Thursday, April 23, 2009
The Miraculous Medal (Part Two) -Saturday, 25 April,2009 Feast of St. Mark, Ev.
The Medal's Most Famed Miracle - The Conversion of the Jew Alphonse Ratisbonne
Alphonse Ratisbonne was born into a distinguished Jewish family of Strausbourg. In the beginning of 1842 he found himself, through change of plans in Rome.
All Roads Lead To Rome
For one so bitterly anti-Catholic, Rome was the last place on earth. His hatred of everything Catholic was almost violent, and he would fly into a rage when reminded of his brother, Theodore Ratisbonne, who had renounced Judaism to embrace Catholicism; and not content with that blow, but even became a Priest!
[ Painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary commissioned by the Jew Alphonse Ratisbonne in thanksgiving for his conversion ]
So, his first thought on entering Rome was to deal speedily with the business in hand and move out as soon as possible.
His natural goodness, however, did not allow him to leave until he had seen an old school- mate, who was living in Rome, named M. Gustard de Bussiere, a zealous Protestant.
This same friend had once tried in vain to convert Alphonse Ratisbonne to Protestantism!
Divine Providence Intervenes
Divine Providence, "which reaches from end to end mightily, and orders all things sweetly" is clearly evident. For, Alphonse Ratisbonne called to see M. Gustard de Bussiere, who was absent at the time, so instead, he met Gustard's brother, M. Theodore de Bussiere, a Baron, who was himself a convert to the Catholic Faith.
A religious discussion arose in which Ratisbonne did not hide his deep anti-Catholic bias, and his firm determination to remain a Jew.
The Challenge and the Challenge accepted
Baron de Bussiere's answer was to offer him a Miraculous Medal; "Promise me", he said, "to wear this little image. I beg you not to refuse."
Ratisbonne was indignant . De Bussiere came forward with the argument, "I cannot understand the reason for your refusal for according to your view of things the wearing of this object must be to you a matter of total indifference, while to me it would be a real consolation, if you would condescend to my request."
"Ah, well, I will comply," replied Ratisbonne, "if you attach so much importance to it.I should not be sorry to have the opportunity of convincing you that Jews are not so headstrong as they are represented.
Two of De Bussiere's children put a cord on the medal , and their father placed it around the Jew's neck, and immediately made another request. He presented Ratisbonne with a copy of St. Bernard's "Memorare." and asked him to recite it .
The Jew promised both.
Heaven stormed and Divine Providence Continues to Intervene
Meanwhile, M Theodore de Bussiere and his family stormed heaven for the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne.
The latter was hastening to leave Rome faster than ever now, and in spite of the Baron urging him to stay in Rome longer, Ratisbonne refused and continued to ridicule the Catholic Church, much to the sorrow of de Bussiere.
[ St. Bernard's Memorare ]
A friend of de Bussiere had died during those days, M. de Ferronsays, whom the Baron had told of his attempt to convert Alphonse Ratisbonne. The dying man replied, "If you have succeeded in making him say the "Memorare", he is yours."
M. de Bussiere went to the Church of St. Andrew delle Fratte, to make the funeral arrangements for his late friend.
On the way to the Church, he met Ratisbonne out on his usual walk for exercise. He joined de Bussiere and together they entered the Church. The Baron went to the Priest's residence to make the funeral arrangements, leaving Ratisbonne in the Church alone.
Ratisbonne - Another Saul
Ratisbonne, unlike the Hebrew Saul of Tarsus, who was "breathing out slaughter and threatenings" at the time of grace had struck him, was glancing about coolly, with an air of indifference, if not of distain. But, like Saul of Tarsus, grace struck him down in a marvellous way.
Away for about ten minutes , the Baron returned and looked for his friend, and found another Jew vanquished by Heaven. A sight he could hardly believe: Ratisbonne, on his knees in the Chapel of St. Michael.
The Baron approached, spoke to him, but he did not reply. Again and again he tried to attract Ratisbonne's attention, who, at last turned on him a face bathed in tears.
