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Emmerich, Anne Catherine


Stigmatic and mystic; b. Flamsche, Westphalia, Sept. 8, 1774; d. Dülmen, Feb. 9, 1824. Her parents were poor, and from childhood her health was not good. At an early age she exhibited phenomena of clairvoyance. In November 1802 she entered the novitiate of the Augustinian nuns at Dülmen; but in 1811 the convent was secularized, and she was received into the house of an emigrant French priest. About a year later she received the stigmata, including a double cross on her breast, and though she tried to hide it, her stigmatization soon became known and aroused not only curiosity but also considerable hostility among unbelievers and rationalists. After years of intermittent investigations by doctors and theologians the civil authorities intervened, and in August 1819 she was forcibly removed to another house and kept under close surveillance for three weeks, but no evidence of fraud came to light.

In the year before this investigation Catherine had been visited by the Romantic poet Clemens Brentano, then recently reconciled to the Church after a period of unbelief, and he was so impressed by her that he decided to remain in Dülmen and to devote himself to writing down the experiences Catherine communicated to him. These activities resulted in two books, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the slightly less popular Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two facts make the evaluation of these books difficult. First, we do not know how much Brentano communicated or suggested to her in their long conversations. Second, it is impossible to determine exactly what, in Brentano's works, came from her and what from the poet himself. What is certain is that under Brentano's influence her visions became much more elaborate than they had been before. Catherine herself certainly took them very seriously, for she declared that God had commanded her to make them known and that those who had no faith in them would have to render an account for their negligence.

The written reports of the visions themselves contain long descriptions not only of Biblical events but also of apocryphal stories, and they include many historical and topographical details, some of which are correct, others, quite mistaken.

The popular English translation of The Dolorous Passion was made from the French translation of the German original and is frequently faulty.

Bibliography: t. wegener, Sister Anne Katherine Emmerich, tr. f. x. mcgowan (New York 1898). h. j. seller, Im Banne des Kreuzes, ed. i. m. deitz (2d ed., Würzburg 1949). w. hÜmpfner, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 4.1:622627, very good for the bibliography of the controversy about her life and works. h. thurston, Surprising Mystics, ed. j. h. crehan (Chicago 1955) 3899.

[h. graef]

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