Ozanam in his correspondence (Monsignor Baunard) 27

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).
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Chapter XXVI: His intimate life

Family — Religion — Charity — Friendship

Ozanam described to Ampère in a letter from Sceaux, dated 22nd October, 1851, his domestic happiness darkened, it is true, by a cloud which was growing, but behind which he saw and blessed the sun of the will of God: My state of health render many duties and pleasures impossible; but I admire the dispensation of Providence, which will not permit us to acclimatise ourselves here below. I had done every­thing to make life comfortable; and you have greatly helped. You know whether I have made my home happy! God does not will that I should take root in that happiness. He leaves me the joys of the heart, he sends me the pains of the body; I bless Him for my lot. But I am praying Him not to prolong the trial. I look after myself as well as I am able, or rather I let my kind friends do that for me.”

In a letter to M. Dufieux on the 16th February, some months later, his sufferings appear solaced by the contemplation of the happiness of those near and dear to him. He wishes that his friend could witness that happiness: “Besides the place which you have in my daily prayers, I should wish to see you form one of our fireside group, as you led me to expect you would. You would find my domestic circle happier than ever, because all are in good health. I am the least well in the home, and yet I can, not without fatigue, almost deliver my lectures. I thank God for such favours and am resigned to the suffering which He sends with them. One of my greatest griefs is that, having studied deeply, I believe I have some ideas, without the strength to reproduce them. My friend, may God grant you domestic happiness which makes up for many ills! Give me your hand that I may clasp it as an old friend.”

He described his “little daughter Marie who was playing in the garden, the sounds of whose merry voice reached him; and Amelie by his side, cheering him with her kindly face.” The loving father surrounded the child with every care, not overlooking anything which could amuse and entertain her, and showering on her the graces of his mind and the affection of his heart. Thus on a July day, when Marie was indisposed owing to the great heat, he brought her a little fan on which was written the following verses:

Prends-le pour remplacer les deux ailes legeres
Que portent dans le ciel les cherubins tes freres
Et qui te defendraient les ardeurs du soleil,
Ou to rafraichiraient d’un mouvement pareil.
Mia,s lorsque Dieu te fit, petit ange sur terre,
Pour essuyer les pleurs dans les yeux de to mere,
Je demandai pour toi tons les dons precieux
Dont l’Esprit-Saint revet les anges dans les cieux:
Pour toi je demandai leurs graces immortelles,
Leur foi, leur purete, tout —excepte leurs ailes­—
De pour qu’il ne to vint quelque jour le desk
De retourner la-haut sans nous, et de t’enfuir1.

We shall see other verses dedicated to the mother, of a still more lofty sentiment and heavenly charm.

Between the figures of the mother and daughter, Ozanam’s corres­pondence introduces the sweet personality of the grandmother. She had been stricken down by the double loss of husband and son. Ozanam mourned for them with her: “My beloved mother, you have become by your affliction more venerable and more lovable than ever, for I see you now with your head crowned with thorns.” After Theophile’s death: “My dearest wish is to fill the place rendered vacant by his death . . . . Am I not a son? More than you think, more than I can say. But why have I not the virtue, courage, humility and holiness of him who is no more?” Ozanam had insisted on her coming to Rome, to her daughter and himself, after that sad bereave­ment. “To join us under the sacred arches, to receive here the blessing of the same Pope who blessed him in his illness, that is not disloyalty to his memory.” Ozanam took charge of the family affairs after the father’s death. lie writes about his wife, daughter, and himself as follows: “My clear mother, we shall endeavour to soften your exile by giving you, if not days, at least some hours of consolation. You will see how well we love you, and darling Mary, now able to ap­preciate your tenderness better, will put her little arms around your neck and dry your tears with kisses.”

Religion made a sanctuary of that home. Ozanam was a man of prayer; all his letters offered that incense. He remembered his friends in prayer and asked to be remembered by them in return. He became a more frequent Communicant, approaching the Holy Table now on Sundays and Feast-days. He had a habit of reading for half-an-hour every morning a chapter from holy books, marking the passages which had struck him, in order to hold them the better in his thoughts during the day. He called it, his “daily bread.” It was generally the Gospels which furnished the reading. He read them in the Greek text, filling his mind with the words and virtues of Jesus Christ. His day consisted in translating them into action. He did not understand piety to be other than the loving imitation of Our Lord, and the faithful observance of His law.

