Biography of Frederic Ozanam (2)

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoFrédéric OzanamLeave a Comment

CREDITS
Author: M. Teresa Candelas, D.C. · Translator: Charles T. Plock, CM. · Year of first publication: 1997 · Source: La Milagrosa, Madrid.
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Chapter 1: Some biographical traits of Frederic Ozanam

A Great Personality of the Nineteenth Century

Frederic Ozanam has become an emblematic figure for various reasons: the influence that he had over the Catholic students of Paris during the years 1831-1836 who wanted to make him the leader of Catholic youth; the strong personality he developed in his maturity as professor, parent, faithful friend; and lastly, the strong impression and great emotion that was caused by his premature death in 1853 when he was only forty years old.

Despite his short life, his work is monumental and was formulated in light of a plan: to make known the truth of Christianity and the role of the Church as a permanent leaven in the saving work of God’s plan for the human person. Yet as he himself said: The Christian era has not always been one of golden years, rather there have been many years of iron.

Beauty, goodness, and truth did not always stand out in this era. In the midst of his surroundings, Frederic labored to have a new society emerge from the ruins.

During the upheavals of the nineteenth century distinct currents followed the French Revolution. “New ideas” with regard to government, religion, society and the economy were circulating and institutions were changing to form a class conscious society. It could be called the century of revolution, or perhaps better, the century of transformations.

True the turbulent years continued. Amid the ebb, flow and great swells of the tides, it was difficult to know where one could find an anchor. The incipient liberal and democratic ideas1, together with the rooted ideas of deists, gallicans and Voltaireans, caused a tremendous moral collapse. A wave of atheism rose up and advanced with force and violence. At that time it was believed that atheism would strangle every manifestation of religion in France.

This was the stage on which the life of Frederic Ozanam unfolded. In the midst of this situation, the task of great Catholics, like Chateaubriand, Lacordaire, Montalembert (personal friends of Ozanam) had to be difficult. Ozanam joined their ranks in order to make a contribution to their activity on behalf of the Christian cause.

He constantly placed his clear and sharp intelligence at the service, the defense and the search for the truth. His heart, filled with a love for God and humanity, was capable of moving people and arousing admiration in thousands of disciples who came to listen to him. This occurred first in Lyon where he created an unprecedented chair of commercial law. In the position as chairperson, he moved beyond legal questions and, his students, the future businessmen, received norms that would help them in the exercise of their profession as they applied these principles to major social issues. In order to do this in the classroom he had to digress historically and philosophically. He spoke about to his friends in letters he sent them. For example, in a letter dated January 15, 1840 that was sent to Perssoneaux and a letter dated February 15th of the same year sent to Lallier, he said: I encroach even upon social economy, your old domain. I endeavor to inspire my listeners with a love and respect for their profession, and consequently the observance of the duties which it imposes. I tell them hard truths, and their benevolence willingly gives me the right to do so2. Later on, in the classrooms of the Sorbonne, he will be avidly listened to.

First Steps

He was the son of Jean Antoine Ozanam and Marie Nantes, natives of Lyon. He was born on April 23, 1813 in the city of Milan (a city under French influence) and was the fifth child of the family. Thirteen other children were born to this marriage but only three survived: Alphonse, who was ordained a priest at the age of eighteen, Frederic and Charles, the youngest whose studies led him to follow his father’s profession: medicine.

The Ozanam home was deeply Christian, a place where fervor and charity rivaled one another, and this lesson was communicated with great effectiveness to the children. This reality marked the life of the Ozanam children. Frederic passed the years of his infancy in Lyon where his family had reestablished themselves after their return from voluntary exile (the result of political and economic matters). His first studies were undertaken at the Royal College of Lyon where he received outstanding grades and where his literary talent made a profound impression on both his peers and teachers.

At fifteen he gave his parents a gift of his poetry, revealing not only his literary skill but also his deep love for his parents. At eighteen, a magazine, L’Abeille Francaise, gathered together his first essays that explain his need to consult the great masters of knowledge. To know a dozen languages, to consult sources and documents, to know geology and astronomy tolerably well, to be able to discuss the systems of time and space of peoples and of the learned; to study, in a word, universal history in all its extent, and the history of religious beliefs in all its depths — that is what I have to do to fully express my ideas3.

From then on his desire for knowledge was insatiable. During that same year (1831) he wrote a pamphlet refuting the ideas of the Saint-Simonianism.

He was encouraged to struggle against the trends opposed to Christianity and to close the path to whatever danger might threaten it. His father was happy to see the direction that his son’s life was taking but he also wanted him to build a future for himself, a future that his father felt could only be secured through the path of Law. Therefore, in the autumn of 1831, he was sent to Paris.

Student in Paris

The time he spent in the French capital (1831-1836) was a very fertile period. Here the principal outlines of his life were sketched. He divided his time between the study of law and the study of literature. He took advantage of the great libraries that the Parisian capital offered. His love of science, together with the practice of an active faith, show us a tenacious and tireless young man, a precursor of the charitable social action which would let him draw near to misery, to touch it with his hands and to clarify its causes.

He arrived in the capital fifteen months after the July revolution with its aftermath still smoldering. Priests were threatened with anti-catholic disturbances. The “City of Lights” was plunged into anti-religious shadows. The people were stirred up and had burned the churches. Intellectuals openly sought to destroy Catholic thought by teaching atheist, deist and voltairean doctrines in their classes. The Sorbonne, which formerly had flown the flag of Catholic orthodoxy, now became the locus for an anti-clerical campaign.

Without a doubt, the young man, Frederic, felt quite disoriented. He wrote about this in a letter that he sent to his cousin Falconnet: Separated from those whom I love, I feel within me — I know not what childish need to live beside the domestic hearth, under the shadow of a father and a mother — something of an unexplainable tenderness which dries up in the air of the capital. And Paris displeases me … for me this city without restrain, where I find myself lost, is Cedar — is Babylon — is the place of exile and pilgrimage; Sion is my native city, with those whom I have left, with its provincial kindliness, with the charity of its inhabitants, with its altars standing, and its beliefs respected4.

Young, with little money in his pocket but with an incalculable and profound wealth, he felt taken aback and lost in the great city. He lived an ardent religious faith, which at the same time was both belief and action. So in less than three years he was able to accomplish works of outstanding importance. He was fortunate to meet great friends with outstanding personalities. This enabled him to temper the intense nostalgia that he felt. His fellow countryman, Andre Marie Ampére, deeply Christian, discovered during the first moments of their encounter the rich spirit of this young man from Lyon. He offered him lodging in his house and cared for him as though he were his own son. He offered him his friendship and his fine library. He also introduced him into the discussion groups of Count Montalembert where during his lengthy meetings he had the opportunity to meet such great figures as Ballanche, Alfred de Vigny, Eckstein and even Victor Hugo. Other important Frenchmen offered him their friendship, for example, Lacordaire, Lamennais, and Chateaubriand, whose work The Genius of Christianity, published in 1802 began a religious revival in France..

We cannot forget Father Marduel who would be so helpful to Frederic that he would exclaim: I would have been ruined and consumed by sadness if I had not met him.

In these meetings he had his first contact with social justice and the misery that the people of Paris endured and which echoed frequently in the subjects of conversation during these prolonged encounters. Ozanam tells us about his impressions: We talk about literature, history, the interests of the poor class and the progress of civilization. We breathe the fragrance of Catholics and fraternity which enables us to feel the burning of his spirit and brings with it a sweet satisfaction, a pure joy, a soul filled with the spirit, filled with resolutions and courage for the future.

The disorientation that Frederick Ozanam experienced was also shared by many compatriots who came to Paris. In the name of freedom a terrible war had started which treated Christianity with savage cruelty: the teaching, traditions, and popular statements appeared to be swept away by unrestrained currents. The schools, under the guise of conformity, allowed themselves to be swept up in a wave of rude and arrogant irreligion.

It is in the midst of these young people, “outside the circle of influence”, that Frederic Ozanam lived. He suffered greatly in his own flesh the alienation and loneliness which frightened so many young people who had come from the provinces to live in the great city.

The dangers of this atmosphere of lessened morality only served to energize him. Impelled by his temperament and burning zeal he decided to act. He soon noticed that at the Sorbonne there were many young people eager for spiritual things, Catholic youth with good morals but dispersed and frightened. They are the pearls in the midst of swine, powerless before the great hostile mass and unable to protest against their professors who proclaimed the death of Christianity.

Here we see a great work which, even though he was only nineteen years old, he did not hesitate to undertake. He drew these young people together in order to make them strong and victorious and he opened new paths for them. He dreamed of bringing young people together and forming an association. From Paris he informed his friends about this idea; for example, he wrote to his cousin: You cannot imagine how I long to surround myself with young people who feel and think as I. I know these people exist but now they are scattered and so it is difficult to bring these people together around a common cause.

Unity gives strength. As the members of the group began to increase little by little, he became bold and staged protests against the irreligious professors who took advantage of their position and hurled insults at religion. Frederic Ozanam believed that these young people, passive participants of the educational system, had to undertake a simultaneous campaign of resistance and defense. He wrote to his friends in Lyon: In our ranks which day by day become more numerous, we have generous young people who have consecrated themselves to a lofty mission which is also our mission. Each time that a professor raises his voice against Revelation, Catholic voices rise up to respond. Some of us are united for this purpose. Twice I have participated in this noble endeavor, addressing my written objections to these professors. Our responses, read publicly in class, had an effect on the professors who have retracted their statements and have also influenced those who have listened and applauded us. What is most encouraging about this work is that it not only shows the young students that they can be Catholic but also demonstrates that they can join together in a common cause. They can love religion and freedom and thus move beyond religious indifference as they become involved in serious discussions about important problems.

