On April 3, 1877 at three in the morning, 14 young women met in the chapel of the Andújar hospital and from there they left for Madrid. Well into the night they were received in Atocha Station by Sr. Pilar and Maria de San Ignacio, who had set out earlier. They went to the Hospital of the Princess, run by the Daughters of Charity, those sisters who provided generous help to the first Handmaids. With few belongings and riding in a third-class wagon, that peculiar group embraced the adventure and trials of the journey.

On the night of April 6, they moved into a rented apartment at number 12 Bola Street. There they began to live their religious life in community. Their stay in that house did not last even two months, however. The living conditions were poor and the sisters were in precarious health. Even so, they were bound together by prayer and fraternity. Through the windows of the house, one could hear the bustle of the street, while in the chapel, the sisters would kneel in silent adoration, hearts burning with humble love.

Soon, there was another move to a house in the Chamberí neighborhood, this one larger and with a garden, but too isolated from the life of the city for the apostolic desires of the sisters. Even so, it was there, on June 8, 1877, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, that the foundresses made their first vows.

They faced a quandary in the new house: how "to put Christ at the adoration of the peoples," "that all might know and love him,"... in this house, so far removed from the life of the people. They felt that the apostolic meaning of the Eucharist was not fully realized there.

And so, another move... this time to a house on the Paseo del Obelisco. Finally, it was possible to "put Christ at the adoration of the peoples," and live out fully what they had always known to be true- that "the Eucharist is the life of the Institute, like the root is of the tree." 

There too, they opened a small school was opened on the ground floor.

Fast forward to the final months of 1879: there were seventeen sisters with temporary vows together with some novices... they enjoyed a depth of community life rooted in the Eucharist... the Statutes of the Institute were on the way to final approval ... it was a time of constant thanksgiving!

“… Blind trust in our Lord, firmly believing that he will help us because he is obliged to do so; pray with great humility and give all our needs and desires to Him. Our whole life must be a continuous weaving of faith and generosity; You know well how little human support we have for our good; It seems that God wants to do everything in our Congregation by himself and before himself; the result will be all the better, to be sure.”   - Letter to M. María de San Ignacio, 1882

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Mk 10:21

Is my life a weaving of faith and generosity? Is my confidence placed in God? Do I seek to understand God’s will and embrace it? 

Prayer to Saint Raphaela Mary

We pray with these words of Rafaela, taken from a letter to Mother Maria Theresa:

«Father of the center of my being, this is me, misery and nothingness, but you are greatness and omnipotence; grant to me, Father of the center of my being, (the greatness) to live in this world, and to dwell in myself with only the tips of my toes; and grant me the omnipotence so that I may be the most perfect image of you inside and out, and may do, not just perfect daily things, but even miracles for your greatest honor and glory.»

In the same letter, she insists:

“Let us love our Jesus solidly; let us perform miracles if he wishes, with his divine grace, and let us present him with our imperfections humbly and sweetly every moment; and above all, let us completely forget ourselves in order to remember our God- is he not worthy of that? This is the grace that the one who loves you will ask for you.”    

St Rafaela, pray for us. Amen