I xis life was illumined by supernatural views of a very high order. We read the following in his letters: “It is from Heaven that our eyes will find the light and the strength which we stand in need of, to discharge the duties and provide the needs of this life. The very best way to appreciate mundane affairs at their true value and to weigh them calmly and dispassionately, is to view them from on high and to regard them as things that do not concern us. The reality of life is on high. What have we here on earth but our good works, which are to accompany us, and God, Who visits us?”

The visit of God in Holy Communion threw him into transports of faith. He wrote as follows: “In the inexpressible sweetness of Holy Communion and in the transport which it causes, there is a power for conviction which would enable me to embrace the Cross and defy unbelief, should all the world have abjured Christ.”

His sentiments for Jesus Christ were those of the most complete surrender, the liveliest confidence, the most filial tenderness. He gave Him his life, accusing himself of his earlier anxiety for the future, of his present anxiety for his health, offering to Him with his life, as we shall see, all that makes life worth living for, happiness, love, renown.

He aimed at doing the will of God in his duties as a citizen, as a Christian, as a husband and father; but with a very lofty and pure intention: “Our Lord makes us ask in His prayer that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Not as it is in Hell, where it is done of necessity, nor among men, where it is often done with murmuring but as it is in Heaven, with the love and the joy of angels.”

Ozanam was a hard judge of himself. The world thought him great, he thought himself little; the world thought him good, he thought himself unworthy. He believed that he owed his position to hard work and the grace of God; he had no opinion whatever of his genius, it was not a source of strength, but of weakness. “His conscience does not spare him.” He describes himself as being irresolute, in­decisive, emotional, blown about by every wind of vain impression and uneasiness, clouding all his happiness. He does not regard him­self as worthy of happiness. His brother wrote: “Finding him one day sad and depressed, I enumerated the many reasons he had for being happy. That is true, he answered. It is precisely because I am so very happy, that I fear that some misfortune is about to happen to me.” He always decided against himself in a matter of doubt; it cost him more to do so; he thought it was the surest course—which is not always true—because it meant greater self-sacrifice, and that sacrifice was an act of love.

That heart which was severe towards himself was a brother’s heart towards his neighbour. Besides the immense family of St. Vincent de Paul, all of whom he embraced in his charity, Ozanam had his own poor, the poor of his own Conference, whose visit and service were a religious act for him. He always removed his hat on entering their poor homes: “I am here to serve you.” He never preached to them. Having given what he had to give, he sat down and chatted about anything that could interest them.

The visit was instructive and beneficent to himself. He relates that one day, when in a depressed frame of mind, something inspired him to visit his poor. He was quite another man when he returned. What were his imaginary troubles compared to the terrible reality of such sufferings! What a lesson he had received 1 He said one day in Florence: “How often has it not happened that being weighed down by some interior trouble, uneasy as to my poor state of health, I entered the home of the poor confided to my care; there, face to face with so many miserable poor, who had so much more to complain of, I felt reproached for my depression, I felt better able to bear sorrow, and I gave thanks to that unhappy one, the contemplation of whose sufferings had consoled and fortified me! How could I avoid hence­forward loving him the more!”

When the poor came to his home he did not keep them waiting at the door, but took them at once into his study, where he gave them a comfortable chair and behaved towards them as if they were visitors to whom he wished to do honour. It was a holiday trip for him to go and wish a happy New Year to his poor, and to distribute little presents to their children. Pere Lacordaire relates the following incident. One morning in 1852, Ozanam mentioned to his wife the case of a family who were driven to such extremities that they had been obliged to pawn the last article that remained of their former comfort. He said that he would like to restore it to them that day. His wife dis­suaded him from doing so for good and sufficient reasons. Ozanam was downhearted in the evening when he returned from his official duties. He looked askance at his daughter’s piles of toys and would not touch the chocolates which she offered him. It was easy to see that he was sorrowing for the good deed left undone in the morn­ing. His wife relented and encouraged him to do as he had first wished. He set out at once to redeem the article of furniture, saw it himself into the house of the poor people, and came back home per­fectly happy.

He had been more than once deceived by unworthy clients of his charity. “An Italian whom he had helped, and for whom he had obtained a situation in a business house, betrayed the confidence which lie had placed in him. Having fallen again into destitution, he again sought Ozanam’s assistance. Ozanam lost his temper, turned him out of the house and told him not to dare to return. But the unfortunate fellow was scarcely at the bottom of the stairs when Ozanam’s conscience smote him. He told himself that it was a very bad thing to drive anyone to despair, that he himself would one day need God’s pardon, which he had just refused to grant to one in His likeness and image. He snatched his hat and ran after the Italian, whom he found walking aimlessly in the Luxembourg Gardens.”

