Sunday, October 9, 2011

Frederic Ozanam

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Antoine Fr�d�ric Ozanam was a French historian and literary scholar who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The great grandnephew of Jacques Ozanam, Fr�d�ric was born it Milan, April 181; died at Marseilles, 8 September 185. Ozanam died at the young age of 40 leaving a widow, Amelie and a daughter Marie. Fr�d�ric first settled in Lyons as a merchant, then after bad fortune decided to go to Milan. Later he returned to Lyons and became a physician. As a teenager he went through a crisis of doubt, which he overcame with the help of a teacher, Abbe Noirot. This experience provided him with an intellectual foundation for his faith, which became characteristic of him for the rest of his life.

His daily life was animated by an apostolic zeal. He was one of those who signed the petition addressed to the Archbishop of Paris to obtain a large body of religious teachers for the Catholic school children, whose faith was endangered by the current unbelief. As a result of this petition Monseigneur de Quelen created the famous Conf�rences de Notre Dame, which Lacordaire inaugurated in 185. During his life he was an active member and a zealous propagator of the society. With all his zeal, he was, however, tolerant. His strong, sincere books exhibit a brilliant and animated style, enthusiasm and erudition, eloquence and exactness, and are yet very useful introductions to the subjects of which they treat.

While still a student, he began a series of refutations of new socialist doctrines and defended the position of the Catholic Church. At eighteen Fr�d�ric, in defense of the Faith, wrote “R�flexions sur la doctrine de Saint-Simon”. This made him become the prey of doubt. He said, “God gave me the grace to be born in the Faith. Later the confusion of an unbelieving world surrounded me. I knew all the horror of the doubts that torment the soul. It was then that the instructions of a priest and philosopher (Abb� Noirot) saved me. I believed thenceforth with an assured faith, and touched by so rare a goodness. I promised God to devote my life to the services of the truth which had given me peace.”

Later he studied law in Paris, and lived for eighteen months with the illustrious physican Ampère. He formed an intimate friendship with the latters son, Jean-Jacques Ampère, well known later for his works on literature and history. With other students, he founded the Society of St Vincent de Paul, in order to insure my faith by works of charity,” and assist the poor of every religion and nationality. This society continues its work throughout the world and has always kept its lay character.

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The Saint Vincent de Paul Society includes 875,000 members in 47,000 Conferences (teams) in 11 countries of five continents. A husband and father, Blessed Fr�d�ric Ozanam offers an example of living with integrity and charity. His efforts anticipated the attention given by Vatican II to the lay apostolate, and he worked also to infuse a vision of service and discipleship in youth.

Like his friend Lacordaire he believed that a Christian democracy was the end towards which Providence was leading the world, and after the Revolution of 1848 aided him by his writings in the Ere Nouvelle. In 1846 he visited Italy to regain his strength, brought down by a fever. On his return he published Etudes germaniques (1847); Poètes Franciscans en Italie au XIIIe siècle; finally, in 184, the greatest of his works La civilisation chretienne chez les Francs. The Academy of Inscriptions awarded him the Grand Prix Gobert for two successive years. In 185 he made a short journey to Spain an account of which is found in the posthumous work Un p�l�rinage au pays du Cid.

In the beginning of the next year, his doctors again sent him to Italy, but he returned to Marseilles to die. When the priest exhorted him to have confidence in God, he replied Oh why should I fear God, whom I love so much? Complying with his desire the Government allowed him to be interred in the crypt of the Carmes. Besides his attempts to represent the Catholic Church in French politics, Ozanam was deeply involved with the poor, and social Catholicism throughout his short life.

It was the approach and the explosion of the Revolution of February 1848 that caused Fr�d�ric to become a key figure in a committed social Catholicism. If the liberal Catholics of the time were very timid in a social matters. Fr�d�ric Ozanam stood out through his daring, which even frightened some of his friends. An example of this was his famous article of February 10th 1848, in Le Correspondant in which he invited all French Catholics finally to give their attention to people and their needs. Fr�d�ric demanded equality, or social justice, and took good care not to oppose it to Christian Charity. In his eyes these two principles, far from nullified each other The order of society is based on two virtues justice and charity. However, justice presupposed a lot of love already, for one needs to love a man a great deal in order to respect his rights. These which limit our rights, and his liberty, which hampers our liberty. Justice has its limits whereas charity knows none..

On August , 17, Blessed Fr�d�ric Ozanam will be beatified -- declared Blessed -- by Pope John Paul II. Celebrations of the beatification will take place in Paris, where Fr�d�ric was the primary founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.

By Collin Langdon

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