Ozanam in his correspondence (Monsignor Baunard) 08

Francisco Javier Fernández ChentoFrédéric OzanamLeave a Comment

Author: Monsignor Baunard · Translator: A member of the Council of Ireland of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. · Year of first publication: 1911 (French) – 1925 (English).
Estimated Reading Time:

Chapter VII: Orientation, 1834.

First Italian trip — Law or Litterature — Literary vocation — Self-sacrifice to law — Called to the bar — Return to Paris for the degree of Dactor of Laws.

A trip to Italy which Ozanam made with his parents in the vacation of the year 1833, contributed greatly to turn his mind definitely towards Catholic literature and history, particularly to that of the Middle Ages. The journey left few traces in his correspondence. It is in his Life, written by his brother, that we find evidence of the deep and abiding influence which it had on his mind.

Madame Ozanam had an elder married sister in Florence whom she wished to see. The doctor brought his wife and two sons with him to visit her. Madame Ozanam remained with her sister, while the doctor with Frederic and Alphonsus, pushed on to the north and centre of the peninsula.

Frederic desired to see Milan above all. It was his native city and his parents had resided there for seven years, from 1809 to 1816. “Our brother,” writes the Abbe, “was then 20 years of age. His soul was full to overflowing of ardent enthusiasm. He saw the street, San Pietro a l’Orto, where he had been born: the Church, Santa Maria de’ servi, where he had been baptised. Kneeling at the holy font he renewed his baptismal vows and thanked God for having made him His child.”

His father desired to take a little trip together through the plains of Lombardy, where the Hussar captain of 1796 had served under General Bonaparte, through Pavia, Lodi, Pizzighettone and the bridge of Arcole which he had crossed under the enemy fire. The three Frenchmen found France still at the citadel of Ancona, where the military word of command in French, “En avant marche!” made them start with glad surprise.

A scene of another order took place at Loretto, where Frederic is to be found serving his brother’s Mass and receiving Holy Communion from his hand at the altar of the Santa Casa. Next follow Foligno, Umbria, Assissi and its hills, whence picturesque processions of peasants des­cended, singing the canticles of the Addolorata and bearing her statue, surrounded by torches: so many visions which were being deeply impressed on the mind of the future author of the Franciscan Poets.

The young student felt himself particularly at home at Bologna. Bologna of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance was still to be seen in the old cloisters of the renowned University, which was for six centuries a centre of human and divine knowledge. During that period its five faculties attracted the whole of Italy to the feet of forty Professorial Chairs. Frederic recalled the names of the most dis­tinguished of its masters: Mondini in Anatomy, Pancirole in Law, Galvani in Physics, and of a later date Mezzofante, that marvellous linguist, who had been born in Bologna. The party spent several days there.

A stop was made at Rome. His brother recalls Frederic’s prayer at the Confession of St. Peter, the prayer of the Apostles to the Divine Master: “Adauge nobis fident, Lord increase our faith!” He also recalls Frederic’s visit to the Vatican and his impatience in front of the locked presses, which contained the richest treasures of the Church’s past, Latin, Greek and Oriental manuscripts, with which he hoped to be able to spend a full day.

The father and sons had the honour of a private audience of Gregory XVI. They received a kindly welcome; but to the Holy Father they were unknown strangers. It was not quite so bad with Cardinal Fesch, who still retained his title of Archbishop of Lyons. Napoleon’s uncle received them in a salon containing a marble bust of the Emperor, crowned with a golden laurel wreath. He entertained his visitors at dinner. His Eminence, knowing that the doctor was one of the visit­ing physicians to the Lyons Hospital, placed a large sum in his hands for the benefit of the patients.

The travellers hastened to return to Florence, whither a charm of another order recalled the young pilgrim of Italian history and literature. One meets Dante at every turn in Florence. The devotion which is vouchsafed to the Altissimo poeta, whom the city had exiled, is almost an apotheosis. Ozanam found evidence of it everywhere; his brother is right in saying, that it was during that month’s stay, that the passion and the culture were enkindled, that later illumined his philosophy, his teaching, his entire life and, when that life was closed, his name as author and doctor.

After such a literary, historical, and artistic treat, it was only to be expected that Frederic should find more difficulty in resuming the study of law, if indeed he ever had any taste for it. We shall see him henceforth in difficulties about his future career. For six long years he was in a state of constant perplexity, which was, in itself, an agonising trial.