According as Ozanam advanced in the esteem of the academic world, his pleasure at finding himself amid the working classes in­creased. That was apparent in the Society of St. Francis Xavier, and in the Workmen’s Club of the Crypt of St. Sulpice, to which he was ever faithful. It was during those later years that he composed for them a Vie j5opulaire de Saint Eloi, the patron saint of metal-workers. It is in a simple, beautiful style, the glorification of Christian work. He says at the close of it: “If all cannot advise princes, redeem captives, evangelise infidels, as St. Eloi did, all can serve God by prayer and our country by work. All can do honour to the work­room by probity and sobriety, by the charity which respects masters, unites companions, protects apprentices. All can help the poor if not with money, at least with a good deed or a kind word. Lastly, if all cannot be great, all can become saints.”

Ozanam rejoiced at the great impetus which the recent appointment of M. Adolphe Baudon as President-General had given to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. It also enabled him to efface himself the more. What a Council that was, at which were sitting by his side such men as M. Leon Cornudet, Vice-President; M. de Barante, Secretary; M. Cochin and M. Louis de Beaudicour, Vice-Secretaries; members such as Messieurs Bailly, Gossin (junior), Le Prevost, Henri de Riancey, Lauras, Armand de Melun, de Raincourt, de Champagny, Ferrand dc Missol; and a little later Messieurs d’ Indy, Cauchy, de Malartic, Eugene de Margarie, etc. Ozanam nominated Messieurs Lallier and Le Tail­landier honorary members of the Council. That was a link with the early days of the Society.

The year 1851 with which we are dealing, saw 247 aggregations of new Conferences in the new and the old hemispheres. The Report said of the progress in England: “It has been stated that the Exhibition in the Crystal Palace has obliterated the sea which separates the two countries. But of all the overhead or submarine wires connecting them, the most electric is undoubtedly that of charity. That wire can unite all and everything; it links hearts together, it links Heaven and earth together.”

It was not alone love for the cause of charity, but still more his concern for the progress of Catholic Faith that interested Ozanam in the currents of thought in the different European States, particularly in Germany, which was just then much agitated by sects. I read in a letter to M. Bore, dated 28th September, 1851: “When you are writing, please tell me what is thought in Bavaria of the late religious agitation in Germany. Is there any serious danger for the Catholic Church in the rantings of wretched people, who seem, to us far away, to be so ill-qualified to impress a great nation.”

“When it is reported that twenty or thirty parishes have gone over to the Ronge or de Czevsky schisms, is that to be taken to mean entire parishes, or only some ringleaders, who claim to represent the parishioners? How very difficult it is to establish the faith solidly in German minds! The troubles of the Church are indeed great in this century; and poor France, who is thought so badly off, is not the worst of all.”

He acknowledged with thanks some months later the receipt of some articles taken from the Bavarian Press on the religious state of the country: “I read with very great interest the account of the ter­centenary celebration of the Council of Trent. Such accounts ought to be reproduced in the Catholic Press. The piety of the good people of the Tyrol makes us blush for our lukewarmness and should inspire us with greater zeal in the service of God. Too often we regard our­selves as having discharged all our obligations towards Him, when we have used up a few pens or a little ink.”

M. Ampère, who was Ozanam’s most intimate friend in his closing years, speaks of him as follows: “Those, who have read his corres­pondence, know the incomparable grace of his mind: they will also have noticed his invariable courtesy. He was never rude. Gaiety of spirit was indissolubly allied to seriousness of mind.” Another friend who had known him all his life, says: “Nobody enjoyed a good joke better. Ile was not too high-brow for a good laugh, that great pleasure in life; even when suffering made that impossible, any pleasant incident produced a playful rally.” His humour sparkled in little society verses, with which he entertained his guests and holiday companions. Such a piece was a longish poem of one hundred and fifty verses, which he forwarded in the name of M. de La Villemarque and in his own, to the address abroad of their mutual friend, M. Ampère. It commemorated in Homeric metre and mock-heroic style, a wrestling match which he had witnessed at some Breton festival.

His amiable character was not without its moments of impatience characteristic of Frenchmen: “Stop that or I shall lose my temper!” and he proceeded forthwith to lose his temper. But the first fit over, he became overwhelmed with confusion and begged pardon humbly and frankly.

