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Header-Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

by Armando Santos

 

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.


While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières. Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.


On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture. Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into theMiraculous Medal
house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

 

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During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.


A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.


When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”


When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 


Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.


The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.

 


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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for October 26, 2020

He who does not acquire the love of God will scarcely persev...

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October 26

 

He who does not acquire the love of God
will scarcely persevere in the grace of God, for
it is very difficult to renounce sin
merely through fear of chastisement.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Cedd of the East Saxons

Gaelic, early Welsh, Frankish, Old English and Latin speaker...

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St. Cedd of the East Saxons

What little is known about St. Cedd comes to us from the saintly Venerable Bede, an early English historian.

A native of the region of Northumbria, England, he was one of four brothers, one of whom was St. Chad. By the year 653 he had been ordained a priest.

At the time what is today the British isle was divided into several small kingdoms. Under the influence of St Augustine of Canterbury and other missionary saints the seeds of Christianity were sown far and wide throughout the land.

King Oswid of Northumbria, having been baptized by St. Finan, sent Cedd to evangelize the Middle Angles of Mercia. Mercia’s king was Penda, a pagan tolerant of Christianity, while his son, Peada, had promised to become Christian in exchange for the hand of King Oswid’s daughter in marriage.

Though Cedd made some headway in Mercia, his brother Chad reaped a greater harvest ten years later, probably under the more secure patronage of Peada.

From Mercia, Cedd was sent to re-evangelize the East Saxons at the request of King Sigeberht, who under the influence of King Oswid accepted baptism from St. Finan. Bede speaks of Cedd as a man unafraid to confront the powerful.

His success in this mission, earned for him the respect of St. Finan who consecrated him bishop of the East Saxons. Cedd built churches and founded two monasteries, one of which was the monastery of Lastingham. Both structures were eventually destroyed by the Danes.

In 664 Cedd was present at the Synod of Whitby, and was one of those who accepted the implementation of the Roman calendar and practices as opposed to the Celtic rite. Bede recounts that his ease with languages greatly aided in the communication of the various parties, which spoke Gaelic, early Welsh, Frankish, Old English and Latin.

He died of a plague that struck in 664. He was succeeded by his brother St. Chad as abbot of Lastingham.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Vero...

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The Rosary Saves Soldiers in Kuwait

Veronica first learned of the Rosary as a small girl watching her father fingering the beads. At first she thought he was “playing” with the shiny strand, but later, realizing the full meaning of her father’s action, and under the promptings of Grace, she became a devotee of the Rosary as well.

The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Veronica, who felt the Blessed Mother’s protection in her life. But then, when her youngest son, Randy, was stationed in Kuwait during Desert Storm, the devotion was to play a crucial role.

While attending a convention of Catholic Women, and greatly concerned for her son’s safety, she confided to a presiding priest that Randy was serving overseas. The good priest then suggested she and others in the group join him in praying a Rosary for Randy’s safety and other pressing intentions. Something compelled Father and the ladies not only to say five decades, but to persevere for several hours.

Two weeks later Veronica received a letter from her son in which he described that he and fellow soldiers had been in a harrowing conflict. As the bullets whizzed by, he feared for his and his buddies’ lives and prayed with all his heart. Suddenly, a great calm came over him and he heard a voice, “from the sky” that assured him they would be alright.

Conferring dates and times, mother and son marvelled at finding that the time in which he and the others were in dire peril was the same day and hour Father, Veronica and her friends were persevering in reciting the Rosary.


Note: Based on a story from 101 Inspirational Stories of the Rosary by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC

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The recitation of the Rosary was always a great help to Veronica, who felt the Blessed Mother’s protection in her life.

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