Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich
The following meditations will probably rank high among many similar works which the contemplative love of Jesus has produced; but it is our duty here plainly to affirm that they have no pretensions whatever to be regarded as history. They are but intended to take one of the lowest places among those numerous representations of the Passion which have been given us by pious writers and artists, and to be considered at the very utmost as the Lenten meditations of a devout nun, related in all simplicity, and written down in the plainest and most literal language, from her own dictation. To these meditations* she herself never attached more than a mere human value, and never related them except through obedience, and upon the repeated commands of the directors of her conscience.
The writer of the following pages was introduced to this holy religious by Count Leopold de Stolberg.† Dean Bernard Overberg, her director extraordinary, and Bishop Michael Sailer,* who had often been her counselor and consoler, urged her to relate to us in detail all that she experienced; and the latter, who survived her, took the deepest interest in the arrangement and publication of the notes taken down from her dictation. These illustrious and holy men, now dead, and whose memory is blessed, were in continual communion of prayer with Anne Catherine, whom they loved and respected, on account of the singular graces with which God had favored her. The editor of this book received equal encouragement, and met with no less sympathy in his labors, from the late Bishop of Ratisbonne, Msgr. Wittman.† This holy Bishop, who was so deeply versed in the ways of Divine grace, and so well acquainted with its effects on certain souls, both from his private investigations of the subject, and his own experience, took the most lively interest in all that concerned Anne Catherine, and on hearing of the work in which the editor of this book was engaged, he strongly exhorted him to publish it. “These things have not been communicated to you for nothing,” would he often say; “God has His views in all. Publish something at least of what you know, for you will thereby benefit many souls.” He at the same time brought forward various instances from his own experience and that of others, showing the benefit which had been derived from the study of works of a similar character. He delighted in calling such privileged souls as Anne Catherine the marrow of the bones of the Church, according to the expression of St. John Chrysostom, “medulla enim hujus mundi sunt,” and he encouraged the publication of their lives and writings as far as lay in his power.
The editor of this book, being taken by a kind friend to the dying bed of the holy Bishop, had no reason whatever to expect to be recognized, as he had only once in his life conversed with him for a few minutes; nevertheless the dying saint knew him again, and after a few most kind words blessed and exhorted him to continue his work for the glory of God.
Encouraged by the approbation of such men, we therefore yield to the wishes of many virtuous friends in publishing the Meditations on the Passion of this humble religious, to whom God granted the favor of being at times simple, ingenuous, and ignorant as a child, while at others she was clear-sighted, sensible, possessed of a deep insight into the most mysterious and hidden things, and consumed with burning and heroic zeal, but ever forgetful of self, deriving her whole strength from Jesus alone, and steadfast in the most perfect humility and entire self-abnegation.
We give our readers a slight sketch of her life, intending at some future day to publish her biography more in full.