One of my favorite Churches to visit in Rome is the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. It is on the way from the famous Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. Upon entering the Church, your attention is immediately drawn to a gorgeous altar of our Lady of the Miracle. It is also at this altar that the Tabernacle is found. So, you could prayerfully kneel before the King of Kings, JESUS, and at the same time gaze upon His Most Beautiful Mother, the Queen of heaven and all of creation.

This altar was also one of the favorite places to pray for St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, whose feast day we celebrated on August 14th. It was before this altar that the young Maximilian was inspired to start the Immaculata, our Lady’s army, and also at this altar he offered his first Holy Mass. Maximilian was inspired not just by the beauty of our Lady’s image, but also by one of the miracles that she worked in that very church: the conversion of a young Jewish man, Alphonse Ratisbonne.

In 1842, Alphonse made a trip to Rome and upon his return to France he was to be married to a young Jewish girl. While in Rome, one of his friends introduced him to the Baron Thèodore de Bussières. The Baron was passionately in love with JESUS, our Catholic faith, and the Holy Mother of God. The Baron Thèodore wanted everyone to come to know and love JESUS, and so he talked to other people about Him! Alphonse despised the Catholic Church and could barely put up with all of the Baron’s talking. But, when the Baron challenged him to wear a miraculous medal and pray the “memorare” once a day, Alphonse embraced the challenge so that he could prove there was nothing to all this religious nonsense.

Just as Alphonse was to leave Rome, one of the Baron’s close friends passed. On January 20th, Alphonse accompanied the Baron to the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, as the Baron had to arrange his friend’s funeral. The Baron left Alphonse alone in the Church as he entered the sacristy to coordinate the funeral. When the Baron left the sacristy and entered the Church, he found Alphonse on his knees weeping. Here is Alphonse’s account, in his own words, as to what happened:

“I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel and as if saying ‘very good!’ Although she did not say anything, I understood everything.”

When Alphonse fell to his knees, he did so as a Jew. But, once he stood up, he was a devout Christian by desire as he anxiously sought baptism. The Queen of heaven and earth did what she does best: she leads souls to JESUS! Alphonse at his baptism took the name, Maria Alphonse. He then went on to become a Jesuit priest and spent the rest of his life imitating his mother, striving to lead souls to JESUS!

Let us too imitate the faith and example of the Baron Thèodore, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, and      Fr. Maria Alphonse who each, in their own way, shared with others the extraordinary glory of knowing and loving JESUS!

Bless each person here today, Loving God. Whether their week has been smooth or rocky, may they find refuge in you. Remember to keep each other in prayer.

Fr. Michael