Until I was about twenty-three (23), I lived without  any religion, even without belief in God.

 Testimony of Fr. Alphonse Marie Ratisbonne, Nds

18th February 1842

Notre Dame de Sion (Religious of Our Lady of Sion)

A Marriage Proposal: In 1841, Alphonse was engaged to be married to his  niece, Flore Ratisbonne, a lively, sensitive and well educated young woman.

As she was just sixteen years of age, the family deemed it wiser to postpone the wedding. To fill in the time, Alphonse decided to travel to Naples, planning to spend the winter in Malta in an effort to strengthen his delicate health and to return by way of the Near East and Jerusalem to which he was already attracted.

Instead of going to the stage-coach office for a ticket to palermo, he went, by mistake, to the depot for Rome and so arrived there on 6th January 1842.

For Some months, a slow evolution had been happening in Alphonse. His lack of faith and scepticism had given way to a vague deism, a transformation surely brought about by his love for Flore.

Human love was making him more open to spiritual experience. He later reflected, “The sight of my fiancee awoke in me a certain feeling of human dignity. I began to believe in the immortality of the soul. Instinctively, I began to pray to God whom I did not know, whom I had never called upon nor invoked before”.

*Texts in italics, taken from Congregational Journals and Writings, edited by Sr. Marie Carmelle, Nds



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