Thanks to Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

“On the day upon which the Church celebrates the feast, I had a vision of Mary’s Annunciation.”

At daily Adoration I have been reading slowly The Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the visions of German visionary and stigmatist Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). I opened the book today (volume one of four) and found that I had reached the Annunciation, which we celebrate tomorrow. It reads:

“I saw the Blessed Virgin a short time after her marriage in the house of Nazareth. Joseph was not there. He was at that moment journeying with two beasts of burden on the road to Tiberias, whither he was going to get his tools. But Anne was in the house with her maid and two of the virgins who had been with Mary in the Temple. Everything in the house had been newly arranged by Anne. Toward evening they all prayed standing around a circular stool from which they afterward ate vegetables that had been served.”

I feel a bit kooky reading Emmerich. She starts with the Garden of Eden, for goshsakes, complete with a tree on an island in the middle of a pond, as vivid as the island green at Sawgrass (left). Emmerich’s vision of the Annunciation is just as vivid.

“Anne seemed to be very busy about the household affairs, and for a time she moved around here and there, while the Blessed Virgin ascended the steps to her room. There she put on a long, white, woolen garment, such as it was customary to wear during prayer, a girdle around her waist, and a yellowish-white veil over her head. The maid entered, lighted the branched lamp, and retired. Mary drew out a little, low table, which stood folded by the wall, and placed it in the center of the room. It had a semicircular leaf, which could be raised on a movable support so that when ready for use the little table stood on three legs. Mary spread upon it a red and then a white, transparent cover, which hung down on the side opposite the leaf. It was fringed at the end and embroidered in the center. A white cover was spread on the rounded edge.”

I love all this detail. Don’t you wonder where it came from—and how it could possibly go on for 1,800 pages? What was happening here?

“When the little table was prepared, Mary laid a small, round cushion before it and, resting both hands on the leaf, she gently sank on her knees, her back turned to her couch, the door of the chamber to her right. . . . I saw her praying for a long time with intense fervor. She prayed for Redemption, for the promised King, and that her own supplications might have some influence upon His coming. She knelt long, as if in ecstasy, her face raised to Heaven; then she drooped her head upon her breast and thus continued her prayer. And now she glanced to the right and beheld a radiant youth with flowing, yellow hair. It was the archangel Gabriel. His feet did not touch the ground. In an oblique line and surrounded by an effulgence of light and glory, he came floating down to Mary. The lamp grew dim, for the whole room was lighted up by the glory.”

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Emmerich entered an Augustinian convent when she was twenty-eight. “Here she was content to be regarded as the lowest in the house.” Her sisters were disturbed and annoyed with her weak health, her ecstasies, her strange powers. In 1813 she became bedridden, and soon afterward she received the Stigmata, including the marks of thorns encircling her head. In about 1820 Klemens Brentano, a famous poet, visited her. She recognized him, saying that he was the man who would help her fulfill the word of God. She dictated the entire
Life of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to Brentano. He was won over by her purity, humility, and patience under indescribable sufferings.

“The angel, with hands gently raised before his breast, spoke to Mary. I saw the words like letters of glittering light issuing from his lips. Mary replied, but without looking up. Then the angel again spoke and Mary, as if in obedience to his command, raised her veil a little, glanced at him, and said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to they word!’ I saw her now in deeper ecstasy. The ceiling of the room vanished, and over the house appeared a luminous cloud with a pathway of light leading up from it to the opened heavens. Far up in the source of this light, I beheld a vision of the Most Holy Trinity. It was like a triangle of glory, and I thought that I saw therein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

“As Mary uttered the words: ‘May it be done unto me according to thy word!’ I saw an apparition of the Holy Ghost. The countenance was human and the whole apparition environed by dazzling splendor, as if surrounded by wings. From the breast and hands, I saw issuing three streams of light. They penetrated the right side of the Blessed Virgin and united into one under her heart. At that instant Mary became perfectly transparent and luminous. It was as if opacity disappeared like darkness before that flood of light.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia tells us, “Sister Emmerich lived during one of the saddest and least glorious periods of the Church’s history, when revolution triumphed, impiety flourished, and several of the fairest provinces of its domain were overrun by infidels and cast into such ruinous condition that the Faith seemed about to be completely extinguished. Her mission in part seems to have been by her  . . .  Besides all this she saved many souls and recalled to the Christian world that the supernatural is around about it to a degree sometimes forgotten. A rumour that the body was stolen  caused her grave  to be opened six weeks after her death. The body was found fresh, without any sign of corruption. In 1892 the process of her beatification was introduced.