On his return from Italy he was to enter the third year’s law course, as the immediate preparation for his Licentiate examination, by which he would become, if successful, Barrister-at-Law. The third year was the deciding one. Before his return to Paris, his parents thought it their duty to warn him against the temptations of literature, which did not seem to lead to any practical end. From the very beginning of the law course, in his first letter, Frederic hastened to renew to his mother his promise of fidelity to his legal studies; but he asked for indulgence, on the ground of recreation, for certain little golden idols which he had adored and which lie could not find it in his heart to burn. “Do not think, dearest mother, that I shall ever refuse you the consolation of feeling that my legal studies shall not be inter­fered with. But if some recreation is to be allowed me, let me work at literary matters, which will adorn dry jurisprudence. Thus, in the evening with Virgil and Dante beside me, it pleases me to occasion­ally write my Italian impressions and to traverse again by myself the ground which I covered so delightfully with you! I shall not at all neglect my legal studies for that. I have laid down a rule for myself to work at least seven or eight hours a day, Sundays excepted. That will be doing more than the majority and will be sufficient to discharge my duty. I am attending five courses of lectures. Our Legal Debat­ing Society has opened, and I argued a rather difficult point. Un­doubtedly, it is folly for me, as I often say to myself, who am petty and dull, to wish to write on any subject but Law, and to entertain any other notions than those of hum-drum practice. But my nature revolts and tells me the reverse. Thanks be to God, I am not to be a solicitor but a Barrister, and so far a pleader. Therefore, I must cultivate literature, the mother of eloquence.”

The young law student was able to give a proof of his fidelity to his word. He confided to his mother that, on the preceding Saturday, two gentlemen had come to offer him £80, if he would devote three or four hours a day, to collaborating with them on their newspaper. “You can well believe that I refused. Law does not leave me four hours for other work. Even if I had them to spare,” he adds proudly, “I should not employ them in pot-boiling journalism. However, I recognised with joy, that if bad times should ever come, I should be in a position to make good by my own work, the sacrifices which you have willingly made for my sake . . . .”

On the 7th January, 1834 the question of a career again received attention and demanded a definite answer. “I am experiencing what must be one of the greatest trials of my life, uncertainty of voca­tion. I did think that I should have been able to lead openly and boldly the life of a Barrister, of a savant, and of a public man. Now, when I am approaching the end of my legal studies, I feel that a choice must be made between them. I must draw lots: what will be the lot?”

If the vocation were to be singled out by aptitude and taste, Ozanam’s could not be mistaken; he was called to the literary apostolate by pen and by teaching.

In addition to these signs, his literary vocation was acclaimed from without by a public tribute and a chorus of approbation, which added temptation to his own leanings. “I am sought on all sides,” he added in the same letter; “I am put forward, pressed into a calling which is not Law. Because God and education have endowed me with some liberality of mind, with some breadth of view, they will insist on making me a kind of leader of our Catholic youth. Many young men of great ability appreciate me in a way that I am utterly unworthy of, men of a more mature age invite me. I have to arrange every plan, I have to bear the burden of every difficulty. It is im­possible to hold a meeting unless I preside; five or six magazines and papers are asking me for articles.”

Such flattery was a danger, which he recognised. “I am not saying that out of self-pride: I know my own weakness so well. I do indeed suffer acute pain on feeling these intoxicating fumes rising to my head. They are sufficient to entice me away from that profession which was, till now, the ardent desire of my parents, and to which I myself was sufficiently inclined.”

“But, on the other hand, might not that combination of circum­stances be in itself a sign of the divine will? I do not know . . . Thus once my Law examination is over, I know nothing of what my future is to be. All is darkness, uncertainty, torture.”

Such was the struggle which was to last a long time. The attractions were all on one side: the desire of his family on the other. Who was to decide? Ozanam appealed to, and placed his fate in, the hands of a higher will. We read on the next page: “What is the use of knowing what we are to do, unless it be to do good? Let us do good, let us do all the good we can, and trust to God for the rest. The will of God is fulfilled from day to day. The wisest and the greatest were those who were willingly led by the hand of God. Then let us have some little confidence in the Divine Father, without Whose Will not one single hair falls from the head of man.”

Another remark from the pen of this 20 year old moralist is astonish­ing: “What poor creatures we are! We do not know if we shall be alive to-morrow: yet we are anxious to know what we shall he doing 20 years hence”: adding “For some time past, but particularly since I have seen some young people die, life appears to me in quite another light.”

