Our Foundress – St. Raphaela Mary
Our Center is named after the foundress of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Raphaela Mary. A humble, profound, forward-thinking woman, her life continues to be relevant for all people in today’s world. Almost “by accident” she became the leader and inspiration of a group of young Spaniards who made up the founding nucleus of the Handmaids in 1877. St. Raphaela embodied the characteristics which still define a Handmaid today.
In Raphaela, we know a woman with two great passions: deep love for the Eucharistic Christ and for all of God’s people, particularly the poor. She spent hours in silent, Eucharistic adoration and from this wanted everyone to “know and love God.”
Raphaela was a woman who was formed by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Hence, part of her vision of service to others was for her Sisters to be involved in retreat work, welcoming individuals or groups for the Spiritual Exercises, for prayer, reflection, and other spiritual programs. She even encouraged the Sisters to be ready to give up their own rooms to accommodate those wishing to make a retreat, should there not be enough beds in our centers. Experience had opened her to the profound possibility of tranformation made possible through the Spiritual Exercises, and she desired to make this available for many more people, particularly for women at that time. This, along with education, was one of the ways in which she understood that the Handmaids were invited and called to collaborate in God's work of salvation, to bring forth fullness of life in others and in our world.
Raphaela responded to Christ’s love with total generosity. As she travelled along the path of the Ignatian magis – "loving Christ more dearly and following Him more nearly”- she continued to grow in her burning desire to love and embrace whatever he loved and embraced. The story of Raphaela’s friendship with and love of God and of God's people is one with which many people have identified - courageous, humble, and divinely human.
Learn more about St. Raphaela Mary's life and pray with her in the document "Adoration with Saint Raphaela Mary."
Pope Francis visits St. Raphaela Mary
On January 2nd, 2017, Pope Francis made a surprise visit to pray before St. Raphaela Mary in the Handmaid's church in Rome! On the visitor's sign in, he left this comment (written originally in Spanish): "I came to give thanks to St. Raphaela Mary for all the good she did for me. The reading of her life (many times) helped me in a very difficult moment. Thank you! Francis." Pope Francis knew the Handmaids in Argentina, and through them and by reading her biography, Love Always (many times, as he says!), he came to know St. Raphaela Mary well. The faith with which she lived through challenges brought on by people she loved very much inspired Pope Francis' own spiritual journey through a similar experience.
St. Raphaela's shrine in the United States is here at St. Raphaela Center. It is a humble place of prayer, as she would have desired. You are welcome to come and visit the shrine of the Saint who so encouraged Pope Francis, as well as to learn more about her and her life.
Click HERE to see more photos.