Saturday, September 9, 2017

Blessed Frederic Ozanam

Twenty years ago (August 22, 1997), Pope John Paul II beatified the layman, Frederic Ozanam, founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Father Jean-Baptiste Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, OP called Blessed Frederic Ozanam "the greatest layman of the nineteenth century"! Pope John Paul II praised him during the beatification ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral as an "apostle of charity" and great model for the laity:

Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, apostle of charity, exemplary spouse and father, grand figure of the Catholic laity of the nineteenth century, was a university student who played an important role in the intellectual movement of his time. A student, and then an eminent professor at Lyon and later at Paris, at the Sorbonne, he aimed above all at seeking and communicating the truth in serenity and respect for the convictions of those who did not share his own. "Learn to defend your convictions without hating your adversaries, " — he wrote — "to love those who think differently than yourselves, . . . let us complain less about our times and more about ourselves" (Letters, 9 April 1851). With the courage of a believer, denouncing all selfishness, he participated actively in the renewal of the presence and action of the Church in the society of his time. His role in starting the Lenten Conferences in this Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris is well-known, with the goal of permitting young people to receive an updated religious instruction regarding the great questions confronting their faith. A man of thought and action, Frédéric Ozanam remains for today's university community, professors as well as students, a model of courageous commitment, capable of making heard a free and demanding voice in the search for the truth and the defense of the dignity of every human person. May he also be for them an invitation to holiness!

Today the Church confirms the kind of Christian life which Ozanam chose, as well as the path which he undertook. She tells him: Frédéric, your path has truly been the path of holiness. More than one hundred years have passed and this is the opportune moment to rediscover that path. It is necessary that all these young people, nearly your own age, who have gathered together in such numbers here in Paris from all the countries of Europe and the world, should recognize that this path is also theirs. They must understand that, if they want to be authentic Christians, they must take the same road. May they open wider the eyes of the spirit to the needs of so many people today. May they see these needs as challenges. May Christ call them, each one by name, so that each one may say: this is my path! In the choices that they will make, your holiness, Frédéric, will be particularly confirmed. And your joy will be great. You who already see with your eyes the One who is love, be a guide for all these young people on the paths that they will choose, in following your example today!

But he is also interesting as an intellectual, the author of books on thirteenth century Italy (Dante and the Franciscans), the fifteenth century history of Europe, and on Thomas a Becket and Francis Bacon as Chancellors of England! (Deux chanceliers d'Angleterre, Bacon de Verulam et Saint Thomas de Cantorbéry; Paris, 1836). I would like to find a copy of that book, translated and abridged by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Australia in 1967 (translated by John Findlay; edited by John Dawes)!

His cause for canonization is ongoing, promoted by the Society he founded.

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