Ozanam had for the first time seen a young man die under the following circumstances:-

It occurred three months and a half before the date of the last letter. On the 3oth December, 1833 Frederic related in a New Year’s letter to his mother that, on the preceding night and the night before, a young student had died in the most terrible agony, a few steps from his rooms, almost at his very door. “His cries in his delirium could be heard in my room and in Chaurand’s. How would it be possible to be at ease, to think and to compose, when a fellow student, a young man like myself, was twisting and turning on his bed of agony and death? Therefore, yesterday and the day before, we were constantly running backwards and forwards to his room; the image of the poor sick patient haunted us. We had to assist at the Sacrament of Extreme Unction and at the necessary legal formalities. Last night he was terrible to look at, terrible to listen to. We could not make up our minds to go to bed until one o’clock this morning. On awakening we learned that he was dead. Alas! I had never before seen anyone die. One should accustom oneself to such terrible sights: it made a very deep impression on me.” It was close to the death-bed of the youth that this New Year’s letter was written “wherein wishes for happiness are to be found side by side with an account of one of the saddest spectacles on earth.”

The deep impression, which the sight had made on him, was lasting. It had the effect of directing his mind still more to the contemplation of things eternal. So he writes:-

“Above all, since I have seen young people die, I begin to feel that hitherto I had not given a sufficiently prominent place in my thoughts to the invisible world, the real world. I think that I have not paid sufficient attention to two companions who are ever walking by our side, God and Death . . . . I seem to appreciate the misfortunes of life better and I shall be all the braver to meet them. I also seem to be less proud. What practical value would religious belief have, if it had not that? If religion teaches us how to live, it is to prepare us for death.”

Is this the language of a student? Is it not rather that of an ascetic in the cloister? But Ozanam does not wish to be misunderstood: “Do not think that I have become a saint or a hermit, or that I am thinking of entering a seminary. I regret to say that I am very far removed from the former and that I have not a vocation for the latter. Neither think that I spend my day in company with thoughts of death. Although I do think deeply, as I have just said, I am never­theless a fairly good companion, asking nothing better than a laugh, and even spending a great deal of time in my own way at that pastime.”

He did not lose his time, one can readily believe, in the gross or licentious amusements of the young bloods, which, he declared, only inspired him with contempt and disgust. A letter dated the 12th February, thus mentions the Carnival of the Latin Quarter: “Here, Shrove Tuesday has been a madder day than usual. One half of the students of my house spend the night dancing, I know not where, and returned at early morning.”

He went to hear the sermons of the Abbé Lacordaire, and to those of a young priest from Lyons, the Abbé Coeur, a young orator who drew crowds to St. Roch. He dined at M. Ampère’s on Epiphany Sunday. He was invited to the soirees of a celebrated barrister, M. Janvier, who desired to make his acquaintance on the strength of one of his articles in the Revue Europeenne.

He says elsewhere: “My somewhat melancholy disposition has no …–taste for Society or for great receptions. However, as I well under­stand how useful they can be to me, I should gladly go, if the opportunity offered. But who would bother with a young fellow like me, devoid of the elegant and charming manners that Society requires? Moreover, there are so many knocking at the doors of the salons! It gives them enough to do to open to callers, without going out into the highways and the byeways to seek out the blind and the halt.”

In Ampère’s home, Ozanam met at table on Twelfth Night Jean Jacques, junior, thirteen years older than he. He had a facile, brilliant, and highly cultivated mind, very widely read, of an all but universal erudition, an historian, a poet, a dramatist, a distinguished author, a world wide traveller, a brilliant conversationalist, an attractive professor. M. Ampère, junior, formerly conference master at the Ecole Normale, became a Professor in the College de France in 1834, where he delivered a course of lectures on Scandanavian poetry. He was about to enter the Institute of France while waiting to take his place in the French Academy. The nature of his works on Northern Literature attracted Ozanam especially, as the young savant was but 34 years of age. On the other hand, the distance which separated their two minds was still greater than the disparity in years.

German philosophy had left its mark on the traveller. Jean Jacques’ religion scarcely went farther than a spiritualism which respected religious belief: it was at most a free and easy Christianity. His habits as well as his inclinations kept him in the world of the Parisian salons, where Madame Recamier was queen and Chateaubriand king. Daily communication, and, above all, daily contact with such a charm­ing Parisian constituted a dangerous quicksand for an open-hearted young man who was easily influenced by everything that characterised genius and glory. Ozanam’s refined tact and sense of moral delicacy enabled him to avoid the danger. What is noticeable in their first corres­pondence is a respectful reserve, mingled with admiration and gratitude on the part of the younger, and on the part of the elder an affectionate and condescending interest which watched the welfare of the student. It continued to prove an amiable and powerful protection for the young professor. Later, their hearts were opened to one another, understood one another, were fused into a friendship equally tender on both sides, but more profoundly religious on Ozanam’s part. He occupied himself before God in praying for this great elder, whose salvation he desired. We shall find Ozanam reminding him of those matters gently, in the accents of an apostle’s heart appealing to the heart of a brother.

