The concluding chapter to our fictional series on the life of St. Anna Schäffer.
Note: This is part of a serial fiction series focusing on the life of St. Anna Schäffer, following the life of a fictional character as she encounters the saint. New chapters are released every Sunday! For past chapter(s) click here.
Several years passed, and Sofia continued to marvel at how joyful Anna was in her “workshop of suffering.” She remained bedridden and was afflicted with a constant pain in her legs. Yet, the rest of her body remained nimble and she devoted herself not only to prayer, but also to needlework.
After speaking with the local pastor one day, Anna was entrusted by him with the work of embroidering and repairing church linens. This kept her busy most of the day, along with the number of letters that began to pour in.
Surprisingly, many people in the surrounding area began to hear the story of Anna and her “workshop of suffering.” They wrote to her asking for prayers and advice, seeing her as a remarkable young woman who could suffer in joy.
One day Sofia stopped by on her way home and saw the priest leaving Anna’s home. It was likely her time for daily communion and Sofia knelt down as the priest passed her, knowing that he likely still held a few consecrated hosts that he would distribute to other parishioners confined to their homes.
The priest left and Sofia rose from the ground and entered Anna’s home. When she opened Anna’s room she noticed something different today. Anna had her eyes closed and had a grimace on her normally smiling face. It seemed that she was suffering in a new way, and the pain looked unbearable.
Sofia slowly walked into her room and spoke softly, “Anna? It’s me, Sofia.”
Anna’s eyes opened and she motioned Sofia to come closer.
“Sofia! Jesus gave me another … cross today.”
Another cross! Weren’t her legs more than enough pain for her?
“What is it now, Anna? Can’t Jesus leave you alone! You have suffered long enough!”
Anna winced, closing her eyes and scrunching her face in pain. Then she opened her eyes and tried to smile.
“Sofia, it’s…it’s alright. I accept this suffering. It brings me closer to Jesus and to experience the pain he felt on the cross. After holy communion today I was touched by five rays of fire, like lightening, striking my hands, feet and heart. At once I felt a pain I had never felt before … but I have learned something that has helped me cope with this physical suffering.”
“What did you learn?”
“I learned to love Jesus more and to see the immense love he poured out for us on the cross.The more suffering I receive, the closer I get to his heart. At first, many years ago, I rejected this suffering. Don’t you remember how I refused to go into work?”
“Yes I do, Anna, and now I wish you never did go into work. You would never have fallen into that boiling water!”
“That is true, but Sofia — I might also have run away from Jesus! I count that day as a blessing in my life. It brought me closer to Jesus than anything else I could have done. It was a gift, given by God. When we accept suffering from his hands, it is no longer a burden in our lives. My body may ache, but my soul is on fire with lov–!”
She had to pause as a shot of pain ran through her body.
“Anna, it is difficult for me to see you in such pain. I need to leave. Please pray for me, that I can have your joy, your hope in the midst of suffering. I struggle with hope, especially as the world around me darkens.”
Anna reached out and grabbed Sofia’s hands.
“Sofia, I pray every day for you. Never lose hope in God. Don’t place your hope in anything else!”
Sofia left Anna’s home crying, as she wished she had the joy and hope that Anna possessed.
Eventually Anna’s health deteriorated even more. She was diagnosed with colon cancer and was paralyzed after falling from her bed. During the final weeks of her life she could barely talk, but her face was serene. After receiving Holy Communion one day her last words were, “Jesus, I live in you.”
After her death many were astonished to hear about her life and the way she embraced suffering. Her cause for canonization was opened in 1973. and she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. He said the following words about her life during his homily.
Anna Schaeffer, from Mindelstetten, as a young woman wished to enter a missionary order. She came from a poor background so, in order to earn the dowry needed for acceptance into the cloister, she worked as a maid. One day she suffered a terrible accident and received incurable burns on her legs which forced her to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. So her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service. She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her counsel. May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity.
Come back next Sunday for a new series!