There is no doubt that Frederic had been chosen to lead these young students who were so attracted to and convinced by him that they placed themselves at his disposal. His cousin, Falconnet, continued to be his confidant: Because God and education have endowed me with some extent of ideas, some largeness of tolerance, they would make of me a sort of chief of the Catholic youth of these parts. A number of exceptional young people give me an esteem of which I feel unworthy; and older men approach me. I must be at the head of every movement, and when there is anything difficult to do, I must bear the burden of it5.

In the year 1836, he was granted the title Doctor of Law, a title which he acquired on the strength of his own dedication. The reality of having to work in the area of Law made him tremble and it was only his love of his parents that enabled him to achieve this title. His aspirations moved in a different direction and had a hold on him because of his contact with the intellectual world of Paris.

Frederic Ozanam struggled to keep at the study of law because it put a temporary halt on his study of literature. He believed it was not right to perfect himself in four languages to study comparative literature. As he had promised his parents, he attempted to provide for himself. In this struggle, he spent a very painful year, filled with uncertainty and remorse, continually questioning himself whether his love of Letters was truly a vocation and part of God’s plan. Thus we see him divided, but not frustrated, as he struggles with the desires of his parents and his own preferred work.

We know of his struggle from a wonderful letter that he wrote to his friend Dufieux: For about a month I have worked little, either at an examination in law, or at my thesis in literature that I am preparing; and yet because I desired to divide myself in this way, I have done very little … From another side, I consider that if I had consecrated myself to the exclusive study of law the faculties which God has given me, and the fire years’ stay at Paris which my parents have given to me, I should have been able to acquire a rank at the bar that now I cannot hope to reach. All these reflections agitate and torment me … I am afraid of causing much pain to my dear parents … and yet it seems to be that it would very hard for me to remain confined in the narrow sphere of the court. Is this pride? Is it a vocation? It is an inspiration from above or a temptation from below? All that I have done for five years — is it reason, is it folly? Oh my dear friend, pray that the good God would answer all these questions which I ask myself every day! It seems to me that I am resigned to do His will, whatever humble part, whatever difficult mission He prepares for me. Only let this will be known to me, and let me be no longer, as I have been, for five years, divided against myself; that is to say, feeble, powerless, useless6.

Return home

In the autumn of 1836, after having spent five years in Paris, Frederic returned to the place of his birth and with little enthusiasm he took the oath in order to exercise his profession as a lawyer. He litigated cases and drew up documents but never felt comfortable in the environment of complicated juridical work. His father died on May 12, 1837 and he continued to work in the legal profession in order to assist his mother whose financial resources were not sufficient to maintain the house.

His true vocation was teaching and the world of Letters. In 1831 he was presented with an opportunity when Victor Cousin, Minister of Public Education, offered him a position in the Coll?ge de Orleans. Cousin knew Ozanam very well because of his doctoral thesis in Letters.

In 1839 Frederic added a doctorate in Letters to his doctorate in Law when he submitted a brilliant thesis on Dante which showed him to be a specialist in this material. That same year, after a long illness, his mother died and he terminated his commitment to a profession that he was not happy with.

In 1839 he began to teach a course in Commercial Law which was established and funded by the Municipality of Lyon. Throughout the year, day after day, he attempted to instill in his students business doctrine together with the principles of social doctrine. Since he did not have specific material or a concrete program to follow, he did not have to limit himself to the articles of the Law Code and was able to broaden the material that he presented in the forty-seven lectures. In these lessons he not only touched on the general principles of law but also the situation and conflicts that occasioned the birth of the industrial proletariat as well as the obligation that Christians have to attempt to mitigate and soften the clash that was drawing near.

Professor at the Sorbonne

In January of 1842 he substituted for the famous professor, Fauriel, at the Sorbonne in Paris. He was approved as the first choice and obtained the position as an adjunct in the faculty of Letters. Later he would become a professor of foreign languages. The joy of being able to carry out his profession in such a distinguished environment filled him with enthusiasm, yet at the same time he was fearful of not being able to live up to the standards that the circumstances required. Therefore he was very conscientious in the preparation of his classes, so much so that he became exhausted. Nevertheless this would prove to be a great opportunity for him to exercise his apostolate.

As always he confided his impressions to his friends. This time to his friend and companion François Lallier: Here I find myself in a most serious and solemn opportunity: the entrance into a new and uncertain career; the beginning of life once again; the achievement of my vocation. There are painful and difficult separations from business and other interests. All kinds of dangers awaited me on the morning after my installation. In a word, I find myself lacking in so many ways that it would scare the spirit of someone with mediocre energy. I know I will be blessed if this feeling of weakness makes me lift up my eyes to heaven, to the one who gives strength. Up until today I have asked for the light to know his will. Now that it seems to have been revealed to me with signs reasonably easy to recognize, but I am now reminded that I lack the courage to fulfill the will of God.

At the age of twenty-seven he began this new phase as a professor at the Sorbonne with more professors than friends since no one of his age moved directly into the different faculties of the University. His appointment in Paris contributed to his sense of happiness and wholeness. These first years were marked by concern and uncertainty about his position being renewed since he had been given this assignment for one year. Thus he made every effort to obtain the necessary reputation by meticulous (perhaps even excessive) preparation of his classes.

After much thought and consultation he clearly saw that his vocation was not the priesthood or the religious life. His place was among his own. He felt indissolubly connected to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, convinced that it was irreplaceable. His mission was that of the “lay apostolate” and this apostolate would be fulfilled in the context of marriage. On June 23, 1841 he married Amelia Soulacroix, the daughter of Jean-Baptiste Soulacroix, rector of the University of Lyon.

He met this young woman, twenty-one years old, at a New Year’s party and after a one year relationship decided on the vocation of marriage. This woman filled the emptiness of his heart, an emptiness that was produced by the death of his mother. A guardian angel to console my loneliness and whose smile is the first ray of happiness that I have in my life after the death of my poor mother.

This marriage of Frederic Ozanam made him broaden his relationships in the university environment. He had just settled in Paris when, with the recommendation of his father-in-law, he was received by distinguished families, among them: the family of the Inspector General Péclet, the family of Rouselle, the rector of the Academy of Paris; the family of Leclerc, the Dean of the Faculty of Letters; Sauzet, the president; Lamartine, the politician; Mignet, the Secretary of the Academy of Morals and Political Sciences. These different people, among others, led him to alternate among the different groups for conversation and dialogue.

These supports and their letters of recommendation were necessary in order for him to obtain the renewal of his position at the University and to obtain his own chair as professor. He was finally appointed Professor of Foreign Literature.

The last period of his life was divided between his work at the University, historical research, his family and the advancement of the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul. He struggled constantly with these duties as well as with his collaboration with the Catholic press to instruct others about political-social matters. He divided his time in such a way that he was able to be faithful to the tasks that he set out to accomplish.

He spoke about his plan when he wrote to his father-in-law: I am united with the Church and the University. I have willingly consecrated my life to these institutions and will be faithful as long as I honor God and serve the State. I will reconcile these two duties despite the difficulties that might be presented to me.

Frederic Ozanam made a great effort to reconcile these two objectives: to serve the Church and at the same time, serve the University. There at the University he was at the head of the list among Catholics.

His personality

Through his correspondence we discover a great personality, a man who in his daily life had ups and downs, suffered and rejoiced, planned for a future, a man of great faith. He valued friendships and defended his friends no matter what the cost. He drew people to himself and invited others to join him. He was a true and faithful friend. He was attentive to details, perhaps to the extreme. He described his trips and his surroundings with great detail but above all he showed a great tenderness when dealing with his family. He used finely crafted words delicately when referring to his wife and his little daughter, Marie. He had a great reverence for his parents, and reveals his ability to sacrifice his career and his profession in order to please them.

He worked to the point of exhaustion. He needed countless hours to prepare his classes, to visit, and to write long letters encouraging the members of the different Conferences. His health was fragile and he was aware of this but it did not prevent him from spending himself and wearing himself out for the sake of others.

When he returned to Lyon after having obtained his Law degree, he established a Conference in the city of his birth and from there he continually wrote to the members of the Association, informing them about the progress of the new foundation, giving them instructions and encouragement.

He was an important person in the nineteenth century but the totality of his greatness and depth was not discovered by the majority of his contemporaries. His person remained semi-hidden in a century where great personalities made themselves seen and heard by the publicity of their actions. The Romantic Age, pompous and reflective, would be strongly contrasted by the work of Frederic Ozanam, a work that was carried out in silence and with humility that he not only practiced but that he counseled his collaborators and friends to also practice.

His friend François Lallier commented about this standard of humility that pervaded the actions of Frederic: Only one thing can derail the progress of our society: to fall into a form of Pharisaism by which we would be proclaimed publically in our good works … Above all else our fall would be even more certain if we forget the humble simplicity that from the beginning prevailed in our meetings, that made us love humility and provided us with the grace for our growth. But be forewarned: be careful not to allow humility to become a convenient pretext for carelessness. Our motto should be: do not become noticed or allow yourselves to be seen.