The Conferences of the Abbé Lacordaire, which Ozanam mentioned as his chief delight in the Lent of 1834, were the last which that orator gave in Stanislaus College. Ozanam wrote of him in the same letter: “All our Lenten preachers are put in the shade by the Abbé f Lacordaire, who holds conferences every Sunday in Stanislaus College. The young men are crowding to them. A number of students from the Polytechnic, many more from the Ecole Normale, distinguished personages, members of Parliament, professors, savants, mingle in the audience. At the close of each lecture they depart, amazed at what is said in such simple straightforward and touching language. In truth, he is not of the present-day school of preachers, but rather of that of the Fathers of the Church, such as St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom.”

We must see what opinion is held of the world by this soul, from the lofty heights whereon it dwells, from the paths it traverses “between God and Death,” for it is the history of a soul that we are writing. It is in a long and important letter to his mother that he unfolds it, under date 16th May, 1834.

“As we grow up,” he writes, “and as we see the world more closely, we are grieved to find it hostile to every ideal and to every sentiment that is dear to us. The more closely we come into contact with men, the more we discover pride and selfishness; pride among savants, folly among people of the world, intemperance among the masses. When one has been reared in a pious family, such a sight fills the heart with disgust and indignation, and one is tempted to protest and to condemn. But the Gospel forbids that; it places before us the duty of devoting ourselves entirely to the service of that same Society that repels and despises us.”

Social action and social service, instead of protests and maledictions, such is indeed his resolution. At the date of this letter, 16th May, Ozanam had just attained his majority in the eyes of the State and the Church. He was 21 years of age on the 23rd April. He was now a man and felt the duty and the need of being a soldier. “I am of an age to fast,” he writes to his mother, “and to-morrow I fast with the Church. Am I not also of an age to suffer something and to fight as she does?” And he will fight. His letter continues: “Charged with bigotry by free-thinking companions and with liberality of thought and rashness by elders, amid controversies and disputes where charity is not, and scandal abounds, surrounded by political parties who would willingly drag us in their mire as we have attained unto the vote, that, my dearest mother, is a sad existence. But I do not grumble, for I do not forget that it is a trial which Providence will have me pass through, in order that I may afterwards serve better.”

But what form was that service to take? This time he avoided the painful subject. “Perhaps I am wrong in wishing to be a man, because, dearest mother, I am still, in many respects, a child, am I not? But I cannot forget that this year will see the end of my legal education, and that in the month of August I can be, if I wish, a Barrister-at­-Law!”

It was, indeed, less than three months later that his legal studies would finish. The promise which he had made to his mother, to give up all his time to his studies, had been kept. He admits a few oc­casional interludes which he allowed himself, an article on China, two on India, in the Revue Europeenne: he admits that much, he accuses and excuses himself somewhat; his hand had been forced in the matter. So all other occupations were “henceforward to take a secondary place.” He had obeyed.

But at what a sacrifice! What a change of life! “In reality, dearest mama, I do not understand this year how I live at all. All my last year’s habits have been so completely altered that I do not know where I am. No more scientific study, no more conferences of philosophy, no more animated discussions such as we had last year in our literary society, no more of these consecutive pieces of work in which my spirit delighted. All my little meetings are no more: except for some few paltry articles in periodicals and some good lectures, I have done nothing but Law … But ennui has seized on me and I am consumed with anxiety for my examinations. . . . If the sacrifice has done my legal studies some good, I believe, on the-other hand, that it has cost me much of my intellectual life.” His reflections and impressions as regards himself and the world are summed up in this phrase: “That is what is keenly felt at my age. Those sad truths wake me from my dreams and leave me as grave and gloomy as a man of 4o.”

