Frederic Ozanam and the Establishment of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (01)

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoFrédéric Ozanam, Society of Saint Vincent de PaulLeave a Comment

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Author: Archibald J. Dunn · Year of first publication: 1877 · Source: Reprinted by R&T Washbourne Ltd. in 1913.
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Chapter I: Life of Frederic Ozanam

Catholic historians of future times, when they come to pass in review the names of the men who have most distinguished themselves in the battle of the Church against Paganism in France, will single out those of Montalembert, Lacordaire, Veuillot, De Broglie, and De Falloux, as having taken the most prominent places in the public eye. But they will find no life more worthy of study or of admira­tion, as an example of the good which can be done by a simple layman in his sphere, than that of Frederic Ozanam, the founder of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The full measure of the good which has been done to the Catholic cause, not only in France, but throughout the world, by the unpre­tentious working of that great Society, is known only to God. But in France especially it has proved the most powerful barrier to the spread of irreligion, scepticism, and the class prejudices and suspicions which were engendered by the Revolution. For the principles of the Society are the promotion of the love of God and our fellow-men, and its fruits are an unostentatious philanthropy and a spirit of conciliation, which are in themselves the noblest vindication of Christianity.

Frederic Ozanam was born at Milan on April 13, 1813. His father was a Frenchman of ancient lineage, who had left Paris upon the proclamation of the first Empire, in disgust at the treachery of Napoleon; he had served during the Italian cam­paign in a hussar regiment, and had shared in the glories of Lodi, Areola, Pavia, Rivoli, etc. Owing to a sudden reverse of fortune, he had been com­pelled to seek employment as a professor at Milan, where he afterwards took his degrees as a doctor of medicine. When Milan was ceded to the Austrians, Dr. Ozanam returned with his family to Lyons, the home of his wife’s relations, and soon established a good practice there. He was a man of true piety, and devoted his life to works of charity among the poor, whom he attended gratuitously and helped out of his own small fortune, and in this he was ably seconded by his wife.

His son, Frederic, was distinguished from his earliest childhood by great sensitiveness and kind­ness of heart, and by the earnest piety which had been instilled into him by the example and precepts of his saintly mother, which formed the solid founda­tion for the achievements of his after-life and his consolation in all his trials. At school he showed an earnestness and intelligence which gave promise of a brilliant future. At seventeen years *of age he had gone through his curriculum of study with great distinction. During his years of rhetoric and philosophy he experienced the bitter trials of unrest, and the temptations to scepticism which so often afflict earnest and thinking minds in youth. These temptations made a deep and lasting impression on his mind, and he spoke in after-years of “the horror of those doubts that eat into the heart, pursuing us even at night to the pillow we have drenched with our tears.” After suffering for a long time, he felt impelled to seek the only source of solace and relief which can be found.

Miss Kathleen O’Meara, in the biography which she published, tells us the story in the following words: “One day, when the temptation was at its worst, clutching him almost like a physical pain, a sudden impulse drove him towards a church near which he happened to be walking; he quickened his steps, entered, and, falling on his knees, prayed with all his soul to be delivered from the trial, promising that if God gave him light to see the truth, he would for ever after devote himself to its defence.” While uttering this prayer, he felt that he was committing himself to a distinct pledge which must colour his whole life—that if his faith were restored to him, his life must be concentrated to its service in no ordinary way.

“I vowed,” he said, “to consecrate my days to the service of that truth which had given me peace.”

Dr. Ozanam designed Frederic for the law; but, upon the completion of his studies, dreaded so much the risk to his faith and morals which would ensue from sending him to Paris that he placed him as clerk in an attorney’s office in Lyons. Even at this age Frederic had commenced to take a strong interest in the philosophical discussions which had begun to agitate society. He was deeply grieved to observe the continuous spread of irreligion and scepticism. He saw how readily the weak-minded and the half­educated embraced the false theories of the philoso­phers, and he longed to establish a countervailing influence. He seems to have formed the idea thus early of an association of young men, who should be of mutual assistance and encouragement in religious exercises and good works. This idea was the germ from which the great Society of St. Vincent de Paul was destined to spring in future years.

