Tag Archives: Pope Pius IX

Maria de Mattias—Her mirror was her best friend until one day she saw a beautiful Lady looking back at her …The Lady told her, “Come with me.”

St. Maria De Mattias                                                                wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Maria de Mattias was born and baptized on February 4, 1805, in the small town of Vallecorsa, about 50 miles south of Rome. Her father, Giovanni de Mattias, came from a prominent family in the area and was well-to-do. Maria was the second of four children. Her sister Vincenza was eleven years older than her, so they did not have much in common socially. Her two brothers, Antonio and Michele, were both several years younger.

During this time, political turmoil was a way of life in Vallecorsa.  There were political factions that were always fighting each other. Many of the young local men were gang members, and they were continually raiding and intimidating the villagers. Gang leaders planned kidnappings because children from families with money often brought handsome ransoms.  Maria, being from a family with money, was a prime candidate for abduction.  She did not leave her home unless accompanied by her father.

Maria was quite vain and spent inordinate amounts of time looking at herself in the mirror while brushing her long blond hair. However, that all changed as she approached her sixteenth birthday. One day, as she was preening herself, she saw a Lady looking back at her from inside the mirror. Maria did not know what to make of this, and then the Lady said, “Come with me.”

Maria began to converse with the Lady and asked for her help. She wanted to learn how to read. Her father did not believe that girls needed to know how to read or write, so Maria had never learned. The Lady told her not to worry and that she would help her. Soon Maria was able to take letters and put them into words, and before long, the young woman was reading. With the heavenly help of an extraordinary Lady, she had taught herself to read.

She kept at it and soon was reading spiritual books that the family had at home. The Lady told her she was the Blessed Mother, and during several more conversations, Maria realized that she was to dedicate her life to God. The only thing left for her to do was figure out how.

During the Lenten season of 1822, Gaspar del Bufalo, (the founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood) came to town with his mission team to preach. The mission went on for three weeks, and the topics covered were death, judgment, punishment, and hell versus God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

Maria heard Gaspar ask his listeners to imitate Jesus by giving their lives for their brothers and sisters who needed it. When the mission was over, Maria de Mattias was filled with love for her neighbor and was determined to bring about conversion and salvation to those whom Christ loved.

Gaspar del Bufalo had a right-hand man by the name of John Merlini. In 1824, he sent Merlini to Vallecorsa to preach the mission. Merlini and his followers had been busy putting together associations for girls, women, boys, men, and priests. Maria felt drawn to this man but was afraid to approach him.

Finally, she did, and they became good friends. Merlini put her in charge of the Daughters of Mary, the girl’s association. Maria took charge, and more and more girls began coming to her house for talks, study, and prayer. Before long, older women were coming to the house. The De Mattias house had turned into a school for young and old alike.

On March 4, 1834, when she was 29 years old, and under the guidance and help of John Merlini, Maria founded the Sister Adorers of the Blood of Christ. The order was established primarily to be a teaching order.  Maria made a public vow of chastity, and John Merlini gave her a small gold heart imprinted with three drops of blood. This became the symbol of the order, and to this day a silver heart with three red dots is worn by the sisters all over the world. Pope Pius IX gave papal approval to the Order in 1855, and John Merlini became Maria’s spiritual director.

Today more than 2000 sisters continue the work of their foundress in countries all around the world including Brazil, Viet Nam, South Korea, the United States, Bolivia, Guatemala, and even Liberia where five of the sisters were martyred in 1992.

St. Maria De Mattias was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 18, 2003. We ask her to pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

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.