The clarity of Frederic’s intelligence was broad and analytical. Even though Lyon was his native city we do not find in him some of the traits that are generally attributed to people from that area. He did not possess a distant reserve or a liking for business. Nevertheless we find other characteristics or qualities described by a compatriot and an author from Lyon, Bauman: The seriousness of his beliefs, a great curiosity for that which is universal, an impassiveness that at times was nothing more than an appearance of the victory of the will over his excessive impulses. He united cold reflection which leads to discourse and action with a warm enthusiasm that gave the strength of conviction to his words. His example attracted many people. His mystical contemplation was harmonized with a practical sense and a genius for organization. The soul of Frederic Ozanam, a native of Lyon, knew how to synthesize all these tendencies which at first sight appear to be contradictory. In conclusion, his was the union of an active spirit with a great burning faith — the two poles of the genius of Lyon.

Frederic Ozanam was a clear sighted genius with regard to the future. He knew how to interpret events and cast solid foundations in the confusion of the times in which he lived. There are individuals who become lost in lamenting the fact that “the days of yesterday were better”. He saw and acted. He inserted himself in the world and there, in the midst of the world, analyzed and sought solutions that today continue to be points of departure. He struggled between liberal and social tendencies but knew how to accommodate and impel action to the rhythm of his life.

At the young age of seventeen he writes to his friends, counseling them about their way of acting: We cannot renounce the century in which we are now living. Today the mission of a young person in society is serious and important. The spectacular to which we are called is great and it is wonderful to be part of such a solemn era. I am happy to have been born in this era when perhaps much good can be done.

We cannot confine Frederick to a specific area of knowledge. He was not a born historian and he did not leave a specific philosophy. He was not a jurist or an economist by profession. Nevertheless it is clear that he can be admired for his broad culture and vast knowledge of Letters, of languages, and above all, of Medieval History. He researched the Church’s action in a civilization which at that time was somewhat obscured and followed the Church’s activities through the centuries, especially the thirteenth.

He spent time researching diverse aspects of knowledge. All of this he placed at the service of faith and the truth in order to demonstrate that the Church was the most faithful guardian of truth and throughout the centuries, against all odds, remained as firm as a rock.

In the official list of courses beside the name of Frederic Ozanam the title “Foreign Language Course” was changed to “Theology Course”. When he became aware of this he laughed and after he concluded the class he said: Gentlemen, I do not have the honor of being a theologian but I have the good fortune of believing and being a Christian and I desire to place my whole soul, my whole heart, and all my strength at the service of the truth.

He never turned aside from this way of acting in serving the truth. From the time of his youth, with the help of Father Noirot, he resolved a religious crisis and made a vow to God to consecrate his life to the service of the truth which had brought him peace. He never betrayed his belief, not even when the Minister of Public Instruction, Villeman, a professor at the Sorbonne, wanted him to refute in a newspaper in Lyon accusations concerning the University and its rectors, reproaches that in some way were justified. Frederic Ozanam formulated in writing his idea of justice which resulted in his loss of his position in the Normal High School. But he would not go against his principles even though some authority tried to lead him in that direction.

Death surprised him with an unfinished work yet it can be affirmed that he had done everything without any ambition for a better destiny but also without abandoning the combat and it is here that we see the secret of his greatness. Within and without he was a Christian, positioning himself in a supernatural arena through things most natural. In public and in private he always knew how to walk in the path of God.

Frederic’s Spiritual Life

Characteristics

The spiritual life of Ozanam is revealed to us in many writings and testimonies. They are fascinating. His friends and the persons closest to him were convinced that he was extraordinary, a saint. Paul Lamanche, thirty years after the death of Ozanam, wrote: I have not known anyone who had a soul like his except our Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul Claudel, in a poem entitled Feuilles des Saints, compares Frederic’s writings to the beautiful and supernatural light that shines forth from the sun and then flows into the cathedral of Saint-Jean in Lyon (like the light from the setting sun that shines through the rose window): so the marvel is the radiance that moves through the words that Ozanam wrote on Good Friday 1851: the light is shed on every stone in the cathedral of his life. He lived in a radical way the mission of Jesus’ disciples: to be light and salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). He made the light shine on people so that seeing his good works, they might glorify their Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

The spirituality of Fredric Ozanam penetrated his whole life. We can say, without any fear of being mistaken, that his life was illuminated by faith, a simple faith, a calm faith but nonetheless a strong faith. His faith was not reduced to the acceptance of a compendium of truths, but consisted of emptying himself. This, in turn, strengthened him in the task of constructing his own personal history according to gospel criteria: works of transformation through love. In his way of life we see a deep love and faith which constituted the plan of his life, a passionate and profound life, though short. For those of us who did not have the fortune of knowing him personally, it is difficult to come to an understanding of his appearance since no image reflects how he really was. The image made by M. Janmot in 1833, a famous artist, did not capture Frederic’s intimacy or the enthusiasm that transformed and illuminated his face. He only captured a meditative aspect that reveals both a serious and intense man.

The heritage he received

On April 23, 1853, the day Frederic celebrated his fortieth birthday, he offered a prayer of thanksgiving inspired by the Canticle of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38, 10ff), The Prayer of Pisa. This hymn to God brings to mind the spiritual heritage he received from his parents: God has given me the grace to be born in faith. He was in Pisa recuperating from an illness which had continued throughout the winter months but now he found himself feeling a little better and this gave him some hope.

His father, Jean Antoine François Ozanam was a member of a family that in the seventeenth century had settled in Dombes where he received a conscientious secular and Christian education. He married Marie Nantes, the daughter of a businessman in Lyon, and established a home in Milan where he practiced medicine with a true evangelical spirit. This rivaled his wife’s family who were also distinguished Christians in Lyon, tested during the reign of Terror in 1793. It is in Milan that the fifth child of this couple will see the light of day: Frederic. Italy and Lyon marked his life and work and this may explain the dual tendency that characterized his spirit, on the one hand delicate and sensitive to all that is beautiful and on the other hand, positive, pragmatic, and deeply rooted in faith. As a result of his family’s spirituality, Ozanam is born religious. The search for that which is infinite, the desire for that which is above, and the need to refer everything to God were the natural sentiments that guided him in his natural piety. He was always nostalgic when calling to mind his small native place, preferring studies about it to the study of Law in which, as a loving son, he received first honors. Religion and the Fine Arts, Christianity and Literature define Frederick Ozanam. His main concern was to reveal religion glorified though history.

When Ozanam entered the world, even though he found himself in an environment of faith, a revolution had changed the course of history and with that had also changed the situation of the Church. After the Concordat of 1801, a period of ecclesial restoration was initiated which resulted in a surprising religious resurgence that continued for three quarters of a century. This period was characterized not only by an intense spirituality but also by the development of action and the search for the Christ who is incarnated in every person.

In fact, during the period of 1815-1914 an extraordinary dynamism of French Catholicism was developed. The Church of Lyon was a clear exponent and privileged witness during this time. Because of its elevated position it became a point of attraction for the French Church. After the persecution, the Church was revitalized and the torch of faith shone with all its purity. This situation was the fruit of a collective work that was carried on by distinguished personalities, including people on the altar and others not so obvious to human eyes. Frederic Ozanam was joined with and formed part of this communion of Saints, members of the mystical Body of Christ united by the Spirit. The attitudes of a profound spirituality joined to a tireless charity were never lost in Lyon.

At the beginning of the 1980’s a book written by Poupard XIX siècle, siècle de graces (The Nineteenth Century, a Century of Graces) appeared in Lyon. In this book reference is made to holy people, the saints of Lyon who were contemporaries of Ozanam. Surprisingly they all knew one another, were joined together by bonds of friendship, family and collaboration; they walked on the same ground, were members of the same parish, Saint Nizier, and on more than one occasion went up together to La Colma to pray to Our Lady of Fourviére. One constellation of priests, martyrs, mystics, founders of congregations embarked on a common project: Marian devotion and a determination to put an end to the evils and misery of this world by confronting social problems in a new way. We mention a few of these people: Claude Colin, Pierre Chanel, Pauline Jaricot, Saint Thérese Coudere, Marcellin Champagnat, Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney. Today Church historians tend to highlight the lives of anonymous faithful as the true authors of this “rebirth” of the People of God.

Great was the quality of life of these persons who gave being to Frederic Ozanam. An elevated spirituality, a religious sentiment that was both independent and bold, an uprightness in behavior and work, a simplicity and an innate goodness: such was his heritage. In the beautiful prayer of April 23, 1853, Frederick gives thanks to God for this heritage: Before I was born you gave me the greatest gift when you formed the heart of my mother. You made this holy woman so that she would bear me in her womb. On her knees I have learned reverence and in her glance I have seen your love. Through the dangerous times you have communicated with the Christian soul of my father … who in spite of everything persevered in his faith and maintained a noble character, a great sense of justice, and a tireless charity toward the poor. When I had the misfortune to examine his bills I discovered that a third of his visits were made with no hope for payment. I have to say that he loved his work and took pleasure in that which is beautiful and magnificent. He had read the Bible of Calmet and knew Latin in a way that many professors cannot even begin to understand. Thus the first one of your gifts: to have given me such parents and even more, you gave them the secret of providing a good education to their children.

We could conclude: “like father, like son” and we would be certain in saying this. But it is also true that he had to confront a society filled with atheist, deist and voltairean ideas that were moving forward with violence and force. In his day it could be believed that every form of religion in France was drowning. His religious process was not only dependent on the place but also on the reaction to this environment where he was being prepared to become a mature and free person. With daily effort the torch that he had received shone more brightly.

