Father, what are we to believe about what happened to persons like Catherine Emmerich? It seems really unbelievable that God would ask such torture, constant and even ugly of a child of His. It makes me feel as if all I ever do or have done is worthless compared to the “perfect” way of living the life here on earth as she did. I already live with only guilt and sorrow that I have failed my God with all my 76 years of life. I fear death greatly and wonder if I will be saved. how could I make up for it…..I am not Catherine. Thanks.
Dear Sue Ann,
I think we have to start from the understanding that Catherine Emmerich represents a special situation. Perhaps the fundamental point is that she united her suffering to Christ. She suffered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And she offered all she experienced together with Christís offering of himself. The authenticity of the writings attributed to her and about her has raised several questions. At the time of her beatification, the Congregation for the Saints made it clear that they focused solely on her personal holiness. Her personal holiness is based on being able to understand her suffering in relation to the suffering of Christ. This gave meaning and value to what she suffered and allowed her to live her life according to Godís will as she experienced it. It is her willingness to identify with Christís sacrifice that gives her life its meaning in terms of holiness.
You should not look to Catherine Emmerich as a measure for your own holiness. You can and should see what you have suffered in your life, including any sorrow or disappointment, in relation to Christís suffering. In the celebration of the Eucharist, we unite the offering of ourselves to the eternal offering of Christ to the Father. This gives meaning to our lives and even our disappointments and hurts. Holiness is not being perfect but is based on offering ourselves and our lives trustingly to God. Living a perfect life might make us feel we had earned Godís love, which we know is contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. Offering our lives to God with Faith and trust opens our hearts to his unconditional love.
Rather than worrying that you have not done enough or done it well enough, you could perhaps meditate on the words of Christ on the cross: ìFather, into your hands I commend my spirit.î It is the perfect expression of Faith and trust in our loving Father.
Fr. David Foxen, MSC
Fr. Dave Foxen, MSC is pastor to the parishes of Our Lady of Solitude and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Palm Springs, CA.