We left off our reflection upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form with the priest ascending the altar after the prayers at the foot of the altar. As he ascends the altar, the priest prays silently two prayers. The translation of the second prayer, which he prays as he bows down over the altar, is: “We beseech Thee, O Lord, by the merit of Thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that Thou wouldst vouchsafe to forgive me all my sins. Amen.”
Since the priest, and we with him, pray at every Holy Mass through the intercession of the Saint “whose relics are here,” we want to know something about that saint.
Our parish church is the oldest parish in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph but the relics in our altar may well be the most contemporary relics of any parish in the Diocese. The relics are of Anna Schäffer, who was canonized only five years ago, on October 21st, 2012, by Pope Benedict XVI.
Anna Schäffer was born on February 18, 1882 in Bavaria, Germany. Her family was poor and the young Anna therefore had to work outside the house as a maid, in order to help her family. One day, when she was just a few days shy of her 19th birthday, she had an accident: she slipped and fell into the bucket of boiling lye in which she was washing laundry. Her legs were severely burnt. Although Anna received medical treatment and even underwent many operations, nothing could be done to heal her legs. As a consequence, Anna remained bed-ridden for the remainder of her life until her death at the age of 43. The painful wounds on her legs had to be dressed every day, and it was her mother who took care of Anna for the remainder of her life.
Anna sanctified her suffering and her great consolation was the reception of Holy Communion every day. 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!"
The photograph of Saint Anna, which accompanies the present article, reveals the noble beauty of our Saint. Her look is somewhat grave, but so pure and so attractive!
Anna had three apostolates during the many years she was bed-ridden: the first was her suffering which she bore for the sake of the Church and for the sake of souls; the second was her apostolate of writing to persons to encourage them to live holy lives, and the third was to make beautiful hand-crafts for others. On the occasion of her Beatification, Pope Saint John Paul II said: “[S]he was given to [us] to grow in the correct understanding that weakness and suffering are the pages on which God writes His Gospel…Her sickbed became the cradle of an apostolate that extended to the whole world.”
In 1925, Anna was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her suffering increased, 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.” Saint Anna’s longing to make reparation fits so well with the message of Our Lady of Fatima, which we recall this year in a special way on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions. Our Lady’s message, in three words, is that she tells us to pray, to do penance and to make reparation.
Unfortunately, the beautiful book of Saint Anna’s writings, which was published in English at the time of her canonization, Anna Schäffer—Thougths and Memories of my Life of Illness-and My Longing for the Eternal Homeland, is out of print, and there are very few resources in English to help us to know better our Saint Anna. May Saint Anna Schäffer intercede for us, especially for all those parishioners who suffer in body or in mind.