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Maria Theodor Ratisbonne
A distinguished preacher and writer, and director of the Archconfraternity of Christian Mothers, b. of Jewish parentage at Strasburg, 28 Dec., 1802; d. in Paris, 10 Jan. 1884. He was raised in luxury, was educated at the Royal College of his native city, and at the age of manhood, was considered a leader among his people, who unanimously elected him to replace Samson Libermann when the latter was converted in 1824. The conversion of his three friends, Emile Dreyfus, Alfred Mayer, and Samson Libermann, caused him to study the Bible and the history of the Church. For two years the work of grace went on within him, and finally he was baptized in 1826. He entered the seminary, and received Holy orders in 1830. He worked in his native diocese until 1840, when he became subdirector of the Confraternity of Notre Dame des Victoires at Paris. It was whilst in this city, in 1842, that his brother Alphonse, a free-thinker animated with greatest hatred against Christianity, was miraculously converted at Rome, and suggested to him to secure a home for the education of Jewish children. Providence seemed to design him for the work, and answered his prayer for light by sending him the two daughters of a Jewish lady whom he subsequently converted. During the same summer he went to Rome; Gregory XVI decorated him a Knight of St. Sylvester, complimented him for his "Life of St. Bernard", and granted his request to labour for the conversion of the Jews. Houses were opened under the patronage of "Our Lady of Sion" for the Christian education of Jewish boys and girls. Pius IX gave Ratisbonne many marks of his affection, and Leo XIII appointed him prothonotary Apostolic. At his death he received the last Sacraments from the Archbishop of Paris, and the final blessing from Leo XIII. His chief works are: "Essai sur l'Education Morale" (1828); "Histoire de Saint-Bernard" (1841); "Méditations de Saint-Bernard sur le Présent et Futur" (1853); "Le Manuel de la Mère Chrétienne" (1860); "Questions Juives" (1868); "Nouveau Manuel des Mères Chrétiennes" (1870); "Le Pape" (1870); "Miettes Evangéliques" (1872); "Réponse aux Questions d'un Israélite de Notre Temps" (1878).
The Jewish Encyclopedia, X; Currier, History of Religious Orders; Vapereau, Dictionnaire des Contemporains; Larousse, Grand Dictionnaire Universel; Hogan, Irish Monthly, XII; M. Th. Ratisbonne (Paris, 1904).
MARTIN A. HEHIR