“While the angel and with him the streams of glory vanished, I saw down the path of light that led up to Heaven, showers of half-blown roses and tiny green leaves falling upon Mary. She, entirely absorbed in self, saw in herself the Incarnate Son of God, a tiny, human form of light with all the members, even to the little fingers perfect. It was about midnight that I saw this mystery.”

  • Adriano Araujo

    She is Kabbalist. Watch your doctrine, under the romanticism there are poisons!

  • Maria

    Brentano wrote eveything down…

  • Webster Bull

    @Adriano,I honestly have no idea what you're saying. She is Blessed. And I find that her visions help me to concretize the Gospel stories, much the way the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are said to do, right Maria?

  • Ken&Betty

    She is not kabbalist!

  • Ismael

    @ AdrianoShe was NOT a Kabbalist… If the Church declared her blessed, it's unlikely or actually impossible that she taught things against the true faith.It's true that her visions and writings are not part of any doctrinal material in any case, so it's at the discression of the reader. If the Church would have found something wrong with them, they would have stated so.That is the case for example of Maria Valtorta, if I am not wrong, where the Church is unsure about the genuinity of her visions.

  • Maria

    Approved revelation never contradicts doctrine. This is how,at least in part ( I am no expert), revelations are deemed revelations. Nothing in the revelations is in opposition to Church teachings.Webster–EXACTLY so. It makes the Gospels sometimes seem like an outline for the stories. I read her and I think, this cannot have been, and yet, it was so.The Church tells me so.

  • Nick

    Her writings were edited after her death. That's why the Holy See ignored her writings when studying her life.

  • Maria

    Nick–Thanks. I did not mean to imply that revelations were used to determine anything, rather , I was just trying to say that private revelations never contradict doctrine if they are to be found legitimate.

  • Anonymous

    I've read the entire 4 volume series, and it can get cumbersome as Blessed Anne often takes much time in describing the surroundings, landscapes, tress, flowers, dress, etc, but her work is well worth the patience. Especially the 4th volume whichis almost entirely dedicated to the passion of Our Lord.


    Nobody believed that 'story' of Mary's House in Ephesus but its there!

  • Frank

    from the Kontakion on the Annunciation None is merciful like Thee; we know that, O Lord, from the time Thou wast born and called the Son of the woman whom Thou didst create. We proclaim her “blessed” as we pray each day: “Hail, virgin bride.” Come, let us accompany the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, and let us greet her as mother and nourisher of our Life. For it is not only fitting for the general to salute the queen, but it is also possible for the humble to see her and address her. All generations call her blessed as mother of God, and they pray: “Hail, virgin undefiled, hail, maiden called of God, hail, virgin full of grace,who didst not know a seed time, chaste, hail, mother who knew no man, “Hail, virgin bride.”

    —from the Kontakion on the Annunciation by St. Romanos the Melodist, 6th century

  • Anonymous

    Can someone explain the difficulties arising from her visions, i.e. discrepencies?For example, regarding Noah and the ark, she says there was more than 4 men and their wives on it – she gives a brief explanation which still has me confused.According to wikipedia, church still undecided about visions although nothing contrary to faith or morals etc.Thanks.

  • Webster Bull

    @Anonymous,Good question about discrepancies, and I am no expert, just picked up the book a month ago, but–I am not bothered by any such discrepancies because I don't take her literally, anymore than I take Noah's Ark exactly literally. Has God been an angry God? Sure. Have there been cataclysms brought about by God? I can buy that. Did a single nuclear family get in a boat with a bunch of animals and land on Mt. Ararat… Hmmm, well. I guess that instead of literally, I read Emmerich "poetically," which is to say, the beauty and specificity of her visions are moving, inspiring, and lead me to realize that, whether literal or not, the Bible is an account of real encounters between God and man, centered of course around the Encounter, the birth of God as man.Does this make any sense?

  • Anonymous

    Exactly what are you saying here, Webster? Do you believe the Bible or not?

