Tag Archives: Pope Gregory XVI

St. John Joseph of the Cross*— this humble Saint fasted regularly, slept only three hours per night-and led a life without any earthly comforts.

He was and still is  great Lenten Role Model

John Joseph of the Cross                                                    en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

*St. John Joseph of the Cross should not be confused with St. John of the Cross

His name was Carlo Gaetano Calosirto, and he was born on August 15, 1654, off the coast of Naples on the island of Ischia. From his earliest childhood, he demonstrated great virtue and self-denial. When he was fifteen, he joined the Order of Friars Minor, and when he was sixteen years old, he became the first Italian to join the reform movement of  Peter Alcantara, a movement that re-dedicated the Franciscans to a stricter and more austere way of life.

By the time he was twenty years old, he was charged with founding a monastery for the Order. He was sent to establish one in the Piedmont region. Filled with humility, he participated in the actual construction doing masonry work. His holiness and unyielding commitment to order impressed everyone, and his superiors insisted that he accept ordination to the priesthood. He refused insisting he was not worthy, but clearer heads prevailed, and he was ordained a priest.

He continued in his priestly ministry while still insisting on doing the lowest of tasks. He refused to eat red meat or drink red wine and slept only three hours a night. When awake, if not working, the rest of his time was spent in prayer. When the monastery in Piedmont was finished, he established strict rules of silence and contemplative prayer.

In 1702, John Joseph was appointed Vicar Provincial of Alcantarine Reform in Italy. The Franciscans were determined to have Peter Alcantara’s austerity measures implemented throughout the entire Order. Even though in charge of such important duties, John Joseph still insisted on helping with the lowliest of tasks such as scrubbing the floors or washing the dishes. In fact, as the Superior, he ordered that no beggar should ever be turned away without some form of assistance. If it was necessary, he would take the monastery provisions and give them to those in need.

John Joseph lived the life of a true Franciscan. His personal life was ruled by denial and by serving others. Blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, many people came to him just to be close to him,  to get his blessing, or have him pray for them. His devotion to the Blessed Virgin was unmatched among his peers, and he did his best to spread devotion to Our Lady anywhere he could.

When his tenure as Provincial was nearing its end, he spent much of his time hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Those who came to him for confession said that he could “read their hearts.”He would not rest even if sick. If someone he had laid hands on or prayed over had recovered, he would insist that they take some form of medication so he would not be given credit for the cure. Many tried to tear pieces from his clothes to keep as holy relics

John Joseph of the Cross had an all-encompassing love and faith in the Lord. He wrote that “whoever walks always in God’s presence, will never commit sin, but will preserve his innocence and become a great saint.”

He told his fellow Franciscans,  “Let us hope in God, and doubtless, we shall be comforted,” and “God is a tender Father, who loves and succors all.”

St. John Joseph of the Cross lived by the words, “Doubt not. Trust in God. He will provide.”

John Joseph died in Naples on March 5, 1734. He was beatified by Pope Pius VI on May 24, 1789, and was canonized on May 26, 1839, by Pope Gregory XVI. His Feast Day is March 5.

Saint John Joseph of the Cross, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

Our Lady of Sion—aka The Queen of the Jews–The Unbreakable Bridge between Catholicism and Judaism

courtesy (fair deal)
Our Lady of Sion & the Jewish man, Alphonse Ratisboone     (his brother, Theodore was not present)

By Larry Peterson

The roots of Our Lady of Sion go back to the fourth or fifth century. Sion (or Zion) is a place in the Diocese of Toul in France where Christianity in the future nation took root. Writings from a Christian named Nicetius were found there, and it is recorded that a church dedicated to Our Lady was the center of a very large Catholic community. The Basilica of Our Lady of Sion is built over the ruins of a temple that had been dedicated to an unknown Roman goddess.

But we must leap forward to the 19th century to grab hold of what this all means today. The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion was actually two Catholic religious congregations founded in Paris. Two brothers, Theodore Ratisboone and Alphonse Ratisboone (some spell it Regensburg) founded the order for Religious Sisters in 1843 and the order for Catholic Priests and Brothers in 1852.

What intrigued me so much was their mission statement—“to witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people and to hasten the fulfillment of the promises concerning the Jews and the Gentiles.” (Constitution, article 2).

 I must admit that as a cradle Catholic who is the maternal grandson of a Hebrew man, and a descendant of  family members killed in the Holocaust, I was stunned to learn of The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion. Imagine, a Catholic organization dedicated to Jewish people. I had no idea.

God sure “writes straight with crooked lines” doesn’t he? The Ratisboone brothers and founders of the order, were Jews.  They were continually being drawn to the faith but Theodore converted first. Seeing some of his friends embrace Catholicism and after studying and reading about the faith, he was baptized in 1826. He was not done with his conversion. He was ordained a priest in 1830.

Alphonse was much more reluctant to embrace and believe in Jesus Christ. But on January 20, 1842, while on a trip to Rome before getting married, he happened to visit the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. It was here that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him. He hurriedly contacted Theodore and told him. Both brothers believed that God was calling them especially since Alphonse had been personally converted by none other than Our Lady. They both strongly felt that they had been called to bring their fellow Jews to Christianity.

Alphonse was baptized and entered the Society of Jesus where he spent several years. In 1843 Theodore founded a small community of women who wanted to join him in his ministry of teaching the faith to Jewish children.  In 1850, Alphonse, with permission from  Pope Pius IX  and the Superior General of the Jesuit Order, left the Jesuits and joined with his brother to work together. Side by side, in 1852, they founded the Congregation of the Fathers of Our Lady of Sion.

Eventually, Theodore Ratisboone wanted to continue his work of converting fellow Jews to Christianity. In 1842 while visiting Rome, Pope Gregory XVI, blessed Theodore’s ministry. He immediately formed a school for Jewish children in a Christian setting. As God will provide, two Jewish sisters came to him for spiritual advice. They converted to Christianity and became the starting point for the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, found in 1847.

Alphonse moved to the Holy Land and in 1858 and, on the sight of the ruins of an old church, built and orphanage and vocational school which the Sisters ran. These schools were open to all children regardless of creed. In 1874, Alphonse began construction on the Ratisboone Monastery on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  It was a school for boys and today is a branch of the Salesian Pontifical University.

Today the Congregations of Our Lady of Sion are spread around the world from Australia to England, to Istanbul, Costa Rica, Rio de Janeiro and even Kansas City, Missouri.

Not bad for a couple of Jewish converts. Not bad at all.

At this time there is no cause pending for either of the Ratisboone brothers to have their causes for sainthood begun. But there are those who are diligently trying to get the process started.