“A man of 4o!” Alas! Ozanam was to rest but one brief moment on that pinnacle. God, who willed that he should be perfected in a short time, had matured him before the autumn of life. The majority of 21 years, which this young man had attained, was not merely one of age, but of mind, of will, of character, of heart. Ozanam at 21 years of age looked out from on high on the world and judged it: he looked at life and seized its reality: he looked death in the face and it is “between Death and God that he will walk in this life”: he gazed on the Cross, and knew how to submit himself entirely to the will of those, who represented for him the will of God. He was master of himself, and could exalt himself by humility of heart. With un­trammelled heart and steady gaze fixed on a single end, we behold this young man ascend towards those sacred heights, where the man is transfigured and appears in our eyes ever more and more a child of God!

All the while the childlike candour which made him so tender a son and so sympathetic a friend did not leave him.

The last and the longest letter which we shall find addressed to his mother, had, unknown to himself, all the sadness and the tenderness of farewell. Did not this mother complain that her son was abandoning her, that he did not now unbosom himself to her as for­merly, that she was reduced to the point of imagining that she had a son? The fact being that Lyons was closed to all correspondence by the state of Civil War. “But,” he replied to her, “how I did long, dearest mama, to run to you, to embrace you, to caress you I”

He was able on this occasion to “unfold his heart to her.” In eight full pages he recalled his life as a child, their home life, “her gentle soothing words, when as a schoolboy he worked at the table beside her: how in 6th class, he asked her advice and help in his exer­cises: in Rhetoric how he read to her his French compositions: the warnings and occasional scoldings of papa, his walks with her, her stories of the war, etc., etc.”

Then at the end of these sweet memories his hopes: “I believe, dearest mother, that with the help of God a day will come, when I shall be able to repay you in filial piety and in happiness some part of the care, strength, and health that you expended on me.” He spoke to her also of his devotions and of Pere Marduel as the “only man who in kindness and prudence could hope to replace father and mother.”—” Thus, dearest mother, I cherish the hope, notwithstanding all my defects and all my weakness, that I may not prove too unworthy of my parents, that I may become a zealous Christian, a serious citizen and a virtuous man. Adieu, dearest mother. Do not fear, dear mama, that I shall abandon you.”

A letter written at one o’clock in the morning on the 21st July, addressed to a friend from Lyons, mentioned that he was working at law at the moment. In that year, at that very hour, he was in handigrips with the texts for his fourth examination. “Therefore, good night, dear friend. Before a month is out we shall be able to talk of-many things that the pen cannot do justice to!”

Before the 15th August Frederic returned to Lyons. He had been called to the Bar. “I a Barrister 1” he wrote to his mother. “Can you imagine that? After all, the title of Barrister in itself is not much.” What other title was he then thinking of adding?

The young Barrister found Lyons on his return crowded with soldiers, flanked on all sides with guns, bearing in its streets and on its ramparts the traces of the April insurrection, and suffering in its business from the disastrous after effects of civil war. On the other hand, he found all the joys of family life re-united under the paternal roof, of which he speaks enthusiastically. He also met in Lyons his college companions in Law and in the Conference, de La Perriere, Dufieux, Chaurand, Bietrix, and others whom he saw daily at their home or at his own.

The outstanding feature and the event of his holidays in 1834 was a visit to Lamartine accompanied by Dufieux, who, being a friend of the poet, had obtained permission to introduce his friend. Lamartine was living in his castle of Saint Point in the mountains, four miles from Macon, where he exercised a civilising and beneficent influence. Ozanam wrote to Lallier: “M. de Lamartine brought us both into his bungalow where we conversed together for close on two hours. He unfolded his noble political ideas, his beautiful literary theories: he made many enquiries about the youth of the schools and the spirit which animated them, and he appeared to me to be full of hope for the future. . . . At table, and in the drawing-room he was extremely amiable. He pressed us more than once to spend a week with him. As that was not possible, he made me promise to go and see him when he would be in Paris the coming winter. We dined and spent the night with him. The next day he himself showed us his two other houses, Milly and Monceaux . . . .”

Ozanam admits being altogether under the influence of the captivat­ing Lamartine, who, in his 43rd year, was then at the meridian of his genius, his beauty, his eloquence and his glory. . . .

” What would you have? The sight of that superior being fascin­ated me: notwithstanding the fact that, before visiting him, I had taken the precaution of reading a certain chapter in the Imitation, which put me on my guard against human respect.”

We need not therefore be astonished to read as follows, soon after­wards: “Oh! all my literary ambition, all my uncertainty, have returned stronger than ever, the desire to do good inextricably mingled with the desire to gain glory: but with that, the consciousness of my nothingness, the true appreciation of my social position and the necessity that I am under of working for my livelihood.” What was he going to do, what was he going to become, on the re-opening of the schools? “My uncertainty is not ended. I have consulted my brother. He is of opinion that it is not yet time to cut the Gordian knot. He insists on my promising to follow Law and Literature at the same time.”