We find him writing (1831) to a friend: “I felt that I had need of something solid to take hold of— something that I could take root in and cling to, in order to resist the torrent of doubt, and then my soul was filled with a great joy and a great consola­tion ; for lo! it discovered by the sheer force of reason that this something was none other than that Catholicism which was first taught me by my mother, which was dear to my childhood, and so often fed my mind and heart with its beautiful hopes—Catholicism, with all its grandeurs and all its delights! Shaken for a time with doubt, I felt the invincible need to cling with all my might to the pillar of the temple, were it even to crush me in its fall; and lo! I find this same pillar supported by science, luminous with the beams of wisdom, of glory, and of beauty. I will take my stand by its side, and there, stretching out my arm, I will point to it as a beacon of deliverance to those who are tossing on the sea of life. Happy shall I be if a few friends come and rally round me. Then we should unite our efforts, and create a work together; others would join us, and perchance the day would come when all mankind would be gathered together beneath the same protecting shade. The preliminary labours have already opened out to me the vast perspective which I have unfolded to you, and over which my imagination soars, transported with joy. But it is a small thing to contemplate the career I have to run; the thing is to start on the road, for the hour is at hand. I dare say you will exclaim at the audacity of this poor fellow, Ozanam. Just as you like! But what is one to do ? When an idea has taken hold of you, and possesses your whole mind for two years, are you free to with­stand it ? When a voice keeps continually crying out to you—‘ Do this ; I so will it ’—can you bid it

His letters about this period are in every way remarkable, especially when it is considered that they are the production of a youth of eighteen. They show him to have been possessed of a very high order of intellectual power, and of singular originality and force of character. Of such materials are made the great men of every age, men who are destined to leave their mark in history.

Dr. Ozanam considered that it was now time to give his son the opportunity of continuing his legal studies at Paris, as he had observed with satisfaction that Frederic possessed an earnestness of mind and a solidity of faith which would protect him against the dangers of the capital. He was entered as a student at the Ecole de Droit, and we find him shortly after recording the bitterness of his disappointment. He found himself thrown among young men utterly destitute of religion, and with no respect for its ordinances. At the boarding­house where he lived he saw the same state of things—an utter indifference to religious observ­ances. He found himself the only one who observed the Friday abstinence, and he was ridiculed and laughed at for his strictness. But he was not to be moved from his principles by such examples. He isolated himself altogether from society, and sought his recreation in his books.

The old dream in which he had indulged while in Lyons, and which formed the scheme of his ambi­tion, now returned. He grieved over the universal irreligion which he saw around him, and yearned to discover some means of combating the evil. Writing to a friend at this time, he said : “You know of old my longing to surround myself with young men feeling and thinking as I do; I know that there are many such, but they are scattered, and the task of gathering defenders under our flag is proverbially a difficult one.”

In attending his lectures at the Sorbonne, he made the acquaintance of a few young men, Catholics like himself; the very differences which divided them from their fellow-students banded them the more firmly together, and formed the nucleus of a body which was destined in future years to leaven the infidelity of France. At this time the professors of the Sorbonne were, without exception, Voltairean, who lost no opportunity of casting ridicule upon the doctrines of Christianity, and endeavouring to oppose to them the latest discoveries in the then imperfectly developed sciences of geology, etc. Among these, the illustrious Professor Jouffroy, who held the Chair of Philosophy in 1832, had striven in his lectures to prove the impossibility of Revelation. Ozanam was indignant at the unsoundness and the one-sidedness of the arguments he adduced, and drew up a protest, which he forwarded to the Professor, who promised to reply to it. After the lapse of a fortnight, the Professor lightly alluded to the protest, and dismissed Ozanam’s objections with a few contemptuous remarks.