Religious evolution

The infancy of Frederick Ozanam was a decisive stage in his journey to discover his spiritual vocation. It was the time to confront the reality and initiate the beginning of a discernment process. A vocation is not achieved unless one previously enters into the process of personalization. In a broad sense it seems that he quickly discovered what he wanted to be and, even though in the beginning he was somewhat confused but firm, he set out on the conquest always attentive to the Lord’s designs for him, totally open to the will of God.

Following his experience step by step, we know his indecisiveness, anxieties and doubts. His first steps were developed in a very familiar atmosphere.

It is said that as a child he always had a pleasing demeanor. Very soon he stood out because of his precocious intelligence. From the years of his infancy he was always very precise, calmly facing every trial, a basic characteristic of his life: the defense of truth. At the same time he possessed an acute sensitivity and a deep compassion for the poor and the needy. At the age of seven because of a weak constitution, he became gravely ill and came close to dying. His long convalescence revealed his docility and spirit of sacrifice. He himself analyzed and critiqued the dominant characteristics of his personality. In a wonderful letter to his friend Auguste Materne he examines his life and describes its psychological details. He judges himself harshly and calls himself an angry, disobedient and precocious child: At a young age I became furious, stubborn, and disobedient. When I was punished I rebelled against the punishment. I was precocious and a glutton and ideas moved around in my heart and my attempts to reject these thoughts were in vain.

In October of 1822 at the age of nine, he entered the Royal College of Lyon where he received his primary and secondary studies. School life marked the first stage of his development. He immediately began to distinguish himself with his great spirit, the clarity and the precision of his style of writing and was outstanding in the area of Letters. Here he refined his temperament and through his contact with his professors and peers he learned to overcome his laziness: My laziness cries out and my pride roars.

One of the highlights that marked his life was the celebration of his first Communion on May 11, 1826 when he was thirteen. The resolutions that he made on this day helped him to change. He became most industrious and more obedient, even though he said: I became more scrupulous.

At the age of fifteen he entered a stage of crisis in the areas of identity and religion, his first existential crisis. It was the stage in which he abandoned his childhood beliefs in order to embrace the faith of an adult. This produced a turn-around that sent his human existence whirling. But with some suffering he confronted this situation with confidence. I feel attached to religion which I admire and find reasonable but I am also aware of my lack of fervor and charity which causes me pain but my confessor tells me that this form of temptation occurs frequently in a person of my age.

As he matured, his Christian world vision changed as a result of the experiences of his life. He began to speak about ultimate questions and his relationship with God. He began to know revelation through the experiences of his own life which now were different from those that occurred during his childhood when faith was an ideology. This faith did not free him from his impulses but rather this spiritual change helped him to integrate these impulses into his personality in such a way that he was no longer a slave to them but able to orient them toward a foundational reality.

The study of speech and philosophy led him to search the questions and reasoning and theses about the why of his faith. He doubted and suffered and described all of this in the following way: I have known the full horror of the doubts that eat away at my heart day and night … the uncertainty of my eternal destiny does not allow me to rest. This crisis stressed the always fragile system of his youthful security. It began to crack, and the time for a decision arrived, the time to assume an active role in society. In the midst of seeming stagnation he made a vow to God to consecrate his life to the defense of the truth as though the truth were given to him as a possession.

The desire of his spirit was to do good through means of the truth. A spirit of truth and a tenacity to live a profound existence led him to accept the consequences of his own actions. He was a young man of faith who possessed a great ideal. Salvation and stability came to him through Father Noirot, his spiritual director and professor of philosophy who gave order and clarity to his ideas, until he achieved a state of serenity. As a true Christian educator, Father Noirot knew how to read the lived experience of young people and offered possibilities. He knew Frederick and had a great affection for him. He described him in the following way: Among the 130 young men he was the youngest in the class. He was a chosen soul. Nature had endowed him, in a wonderful degree, with graces of mind and heart. Affectionate, sympathetic, ardent, devoted, modest, at once lively and serious, hating no one, despising falsehood … never was there a more popular student among his fellows. In the words of one of them, they formed in his regard a circle of love and respect7.

His correspondence, which he exchanged with his friend, Auguste Materne, almost daily during the year 1830, is of great interest because it introduces us into his life, his spiritual life as well as his intellectual life. With regard to his faith, his friends shared the same doubts and this group relationship provided him with a balance during this time when he was at the crossroads of his life: I doubted but nevertheless I desired to believe.

The abbot Noirot was there and little by little the spirit of Ozanam returned to a state of calm. The excursions that they took together in the area around Lyon affirmed the young man in his spirit of belief and stirred up in him the vocation of an apostle. Later Ozanam wrote: he put order and light into my thoughts8.

Ideals of the past were replanted and attitudes toward life were restructured. During this process he experienced everything, light and shadows, moments of confusion and experiences of true freedom. At the end of everything, what he was dealing with was the search for his plan of life in history, a discernment of God’s concrete plan for him (later this priest would be God’s mediator in his request to marry the daughter of the rector of the University of Lyon, Monsieur Soulacroix). After this crisis through which his spirit passed, he became clear about his task in the world and in a letter to his friends Furtoul and Huchard he communicated his objective to defend religion. On January 15, 1831 he wrote: Shaken some time by doubt, I felt an invincible need to attach myself with all my strength to the column of the temple … I will stretch out my arm. I will show it as a Pharos of deliverance to those who are floating on the sea of life, happy if some friends will group themselves around me … Catholicism, full of youth and strength, should rise all at once upon the world; it should put itself at the head of the new-born century to conduct it to civilization, to happiness!9.

Christianity informed all his thinking. He was a profound Christian with his friends and companions, as well as in his studies, his writings, and his social and political commitments. The God of Jesus Christ shows in his most insignificant actions and in every event whether public or private. He undertook a tremendous work to demonstrate the truth of the Catholic religion through the ages of religious and moral beliefs. This was to become an ambitious plan of Christian apologetics that he developed through the comparative history of religions. Without a doubt he was inspired by the work of Chateaubriand, The Genius of Christianity, which was published in 1802.

Practices of piety and prayer life

The key that enables us to discover the secret of his interior life which was totally integrated is found in Frederic’s daily reading and meditating on the Bible. His wife gives us this testimony: Despite his grave illness he never put aside his time of prayer. I have never seen him go to bed at night or rise in the morning without making the sign of the cross. In the morning he reads the Bible in Greek and meditates for half an hour. During the last days of his life he attended Mass on a daily basis and found support and consolation in doing this.

Before beginning his classes he knelt down and asked God for the grace to do nothing to obtain applause but to do everything for the glory of God and the service of the truth. He prayed to obtain success because he saw the seal of God on the path on which he had committed himself.

The prayer of Frederic Ozanam outlines the course of his interior life. In the early years he had a tendency to be discursive in prayer, but little by little he moved toward a simpler more contemplative style of prayer, a prayer which was more profound and which involved self-surrender, a prayer open to the action of God. Weary and afflicted, his serious illness became a true way of the cross. On April 23 in a prayer inspired by the canticle of Isaiah he recounted the blessings he had received from heaven. He was strengthened to offer sacrifice because he came to the conclusion that God did not want his material possessions or his intellectual achievements or his loved ones but only wanted him; he concluded his prayer by saying: Here am I am Lord. The last years of his life were years of moral and physical sufferings. In his beautiful prayers written in Pisa and Antignano he experienced great joy as he recalled God’s blessings and the graces he received and so he raises up a prayer to God’s goodness … This was the moment of total abandonment, the sacrifice of his great work, the moment of separation from everything and everyone whom he loved.

In his correspondence he frequently spoke about his prayer life. He asked for prayers and offered his prayers to others. He often had recourse to prayers of petition, intercession and thanksgiving. These prayers allow us to penetrate his religious world, a world of angels and heaven, a certain imagination that flowed from his rich Italian heritage but also an affirmation of an act of faith in the reality of an invisible world and eternal life.

When he stood before the mysteries of life, such as birth and death, he wrote wonderful meditations that flowed from the depths of his heart. We see an example of this in the letter that he wrote to his friend Lallier on July 17, 1843 on the occasion of the death of his sister. In accord with the will of God he said: it is God who has visited us.

Before the birth of his daughter on July 24, 1845 he lived hours of fullness and in an explosion of joy he turned toward God and rendered homage to God for such wonderful moments: I am a father, a guardian, a trustee of an immortal creature … who has a soul made for God and for eternity.

In the autumn of 1843 he passed through a phase that is without a doubt essential for his spiritual life. This is the time of conversion and purification. God enlightened the selfish reasons of his concerns. He wanted to help his wife grow in perfection and he wrote her a beautiful letter, a letter that is essential to deepening our knowledge of the spiritual life of Ozanam.

He reflected on the development of his life and their two years of marriage. He recognized that his selfishness had diminished their love of God and in a letter that he wrote to his wife on October 13, 1843 he said: I have not used well your favors or your graces, instead of loving in my life the One who gave you to me I have sought only myself in you.

