Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Gospel is to be preached to the Jew first.

The Gospel is to be preached to the Jew first.

Recently I posted on my blog the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ to St. Francis of Assisi: “Go and repair my house which as you see is falling completely into ruin.” Currently there is an urgent need to repair the Church's attitude towards converting the Jews. 

St. Paul wrote that we should not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it brings salvation to those who believe, to the Jew first. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and to the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]. Here St. Paul clearly indicates that the Gospel is not simply meant for Jews and others, but is for the Jew first. Yet the new document issued by the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews states that “. . . the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”

This may be true now, but it was not so in the past.

In the 19th Century two brothers converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism, and with the blessing and permission of three Popes labored for the conversion of the Jews. These brothers, Alphonse and Theodore Ratisbonne were both ordained as Catholic Priests. Fr. Alphonse Ratisbonne, with the consent of Pope Pius IX, left the Jesuits in order to labor for the conversion of Jews and Muslims. Pope Gregory XVI specifically granted Fr. Theodore Ratisbonne's request to seek the conversions of Jews to the Church, and Pope Leo XIII appointed him prothonotary Apostolic. Both brothers founded schools and societies dedicated to the education and conversion of Jewish children. The Congregation of Our Lady of Sion which the brothers established for both priests and sisters still exists, but unfortunately since Vatican II their mission is no longer the conversion of Jews; rather it is “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).


The Jew Alphonse Ratisbonne was miraculously converted to the Faith while praying before this image of Our Lady at the basilica of St. Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, in 1842.

Below is source material from the traditional Catholic Encyclopedia.

“After his conversion he assisted his brother, Theodore, in founding the Sisterhood of Our Lady of Sion in 1843, was ordained priest in 1847, and entered the Society of Jesus. Desirous, however, to devote himself entirely to the conversion of the Jews, he left the society with the consent of Pius IX, transplanted the Sisters of Sion to Jerusalem in 1855, and built for them in 1856 the large Convent of Ecce Homo with a school and an orphanage for girls. In 1860 he erected the Convent of St. John on the mountain at Ain Karim, together with a church and another orphanage for girls. Here Alphonse laboured with a few companions (Pères de Sion) for the conversion of Jews and Mohammadens until his death. For boys he erected the orphanage of St. Peter, near the Gate of Jaffa outside of Jerusalem, with a school for mechanical arts in the city.”

"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."






2 comments:

  1. I very much have a devotion to the Ratisbonne brothers as someone who is like them both Jewish and Catholic however the pastoral policy towards Jews was a failure as it was based on converting Jews into Gentile Catholics. It was a policy of uniformity rather than unity. Actually we evangelise, God does the converting of hearts. Jews should be able to enter the Church and remain Jews as they did in the early Church. Reflecting on this in the light of the Shoah the Church in its wisdom is developing a new pastoral policy towards Jews that sees any group targeting of Jews in an active way to be inappropriate at this time of salvation history. The regime of assimilation policy (as Father Elias Friedman called it) practiced by the Gentile Church for the last 1500 years is perceived as another form of genocide of the Jewish people. for all the good things that the Ratisbonne and other like them did the descendants of these converted Jews have lost their identity as Jews and have become as Gentiles. Until the church can once again have a fully functioning Mother Church of Jewish believers then it is inappropriate to be involved in active group evangelisation of Jewish people.

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    1. Are you saying the Roman Catholic Church shouldn't evangelize or actively convert Jews until they can figure out how to stay "Jewish" and Catholic simultaneously?

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