Ozanam thereupon summoned together all the Catholics he could discover among the students, and drew up a formal protest, which was signed by fifteen names, and was read out publicly in the lecture-room before the whole body of students. “The Professor,” Ozanam tells us, “hummed and hawed, confounded himself in apologies, declared that he never intended to attack Christianity in particular, which he held, on the contrary, in the highest veneration, and promised for the future not to wound the belief of any of his Catholic hearers.”

A step so decisive and so bold as this could not fail to attract public attention. Numbers of Catholic young men now rallied around the little band, and evening meetings were organized for the discussion of subjects of common interest. By degrees these meetings grew into a kind of debating society; a large hall was hired by the generosity of a friend, and students of all shades of religious belief were invited to attend and to join in the debates. Ozanam was the recognized leader of the Catholic party, and even thus early distinguished himself by a simple but persuasive eloquence, which afterwards won him great renown as a Professor. A great many distinguished men attended the discussions, and among them Montalembert, Sainte-Beuve, Savigny, Ampere, Alfred de Vigny, and Considérant.

At this time the minds of men were in a ferment on religious questions, and on all sides the anti­Catholic party continued their attacks upon the Church. And this spirit of opposition was mani­fested so powerfully in the weekly discussions, that Ozanam found it necessary to draw more closely together the supporters of the Catholic cause. He accordingly proposed that the members should meet once a week at each others’ houses, in order to con­cert together, before the great meeting, their scheme of action, and thus present to the enemy a more united front. At the same time he suggested that they might further utilize these private meetings by the performance of some good works.

His friends were much impressed with the value of the idea, and went off together to consult a M. Bailly, in whose judgment they had much con­fidence.

M. Bailly was the proprietor of a printing office, an intelligent man, and a fervent Catholic. Several young Catholic students boarded at his house, and he loved to assemble them around him, and to listen to their conversation upon subjects of historical and religious interest. The good man at once fell into their views, and offered them the use of his office in which to hold their private meetings.

The first meeting was held in May, 1833, and was presided over by M. Bailly himself. The objects of the “Conference,” as it was then called, were at once laid down as being the service of God in the persons of the poor. “If you are in earnest,” said M. Bailly, “about serving the poor as well as your­selves, you must not let it be a mere doling out of alms, bringing each your pittance of money or food; you must make it a medium of moral assist­ance ; you must give them the alms of good advice.” And this has been the keynote of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul ever since. The members show themselves to be in reality “brothers” to the poor whom they visit, and they are welcomed, not for the relief which they bring, but far more for their fraternal words of kindness, consolation, and advice.

Thus was established by eight young men that great Society which was destined to play so great a part in the preservation of Catholic faith and principles among the poor of France. Like the little grain of mustard-seed, it has now grown into a gigantic tree, whose branches extend in blessing over the whole earth.

But the foundation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is not the only claim which Frederic Ozanam has upon the gratitude of his fellow- countrymen. He saw with grief the rapid increase in the spirit of scepticism and unbelief among all classes of the French people. Every effort was made by the Press then, as in our own time and country, to throw discredit upon Catholics, and to represent them as ignorant and unenlightened, blindly holding on to the doctrines of an effete religion through ignorance of the discoveries of modern science. He saw clearly that this evil could be encountered by the clergy alone, who were the natural guardians of the deposit of Faith entrusted to their keeping. But the pulpits in the various churches of Paris offered no adequate defence to the strong tide of infidelity. Bossuet and F£n6lon, Massillon and Bourdaloue, had no successors to their talents, and the art of pulpit oratory appeared to have almost died out in France.

Ozanam felt that the great need of the day was an eloquent and enlightened preacher, well versed in the most recent scientific discoveries, orator enough to attract large audiences of the educated classes, and able to contest successfully the theses of the opponents of Christianity, and to fight them with the same weapons of science which they them­selves used.

