The life of Sister Emmerich, both as regarded her spiritual and intellectual existence, invariably harmonised with the spirit of the Church at different seasons of the year. It harmonised even more strongly than man's natural life does with season, or with the hours of the day, and this caused her to be (if we may thus express ourselves) a realisation of the existence and of the various intentions of the Church. Her union with its spirit was so complete, that no sooner did a festival day begin (that is to say, on the eve), than a perfect change took place within her, both intellectually and spiritually. As soon as the spiritual sun of these festival days of the Church was set, she directed all her thoughts towards that which would rise on the following day, and disposed all her prayers, good works, and sufferings for the attainment of the special graces attached to the feast about to commence, like a plant which absorbs the dew, and revels in the warmth and light of the first rays of the sun. These changes did not, as will readily be believed, always take place at the exact moment when the sound of the Angelus announced the commencement of a festival, and summoned the faithful to prayer; for this bell is often, either through ignorance or negligence, rung at the wrong time; but they commenced at the time when the feast really began.
If the Church commemorated a sorrowful mystery, she appeared depressed, faint, and almost powerless; but the instant the celebration of a joyful feast commenced, both body and soul revived to a new life, as if refreshed by the dew of new graces, and she continued in this calm, quiet, and happy state, quite released from every kind of suffering, until the evening. These things took place in her soul quite independently of her will; but as she had had from infancy the most ardent desire of being obedient to Jesus and to his Church, God had bestowed upon her those special graces which give a natural facility for practising obedience. Every faculty of her soul was directed towards the Church, in the same manner as a plant which, even if put into a dark cellar, naturally turns its leaves upwards, and appears to seek the light.
On Saturday, 8th of March 1823, after sunset, Sister Emmerich had, with the greatest difficulty, portrayed the different events of the scourging of our Lord, and the writer of these pages thought that her mind was occupied in the contemplation of the 'crowning with thorns,' when suddenly her countenance, which was preciously pale and haggard, like that of a person on the point of death, became bright and serene and she exclaimed in a coaxing tone, as if speaking to a child, 'O, that dear little boy! Who is he? -- Stay, I will ask him. His name is Joseph. He has pushed his way through the crowd to come to me. Poor child, he is laughing: he knows nothing at all of what is going on. How light his clothing is! I fear he must be cold, the air is so sharp this morning. Wait, my child; let me put something more over you.' After saying these words in such a natural tone of voice that it was almost impossible for those present not to turn round and expect to see the child, she held up a dress which was near her, as would be done by a kind-hearted person wishing to clothe a poor frozen child. The friend who was standing by her bedside had not sufficient time to ask her to explain the words she had spoken, for a sudden change took place, both in her whole appearance and manner, when her attendant pronounced the word obedience, -- one of the vows by which she had consecrated herself to our Lord. She instantly came to herself, and, like an obedient child awakening from a sound sleep and starting up at the voice of its mother, she stretched forth her hand, took the rosary and crucifix which were always at her side, arranged her dress, rubbed her eyes, and sat up. She was then carried from her bed to a chair, as she could neither stand nor walk; and it being the time for making her bed, her friend left the room in order to write out what he had heard during the day.
On Sunday, the 9th of March, the friend asked her attendant what Sister Emmerich meant the evening before when she spoke of a child called Joseph. The attendant answered, 'She spoke of him again many times yesterday evening; he is the son of a cousin of mine, and a great favourite of hers. I fear that her talking so much about him is a sign that he is going to have an illness, for she said so many times that the poor child was almost without clothing, and that he must be cold.'
