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Ratisbonne, Marie Théodore and Marie Alphonse


Brothers, co-founders of the congregation of notre dame de sion and the fathers of sion. Théodore: b. Strasbourg, France, Dec. 28, 1802; d. Paris, Jan. 10, 1884. He was the second eldest son of the most important Jewish family in Alsace and was educated at the Royal College at Strasbourg. He labored to alleviate the social and economic conditions of the Jews in the Strasbourg ghetto. His study of the Bible and Church history led to his conversion (1827). Because of his family's bitter opposition, he was baptized secretly, assuming the name Marie at this time. After ordination (1830) he taught in the minor seminary of the Diocese of Strasbourg until 1840, when he went to Paris and worked in the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Victories. To promote understanding between Christians and Jews and to bring about the conversion of the Jews, he and his brother Marie Alphonse founded the Congregation of Notre Dame de Sion for women (1843) and the Fathers of Sion (1852). Among his numerous writings the best known are his two-volume Histoire de St. Bernard et de son siècle (1840; 11th ed. 1903); Manuel de la mère chrétienne (1859; 11th ed. 1864); Nouvelle manuel des mères chrétiennes (1870; 22d ed. 1926); and La question juive (1868).

Alphonse: b. Strasbourg, France, May 1, 1814; d. Ain Karim, Palestine, May 6, 1884. The ninth child of the family, he became a lawyer and banker. Like his brother Théodore he was eager to aid his fellow Jews. So bitterly anti-Christian was he that he could not forgive Théodore for becoming a Catholic in 1827. But on his way to the East, he visited Rome, where he was suddenly converted after a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the church of St. Andrea della Fratte (Jan. 20, 1842). At the time of his Baptism (Jan. 31), he took the name Marie. A few months later he joined the Jesuits. After his ordination (1848) he received permission to leave the Society of Jesus and collaborate with his brother in working for the conversion of the Jews. He collaborated with Théodore in founding their two congregations. In 1855 he went to Palestine, where he spent the remainder of his life laboring to convert Jews and Muslims. He established for the Sisters of Sion the Ecce Homo monastery (1856) and later opened two orphanages.

Bibliography: m. j. egan, Christ's Conquest: The Coming of Grace to Theodore Ratisbonne (Dublin 1945); Our Lady's Jew, Father M. A. Ratisbonne (Dublin 1953).

[m. r. nÔtre]

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