He set himself to work to discover such a preacher, and in due time his search was rewarded with success. A young cleric, named Henri Lacordaire, had been invited to deliver- a course of sermons to the pupils in the College St. Stanislas. Ozanam was much struck with the impassioned eloquence of this young preacher, and with the variety of the stores of learning upon which he drew for the illustration of his subjects. “There is the man we want to confound Jouffroy and his school!” he exclaimed, after listening to one of these sermons.

He consulted with his friends, and resolved to submit his ideas to the Archbishop of Paris, Monseigneur de QuSlen. The latter received him with much kindness, and Ozanam unfolded his views as to the necessity of meeting publicly the attacks which were constantly being made by the professors upon Christian truth. He ended by hinting respectfully his opinion that the AbbS Lacordaire would be a fitting man for the duty, on account of his powerful eloquence and extensive learning. He ended by pointing out that he had already attracted to hear him in the little college chapel some of the first names in France, such as Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Sainte – Beuve, Victor Hugo, and Berryer. The Archbishop agreed with him as to the necessity of in some way meeting the evil complained of, and promised to give the matter his consideration. The result was not what Ozanam had hoped for. The Archbishop probably feared that the appointment of so young a priest as the Abb6 Lacordaire to so important a post as official defender of the Catholic cause might give rise to discontent among the older clergy. He there­fore appointed seven of the best preachers of Paris of the old school to deliver a course of sermons upon Modern Philosophy. The course, however, did not have the effect of drawing an audience of the class desired, and Ozanam, by no means daunted, drew up an address to the Archbishop, which he got signed by two hundred of the most prominent Catholics of Paris, begging him to appoint Lacor- daire to preach a course in Notre Dame.

It was long before the Archbishop yielded to so novel and unprecedented a request, but at length he did so, and the young Abb6 Lacordaire com­menced his series of conferences. It was a new era in the Catholic life in Paris. For, at the time we are speaking of, the philosophical fallacies of Voltaire and the modern scientists had made such progress, and had been so widely propa­gated by the French Press, that faith in Chris­tianity had almost died out among the intellectual classes. The churches were but thinly attended, and that chiefly by women and children. Only a very few old men were to be found who had the courage to face the public ridicule which was directed against those who were weak enough to believe, and courageous enough to show outward tokens of their Faith. To be a Catholic was in those days looked upon in Paris as a mark of feebleness of intellect. Travellers in France at the present day will still recognize the existence of this feeling, notably in Paris and the larger commercial cities. But a vast and significant improvement soon took place. Large numbers of men were to be seen attending Mass and the other services of the Church. During Lent and Easter Week the clergy, whose duties at such seasons were formerly merely nominal, found their numbers all too small to administer the Sacraments to their crowds of communicants. On all hands we have the strongest proof that France recovered rapidly from the deathly paralysis which seemed to have fallen upon her.

And this recovery may be plainly traced to the spiritual influence of the Conferences of the Abb6 Lacordaire and that of the work of Ozanam through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

In 1837, Frederic Ozanam, having completed his studies, took his degrees as a doctor of laws, and began to practise as a barrister. Briefs came but slowly to him, however, and he was obliged to eke out his scanty income by reading law with some pupils. The honest, outspoken manliness of his character, while it had made him many enemies, had also secured him the friendship of many dis­tinguished men, even in the ranks of his opponents; among these, the eminent philosopher, M. Cousin, and the foremost champion of Catholic privileges in the House of Peers, the accomplished young Count de Montalembert.

Through their influence a professorship of Com­mercial Law was established at Lyons, and Ozanam was appointed to the chair. The delicacy of this act made a particularly strong impression on the young man, as his father had just died, and he felt the necessity of being near to his mother, in order to assist her in bearing the heavy sorrow which had fallen upon them.

