effect. Emmerick-Bund, re-founded in 1977, has been publishing the “Emmerick Blätter” since 1979 with the aim of making Anna Katharina’s sufferings known to as many Christians as possible.

The process ended in October 2004 with the beatification of Anna Katharina Emmerick in Rome. Emmerick fans around the world still keep in touch with each other through the aforementioned Emmerickbund.

Whether we believe in the path of the blessed or not, it is clear that Anna Katharina’s life was characterized by a profound union with Christ; the stigmata she wore were proof of that. By faith and love she served the work of redemption, saying about it:

I have always considered service to others as the highest virtue. In my youth I prayed to God to give me the strength to serve others and to be useful. Now I know that he has answered my prayer.



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