He was unable to speak for a while. "When they shall be converted to the Lord," said St .Paul,"the veil shall be taken away." (2. Cor 3:16)
At last, Ratisbonne spoke: "Lead me " said the other newly converted Jew, "Lead me where you will...after what I have seen, I obey." He took the medal he was wearing and covered it with kisses and tears, and amidst deep sobs and sighs , "How good is God! What a plentitude of gifts! What joy unknown! Ah! How happy I am, and how much they are to be pitied who do not believe."
He continued, "I am not crazy. I know well what is in my mind."
He asked to be brought to a Priest. He asked for Baptism. He will not tell de Bussiere what he has seen or heard. He must wait till he finds a Priest and tells all on his knees.
Alphonse Ratisbonne relates his Miraculous Conversion
Father Villefort, S.J. is the Ananias chosen for this newly converted Saul, who is to tell him what to do.
Kneeling before the Priest, he again kissed the Medal , and exclaimed with joy,"I have seen her! I have seen her!"
[ The Blessed Virgin Mary appears to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the Church of St Andrew del Fratte, Rome ]
Then, overcoming his emtions he spoke calmly,"I had been in the Church but an instant, when suddenly I was seized with an inexplicable fear.
I raised my eyes, the whole edifice had disappeared from my view, and all the light was concentrated on one chapel alone, and in the midst of this efflugence there appeared standing upon the Altar, the Blessed Virgin Mary, grand, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, such as she is represented on the Medal:an irresistible force impelled me to her.
The Virgin made me a sign to kneel, and she seemed to say , 'It is well'. She did not speak to me, but I understood all."
Alphonse Ratisbonne wished the vision to be kept secret.
However, Fr. Villefort thought differently, and advised accordingly. Ten days separated his Conversion to his Baptism, during which time , apart from the interviews with the Priest, he was to be found in the churches of Rome.
His realization of the Truth penetrated him with holy fear. Awe overwhelmed him as he knelt before the Tabernacle, and he would seek refuge in a Chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin;
"Here I have no fears", he said, "for I feel myself under the protection of boundless mercy."
During those ten days, an army officer, General Chlabonski visited the home of Baron de Bussiere to see Ratisbonne.
"So you have seen the image of the Blessed Virgin", said the General. "The image", Ratisbonne replied, "It was not the image, but herself I saw; yes, Monsieur, her real self, just as I see you now."
While speaking of the Rays of Grace coming from Mary's hands as seen by St. Catherine, he said, " I could not express what I saw of mercy and liberality in Mary's hands. It was not only a effulgence of light, it was not rays I distinguished, words are inadequate to depict the ineffable gifts filling our Mother's hands, and descending from them, the bounty , mercy, tenderness, the celestial sweetness and riches, flowing in torrents, and inundating the soul she protects."
Alphonse Ratisbonne has left in writing his own impression of those days. " O my God, I who but an hour before was blaspheming! I who felt such violent hatred against the Catholic Religion! Everyone of my acquaintances knew full well, that to all human appearances , it was impossible of me ever to think of changing my religion. My family was Jewish, my betrothed,my uncle were Jewish.
In embracing Christianity, I knew that I would break away from all earthly hopes and interests . . . And yet I do it willingly; I renounce the passing happiness of a future which was promised me; I do so without hesitation, I act from conviction . . . for I am not crazy, and have never been; they well know it. Who then could refuse to believe me, and believe the Truth?
"The most powerful interests chained me to my religion, and consequently all should be convinced that a man who sacrifices everything to a profound conviction must sacrifice to a celestial Light, which has revealed itself by incontrovertible evidence. What I have affirmed is true. I know it. I feel it; and what could be my object in thus betraying the Truth, and turning aside from religion by a sacrilegious lie? My words must carry conviction".
Just as St. Paul could never forgive himself for having persecuted the Church, so does this "other Paul" bewail his past bitterness. "Alas! When my excellent brother embraced Catholicism, and afterwards embraced the Ecclesiastical state, I of all his relatives, was his most unrelenting persecutor . . . I could not forgive his desertion of our religion; we were at variance, at least; I detested him though he had but the kindest thoughts for me . . . However, at the time of my betrothal, I wrote him a few cold lines to which he replied by a letter full of charity and tenderness.