At Lyons Ozanam found that his friend, M. Chaurand, who had been with him one of the original members of the little conference in Paris, had established many branches of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and he gladly joined with him in the work, always, however, insisting on taking a subordinate position, and encouraging the brothers by his practical example. It is a beautiful mark of his perfect humility and unselfishness that at no period of his life would he allow himself the title of Founder of the Society. He always insisted that it had grown up out of the good feeling of the members on the one side, and the necessities of their brothers, the poor, upon the other.

In 1839, his mother, who had long been in failing health, died, and Ozanam felt the blow severely, for he was deeply attached to her. He felt himself now quite alone in the world, and had thoughts of following the example of his friend Lacordaire, who had gone to Rome in order to enter the great Order of St. Dominic.

His director, however, the good old Abb6 Noirot, who had known Frederic from his childhood, and was thoroughly well acquainted with his character and capabilities, persuaded him that his true vocation was to remain in the world and to fight the battle of the Church from the rostrum.

M. Cousin now gave Ozanam a further proof of his friendship by offering him the position of pro­fessor at the Paris University, deeming the sphere of Lyons too narrow for his splendid abilities. He accepted, and was named Assistant-Professor in the Chair of Foreign Literature in the Sorbonne.

He was rejoiced, on returning to Paris, to find that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul had grown and flourished marvellously during his absence. More than 600 members assembled in the amphitheatre in which their meetings were held to welcome him; and these were not the whole of the members in Paris. “The majority,” he says, “was composed of poor students, but set off, as it were, by a few persons of the very highest social position. I elbowed a Peer of France, a Councillor of State, several Generals and distinguished writers. I counted 25 pupils of the Ecole Normale, out of 75 which it numbers; 10 of the Polyt6chnique; one or two of the Ecole d’Etat Major. That morning 150 members had gone up to the altar together… We are now nearly 2,000 young men, enrolled in this peaceful crusade of charity… Now, too, that an ever-increasing pauperism stands face to face, in rage and despera­tion, with a monied aristocracy, whose bowels of mercy have grown hardened, it is well that there should be found mediators who may prevent a collision, of which no man may foretell the horrible disasters; who will gain a hearing in both camps, and who will carry words of resignation to one and counsels of mercy to the other, giving everywhere the password, ‘ conciliation and loveThe estimate which he makes here of the value of the Society is very striking and very just. In France, Belgium, Germany, etc., it has acted as a powerful means of abolishing class prejudices, and reconciling the capitalist with the working man.

The position in which Ozanam now found himself, although a very distinguished one, was full of diffi­culty. For many years the Sorbonne had been the headquarters of the modern school of philosophy and rationalism. It was therefore no easy task for a youthful professor, fresh from the provinces, to call in question from such a rostrum the teaching of such men as Guizot, Villemain, and even his friend Cousin himself. But he nevertheless applied himself to the task with heroic boldness, for he knew that the battle which he was called upon to fight was that of God and Truth. At first his audience stared and wondered at the new views which were put before them, so different from what they had been accustomed to; but the narrow prejudices in their minds were soon swept away by the torrent of impassioned eloquence which flowed from their professor’s lips. His arguments were irresistible, because they were strengthened by apparently inexhaustible stores of erudition, and by a logic which was faultless and inexorable. His boldness excited some surprise and much resentment among his fellow-professors; but his views were always expressed with so much mildness and courtesy of language, and were so well backed up by unanswerable proofs, that criticism was disarmed.

Among his colleagues was M. Lenormant, Assistant- Professor of History, who had succeeded M. Guizot. For the first three years of his professorship he had lectured as a sceptic, and in thorough accord with the spirit of the age; but he had been deeply impressed by the boldness with which M. Ozanam, a new professor, and a man of evidently great intellectual power and of clear logical mind, had upheld the principles of Christian philosophy, and had been led by him to examine more fully into the grounds of his own opposition to it. As a result of his inquiry, his mind was enlightened as to the truth and beauty of Christianity, and with manly boldness he resolved to publicly vindicate its teachings. The anti-Christian majority were furious; for Lenormant had hitherto been one of their foremost champions. MM. Michelet and Quinet, the leaders of the infidel party, stirred up the students to riotous demonstra­tions, which daily increased in intensity until the end of the term. Ozanam, who strongly sympathized with the difficulties which his colleague encountered, made it a point to attend personally all his lectures, accompanied by a number of Catholic students of his acquaintance, in order to encourage him in his struggle, but the opposition was too strong for them.

