6th May 1884 – 2024

“Fr. Alphonse Marie Ratisbonne’s tomb in St. John de Monatana, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem”

“I do not know why I, a poor sinner, not only do not fear death but long for it. My ardent wish is to die with the Memorare on my lips.”
-Fr. Alphonse Marie ratisbonne, Nds
6th May 1884
St. John de Montana, Ein Kerem

The death of Alphonse Marie on the 6th of May was preceded by several events that
unquestionably contributed to it being this way. It is known that he had been in poor health
from his youth, as it is well known that he worked tirelessly, because of his responsibilities
and urgent needs, he did not cease in his activities.
On the other hand, Alphonse was very sensitive to some points, such as his deep relationship
with his family, his visceral love for the Land of Israel, for nothing he would leave it and his
fierce aversion to assuming representative positions.
At the end of 1883, his brother Achiles, the penultimate of a large family, died, leaving,
therefore, only he and Théodore. That reality changed quickly. On 10 January, Théodore died,
leaving Alphonse completely lonely from his immediate family ties. His letter of January 9,
1884 to Théodore did not reach its addressee in time.
The death of Théodore, followed by the death of Achilles, created a great void in Alphonse’s
life and above all the consequences that came with Théodore’s absence. Alphonse was
planning to visit Théodore, his absence was already very much felt; His death made that void
Now the entire weight of representation has fallen on his shoulders. All of Sion’s work, from
a foundational and indentary point of view, was shared between the two, although the reason
for existence was anchored in the direct event of Alphonse, on January 20, 1842, the two
brothers assumed together this manifestation of God.
With Théodore’s death, it seemed normal to everyone that Alphonse would continue the
performance, but that meant taking his brother’s place in the role of general representative of
Sion’s work. This prospect was never dreamed of by Alphonse, on the contrary, he always
refused any attempt in this direction. On the other hand, the constituted houses and
communities of Sion thus understood continuity. In addition the name of Alphonse was
natural to maintain the unit. It would be unimaginable for any other name to replace
Théodore other than Alphonse. Such a procedure would be a source of rupture within Sion.
This harsh reality was experienced by Alphonse in the months that followed the death of
Théodore: on the one hand, the urgency and pressure on the part of the brothers and sisters
2 for him to assume the position so that continuity would be serene and assured and on the
other, his determination that he would never take on such a role.
Some communications in these months between January and May, show a little of the drama
lived by the community of Sion and by Alphonse. In some aspects, the need for him to
assume was so much that they did not even take into account his opposition to such a role, as
his poor physical health and the blindness that dominated him was not measured and on the
other hand the distance between Europe and here. , the precariousness of transport, aborted
trips, the slowness of communications, misunderstandings, were the cause of great anguish
and suffering for everyone and especially for Alphonse. The year 1884 was very rainy and
cold, a fact that did not contribute to his physical health. At the end of April, his participation
in the chapter was already projected for the month of July. His presence at this event was a
source of great anguish for Alphonse, as he would be the center of the debate to mark the
continuity of Sion’s works. His illness worsened on May 1, 1884 was certainly because of the
intense cold he experienced on April 30, but the willingness to attack such a disease had
already been implanted in his body for many months before and the ability and strength
physically and psychologically overcoming this illness, in the face of such a whirlwind of
pressures and concerns, were not enough at that moment. The death that Alphonse fearlessly
desired was not out of morbid feeling, cowardice or despair in the face of existence, but the
weight on him was immense. I think he experienced Jesus’ phrase: “My Father, if it be
possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39)

Bro. Elio Passeto, Nds
6th May 2024
Feast of the Founder
St. Pierre de Sion, Ratisbonne Monastery 1874
Community of Notre Dame de Sion (Religious of Our Lady of Sion), Israel-Jerusalem



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