One of my nephews died. My good brother having learned that he was seriously ill, asked a personal favor that the child be baptised before death, adding, with great delicacy, that to us it would be a matter of indifference, whilst to him it would be a veritable happiness, and he hoped we would not refuse. I was infuriated at such a request!"
Just as St. Paul, on embracing Christianity embraced the Cross, finding in it the essence of Christianity, and source of all Wisdom and Power, so did Alphonse Ratisbonne desire the Cross of Christ. "I hope, Oh! yes, I hope my God will send me severe trials which may rebound to His honor and glory. . ."
He relates that the night before his conversion, there was constantly before his eyes a large cross without Christ. It made him tired, even though he tried to banish it as being of no account. "I made", he said "incredible efforts to banish the image, but in vain. It was only later, when having by chance seen the reverse of the Miraculous Medal, I recognised the exact sign which had struck me".
Alphonse Ratisbonne is Baptised
On January 31, 1842, after having made a Retreat, Alphonse was baptised by Father Villefort, in the Gesu', the Jesuit Church in Rome, on the eleventh day after Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared to him.
The ceremony took place at 9 a.m. with Baron de Bussiere standing as God-parent.
The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, received his Profession of Faith. When asked, "what name do you wish?" he replied, "Mary".
The famous French preacher, the Abbe Dupanloup, delivered the Occasional Sermon.
The Holy Mass was then offered, and the sacred Ceremony was brought to a conclusion with a solemn Te Deum.
An audience with the Holy Father, Pope Gregory XVI, was arranged for him, in the company of the Father General of the Jesuits, and Baron de Bussiere, and he knelt at the feet of the Successor of St.Peter.
"He was exceedingly kind", said the newly converted Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne, "as to take us into his private room where he showed us near his bed, a magnificent picture of my dear Medal, a picture to which he has the greatest devotion. I had procured quite a number of Miraculous Medals. His Holiness blessed them for me, and these are the weapons I shall use in conquering souls for Jesus and Mary."
The pope gave him a Crucifix bearing the figure of Christ Crucified, because he now bore Christ in his soul; but before his conversion, he had imprinted on his mind an image of a Cross without the Christ.
[ Pope Gregory XVI, who gave Alphonse a Crucifix during a special audience in Rome and ordered a Canonical Examination of the Apparitions]
His devotion had lead him to make a Retreat before Baptism, and now his gratitude lead him to make another Retreat in thanksgiving after Baptism.
The conversion of Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne caused such a stir in Rome that the Pope ordered a Canonical Examination to be made of the Apparition.
A favorable conclusion was reached after nine witnesses were examined, and all circumstances duly considered. On the 3rd of June, 1842, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome declared:
"The instantaneous and perfect Conversion of Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne, from Judaism to Catholicism, was a true and incontrovertible Miracle, wrought by the Most Blessed and Powerful God, through the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For the greater glory of God, and the increase of Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Eminence deigned to permit the account of this signal Miracle to be printed and published."
Alphonse Mary Ratisbonne Joins His Brother And Becomes A Priest
Later on Alphonse became a Priest, and afforded himself many times the great joy of celebrating Holy Mass in the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, Rue de Bac, Paris, where Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine.
He associated himself with his brother Theodore, also a Priest, in the Order of Our Lady of Sion, for the conversion of the Jews.
Death and Memorial
He died in the Holy Land in 1884, after having "spent himself", and been "spent" for his "kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption of children, and the glory, and the testament, and the giving of the law, and the services of God, and the Promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things,God blessed forever, Amen." (Rom 9, 4-5)
Pilgrims to Rome, kneeling in the Church of St. Andrew delle Fratte, in the Chapel of St. Michael, will see this Inscription, written in Italian and French:
"On the twentieth of January, 1842,
Alphonse Ratisbonne, of Strausberg,
Came here, an obstinant Jew.
The Virgin appeared to him,
as you see here.
Falling down a Jew,
He rose up a Christian.
Store up this precious Remembrance
of the mercy of God
And the Power of the Virgin"
On a slab surmounting it, one can read in French, "O Mary, be mindful of your Child, who is the sweet glorious victory of your Love"
...a work concluded, ...........[COMING UP- short commentary on the "SWINE FLU" pandemic that is "sweeping the world"...]