  • Allison

    Anonymous 12:22I can't speak for Webster, but as a fellow praticing Catholic, I would say of course I believe in the Bible. The Catholic Church derives its understanding of Divine Revelation from Sacred Scipture AND Sacred Tradition.Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out of the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own 'always, to the close of the age.' It also teaches: "According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: "All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal."83117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God's plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ's victory and also of Christian Baptism.842. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written "for our instruction".853. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, "leading"). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.86"

  • Webster Bull

    Thanks, Allison, for your thoughtful answer. Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent to save us? Yes. Do I believe that the earth was created in seven days, as we understand the word "days," no ma'am.

  • Anonymous

    "Anonymous" here again – 'twas me who asked about discrepencies? Other "anonymous" followed up, so call me "anonymous irish" just to distinguish us two…Anyways, would have to agree with them – I thought the whole point (or at least one major point) of Catherine Emmerich was to show Bible stories were "literally" true. Other wise let's say that Jesus never even existed – he's simply God's metaphorical way of showing his love to us; or else he did exist but didn't resurrect, be conceived by the holy spirit, walk on water etc etc – all that is a poetic analagous metaphorical symbolic blah blah blah, Religion for the 21st century!Btw Jewish stories are similar in detail – e.g. "Legends of the Jews" by Louis Ginzberg (available on the internet). Example – Emmerich states the serpent in the garden of Eden walked upright, and was the height of a 10 year old boy; Legends of Jews says also it was upright, but the height of a camel…. Finally if you have doubts about Noah's ark, you could google search St. Anthony of Padua's famous sermon to the fish at Rimini; he subscribes to the literal version of the flood.Thanks Webster for the interesting post.

  • Webster Bull

    I was just reading Emmerich on Joseph's activities before he and Mary go to Bethlehem for Jesus's birth. In part it reads, "About midnight [he was crossing a field] six hours from Nazareth, when an angel appeared to him and said that he should set out at once with Mary for Bethlehem, as it was there that her Child was to be born. The angel told him, moreover, that he should provide himself with a few necessaries, but no laces or embroidered covers, and he mentioned all the other things he was to take. Joseph was very much surprised. He was told also that, besides the ass upon which Mary was to ride, he was to take with him a little she-ass of one year which had not yet foaled. This little animal they were to let run at large, and then follow the road it would take."Looking at the infancy narrative in Matthew, we find an angel appearing to Joseph three times: first to tell him to take Mary into his house and not to "divorce her quietly"; second to tell him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid Herod; third to tell him to return with them to Nazareth.In the infancy narrative in Luke, we are told that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to be taxed, in response to the decree of Caesar Augustus. No angels appear to Joseph in Luke.So what do you make of this? Did the Gospels "leave out" the angelic visit to Joseph in the field? Did Luke misrepresent the reason he took Mary to Bethlehem?Do you see the wisdom of the Catholic Church in neither denying nor accepting as doctrine any of Emmerich's visions? They are for us to meditate on, by our own lights, which I try to do.

  • Anonymous

    From Anonymous 12:22Here’s something for you to think about …Do you believe the Catholic Catechism/Tradition is infallible, or doubtful? (It was written by sinful men, like you and me. As you well know, a writer with a blank page can write anything, true or false.)Do you believe that the Holy Bible, the Word of God, is infallible, or doubtful? (The Holy Bible is His Story – His written Word to mankind – since only God is omniscient, only He knows the truth of the whole story!)"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God breathed) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."II Timothy 3:16If a person has to choose between believing what men wrote in church doctrines/histories and what Holy God wrote (via inspired men) in the Holy Bible, it seems logical that the wise and thinking person would most assuredly believe God’s infallible Word over fallible men’s words.

  • Webster Bull

    @Anonymous,The Holy Gospel was canonized (chosen) by the same folks who give us the Catechism: the Magisterium of the Church, beginning with the Fathers of the first centuries. Jesus did not write the Holy Bible. If he had, I might feel differently about it. Why are the Apocrypha the Apocrypha, and the Gospels the Gospels? Because some were chosen by the Holy Spirit acting through the early Fathers of the Church. Jesus said he would be with us until the end of time. He is with us THROUGH his Church.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of my favorite paintings:'s of the Blessed painted by Gariel Cornelius Ritter von Max. Great name.