Father Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne & The Miraculous Medal
The conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne is truly a remarkable and beautiful testimony to the power of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through whom it pleases Our Lord to give all graces to humanity, and well worth reading.
Alphonse Ratisbonne was an agnostic Jew. He was a virulent anti-Catholic as well and blamed the Catholic Church for the suffering of the Jewish people.
Ratisbonne was given a Miraculous Medal as a test by a Catholic friend and asked to pray the Memorare of St. Bernard.
Here is a brief description of the events which caused Alphonse Ratisbonne to agree to wear the Miraculous Medal:
“Since you abhor superstition and espouse such liberal views,” he asks Alphonse, “would you consider submitting to a simple test?”
“To wear something I’m going to give you. It’s a medal of the Holy Virgin. It appears quite ridiculous to you, no doubt. But as for me, I attach great importance to it.” And he shows Alphonse the Miraculous Medal attached to a cord.
Alphonse is dumbstruck. He can scarcely believe the baron’s impertinence. But as a man of the world, he doesn’t want to seem to be making too much of a trifle. So he consents, breezily quoting a line from The Tales of Hoffman: “If it does me no good, at least it will do me no harm.
“This is too much. “Laissons ces sottises!” exclaims Alphonse — “Let’s stop this foolishness!” For the mention of St. Bernard has reminded him of his brother, Abbe’ Théodore Ratisbonne, author of a biography of the Cistercian saint. Anything that reminds Alphonse of his traitor-brother arouses his rage. [Note: Théodore Ratisbonne, Alphonse’s older brother, had converted to Catholicism]
However, the baron persists. If Alphonse refuses to pray this short prayer, he insists, he’ll thereby render the whole “test” null and void. So, Alphonse consents. At the Baron’s behest, he even agrees to copy out the Memorare. Then he pockets it and leaves, greatly amused at the entire absurd episode.
But later that night, when he mechanically copies the prayer, something happens. He can’t get the words of the Memorare out of his mind. They haunt him, he recounts later, like an annoying tune one can’t dislodge from one’s head. Over and over again, with mounting irritation, he murmurs this obtrusive prayer of St. Bernard.
Our Lady appeared to Ratisbonne at the church of Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte in Rome in 1842. After the vision of Our Lady, Ratisbonne was instantly converted to the Catholic faith.
You can find the whole story here: The Miraculous Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne
Learning of Ratisbonne’s conversion through this medal was one of the events that inspired St. Maximilian Kolbe to found the Militia Immaculata.
Fr. Alberto Arzilli, OFM Conv., a fellow friar with St. Maximilian, related the story on April 26, 1942:
“Fr. Maximilian . . . was convinced of what he had to do [regarding the founding of the MI] on the [75th] anniversary day of the apparition of Our Lady to Alphonse Ratisbonne, January 20, 1917. The inspiration came to him during the morning meditation conducted by the . . . Father Rector Ignudi. In the meditation Father Ignudi told the story of Ratisbonne’s miraculous conversion and commented on it.”
“With a face beaming and bubbling with joy at the power of Our Lady shown in the conversion of Ratisbonne, Friar Max spoke to me of his inspiration. Smiling, he told me we had to crush the Devil and all heresies, and especially the error of Masonry.”