On the other hand he could deliver a sharp reprimand with apposite­ness when occasion demanded. During his tour in Brittany he found himself one day in the diligence face to face with a young soldier in a brand new uniform. The latter was pestering a young lady sitting next him with his attentions. Ozanam, on tenter-hooks, first called his attention to the respect due to women, which is the foundation of French courtesy. The young cad did not pay any attention to that view of the case. He replied impertinently that that did not concern him and that he did not recognise the right of anyone to lecture him. That is exactly where you are mistaken, young man, replied Ozanam, that is precisely what I am employed by the Government to do. The fancy young foot-soldier was non-plussed. What then could this gentleman be, who wore decorations and who was an official of the Government?

It can be readily understood how admirably such a mind, character, and heart were formed for friendship. A whole chapter could be devoted to Ozanam’s numerous friends. They were family, literary, academic, political, home, Parisian, and foreign. All his friendships were, in a sense, religious; that characteristic is the key to them all. The oldest friendships were the best. Francois Lallier was, and always continued to be, the strong religious spirit to whom the friend unbosomed his weakness and his tenderness. He could not get on without him now more than at any other time. He thought of bringing him to Lyons to be near himself: “What a pity it is that you are not a Lyons man. That is all that is wanting in you.” In response, Lallier paid two memorable visits, one during the vacation of 1837 and one towards the close of 1839. Ozanam was at Sens in 1840 for “a charming visit of a day which he would have been glad to have made a month.” Back in Lyons he gave an account of his visit to their old friends in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: “You are ever dear to them. I could not satisfy the enquiries of La Perriere, Arthaud, Chaurand. All would have been delighted to have been on the trip. There was great joking about your son; they pictured him already clothed with the paternal gravity. They all send you congratulations.”

When in 1842 Lallier lost a charming daughter, Julie, in the flower of her youth and promise, Ozanam wrote him a consoling letter wet with tears: “My dear friend, God visits those most whom He loves best.” That is the opening phrase. He then congratulated him on the faith which sustained him in such a trial. “My dear friend, it is of faith that, Christian families, marriage, paternity, all those sacred ties exist in order to people Heaven. You had already one saint in Paradise, your mother; you will have now an angel in your daughter. Between them they will keep your place for you. If you find that you have too long to wait to join them, remember that thirty years will soon pass; you and I know what that means.” Three pages full of similar holy sentiments.

There are eighty such letters to Lallier, in which the human and the divine are blended harmoniously. In 1848 Lallier went up for election as a Deputy in the Department of Yonne, as Ozanam did in that of the Rhone. Their professions of faith are alike: “I find in your address the expression of my own feelings and my own thoughts, the picture of the republic which I will and that which I will not have.”

Three years later the question presented itself to Lallier whether he ought to remain at Sens or apply for a judicial position in Paris, where his son was about to begin his studies. Ozanam’s reply was that the consideration which should outweigh all others was not domestic interest, nor advancement, nor friendship, but the better service of God, of the Church, of good works. Lallier remained at Sens.

Lallier was godfather to Ozanam’s child: “Pray for your little god­daughter, not forgetting her parents. A sacred bond unites us hence­forth in the sight of God and man.” On the other hand Lallier’s son, who was resident in Paris in the Poiloup pension, was like one of the family in Ozanam’s house. A reference to him is found in the following letter, dated 14th April, 1852: “To-day, Wednesday in Easter Week, we have your Henri with us after a long Lenten captivity. He is growing in mind and body, is always gentle and does not scorn to take part in the games of our little daughter. We are about to take them with us now to the Champs-Elysees. The weather is glorious and if we succeed in locating Punch and Judy, the children will have touched the pinnacle of earthly happiness.”

The bond of union between Ozanam and Janmot was the memory of of their first Holy Communion together and of the sermons of the Abbé Noirot. Ozanam wrote to him in 1849: “The identity of our views, after so many years’ separation, brings us closer together than ever. I have not vet told you how 1 enjoyed your all-too-short stay with us at Versailles. Your long absence was forgotten, and our strolls in the Park brought back to memory our promenades in Lyons and the many hours which we spent together after Sunday Mass. Alas I There are so few of those now in our ranks, who made their first Holy Communion with us, or, who were with us in College.”

