Among the seven new saints canonized by Benedict XVI this past weekend, maybe one of the lesser known new saints is Anna Schäffer, an example of how to accept pain and suffering.
Anna was born in Mindelstetten, German on February 18, 1882. Her family was not a rich family and the death of her father at the age of 40 made things difficult. Although Anna was only 14 years old started when she started working as a maid, she nourished in her heart the desire to become a nun.
On February 4, 1901 while working at a laundry, she slipped and fell while reattaching a stovepipe and boiled her legs in the washing machine. She was taken to hospital but nothing could be done about the painful burns. More than thirty surgeries followed. The wounds had to be carefully dressed, which also caused much pain. Despite the constant care, skin grafts did not succeed and Schäffer became completely immobile, cared for by her mother until the end of her life. She had to abandon her dreams of entering a religious order, something she had yearned for her entire life.
Anna never lost her optimism and became even more devoted to her faith while enduring constant suffering. She was often unable to sleep, but continued to express her adoration of Christ and Mary, especially the Sacred Heart. A local abbot would bring her the Eucharist daily. She wrote: "I cannot write by pen how happy I am every time after Holy Communion. Ah, I forget my earthly suffering and the longing of my poor soul draws me every moment to adore my God and Savior hidden in the Blessed Sacrament!"
In spite of her pain she was always worried about how to get to heaven. She believed her writings, enduring her pain, and the work of sewing clothes for her friends was the way she would get to heaven.
After 1910 she started having mystical experiences, including receiving the stigmata which she tried to hide at all cost. In visions, which she called "dreams", Anna first saw St Francis, then the Redeemer, who was ready to accept her sacrifice of reparation. From that time on she bore the wounds of Christ, though few people ever knew. Later, in order to suffer in secret and to avoid any sensationalism, she asked the Lord to remove the visible stigmata. She was now ready to accept even greater sufferings. At the same time, Anna intensified her spiritual apostolate, promising her intercessory prayer and offering consolation in word or letter to all who turned to her.
In 1925 Anna was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her suffering was greater than ever and in January of that year she wrote: “The most important thing for me is to pray and suffer for the Holy Church and her Pastors. Whenever I receive Holy Communion, I fervently pray to our beloved Redeemer to continue protecting his holy Church and her Pastors, to grant me the most agonizing martyrdom and to accept me as a little victim of reparation".
She died on October 5, 1925 after receiving communion. Although she had lost the ability to speak, she spoke one last time to say “Jesus I love you”
Anna Schäffer's writings were published in book titled "Thoughts and memories of my life of illness and my longing for the eternal homeland"
which was translated in to English after the announcement of her canonization.