These personal transformations were inscribed within the broader universal perspective of a sacramental life and an ecclesial piety. Ozanam frequently visited his confessor, now Father Marduel, and found refuge in the Eucharist to which he had a great devotion. He received Communion almost daily even though this was not customary during this era. He enjoyed the times he was able to participate in liturgical acts, the Lenten preaching of Father Revignan and the solemn Masses at Notre-Dame in Paris. The paths of prayer opened to him the transcendence and the power of God. As he listened to the Word and contemplated the mysteries of faith, his faith and his hope of being a witness to the light were enriched.

The spiritual and intellectual life of Frederick Ozanam is noteworthy because of its unity. In the twenty years of work that transpired from the time he overcame his doubts of faith and vowed to God to dedicate his life to his service, nothing and no one could make him turn from this forward movement. He preserved his personality, his desires, his weaknesses and the enthusiasm of the years of his youth.

In a text dated April 15, 1851, Good Friday, he reveals to us the secret of the unity of his human and Christian life. One cannot help but be moved by the words that are found in the Prologue of Volume I of his complete works: Civilization in the Fifth Century.

In the midst of a century of skepticism God has given me the grace to be born into the faith …. Later surrounded by the noise of an unbelieving world … I knew the horror of these doubts that gnawed at my heart … I was given the light and from then on I believed with a calmer faith because I received a rare and infrequent blessing and I promised to consecrate my life to the service of the truth that gave me peace. Twenty years have gone by since then. As I grow in years, that faith has been better realized and has become proportionately dearer to me. I have found its worth in great sorrows and in times of public danger… It is full time to write and keep my eighteen year old promise to God10.

The offer of an alternative: the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul

Frederic Ozanam, animated by a burning zeal, proposed to the young people of his time a novel refuge where they could satisfy their thirst for giving: a Catholic organization of the lay apostolate with a universal and permanent out-reach. He discovered a formula that in some way would channel their youthful energy and alleviate the situation of the most marginated class, the poor.

A society founded by and for young people

Frederic called primarily young people and thus awoke in them a generous commitment which he was convinced was in the depths of their heart despite their confusion. This generosity he saw as a trait that particular to young people and so this outreach to young people would be a permanent and original characteristic of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. Young people were the founders of this organization, not only people who were young in age but people who were young and filled with enthusiasm, dreams, ideas and above all young people who wanted to engage in the practice of charity, which served as a basis to preserve their youthfulness.

In the preamble of the Rule which remained in place until the time of the Council we read: The youthful spirit is characterized by dynamism, enthusiasm, projection into the future, the generous acceptance of risks and a creative imagination. Above all young people are adaptable and this appears to be their basic characteristic which is more important than the adaptation that can be transformed into a sclerosis when it has lost its desire to continue to change. Give to these young people the means so that they might enter the Society, understand them, dialogue with them and with reciprocal patience give them things to do. All of this is necessary so that these young people might take up their proper place in the Society and so that we might remain faithful to the origins of the Vincentian tradition of Ozanam.

The Rule of May, 1975 established: It is recommended that that each Council create a Youth Commission that is charged with encouraging young people to participate in the Society, with creating new Conferences and in promoting new activities. The Youth Commission will always be represented on the Councils on which they depend.

Further on it is stated: Each one of the Youth Commissions will be a consultative group in their respective Councils. All of these Youth Commissions with be directly or indirectly represented on the National Commission … In reality, young people are freer and do not have the same responsibilities toward family and home which often bind our members and oblige them to dedicate themselves to other interests … Young people, open and unprejudiced, tend to hold on to that which they first encounter and so it is important to offer them a firm foundation so that they can continue to build in a way that the winds and the floods cannot move them since they have built on solid ground.

Despite the fact that its founders where young university students, they did not hesitate to place themselves at the service of a mature man, forty years old, married and a professor, in order to share the wisdom of his experience. Bailly, director of the newspaper La Tribune Catholique, became president of the Society during its first eleven years of existence, that is, until it was more organized and consolidated. Other young people began to join them and even though they were not many and they supported and committed themselves to this society.

Bailly indicated this in his circular letters: Our Confrerences, in the beginning composed of young people, have grown everywhere with a great number of men advanced in the practice of every form of good work (Circular Letter, August 14, 1841). The spirit of perseverance and permanence characterizes Christian charitable societies: A common expression of ours seems very appropriate: do not cut down old trees to plant new ones because this would sacrifice that which is certain for that which is doubtful. Therefore leave the new ones to grow without uprooting the old ones. It is true that the new, filled with vigor, are a guarantee of the future. The older trees protect the new trees and generally provide them more shade than fruit (Circular Letter December 1, 1842).

How the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul were established

The development of Ozanam would not have been complete if his faith had not led him to commitment. To reject a commitment is to reject the human condition (E. Mounier). As a believer and without any hesitation, Ozanam said: “this is not the world that God and we desire”. He followed the example of Jesus who not only dedicated his life to the salvation of humankind but also invited others to collaborate in the task. He assumed the commitment of a believer as one who was grasped by God himself, used his intelligence and organizing ability and began his “work” by inviting others to commit their lives in an organized way. Thus the conferences were born. The letters that he wrote during the five years he resided in Paris as a law student (1831-1836) reveal the state of his soul. Written in the fervor of his youth, he speaks about his evolution which was not very promising in the beginning. He felt alone and the corruption that surrounded him caused a feeling of terror. Therefore he needed to be part of a group in order to counteract the situation in which he found himself. His zealous generosity inflamed him and he wrote: the land is cold and we, as Catholics, are called to provide a bit of warmth that does not now exist. We are the ones who must return to begin like the martyrs.

These young Christian students had one passion, Christianity, the Church, the defense of this beloved and venerated institution against the violent attacks of the spirit of the time. With a gift of firmness and charity he applied and put into practice the Pauline counsels: be on you guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). During his stay in Paris as a student, beside his university classes, Frederic attended the meetings of the group Les Bonnes Etudes (Conference on the Good), a group that was led by Bailly which in 1832 was transformed into the Conference of History. In this environment Frederic saw his deepest aspirations fulfilled. Zealous to help young people who, like him, felt uprooted from their families, he thought of gathering them together in an association. These concerns he communicated to his cousin: I want to form a group of friends who will work together in the field of science but do this guided by Catholic thinking.

A young Saint-Simonian, Jean Brouet, offered him the opportunity to do this when he presented him with a challenge during one of the meetings of the Conference of History. He contrasted Christian action in antiquity with the lack of action at the current time, stating that this would lead to the extinction of Christianity. This was the spark that gave momentum to the charity of this fiery young man who was filled with the love of God and a love for the most needy sisters and brothers. The distant voice and the example of charitable persons from his native city (Lyon), the turbulent agitations of the Saint-Simonians and the example of his charitable parents set him in motion and Fredric reached out to the poor, seeking to unite himself to them and others in liberating action.

At the beginning of this association, Frederic, as well as his friends, had no intention of resolving the social action question. Rather their objective was to advance in the Christian life. They wanted to become secure in their faith and demonstrate through good works that Christianity had not died. In the shadow of Bailly, a man mature in years and experience, the first six young students began their journey. Ozanam’s desire to expand the group was communicated to his cousin and confidant in a letter: I want all young people of like mind and heart to join together so that they might undertake charitable action. I want to see one large charitable association formed in this country to alleviate the condition of the lower classes. I will explain to you what we have done in this regard in Paris during these years as well as in the past.

Frederic spoke about the origins of the conferences in the inaugural address that he delivered seven months before his death at the first meeting of the conference of Florence. You see before you one of those eight students who twenty years ago, in May of 1833, gathered together for the first time in the capital of France and under the protection of Saint Vincent de Paul … We felt the desire and the need to preserve our faith in the midst of various attacks from the different schools of false prophets. It was then that we said, “Let’s work! Let’s do something in conformity with our faith! To be true Catholics means we consecrate ourselves to that which is most pleasing to God. Let us aid our neighbor as Jesus Christ did, and let us place our faith under the protective wings of charity.” United in this way of thinking, eight of us joined together … Yes, for God to bless our apostolate one thing was lacking: works of charity. The blessing of the poor is the blessing of God. God had determined to form a great family of brothers in order to carry on this good work. Therefore we cannot be called the true founders of this association since it was God who desired it and established it.

This language is common to all founders. They feel overcome by God in their initial plans and ideas with regard to establishing some association or congregation. We might call to mind here the words that Saint Vincent de Paul spoke to the Daughters of Charity in the conference of June 14, 1643 when he explained their origins: I did not think of it, neither did your Sister Servant nor M. Portail. God thought of it for you. We can say, Sisters, that he is the Author of your Company11.

Frederic Ozanam discovered that the surest way to preserve and maintain a lively faith was to serve those most in need.

In the beginning a Daughter of Charity

On the same afternoon that Frederick was taunted by the enemies of religion, he and his friend, Le Taillandier, brought some firewood that they had reserved for the winter to a needy family. This was an heroic act, but it was an individual action that lacked organization. Bailey put them in contact with a Daughter of Charity, Sister Rosalie Rendu, who was distinguished for her service and commitment in the neighborhood next to the Latin Quarter, the place where these young men lived. This was the area known as Mouffetard. From this admirable and simple woman these men learned the meaning of generosity and openness to all forms of human misery and suffering. From her house all forms of guidance and missions of service came forth and these young men would move through the streets of the neighborhood as true messengers of charity. Sister Rosalie guided them and provided them with the addresses of needy families which enabled them to begin the process of distributing alms. Together with the good things, these young men shared their sincerity and youthful creativity through personal, friendly and fraternal visits.