The friend remembered having often seen this little Joseph playing on the bed of Sister Emmerich, and he supposed that she was dreaming about him on the previous day. When the friend went to see her later in the day to endeavour to obtain a continuation of the narrations of the Passion, he found her, contrary to his expectation, more calm, and apparently better in health than on the previous day. She told him that she had seen nothing more after the scourging of our Lord; and when he questioned her concerning what she had said about little Joseph, she could not remember having spoken of the child at all. He then asked the reason of her being so calm, serene, and apparently well in health; and she answered, 'I always feel thus when Mid-Lent comes, for then the Church sings with Isaias in the introit at Mass: "Rejoice, O, Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her; rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow, that you may exult and be filled from the breasts of your consolation." Mid-Lent Sunday is consequently a day of rejoicing; and you may likewise remember that, in the gospel of this day, the Church relates how our Lord fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes, of which twelve baskets of fragments remained, consequently we ought to rejoice.'
She likewise added, that our Lord had deigned to visit her on that day in the Holy Communion, and that she always felt especial spiritual consolation when she received him on that particular day of the year. The friend cast his eyes on the calendar of the diocese of Munster, and saw that on that day they not only kept Mid-Lent Sunday, but likewise the Feast of St. Joseph, the foster-father of our Lord; he was not aware of this before, because in other places the feast of St. Joseph is kept on the 19th, and he remarked this circumstance to Sister Emmerich, and asked her whether she did not think that was the cause of her speaking about Joseph. She answered that she was perfectly aware of its being the feast of the foster-father of Jesus, but that she had not been thinking of the child of that name. However, a moment after, she suddenly remembered what her thoughts had been the day before, and explained to her friend that the moment the feast of St. Joseph began, her vision of the sorrowful mysteries of the Passion ceased, and were superseded by totally different scenes, in which St. Joseph appeared under the form of a child, and that it was to him that the words we have mentioned above were addressed.
We found that when she received these communications the vision was often in the form of a child, especially in those cases when an artist would have made use of that simile to express his ideas. If, for instance, the accomplishment of some Scripture prophecy was being shown to her, she often saw by the side of the illustration a child, who clearly designated the characteristics of such or such a prophet, by his position, his dress, and the manner in which he held in his hand and waved to and fro the prophetic roll appended to a staff.
Sometimes, when she was in extreme suffering, a beautiful child, dressed in green, with a calm and serene countenance, would approach, and seat himself in a posture of resignation at the side of her bed, allowing himself to be moved from one side to the other, or even put down on to the ground, without the smallest opposition and constantly looking at her affectionately and consoling her. If, when quite prostrate from illness and the sufferings of others which she had taken upon herself, she entered into communication with a saint, either by participation in the celebration of his feast, or from his relics being brought to her, she sometimes saw passages of the childhood of martyrdom. In her greatest sufferings she was usually consoled, instructed, or reproved (whichever the occasion called for) by apparitions under the form of children. Sometimes, when totally overcome by trouble and distress, she would fall asleep, and be carried back in imagination to the scenes and perils of her childhood. She sometimes dreamed, as her exclamations and gestures demonstrated, that she was once more a little country girl of five years old, climbing over a hedge, caught in the briars, and weeping with fear.
These scenes of her childhood were always events which had really occurred, and the words which escaped her showed what was passing in her mind. She would exclaim (as if repeating the words of others): 'Why do you call out so?' 'I will not hold the hedge back until you are quiet and ask me gently to do so.' She had obeyed this injunction when she was a child and caught in the hedge, and she followed the same rule when grown up and suffering from the most terrible trials. She often spoke and joked about the thorn hedge, and the patience and prayer which had then been recommended to her, which admonition she, in after-life, had frequently neglected, but which had never failed her when she had recourse to it. This symbolical coincidence of the events of her childhood with those of her riper years shows that, in the individual no less than in humanity at large, prophetic types may be found. But, to the individual as well as to mankind in general, a Divine Type has been given in the person of our Redeemer, in order that both the one and the other, by walking in his footsteps and with his assistance, may surpass human nature and attain to perfect wisdom and grace with God and man. Thus it is that the will of God is done on earth as in heaven, and that this kingdom is attained by 'men of good will.'
She then gave a short account of the visions which had, on the previous night, interrupted her visions of the Passion at the commencement of the feast of St. Joseph.