" I am not a priest and cannot bless them, but all that the heart of a mother can ask of God for her children, I ask of Him and will never cease to ask Him." ~ Sister Marie
Monday, March 17, 2014
Father Poulin encounters Anne Catherine Emmerich’s book despite his disbelief in mystics when he reads for the Daughters of Charity on a Sunday night. And then the extraordinary happens to him and he finally relents.
The DC sisters had already heard of Mary’s sojourn and death in Ephesus, so when Father Poulin had finished reading from Anne Catherine’s book, Sister Marie began to speak glowingly about the revelations.
“Ephesus is not very far from here,” she said. “It might well be worth the effort to go there and see!” And she wondered what would be there now.
Sister Marie was inspired by what the Vincentian had read, but Father Poulin let it be known that he didn’t care about this mysticism business that Anne Catherine had written about in her book. He was a student in science and the classics, but when the priest had finished the reading, he took the book and opened it to the marker. He began reading about Mary’s home in Ephesus and his thoughts centered on the fact that he wanted to prove Anne Catherine Emmerich wrong.
Father Poulin wrote in his journal, “The Holy Virgin’s House,” about how he already encountered Anne Catherine Emmerich when one day in Mid-November 1890, Sister Maire, Superior of the Providence, asked him for a book to read in the refectory.
“Of course, Sister,” Father Poulin said and he went to the library, collected several books and took them to his room to determine which one would be appropriate for her. One of the books was an old in-octavo bound in sheepskin, in bad condition, that he had taken without realizing it. Reading the title page, he felt a surge of eagerness.
His mind wandered back to when he was about 25 years old, at Gregy, near Melun, which was under the leadership of the Venerable Father Denys, former Superior of the Great Seminary at Carcassonne (Evreux). Father Denys also held the title of Visiteur of Province de France and Superior of Gregy. The good father was very pious, very devoted to mystic studies. Father Poulin recalled how, with a childish faith, Father Denys spoke to the group during evening recreation about his favorite reading matter: Catherine Emmerich, Marie d’Agreda etc etc.
Father Poulin and his associates had no esteem for any of these women visionaries and they laughed so much at the joyful jokes they made each time the holy man brought up the subject he cherished so much.
It wasn’t a momentary impression. It was a foregone conclusion and for twenty years, Father Poulin never believed a single one of the visionaries. He believed he would be demeaned if he read only one page of Marie d’Agreda or Catherine Emmerich or Sainte Gertrude or, indeed, any of them.
That’s how it was until Father Poulin, in November 1890, glanced over the old in-octavo and read “The Suffering Passion of Jesus Christ, according to Catherine Emmerich’s Visions.”
He quickly removed the book from the stack he had brought to his room, disdainfully put it aside on the table and kept on looking at the other books. He found one for the Sister, gathered up the rest and returned them to the library. The next day to Father Poulin’s surprise, the book he had so disdainfully tossed aside was still on his table in the same place.
“Strange,” he thought. “How could I have forgotten it yesterday? The book is thick and quite visible . . . but that’s enough. I have some other books for the library and I’ll take it back with them.”
The next day, however, The Suffering Passion of Catherine Emmerich was still on his table. It seemed, he thought, that he had taken it back to the library. “Of course . . . I had intended to, but I had not done it.”
It was the same the next day . . .and for the next two or three days.
“Is this book making fun of me?” he asked himself out loud. He finally threw the book violently into a corner of the room. It fell with its pages open and broken in two.
“Well done!” Father Poulin said with self-satisfaction. “Stay there and don’t annoy me anymore.”
A week passed. The book was still on the floor, same place, same position. He laughed every time he looked at it, felt a little childish revenge each time he saw it.
Father Poulin thought, one should be aware that many times we are guided more often than we guide, that this might be a sign of providence, a sign that tells a lot. It suggests we have the trust to finish a task and also gives us the necessary courage to go forward.
“Could it be understood,” he wondered “ why I spent one week in front of the book that was so hateful, that seemed of so little value without any thought of picking it up to see what it was about?
“Strangely, the man who cleans my room didn’t pick it up or put it elsewhere . . . oh! no . . . I don’t say miraculous, it is strange, extraordinary.”
About six o’clock one morning when Father Poulin returned to his room after morning prayers, he took a look at the unfortunate book. Blood pounded in his veins, a reflection came into his mind. “Really, it’s neither wise nor right to be against a book without knowing it, to condemn it without having read it, either.
“This reflection changed something in me,” he thought. “Was it not ridiculous that for twenty years I had ridiculed the book and the writings of Catherine Emmerich without having read a line, without knowing who she was?”
To get the book, he had to take one step, but when he picked it up and tried to open it, a deadly aversion came over him. “Do open and read it,” common sense was telling him, but repugnance stopped him.
He stood for about five minutes, the book in his hands, unable to decide. “Had it been only ‘Passion?’ I could have read it easily, but for that epithet ‘suffering.’”
The “suffering passion of Jesus Christ” was full of mysticism and this horrified him. After thinking hard about it, he thought “I’ll read a little, just to see who this Catherine Emmerich is that doesn’t engage me. I am not obliged to read the whole book.”
Segment 10: Father Poulin begins to read and makes a startling discovery.