Everything was calling him back to Paris; absence from there was even producing a sort of homesickness: “Left without news, letters, or papers from Paris, I am already beginning to feel the monotony of provincial life.”

What was calling him back to Paris more than anything else was the memory of the friends whom he had left there. No one was dearer to his heart than Lallier, as the following ardent letter shows: “Even now, as I am enjoying my mother’s embraces, my elder brother’s example and advice, my younger brother’s affection, I do not cease to regret my comrades in Paris, the charity and genial kindness of M. Bailly, the long evenings that we passed in one another’s company: above all in yours, my dear friend, who, in advice and example, proved such a sincere and Christian friend. You know well that, of the young men whom I have known during my exile in the capital, you are the one I liked best. It is you whom I have rescued when you lay in hiding in your little room, a prey to gloomy and despondent ideas. It is you, in your turn, who so often inspired me with holy and salu­tary thoughts, who consoled me in my grief and encouraged me when in doubt. Oh! We miss you, all miss you greatly.”

Moreover, what attracted Ozanam to Paris was his work of charity, his young conference, his poor: “Here, I have no charitable works to look after. I am living like a good-for-nothing. How I need your prayers! Do not forget me, miserable as I am.” . . . But he was recruiting young members for his little Society. “We shall bring back with us to Paris a band of good Lyons students. They will add to our meetings, although, truth to tell, I no longer look on the Conference of History but as a recruiting ground for the Conference of Charity.”

In this frame of mind, it was a great source of joy for him to receive in the month of November, a letter from his former comrade, Leonce Curnier, from Nimes, informing him that, following his example, he was trying to found a Conference of Charity in that city. This friend said to him: “I was indeed sincere in promising you when leaving to endeavour to found in Nimes a Society on the same lines as that which you had founded in Paris. You expressed a wish to see France enveloped in a network of charity, and you enkindled in my soul some­thing of that burning zeal with which you are animated. On my arrival here I communicated to a venerable priest the project which owed its inspiration to you. When I told him what you had said to me and what I myself had seen, tears flowed from his eyes: Ah! we must not despair of the future of France,’ he said, as long as there are in our generation young men who are capable of giving such good example.’ ”

Ozanam replied at once: “Your letter overwhelmed me with joy, I read it to some of my friends in the Society, who are on holidays here. I also wrote immediately to those members who are in Paris, informing. them of your good news. But let me first congratulate you on the good work which you have commenced, as well as on what you look forward to doing in the future. God and the poor will bless you. We, whom you have surpassed, shall be glad and proud to have such a brother. Our desire is then accomplished: you are the first echo of our feeble voice: others will probably soon respond. How great then will be the merit of our little Parisian Society, that it has furnished the model for, and given the impetus to others! A single thread suffices to commence to weave.”

What he missed particularly in Lyons and what especially attracted him to Paris was the intellectual life, the public lectures, the scientific studies of all kinds which can be had in perfection only in the capital: .” Here on vacation I live like a Boetian and I scarcely do any work.”

He was to return to Paris with his father’s consent. Such was the great news that he had for Lallier on the 15th October. “I have leave from my father to return to Paris for two years. I shall take out my Degree of Doctor of Laws quietly, and shall study Oriental languages at the same time. But, no more magazine articles: an occasional contribution to the Conference (of History), if there is one, or for the Revue Europeenne, if it still exists. My future I leave in the hands of Providence. I shall accept willingly whatever place He will be pleased to assign me to, however lowly it may be. It will be always noble, if it be filled worthily.”

Ozanam arrived in Paris in the middle of November, 1834. He came to finish his legal and professional studies. Nor was he without thought of another order of studies, the bold desire of which breaks through the following lines to his mother: “I must express to you, dear mama, my fixed desire at all times to do anything in my power to fulfil my duty. Before I return to you this year, I shall sit for my examination of Doctor of Laws. I hope to pass with Honours. If I may not do some­thing in addition to that; if I may not devote myself as much as I should wish to other and more congenial studies; if I may not have two strings to lny bow; if I am to use only the strong G string and neglect the brilliant and harmonious E string, I shall be resigned. I shall suffer as a consequence; I shall be deprived of a source of pleasure to which I looked forward. But at least I shall not have been found wanting in my duty.”

Duty, Duty in sacrifice: do not the last words of that letter sum up the state of his mind during those three years of study and uncer­tainty?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *