Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich on the Church and the Priesthood

All quotes are taken from the book “The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich” by the Very Reverend Carl E. Schmoger

“The consecrated fingers of a priest will be recognizable in Purgatory; yes, even in Hell they will be known and they will burn with a particular fire.  Everyone will discover the priestly character and load the owner with scorn.”

“How sad that the priests of our day are so neglectful of their power, we might even say ignorant of what the sacerdotal benediction is!  Many of them hardly believe in it.  They blush at a blessing as if it were a superstitious and antiquated ceremony, while some never reflect upon the power given them by Jesus Christ.  When they neglect to give me a blessing, I receive it sometimes from God Himself; but as Our Lord has instituted the priesthood and imparted to it the power to bless, I languish with desire for it.  The whole Church is but one body.  All must be deprived of what one member refuses to bestow.” 

“Now I understand the Church.  I see that she is infinitely more than an assemblage of individuals animated by the same sentiments.  Yes, she is the body of Jesus Christ who, as her Head, is essentially united to her, and who maintains with her intimate and constant relations.  And now, too, do I see what an immense treasure of gifts and graces the Church has received from God who communicates Himself to men only in and by her.”  

“The Church is only one, the Roman Catholic!  And if there were left upon earth one Catholic, he would be the one, universal Church, the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ against which the gates of Hell shall never prevail.”  

The knowledge of the greatness and magnificence of this Church in which the Sacraments are preserved in all their virtue and inviolate sanctity is, unhappily, rare in these days, even among the clergy.  It is because so many priests are ignorant of their own dignity that so many of the faithful forget theirs and comprehend not the expression to belong to the Church.  That no human power may ever destroy it, Almighty God has attached an indelible character to Holy Orders. Were there but a single priest on earth rightly ordained, Jesus Christ would live in His Church as God and man in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar; and whoever would receive this sacrament, after being absolved by the priest, would alone be truly united to God.”

It is something grand but, at the same time, something impossible without true interior light, without purity and simplicity of heart, to live in accordance with the Faith of this Holy Church; to celebrate with her the divine worship and thereby participate in the infinite treasure of grace and satisfaction she possesses in the merits of her Divine Head; and, through His merits, to share in the blood of her innumerable martyrs, in the penance and sufferings of her saints, in the prayers and good works of the devout faithful.  This treasure she communicates without diminishing to all in union with her, to all her true children.  It is from it that she draws wherewith to satisfy the justice of God, to liquidate for the living as well as for the souls in Purgatory, the debts which they themselves could never cancel. Every hour has its own particular grace; he who rejects it, languishes and perishes.  As there is an earthly year with its seasons, an earthly nature with its creatures, its fruits and its peculiar properties; so also does there exist an economy of a higher order for the restoration of our fallen race.  It has innumerable graces and means of salvation all linked together in the course of the spiritual year which, too, has its different seasons.  Each year, each day, each hour ripens these fruits for our eternal salvation.  The children of the Catholic Church that piously celebrate the spiritual year with its feasts and ceremonies, that regulate their life according to its prescriptions, that recite the holy Canonical Hours, alone are faithful laborers in the vineyard, they alone will reap abundant benedictions.  It is sad to behold in our times so few that understand this economy of divine grace and conform their life thereto.  But a day will come on which, conscience-stricken, they will at last comprehend what the ecclesiastical year is, with its feasts and seasons and days consecrated to God, its public and private devotions, its Canonical Hours, its breviary recited by priests and religious.  It is the Divine Saviour Himself who abides to us at all times as food and victim, that we may become one with Him.  How strikingly do not His untiring mercy and solitude for us shine forth in the thousands of Masses in which the propitiatory Sacrifice, His bloody death upon the Cross, is daily renewed in an unbloody manner and offered for us to His Eternal Father!  The Sacrifice of the Cross is an eternal sacrifice, a sacrifice of infinite efficacy, unalterable, and ever new.  But men must profit by it in time which is finite and during which all things are taken into account.  In accordance with the precept of the Son of God made man, this thrice holy Sacrifice shall be daily renewed until the account is filled up and the temporal existence of the world shall reach its term; for it is Jesus Christ Himself who, by the hands of lawfully ordained priests (even were they otherwise unworthy) offers Himself to His Heavenly Father under the species of bread and wine for our reconciliation.” 

He (her spiritual guide) says that I am a virgin of the Catholic Church, consecrated to God and bound by holy vows; I ought to praise God in the Church and pray with sincere pity for heretics.  I know better than others what the Church really is, and I ought on that account to praise the members of Jesus Christ in the Church, His Body; as to those who are separated from this Body and who inflict cruel wounds upon It, I ought to commiserate them and pray for their conversion.  In praising the disobedient, one participates in their faults; such praises are not charitable, since true zeal for the salvation of souls is cooled by them. It is well for me that I have been reproved on this head, for we must not be too indulgent when there is question of things so holy.  I, indeed, behold many good people among heretics who inspire me with great compassion, but I see, also, that they are children whose origin dates back no further than their own times.  They are drifting about without helm or pilot, and they are incessantly splitting up into parties one against another.  A movement towards piety which at times affects them, emanates from the Catholic stock to which they formerly belonged; but it is soon counteracted by another in an opposite direction, a spirit of ignorance and indocility which urges them to rise in rebellion against their common Mother.  They are eager to practice piety, but not Catholicity.  Although they pretend that ceremonies and lifeless forms are of no importance, and that Almighty God must be served in spirit and in truth, yet do they obstinately hold to their own forms which are in reality dead, to forms of their own invention, which are in consequence ever changing. These forms are not the result of internal development, a body animated by a soul; they are mere skeletons.  It is for this reason that they who practice them are infected with pride and cannot bend their necks to the yoke.  How, in truth, could they possess humility of heart, they who are not taught from their infancy to humble themselves, who confess not their sins and their miseries, who are not accustomed, like the children of the Church, to accuse themselves in the Sacrament of Penance before the Representative of God? Behold, then, why I see even in the best among such people only defects, presumption, obstinacy, and pride.  The only heretics that are not in a positively dangerous position, are they who, wholly ignorant of the Church out of which there is no salvation, practice piety as far as they know how; but as soon as God gives them the least doubt, they should regard it as a call from Heaven and seek to know the truth.  Heretics become members of the Church by holy Baptism, if validly administered.  They live only by the Church and have, in point of spiritual nourishment, only what falls to them from the Church; but they do not sit at table with the children of the house, they are outside insulting and boasting, or dying of starvation.  When in vision I behold baptized heretics returning to the Church, they appear to come in through the walls before the altar and the Most Blessed Sacrament; while the non-baptized, Jews, Turks, and pagans, are shown to me as entering the door.”

“Great is the grace of the true children of the Church!  They alone, by their sincere and obedient confession of the only true Catholic Faith, by their living communion with the visible Church, are on the right road to the Heavenly Jerusalem.”

Vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem:

“The Heavenly Jerusalem I saw like a glittering, transparent, golden city in the blue sky, supported by no earthly foundations, with walls and gates through which I could see far, far beyond.  The view was rather the instantaneous perception of a whole then of a succession of parts such as I have here been obliged to present.  It had numerous streets, palaces, and squares, all peopled by human apparitions of different races, ranks and hierarchies.  I distinguished whole classes and bodies bound together by ties of mutual dependence.  The more I gazed, the more glorious and magnificent did it become.  The figures I saw were all colorless and shining, but they were distinguished from one another by the form of their raiment and by various other signs, scepters, crowns, garlands, croziers, crosses, instruments of martyrdom, etc.  In the center arose a tree, upon whose branches, as if on seats, appeared figures still more resplendent.  This tree extended its branches like the fibers of a leaf, swelling out as it rose.  The upper figures were more magnificent than those below; they were in an attitude of adoration.  Highest of all were holy old men.  Crowning the summit was a globe representing the world surmounted by a cross.  The Mother of God was there, more splendid than usual.  It is all inexpressible!”

I saw a vision of Good Friday, the Lord sacrificing Himself upon the Cross, Mary and the disciples at its foot.  This picture I saw over the altar at which priests say Mass.  I see it at all hours of the day and night.  I see, too, the whole parish, how the people pray, well or badly, and how the priest fulfills his duties.  I see first the church here, then the churches and parishes all around, as one sees near him a fruit tree lit up by the sun, and in the distance others grouped together like a wood.  I see Mass celebrated at all hours of the day and night throughout the world, and in some far-off regions with the same ceremonies as at the time of the Apostles.  Above the altar, I see a heavenly worship in which an angel supplies all that the priest neglects.  I offer my own heart for the want of piety among the faithful and I beg the Lord for mercy.  I see many priests performing this duty pitiably.  Some, mere formalists, are so attentive to the outward ceremonies as to neglect interior recollection; they think of only how they will appear to the congregation, and not at all of God.  The scrupulous ever long to feel their own piety… Jesus loves us so much that He constantly renews His work of Redemption.  The Mass is the hidden history of Redemption, Redemption become a Sacrament.”


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