The character and strong Vincentian bond of these conferences of charity is without a doubt due in part to the first encounters with this Daughter of Charity, Sister Rosalie, who in her person and work faithfully reflected the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul.

This Daughter of Charity lived in Paris in the first half of the nineteenth century and people were amazed at the lively witness of her love toward all. She had contact with the rich and the poor, with young people and elderly people, with the emperor and the humblest person living on the margins of society. She led Ferederic Ozanam and his companions by the hand and taught them how to approach the poor. No one came to her without receiving assistance, guidance and consolation. Close to every form of misery and need, her heart understood the meaning of suffering and thus won over everyone. She was the incarnation and reflection of the Vincentian spirit: To see and contemplate Jesus Christ in the suffering members of his body, the poor.

The members of the conferences collaborated with Sister Rosalie during the time of the cholera epidemic. When fear had gripped the population she organized the conferences in all the neighborhoods of Paris to assist those afflicted with this illness and through her zeal became an example, especially in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

Sister Rosalie and many other Daughters of Charity have said: these conferences are the mature fruit of revolutionary reflection on Vincent de Paul. In the misery and the abandonment of the poor, Frederic Ozanam and his companions came to discover, like Sister Rosalie, that the poor are the sacrament of Christ. As the theologian J. Moltman affirmed: The poor, besides being the beneficiaries of our services, are the latent presence of the crucified Lord in the world. Christ and the poor are one and the same.

The influence of Sister Rosalie held some weight in the beginning of the conferences in Frederic’s intimate circle. After two years, LePrévost proposed splitting the conference for the purpose of extending their charitable works and establishing the conference in the parish of Saint Suplice. Before the discussion began it was enough to say that this idea came from Sister Rosalie … that in itself proved to be decisive. Thanks to her the expansion of the conferences grew until the words that Ozanam spoke prophetically were fulfilled: The world will soon be enclosed in a net of charity.

Beginning with six young men they soon numbered fifteen and very soon after a hundred. In one of the conferences in Paris, in the parish of Saint Etienne du Mont, it was necessary to consider dividing the conference because of the large number of members. Reflecting on this, Frederick wrote Bailly: I believe that the time has come to expand the sphere of goodness. It appears to be good to divide the numerous conferences into sections.

Despite the cost of this first separation, they were divided into four conferences and took their name from the parishes where they would begin to serve: Saint Philippe du Roule, Saint Sulpice, and Notre-Dame Nouvelle (these conferences were in addition to the already established conference in the parish of Saint Etienne du Mont). From Paris they went to Nimes and Lyon … little by little they became established throughout France. The establishment of the Kingdom, the work of God, multiplied: it was like the yeast that a woman took and mixed with flour until the whole batch was leavened or the mustard seed that grew into the largest of plants.

From the beginning Saint Vincent de Paul was the inspirational figure of the conferences of charity and he was chosen as the named patron of this work. The first eight members placed themselves under the protection of Saint Vincent in the church at Clichy, the first parish in Paris where Vincent ministered.

They participated in the procession and carried on their shoulders the relics of their illustrious patron. Frederic explained the reason for placing themselves under Saint Vincent’s protection: A patron saint is a model. It is necessary to make every effort to act and accomplish works like this; to take Jesus Christ as a model as he did. It is a life that is to be perpetuated. From his heart we seek encouragement and in his intelligence we seek light. He is a support and a protector in heaven to whom we owe a twofold veneration of imitation and invocation. Saint Vincent de Paul is to our advantage because of the proximity of the time in which he lived, because of the infinite variety of good works he inspired and because of his universal mission.

In choosing Saint Vincent as patron, Ozanam placed his work in a relationship to Jesus Christ, a faithful servant of the Father’s plan who was consecrated and sent forth to bring “Good News” to the poor. Centuries before Saint Vincent had proposed Christ as the patron of his charities. Thus we read in the Rule for the Confraternities of Charity in Chatillon: Since, in all confraternities, the holy custom of the Church is to propose a patron, and since the works gain their value and dignity from the purpose for which they are performed, the Servants of the Poor will take for their patron Our Lord Jesus and for its aim the accomplishment of His very ardent desire that Christians should practice among themselves the works of charity and mercy. This desire He makes clear to us in His own words; “Be merciful as my Father is merciful,” and in these words: “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat … I was sick and you visited me … for what you have done to the least of those, you did for me”12.

Their objectives

From the beginning the conferences of charity were very clear about the ends that were to be pursued and the conferences attempted to fulfill these ends as faithfully as possible.

As he gathered his friends together in order to serve the poor, he set before them three objectives: to support one another, to strengthen their spirit and life of faith in an environment of atheism and militant anti-clericalism, and to give example to the life-giving good works of Christianity.

Little by little other implications would appear as the conferences of charity became more organized. He frequently wrote that the conferences should not be dependent on the ecclesial hierarchy: we are to be profoundly Christian and at the same time we are absolutely a lay association.

It was also evident that the society was to have no political affiliations since it was seen that these could become an obstacle to the expansion of its work. In a discourse which he delivered in Livorno, he explained his thoughts: The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has never meddled in politics and partisan politics is absolutely excluded. Thanks to God we have always kept our distance from civil discords. We have only one objective: to sanctify our members in the exercise of charity by coming to the aid of the poor and providing for their corporal and spiritual needs. We have had four civil governments during the past four years and our Society has not lost its special character as a charitable society, respecting all people with no animosity toward anyone.

Frederic took advantage of every situation to explain the ends and objectives of the Society. When his friend Cournier founded a new conference in Nimes he wrote him: The principal aim of the Society is to form a group or association of mutual encouragement for young Catholic men, a group in which they will find friendship, support, example, an extension of the Christian family in which they grew up and matured …. Later the strongest bond is the beginning of true friendship and charity, and charity cannot exist without reaching out.

But he wanted this charity to be lived internally in the heart of the Conference before projecting this charity outward in external works. He continued to speak about this in the same letter to Leon Cournier: Our Association has been established primarily for our intentions and so if we find ourselves beneath the roof of the poor this is more important for us than for them, because we are there to become their friends.

With the passing of years the objectives were modified; that which in the beginning was pure assistance among the members, would change and three years later more importance was given to the social function to which the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul could contribute. Above all he wanted the Association to serve as a brake for the conflict between two powers, the conflict between the poor and the rich which because of selfishness on both sides had the potential to inflict a terrible wound on all involved. Thus he wanted the conferences to work in such a way as to disarm the hatred that he saw arising in both groups in an attempt to better the people. This idea entered into the very being and soul of Ozanam and his friends. His correspondence from that era, especially during 1836-1837 repeatedly revealed this notion: Help us then to grow, to multiply, to become better, gentler, stronger, for as the days increase in number, evil is added to evil and distress to distress. The political question is giving way to the social question, a struggle between poverty and wealth, between the selfishness which seeks to take and that which seek to keep. Terrible, indeed, will be the clash of all this selfishness, if charity does not intervene, if she does not mediate with all-powerful love between the poor who have the strength of numbers, and the rich who have the strength of money. With such merciful ends in view it is not surprising that Providence inspired you to found our Society, nor that it has developed under your auspices13.

These conferences were well received at one time despite the fact that they were developed in an anti-clerical and hostile environment where harsh criticism of the Christian religion was an everyday occurrence.

Many Christians saw in these conferences a means to intercept and mitigate the consequences and outcomes that the beginning of the Industrial Revolution brought with it. Many felt their conscience was eased by helping those young fearless students who knew how to move forward with boldness and create that which many others found impossible to accomplish.

Twenty years later, Frederic, in the assembly at Livorno which occurred in May 1853, expressed these ideas so that they might serve as an example for his Italian companions. He also wanted to see what was done in Paris broadened and extended to distant places. He wanted to see charity spread abroad with the same strength and convictions as was present at the first official gathering of the association in May 1833 at the house of Bailly at Petit Bourbon Saint Sulpice, no. 8. The exact date was not known and in 1880 when the establishment of the foundation was officially put into writing, the day of the first meeting could not be recalled.

The principle ideas of the assembly are communicated to us by Frederic in the inaugural discourse of the Conference: The first members of the Conference, when they went up the stairs of the house of the poor, when distributing bread to a family in tears or when they went to the school for abandoned children, when it was known that they were true friends of the poor they found not only tolerance from those outside their circle but also respect and favor. In this century if good in many places is corrupted then those who consecrate themselves to bettering the lot of people and lessening the burden of the needs of those suffering children of Adam whose heads are bowed low … these individuals must be respected and are deserving of praise, honor and respect. In France during the tragic days of 1793 altars and churches were plundered but there was no hesitation in proposing Saint Vincent de Paul as a benefactor of the human race. Allow me to say this even thought I do so with a fear of sounding irreverent: in light of the good that is done for people the impious will forgive people for loving God.

Like every work of God this Association did not have some well elaborated plan from the beginning but over the course of time the plan was slowly formed and perfected and the association grew. None of those who participated in the origins of this group could foresee the results that would come or its growth throughout France and beyond. This Association continues to provide refuge to those who in any way want to make their love of God effective and concrete for their neighbor.

The creativity of Frederic Ozanam

The creativity of Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the charitable Society of San Vincent de Paul, is very significant since he began a secular movement of evangelization and charitable assistance. He was the precursor who announced the importance of the works of the laity which later would be discussed and addressed in Councils and encyclicals. The Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, supported this form of lay movement.

