Schäffer, Anna, Bl.

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Lay mystic; Franciscan tertiary; b. Mindelstetten (between Regensburg and Ingolstadt), Bavaria, Germany, Feb. 18, 1882; d. Mindelstetten, Oct. 5, 1925. Anna Schäffer was one of many children of a carpenter. Offering her life to God for the welfare of others, she began working in Regensburg to help support her family, although she had hoped to become a missionary sister. Following the death of her father (1896), she worked in Landshut, then in the laundry at Stammham, where on Feb. 4, 1901 an industrial accident left nineteen-year-old Anna immersed in a tub of boiling bleach. After a year in the hospital, she was discharged (May 1902) because the specialists were unable to heal her wounds. She was virtually bedridden for the next 25 years. With disability came poverty.

In time her anger turned to understanding that her suffering could be united with that of the Crucified Christ and offered as a sacrifice for others. Her confessor, Father Karl Rieger, said that he never heard Anna Schäffer complain during the twenty-five years he brought Communion to her daily.

From spring 1910 she had many mystical experiences. She related that God gave her three keys with which she opened heaven's gates: her suffering, her sewing needle, and a pen. In her beautiful embroidery for churches, Anna would illustrate the Sacred Heart with the flames bent inward like a head of wheat. She used this symbol often on the letters she wrote to those seeking her prayers or counsel in Austria, Switzerland, and America.

Anna suffered greatly in her last days. Soon after her death, her tomb in the churchyard at Mindelstetten became a popular pilgrimage destination. After her relics were identified and transferred into the church (July 26,

1972), the diocesan process for her beatification was opened (1973). She was declared venerable in 1995. Pope John Paul II noted during Anna's beatification (March 7,1999) that "between atrocious pains she became aware of the responsibility every Christian has for the salvation of his neighbor. Her bedside became the cradle ofa wide apostolate through correspondence."

Feast: Oct. 5.

Bibliography: Acta Apostolicae Sedis (1999): 31012. L'Osservatore Romano, no. 10 (1999): 12. L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, no. 29 (1995): 5.

[k. i. rabenstein]