HANDMAIDS OF MARY
In order to encourage our young girls to live lives befitting a disciple of Christ and to encourage them in answering the call to holiness we are establishing a new society at St. Raphael's to be known as the Handmaids of Mary
The Church, founded by Christ during His earthly life and born from His side on the Cross, is manifested and promulgated by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. On the Cross, Jesus took upon Himself the sins of all humanity and offered to His Father the supreme sacrifice which would accomplish our redemption and seal the New Covenantal relationship between God and humanity. Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist the altar of the Lord’s New Covenant is made present, under sacramental signs, and the Church continues to be renewed and empowered for the Hope which is ours, and the mission of sanctifying the World. At the foot of the cross stood Jesus’ mother Mary; assisted by two handmaids: Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala. John the Beloved, one of Jesus’ Apostles, was also present. Throughout the life of Our Lord, through to the summit of His Sacred Ministry on Calvary, a clear distinction arose amongst His followers. His Blessed Mother Mary, the first of His disciples, held a privileged position. From the group of disciples, twelve were chosen who would share in Our Lord’s threefold ministry of teaching, sanctifying and shepherding The Holy People of God. Holy women ministered to Our Lord’s needs; one had the honour of anointing His body with oil in preparation for His sacrifice, others, were to be the first to announce the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. At the foot of the cross on Calvary, out of all those gathered, only St. John the beloved Apostle was called to share in Our Lord’s threefold ministry – a privilege, not even granted to His Blessed Mother Mary, the first of the disciples. In the early Church, while there was a recognition of the equality of all believers, the engagement of a diversity of members facilitated a diversity of functions, subject to the Holy Apostles and their successors. Most notable amongst the believers were the Holy Women, who ministered to the Apostles and the members of the Church. These Holy Women suffered persecution and were martyred for their faith. Many, such as Tabitha, worked untiringly doing good and giving in charity. When St. Paul preached for the first time in Europe at Philippi it was to a group of women one of whom, Lydia, became the first woman in Europe to be baptised and her house the first Church in Europe. Then there was Phoebe, a worker in the Church, who was commended by St. Paul for all the work she carried out in the Church looking after even Paul himself. Prisca & Aquila are referred to by St. Paul as, ‘my fellow workers in Christ Jesus’ – it was these holy women who risked death to save St. Paul’s life.
The Sacred Scriptures and the history of the Church resounds and rejoices in the bravery, wisdom, sacrifices and holiness of countless holy women, some of whom were martyred for their Faith; others lived lives of heroic virtue. Here at St. Raphael’s we too witness the extraordinary work of women in the Church and the local community. In order to encourage our young girls to live lives befitting a disciple of Christ and to encourage them in answering the call to holiness we are establishing a new society to be known as THE HANDMAIDS OF MARY. Like the holy women who ministered to Our Divine Lord, accompanied Our Blessed Mother to Calvary and assisted the Holy Apostles, our handmaids in addition to their apostolate are to be given a distinct role in the Church.
The garb of the handmaids is a white tunic, emblematic of the purity obtained through the saving waters of baptism flowing from the side of Christ on the Cross. It is to this purity which we strive to remain faithful. The blue sash which secures the white tunic at the waist, reminds us of the importance of remaining close to Our Blessed Lady. The blue hood attached to the tunic acts as a reminder of the call to prayer – by being the salt of the earth and a light in the world we act as true heralds of the Gospel, establishing Christ’s Kingdom.
In establishing this new parish society, we are both celebrating and recognising the important role of women in the Church. As with the early Church and indeed throughout Church history, the role of women has never been carried out in isolation from the brothers. Created in the image and likeness of God, men and women assume distinct but complimentary roles – together building up the Body of Christ.
Rev Fr Vincent Flynn
St. Raphael's Church
Solemnity of Ss. Peter & Paul, 29th June 2006
 Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis Christi, 29 June 1943, London, CTS, §25.
 Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21 November 1964, in A. FLANNERY (gen. ed.), Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Volume I, new rev. ed. 1998, Northport, NY, Costello Pub. Co., 1998, p. 414, §53ff.
 Lumen Gentium, p. 355, §7.