Frederic acted with prophetic vision and knew how to take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to him because of the era in which he lived. As Pope Paul VI said, he knew how to read the signs of the time and interpret them in light of the Gospel. One hundred years after the death of Frederic, the Second Vatican Council proclaimed the urgent need for this apostolate that was initiated by him and the Vincentians. In the Constitution on the Church it is stated: the laity are called there (in the world) by God so that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs, it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs (Lumen Gentium, 31).

It should be recognized here and made clear that first of all, this association was a pioneer in the modern lay apostolate of evangelization and working in the midst of the world; second, the work of visiting the sick poor and people in need in their homes was not something new in the history of Christianity. From the time of its foundation the Church lived out this charity and viewed this as one of its essential elements. Charity came before human rights. The first Christians dedicated themselves to the alleviation of the needs and miseries of those who were poor and this was a ministry that was proper to deacons. This ministry, however, produced little results because of a lack of organization and multiple obstacles.

In the fifteenth century, the spirit of the great charity of Saint Bernardine of Feltre brought together seventy-two nobles from Vicenza who weekly visited the poor and fought against usury through the establishment of the monti di pi?ta (a type of charitable lending-establishment).

It should be pointed out that these charitable activities were deeply rooted in the city of Lyon from ancient times. Lyon was a commercial center and the locus for all types of industrial activities that brought together a constellation of farm workers who gained access to city life but had no support and often lived in very inhuman conditions. This state of affairs was criticized by the Saint-Simonians who used this situation to mock Christianity. Eventually it was the Christians who took charge of this situation. On the other hand, under the Old Regime, Lyon had been the city of alms: the task of distributing alms was created in 1531 and organized by a deaconess in honor of the first deaconesses of the early church. Their visits were halted during the Revolution of 1789 but their primary purpose was to come to the aid of the great number of starving people, thin and pallid and feeling faint, who disembarked the ships and headed for the city. This work was continued under the title of the Hospice of Charity.

It is also known that during the seventeenth century there was a failed attempt on the part of Saint Francis de Sales to establish a congregation for this purpose. Very soon after the initiation of this new group they had to confine themselves behind the walls of a monastery: the Visitation Missionaries. Vincent de Paul had more success with the establishment of the Confraternities of Charity and later the foundation of the Daughters of Charity. Despite the lay character that he wanted to impose on them and the privileges that he was able to receive, nevertheless this Company is connected to the Church though vows, constitutions and a life in common.

The Society of Charity that Frederick established did not demand the profession of religious vows, or specific devotions, or some determined lifestyle. It was not led by the clergy but by laymen who had a very clear objective, namely, they wanted to evangelize those who were ignorant of the faith and wanted to do this through alms that were brought to the homes of these people.

During the time when Frederic was President of the Conferences in Lyon a problem with a certain spiritual dimension was placed before the members: the manner and way of developing the Society. Here Ozanam saw a danger that this association could place itself under some form of ecclesiastical leadership and slowly become absorbed by some of the religious congregations that were well-known during that era. Such an action might be praiseworthy but contrary to the objectives of the Conferences. Thus, an agreement was reached and it was determined that: Beginning with the next General Assembly the President of the Society will be the presiding officer and not the priest. The priest will honor the meeting with his presence.

In the second point of the same session it was stated that: The end of the Society is above all else to encourage and spread the Christian spirit among young men. The unity of intention and prayer are indispensable and the visiting of the poor is a means and not the end of our Association.

Charity was the means employed by this lay apostolate intending to Christianize an unbelieving world. The French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century shuffled all the strata of society, especially the poor where the image of religion was absolutely discredited. The preaching of the doctrine of the God of reason and the rights of the human person led to discord and a confusion of ideas that became widespread, invading above all the humble classes. The image of the priest and the religious was also discredited, many religious congregations were dissolved, and in many places they were rudely and violently rejected.

Ozanam knew how to take advantage of this situation and was able to substitute the layperson for the religious. This was something new. We could say that charity became secularized so that lay messengers were able to bring a ray of hope into those situations, in those places where the ravages of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution were evident and the proletariat was greatly exploited because of poverty and ignorance.

In reading and re-reading the Conciliar teachings with regard to the lay apostolate, we see how a century earlier Frederic Ozanam incarnated in his life and works this doctrine, namely, charitable action is the distinctive element of the Christian apostolate: in every era [the Church] is recognized by this sign of love, and while it rejoices in the undertakings of others, it claims works of charity as its own inalienable duty and right. For this reason, compassion for the needy and the sick and works of charity and mutual aid intended to relieve human needs of every kind are held in highest honor by the Church (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 8). The laity can exercise the apostolate of like toward like. It is here that they complement the testimony of life with the testimony of the word. It is here where they work or practice their profession or study or reside or spend their leisure time or have their companionship that they are more capable of helping their brethren (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 13).

Ozanam gave an example by not limiting himself to coming to the assistance of those in need. He also engaged in the Christian apostolate through the spoken and the written word, through his teaching profession and through his rigorous writings in the areas of Medieval History, the Franciscan poets, Dante, and the philosophy of Saint Thomas Becket. Reflecting on all the different forms of service, he moved beyond mere material assistance and instilled in people faith, hope and love, believing that in this way the establishment of the Kingdom of God would be most effective.

This association reflects the Conciliar doctrine as it responds to the movement of the Holy Spirit and extends its apostolic mission: An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 1).

His last days

If Milan, Lyon and Paris were cities of great important in the life of Frederick Ozanam, Marseilles was the city that would receive his last breath. On September 8, 1853 this was the place where an exemplary Christian life in every aspect slowly came to an end. This event was marked with a Marian sign, a happy and providential coincidence that on the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Frederic gave over his soul into the Father’s hand.

Giving up teaching

Around Easter, 1852, Ozanam’s health began to deteriorate. A grave illness began to consume him and a change of atmosphere became necessary in order to reestablish his health. At the end of that same year, the Minister of Public Instruction, Fortoul, a former colleague from the College of Lyon, entrusted him with a literary mission in Italy, “a commission of services” — a great pretext to soften the “bitter pill” that separated him from the world of teaching. He proposed to Ozanam that he continue his work on the Italy of Dante and Francis of Assisi in a place that he considered his second home and that he accept this as a gift which at the same time was a way to conceal the gravity of his situation. Frederic at that time was thirty-nine years old, and had achieved the heights of French academia as a result of his chair of Foreign Literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. But he was touched by death. Tuberculosis undermined his body and during the summer of 1852 it was recommended that he rest at midday.

Separated from all his teaching responsibilities, he now dedicated his time to writing. His brother, Charles, ten years younger and a famous doctor, pointed out to Frederic that it would be good for his health to be near the warm spring waters of Eaux-Bonnes located in the Pyrenees in eastern France near Lourdes. Frederic remained there until the middle of August and began to feel much better. With great joy he visited the small town of Saint Vincent’s birth and savored all the places of his holy patron’s childhood. He sent a branch of the tree in whose shade Vincent found refuge and where he prayed before a statue of the Virgin when he was a young shepherd boy … he sent this as a relic to the Council of Paris.

In the company of his brother, his wife and daughter, he visited Saint Sebastian during the month of October and despite his health he toured and studied. On November 19 he took advantage of this opportunity to meet with the members of the Conference of Saint Vincent de Paul that was recently founded at Buglose (it was established in the autumn of 1851),

On December 4, 1852, Agapito Sancho, president of this conference, wrote to D. Santiago Masarnau (founder of the Conferences in Spain). Among other things he said: We had the pleasure of being visited by Mr. Ozanam, Professor of Literature in Paris and a member of the Conference of Saint Germain. He was overjoyed to be surrounded by brothers and very pleased to be informed about the present situation and the progress of our Conference. This visit occurred because he was traveling for health reasons but as the weather here became worse he returned to Bayonne and was unable to participate in any of our meetings.

Frederick in his famous letter written from Burgos to his brother Charles on November 19th explained his stay in Burgos in the following way: It was raining very hard, like a violent hurricane, when we left the cathedral. The streets were impassable and we decided not to visit the rest of the city today. We did, however, walk through the Plaza Mayor and visited its curious shops. I saw the house of El Cid, the arch of Fermán González, the Count of Castile, and we had an interesting visit at the house of a woman where I met one of the founders of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in Burgos. Amelie found old song-romances and bought mantillas.

In the same letter he spoke about his devotion to Our Lady. As he did on other pilgrimages he prayed in the cathedral and expressed his love to the Virgin in a tender and humble manner: Good Virgin, through whose intercession such miracles have been wrought, obtain something also for me and for mine. Strengthen the life of our tottering bodies. Build up to heaven the spiritual edifices of our souls14.

Later, in a letter dated February 5, 1853, the General Council of the Confraternities of Paris confirmed the good news that Ozanam had shared with them from Burgos, the warm reception he received and the progress of the Conference. He also wrote to them about the wonderful bonds of fraternity that he saw being established among the members.

A fruit of Ozanam’s trip to Spain was his brilliant treatise, A Pilgrimage to the country of El Cid, which constitutes his literary testament. He died a few weeks after writing the last chapter.

Last days in Italy

After having spent the night in San Sabestian, Ozanam arrived in Bayonne on November 24th and continued his journey to Marseilles where his mother-in-law was waiting for him. She joined Frederic and his family as they traveled to Italy. Frederic, with both legs swollen, traveled for another twenty-five to thirty hours. He delighted in the Mediterranean landscape which appeared to him to be in full splendor. They traveled by boat from Genoa to Livorno and after fourteen hours they arrived in Pisa on January 10, 1853.

