Daughter and only child of Mourad Saber Shabaq al-Rayes and Rafqa Gemayel. Her mother died when Rafka was six. She and her step-mother never got along. The girl worked as a maid from age 11 to 15, announcing at age 14 that she felt a call to religious life. Her father objected, but at 21 she became a nun in the Marian Order of the Immaculate Conception at Bikfaya, taking the religious name Anissa (= Agnes), and making her final vows in 1856.
In 1871, her Order merged with the order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The sisters were given the choice of joining the new combined order, joining other orders, or being released from their vows. Following dreams in which Saint Anthony the Great appeared to her, she joined the Lebanese Order of Saint Anthony of the Maronites (Baladiya Order) on 12 July 1871, a novice at age 39, taking the new religious name of Rafqa (= Rebecca).
On the feast of the Holy Rosary in 1885, Rafqa prayed that she might share Christ’s sufferings. Her health began to deteriorate, and she was soon blind and crippled. She spent as much of her remaining 30 years in prayer as she could, but always insisted on working in the convent as well as she could with her disabilities, usually spinning wool and knitting. By 1907 she was completely blind and paralyzed. In a 1981 medical report based upon the evidence presented in the Canonization process, specialists in ophthalmology, neurology and orthopedics diagnosed the most likely cause as tuberculosis with ocular localization and multiple bony excrescences. This causes unbearable pain, but Rafqa was thankful for her special form of communion.
Late in life her close friend and supporter, Mother Superior Ursula Doumit, ordered her to dictate her autobiography, and Rafka complied. Near the time of her death, Rafqa asked that her sight be restored for a single hour so she could again see the face of Mother Ursula; the hour of sight was granted.
Beginning four days after her death, miraculous cures were recorded at Rafka’s grave, the first being Mother Doumit whose throat was slowly closing so there was fear she would starve to death. Elizabeth En-Nakhel from Tourza, northern Lebanon, was cured from uterine cancer, through Rafqa, in 1938, the miracle which permitted her beatification.