The result is thus eloquently described by Miss O’Meara:

“The recommencing of the lectures was the signal for the renewal of the hostile demonstrations. M. Lenormant’s appearance was greeted with hisses, and yells, and unseemly manifestations of dislike. He began to speak, but his voice was drowned in hootings and blasphemous cries. Ozanam, who was present, unable to contain his indignation, leaped up beside the lecturer, and stood for a moment surveying the tumult with proud defiance. The courageous action drew forth an instantaneous salvo of applause; but Ozanam, with a scornful gesture, commanded silence, and proceeded to tell the assembly what he thought of their behaviour, and what value he set on their plaudits. He spoke with a fiery vehemence which startled all into attention; he adjured them, in the name of liberty, which they so loudly invoked, to respect liberty in others, and to allow every man the freedom of his conscience. The effect of this harangue was magical; the tumult ceased, and M. Lenormant continued, or rather began, his lecture, and finished it without interruption.”

It says much for the high respect in which Ozanam’s character was held, even by his oppo­nents, that shortly after this defiance of the ruling spirit of the U niversity, he was chosen to succeed to the Chair of Foreign Literature in the Sorbonne on the death of M. Fauriel, although at the time only thirty-two years of age.

For many years he had been working steadily at his duties, giving the day to his lectures, the evening to the meetings of the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul. But his health, which had never been very robust, gradually broke down under his continued exertions, and in 1847 he was ordered by his physician to pass the winter in Rome. He has left us in his works a record of his impressions of the Eternal City, which in purity of language and elevation of thought compares favourably with any­thing in the French language. In the autumn of 1847 he returned to Paris, and resumed his lectures at the Sorbonne with his old energy, and with recruited health. He had need of all his energy and strength now, for ample calls were about to be made on both.

On February 24, 1848, the revolution broke out. It was a great moral earthquake which overthrew all the foundations of society. Ozanam did his duty as a citizen; he enrolled himself in the National Guard, and prepared, if necessary, to fight for the cause of order. At the elections he was invited to come forward as a candidate for Lyons, but he firmly refused, on the ground of ill-health. He felt that he could benefit his country more by his writings in the Press than by speeches in the Assemble Nationale.

On April 13, in conjunction with P&re Lacordaire, he started a newspaper, entitled the Ere Nouvelle, with the object of welding together the Catholic party and the working-classes, and advocating the principles of a Christian democracy. Thus, the founders thought, might be formed a solid foundation upon which the Republic might rest secure—that Republic of order which, in the minds of these intrepid soldiers of the Church, was now the only hope of good government in France. But the new paper had but a short existence; it made many enemies in each of the camps which it tried to unite. Accordingly it was sorrowfully abandoned after a few weeks, and its promoters turned their attention to the absorbing political events of the day.

The revolution increased in intensity. Barricades were erected in the streets of Paris, and General Cavaignac was organizing his troops and preparing to meet force by force. At this juncture Ozanam was destined to play an important part in a tragedy which will always be memorable in the history of France.

One day, when he was posted on guard, with M. Bailly and another friend in the Rue Madame, he suggested that the Archbishop of Paris, who was so popular with the people, might be able to put an end to the disastrous civil war if he would appear on the barricades, and exhort the insurgents to surrender, on the promise of a free pardon for the past. The friends agreed, and at once sallied off to the residence of the Archbishop, and submitted their idea to him. To their great surprise he quietly remarked: “I have been pursued by the same idea since yesterday ; but how can it be done ?”

