Alphonse Ratisbonne’s Conversion - II
Theodore de Bussières
Today we close the story of Ratisbonne based on the book, The Conversion of Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne by Buissières and selected by Patrick Odou. In the last article, he described the miraculous apparition of Our Lady in the Church of Santt’Andrea delle Fratte to the Jew from a prominent European banking family. Now we learn what happened in the aftermath of that extraordinary morning of January 20, 1842. TIA
Indeed, it was quite enough to listen to Ratisbonne. The Catholic faith exhaled from his heart like a precious perfume from the casket, which contains it, indeed, but cannot confine it. He spoke of the Real Presence like a man who believed it with all the energy of his whole being; but the expression is far too weak, he spoke like one to whom it was an object of direct perception.
On leaving Father de Villefort, we went to give thanks to God, first at S. Maria Maggiore [St. Mary Major], the favored basilica of the Blessed Virgin, and then at St. Petert’s.
During the 10 minutes when Bussieres was in the cloister, the miracle took place inside the church
It is impossible to convey an idea of the transport of Ratisbonne when he found himself in these churches, “Ah,” said he to me, as he warmly pressed my hand, “now I understand the love with which Catholics regard their churches, and the piety which leads them to embellish and adorn them! How good it is to be here! One would long to never leave them! It is no longer earth, it is the vestibule of Heaven...”
At the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence of Jesus so overwhelmed him that he was on the point of fainting; and I was obliged to lead him away, so awful did it seem to him to appear before the living God with the stain of original sin upon him. He hastened to take refuge in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin. “Here,” he said to me, “I can have no fear. I feel myself under the protection of an unlimited mercy.”
He prayed with great fervor at the tomb of the holy Apostles. The history of the conversion of Paul, which I related to him, made him shed abundant tears.
He was astonished at the strength of the posthumous bond, to use his own expression, which united him to M. de Laferronnays; he wished to pass the night beside his remains - gratitude, he said, made it a duty. But Father de Villefort, seeing that he was exhausted with fatigue, prudently opposed this pious desire, and advised him not to remain later than 10 ot’clock.
Ratisbonne then told us that the night before he had not been able to sleep; that he had always before his eyes a large cross, of a peculiar form and without the image of our Savior. “I made,” he said, “incredible efforts to drive away this figure but they were all fruitless.” Some hours later his eye casually fell on the reverse side of the miraculous medal, and he recognized the same Cross.
Alphonse, standing, and his brother Theodore founded the Congregation Our Lady of Sion to convert Jews
Meanwhile I was impatient to return to the family of M. de Laferronnays. I had such consolation to give them at the moment when the venerated remains of him whom they bewailed were about to be taken from before their eyes. I entered the chamber of death in a state of agitation, I might almost say of joy, which at once attracted the attention of all present, and showed them that I had something of importance to communicate. They all followed me into an adjoining room, and I hastily related all that had passed.
I had brought them tidings from Heaven. Their tears of grief were in a moment changed into tears of gratitude. These poor, smitten hearts could now bear with perfect Christian resignation that keenest of sacrifices which death exacts, the last farewell to remains of him they had loved.
But I was eager to see again the son whom God had just given me. He had begged me not to leave him alone. He felt that he needed a friend into whose heart he could pour out the unfathomable emotions of such a day.
I asked him again and again the circumstances of the miraculous vision. He was quite unable to explain how he had passed from the right side of the church to opposite lateral altar, which is on the left, and from which he was separated by the preparations that had been made for the funeral service. All he knew was, that he had found himself suddenly on his knees, and prostrate close to this altar.
At first he had been enabled to see clearly the Queen of Heaven, in all the splendor of her immaculate beauty; but he could not sustain the radiance of that divine light. Thrice he had tried to gaze once more on the Mother of Mercy; thrice he been unable to raise his eyes beyond her blessed hands, from which there flowed, in luminous rays, a torrent of graces.
“O my God!” cried he, “I who but half an hour before was blaspheming still! I who felt a hatred so deadly of the Catholic religion! But all who know me know well enough that, humanly speaking, I have the strongest reasons for remaining a Jew. My family is Jewish, my betrothed is a Jewess, my uncle is a Jew… In becoming a Catholic, I sacrifice all the interests and all the hopes I have on earth; and yet, I am not mad - everyone knows that I am not mad, that I have never been mad! Surely they must receive my testimony.”
Posted August 23, 2010
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