He enjoyed the time spent in this city. He worked, visited the libraries and art galleries and when the weather was good took long walks. He wrote and encouraged the members of the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul that were established there and helped the members organize a conference in Tuscany. The swelling in his legs forced him to rest and he was not able to accomplish all that he had planned.

On April 23, 1853, the day of Frederic’s fortieth birthday, he wrote his last will and testament. In it we are able to discover a summary of his life. In one of the paragraphs he summarized and professed his love for the Church and his desires for those whom he loved to also persevere in the faith: I die in the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. I have known the difficulties of belief in the present age, but my whole life has convinced me that there is neither rest for the mind nor peace for the heart save in the Church and in obedience to her authority … My supreme prayer for my family, my wife, my child, and grandchildren, is that they will persevere in the faith, despite any humiliation, scandals, or desertions which may come to their knowledge15.

The same day Frederic lifted up to God a prayer based on the Canticle of Hezekiah. He placed himself in the presence of God and reflected on his life, his successes and miseries. He made a critical judgment of his works and omissions. I said in the midst of my days: I shall go to the gates of death. I sought for the residue of my years: I said, I shall see the Lord in the land of the living. My life is swept from me and is rolled away as a shepherd’s tent. My life is cut off as by a weaver … I do not know if God will permit me to understand his will. I know that I complete on this day my fortieth year, more than half a life. I know that I have a young and beloved wife, an enchanting daughter, excellent brothers, a second mother, many friends, an honorable career; my research has in fact reached the point that it could serve as the basis of a book of which I have dreamed for a long time. I know also that I am attacked by a deeply-seated and serious malady, which is all the more dangerous in that it probably means a complete collapse16.

After he affirmed all the things that he had received from God, he continued and asked: Must I leave all these good things which you have given me? Lord will you not be content with only a part of the sacrifice? Which of my disordered affections must I sacrifice to you? Would you not accept the holocaust of my literary pride, of my academic ambitions, or even of my research plans in which perhaps was contained more pride than zeal for the truth? If I sell one half of my books and give the proceeds to the poor, if I confine my activities to the duties of my official position and devote the rest of my life to visiting the poor, teaching apprentices and soldiers, Lord, will you be satisfied and would you leave me the happiness of growing old by the side of my wife, and finishing the education of my child? Perhaps, my God, this is not your will at all. You do not accept these self-interested offerings, you reject my holocausts and sacrifices! It is written at the beginning of the book that I am to do your will and I have said: Here I am, Lord! I come. If you call, Lord, I have no right to complain. You have given me forty years of life … If I recount to you all my years of bitterness, it is because of the sins with which I have stained them. But when I consider the graces with which you have enriched me, Lord, I recount to you all my years with gratitude in my heart. If you were to chain me to a bed of suffering for the rest of my days, it would not suffice to thank you for the days which I lived. Should these lines be the last that I shall write, let them be a canticle to your goodness17.

He gives the impression of one who feels his life is coming to an end, but at the same time we find him in a state of offering that proceeded not from a sense of fatalistic resignation but rather with an attitude that is proper to one who is open to the will of the Creator. In his prayer, called the prayer of Pisa, we discover the degree of maturity that Frederic had attained and his relationship with the transcendent One. This is the moment of total abandonment, the moment of the sacrifice of his life.

As the month of May began, his doctors recommend a place with more sun, a place in San Jocopo near Livorno. His brothers in the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul in Livorno found him a house about an hour outside the city, in the village of Antignano, close to the sea. His illness was progressing in an alarming way, so much so that he was unable to walk. A profound melancholy took hold of him and was reflected in his face and speech. The brothers in the Conference were alarmed and together with his wife they decided to leave Italy in light of the danger of an approaching separation.

As the time approached to abandon his house, Frederic again lifted up his voice in profound and heart-felt prayer: My God, I give you thanks for the afflictions and sufferings which you have sent me in this house; accept them in expiatihtt of my sins. Then turning to his wife: I want you also to praise and bless God for our sufferings. Then taking her in his arms he said: I bless Him for all the consolation which you have given me18.

His death in Marseilles

The journey to Marseilles was undertaken in a ship called Industry and after a painful trip they arrived in port on September 2, 1853 and were very happy to be able to contemplate the French coast.

The following days were marked with uncertainty since they were warned that a new stage of deterioration was beginning. On the morning of September 8th his breathing became labored and irregular. About 7:30am he opened his eyes and spoke in a loud voice: My God, have mercy on me. These were his last words. His wife and his brothers from the Confraternities fell on their knees and his brother-priest, Alphonse, began the prayers for the commendation of his soul. The time was 7:50am, Thursday, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, the one whom Frederic loved and to whom he prayed so often during his life. The encounter with the Eternal Truth was for him the end of the journey of a life consecrated to the defense of the truth.

The death notice read: Antoine Frederic Ozanam, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Literature in Paris, living in Paris, traveling through this village. Husband of Marie Josephina Amelie Soulacroix. Son of the deceased Jean-Antonine François Ozanam and Marie Nantas.

On September 9th the testament written in Pisa, Italy, was handed over to M. Joseph Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Meredol, President of the Chamber of the Court of the First Instance of Marseille who in turn gave it to Judge Charles Berger who at that time was the President of the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul in Marseille.

At 9:00am on September 13 (some say the 14th) funeral services were offered for his soul. According to his last wishes an autoposy was performed which concluded that the cause of death had been an infection of the kidneys. His body was embalmed and placed in a lead coffin and then his mortal remains were transferred to Paris. On September 15th, solemn services were celebrated at the church of Saint Sulpice. Eminent dignitaries, priests, professors, and many members of the Conferences of Saint Vincent de Paul as well as a great number of people from the general public gathered together for this celebration.

At the request of his wife his body rests in the crypt of the famous church of the Carmelites, Saint Joseph, the Catholic Institute of Paris. Above his tomb are written the gospel words: Why do you seek the living one among the dead (Luke 24:5).

On the front wall is painted the parable of the good Samaritan and on a marble catafalque the following Latin epitaph is inscribed: OZANAM PIENTISSIMUS ADSERTOR TOTIUS CARITATIS VIXIT A XL. M. IX. D. XVI. DECCESIT DIE VIII SEPT MDCCCLIII AMALIA CONJUGI CUM QUO VIXIT ANN XIII ET MARIA PATRI POSUERUNT … VIVAS IN DEO!

Frederic was profoundly mourned as husband, father, brother, friend, companion. Numerous testimonies proclaimed his greatness and holiness. The French and foreign press echoed these sentiments as they reported his premature death. During September and October this was front page news. With emotional and endearing words the press published the life and works of this great Christian and illustrious professor, highlighting the qualities of his heart and his great spirit. His friends, Lacodaire, Ampere, Montalembert … testified to his greatness. His friend, A. Dofieux eulogized him and said that despite the shortness of his life and despite the fact that he was only forty years old, he was mature for heaven.

God was hurried to reward not only his virtues but also the works he accomplished in his search for the truth and a search that became more intense with the passing of time. Never was there a life equal to his … I knew him when he was nineteen and from that time on I have never ceased to love him as a brother. I have seen him practice so many virtues. How patient, how good, how pleasing to all! He was totally involved in giving glory to God and remaining faithful to his friends. Besides being the best of sons, the best brother, and the best friend, he was also a most compassionate and solicitous husband and father. We can sum up his life with three words: prayer, work, and commitment. And so, with a heart that overflowed with love, and with an intelligence that took in everything, he achieved the heights of academia where he found the crown of glory and genius. This is the highest goal of human ambition, but Frederic sought only God and so having arrived at this high point, having reached the peak, he found God.

His friends, the people who lived with him, held him in great esteem and he left them a path worthy to remember, admire and have as a model.

The Second Vatican Council, in the dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, recommended that bishops promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church and give them freedom and space to act while encouraging them to undertake works on their own initiative. Yet more than a century before the publication of this document, Frederic Ozanam, with the support of Bishop De Quelen and later, Bishop Affre, had incarnated a prophetic mission on his own initiative.

On September 8, 1853 his life was extinguished, yet his work continued to expand throughout the world. His lay apostolic activity continues to be a living example that attracts Catholic lay people everywhere.

  1. Translator’s Note: Here it should be noted that during the 19th Century liberalism became a powerful force that rejected several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as hereditary status, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.
  2. Ainslie Coates, Letters of Frederic Ozanam (1886), [Benziger Brothers: New York, 1886), p. 265.
  3. Coates, op.cit., p. 211.
  4. Coates, op.cit., p. 46-47.
  5. Coates, op.cit., p.85.
  6. Coates, op.cit., p. 161-162.
  7. Louis Baunard, Ozanam in his Correspondence, [Catholic Truth Society of Ireland: Dublin, 1925(?)], p. 11.
  8. Coates, op.cit., p. 15.
  9. Ibid, p. 20-21.
  10. Louis Baunard, op.cit. p.331.
  11. CCD, IX:93.
  12. CCD, XIIIb:9.
  13. Louis Baunard, op.cit., p.9.
  14. Louis Baunard, op.cit., p. 368.
  15. Ibid., p. 386.
  16. Ibid., p. 384.
  17. Ibid., p. 384-385
  18. Ibid., p. 402.

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