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DAILY QUOTE for November 26, 2015

We must live every moment of our lives, as if it were our...

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November 26


We must live every moment of our lives, as if it were our last.

St. Francis de Sales


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St. Sylvester Guzzolini

His father refused to speak to him for ten years on that...

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St. Sylvester Guzzolini

Sylvester was born in 1177 to a noble and prestigious Italian family. When he was of age, he was sent to Bologna and then Padua to study law, but feeling within himself a call to the ecclesiastical state, he left off the study of jurisprudence to pursue that of theology and the Sacred Scriptures. This course of action so angered his father upon Sylvester’s return to his native city of Osimo, that it is said his father refused to speak to him for ten years on that account.

Sylvester accepted a canonry at Osimo and zealously dedicated himself to his pastoral duties. He spent long hours in prayer, pious reading, and the instruction of others. However, his efforts to rid his diocese of corruption were not always well received and he made enemies, among them, his own bishop. He had respectfully admonished his superior for neglecting the duties of his office and causing scandal and, in retaliation, the hostile prelate threatened to relieve him of his benefice.

It was not merely the threat from his bishop, however, that decided him to abandon the world. In 1227, while assisting at the funeral of a nobleman, his relative, who had been remarkably handsome in life and who had formerly been much admired for his worldly accomplishments, he looked into the open coffin. The sight of the decaying corpse brought his own certain end vividly to mind and placing before himself the thought that what this man had once been, he now was, and that likewise what his relative had become, he himself should one day be, he resolved to act in response of this spiritual awakening.

Renouncing the world entirely and deploring its scandals and blindness, the canon left the city quietly and retired to a secluded locale about thirty miles from Osimo. In this deserted place Sylvester lived in total solitude and utmost poverty until the owner of the property, recognizing his resident hermit, offered him a better site for his hermitage. His bodily mortification was most severe and yet many flocked to him for guidance and direction. Their numbers grew to such an extent that he eventually built a monastery to house them and when it became necessary to adopt a rule of life for the growing congregation, Sylvester chose that of St. Benedict.

Sylvester’s order was confirmed by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. By the time of his death twenty years later, the saint had founded eleven monasteries and had guided the congregation for thirty-six years.


The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared s...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

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.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the 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.

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.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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