Ozanam explained the project they had formed, and the good Archbishop, having vested himself in his purple soutane and wearing his archiepiscopal cross, accompanied them to the quarters of General Cavaignac. The latter explained to the Archbishop the dangerous nature of his attempt, and endeavoured to dissuade him from the enterprise. Finding, how­ever, that he was determined to carry it out, he entrusted to his care a proclamation to the insur­gents, offering them a free pardon if they would lay down their arms.

Thus armed, the saintly Archbishop, with a solemn placidity which deeply affected the by­standers, returned home, made his confession, left a few written instructions concerning business matters, and proceeded to the barricade in the Faubourg St. Antoine, accompanied by his two Vicars-General, Ozanam and some members of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. When they arrived on the Place de la Bastille, the Archbishop mounted on the barricade, holding the proclamation in his hand. From an open window a shot was fired at this moment, and Archbishop Affr£ fell back mortally wounded. His last word were, “May my blood be the last shed!” And his prayer was heard; for the emeute came to an end at once.

This dreadful tragedy affected Ozanam very deeply; for he felt that he had been unwittingly the instru­ment of Providence in winning a palm of glorious martyrdom for the Archbishop.

From this time forward his health rapidly failed him, and he was compelled constantly to seek rest and relaxation from his duties. In 1851 he was induced by a scientific friend to pay a visit to London, to see the wonders of the Great Exhibition. He had never visited England before, and was much struck with the evidences of vast material wealth which met him upon every side. But they suggested very grave reflections. “It looks to me,” he said, “like a seal of reprobation on these riches that they do not serve to ameliorate the lot of humanity—the lot, that is, of the greater number—and that the most opulent city in the world is also that which treats its poor most harshly. . . . The English cannot prevent mendicity from penetrating into London—they tolerate it—and I give them credit for doing so ; but why, then, do they insult so derisively the mendicity of Catholic countries ? Never in the streets of Rome did I see anything approaching to these women in rags, who hold out their hands to you as you pass along the Strand—to those little girls one sees, in a frock tattered up to their waist, with their naked feet in the cold black mud.”

On his return to France his health continued to decline; but he still clung manfully to his duties at the Sorbonne, as of old.

At last, in 1852, he was struck down by a serious attack of pleurisy, which confined him to his bed for many weeks. He was still in this condition when a rumour reached him that ungenerous remarks had been made as to his neglect of his duties at the Sorbonne, which had been ascribed to love of ease. He was stung to the quick by the news.

“I will show them it is not true; I will do honour to my profession!” he cried.

And notwithstanding the entreaties of his wife and of his brother, who was attending him, he rose and drove to the Sorbonne. He found in the lecture- room a crowd of students, who started when they beheld his pale face, and his thin, attenuated frame worn out by suffering. Amid repeated rounds of applause he ascended the rostrum, and delivered a lecture which surpassed in eloquence and grace even those of his palmiest days. At its conclusion the applause was loud and long; but his friends saw sorrowfully at what, cost he had delivered it. It was a final and a fatal effort, and he returned to his house like a dying man.

By the advice of his physician he was moved to the Pyrenees, where his health recovered sufficiently to allow of his visiting a few of the coast towns, and even making a short excursion into Spain. He then journeyed by short stages to Italy, where the balmy air seemed to do him much good at first; and for a time the expiring flame of life flickered with something like its old brilliancy. But he knew that his end was approaching, and he besought Almighty God for the last grace of being allowed to die in his own loved France, among the people whom he loved, and for whose benefit he had worked so long. His prayer was heard, and he was able to return by sea to Marseilles. He wished to proceed to Paris, in order that he might yield up his soul in the city which had been the scene of his labours, but he was already too much exhausted with the fatigue of his long journey.

After receiving the last Sacraments with much devotion, he gave up his soul to God on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lady, September 8, 1853.

His whole life was an example of what great things a man of good heart and will can do. Few men are endowed with the brilliant talents of Frederic Ozanam ; but his charity to all men, and his love of the poor, can be imitated, and should be the model of all members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

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