Janmot, the painter, had conceived the grandiose idea of a work of spiritual art which would be entitled: Le Poeme de 171w. He communicated that concept to his friend who replied: “That will be the work of your life. I can see you obsessed with that beautiful conception, each succeeding year realising it in part, until you will present it finished to the world for the honour of God and the edifica­tion of man. May the same grace that inspired the idea, preserve your strength to carry it on to completion.”

When Ozanam fell ill in Paris, Janinot was the most assiduous of friends at his bedside: “I shall never forget the friendly anxiety with which you came each day of my illness to feel my pulse and to shake my hand with the grip of an old school comrade, and a fellow First Communicant. My wife and relatives are indebted to you for the portrait of one whom they all love.”

“Farewell, my dear friend, may the guardian angel of great inspirations guide your brush! You are so good that you deserve to be very happy.”

Ernest Falconnet was more than a friend; he was a brother. Read the following letter which Ozanam wrote to him as early as 1831: “Yes, my dear friend, we are brothers in faith, in studies, in age, in projects, brothers in blood, and in one and the same future. Our lives shall be twin-lives.” It was to him that Ozanam confided his first student impressions of Paris. When Ernest launched out into the world Ozanam wrote to him as follows: “The world is a file of steel which wears out many young lives; do not expose yours to it. A Christian, a believer in God, in humanity, in country, in family, never forget that your life belongs to them, not to yourself; that it would be a thousand times better to languish in obscurity for half a century, edifying others with a spirit of resignation and doing sonic little good, than to be intoxicated for a few brief months with worldly pleasure, and then die in its delirium.”

When their paths separated, Ernest took that which led to a place in the Court of Appeal. The friendly relations became strained, but did not break. In July, 1851, Ernest suffered a great sorrow in the loss of his father “whose example had been the light and the honour of his life.” Frederic hastened to write him a letter full of the re­collection of childhood, of friendship, of Christian hope: “My dear friend, let us pick up the links of the chain connecting us with one another and with those whom we have lost. . . . I know only one consolation for such sorrow, it is that God has taken what He had given. In taking them to Himself, He compels us too to take the road to Heaven. Blessed be our sainted mothers who first taught us to tread that path! When they taught us as children to believe, to hope and to love, they were building unwittingly the staircase by which we should climb up to them again after we had lost them. Happy those who know how to live with the dead! It is frequently the best way to discharge one’s duties towards the living.”

Because there is not any other consolation to offer, we find it again occuring in a letter of condolence to M. Felix Nourisson. He was a Christian philosopher, he had been a student of Ozanam’s, and was later to fill a Chair in the College of France. He had just lost his father, and Ozanam wrote to him as follows on the 2nd of April, 1851: “My dear friend, do not forget that He Who afflicts you, is also a Father.” And closing the letter: “May Our Lord crucified assist you. He, even lie, on the Cross would seem to be separated from His Father, crying aloud: Father, Father, why hast Thou abandoned Me? He understands your afflicted cries, He is blessing you because you are good and because you are in sorrow. In virtue of those two titles you are powerful with Him. Pray for me.”

M. Dufieux was one of the dear friends in Lyons of whom Ozanam wrote: “Never think that I am growing accustomed to doing without my Lyons friends, my old and true friends. Nothing can take their place, not even the friendships which I have been able to form in Paris.” He makes mention of the days when Dufieux introduced him to Lamartine at St. Point: “Was not that the starting point of our friendship?” He now invited him to come and see him in Paris: “Come, I should enjoy nothing better than an hour with you in the beautiful Luxembourg avenues which are at my door. We can talk of yourself, your children, health, difficulties and hopes.” lie would also speak of his trials, for Dufieux had passed through the crucible of suffering. Ozanam admired him because he had come out stronger and better, and had transformed the torrent of afflictions into a river of good works that would never run dry. “Share that wealth of charity by offering up to Our Lord for me some of the blessed things that you have done. I know that none of your suffering is lost, for you have plaited a crown with it for the life to come. It is in that I should follow your example, for I do not yet know how to suffer. Pray for me.”

His friends were warned to avoid any appreciation which was not strictly true: “I know of course,” wrote Ozanam, “that friendship is half blind; but you see too clearly, and you have too much intelligence not to appreciate my shortcomings.” Friends prefer frankness between one another: “There is no true friendship without frankness. Rest assured, therefore, that you do me a real service in opening your heart to me. One of two things will happen; either, your fears on my account are groundless, when you will have afforded me the oppor­tunity of dispelling them; or you are right, as you will generally be, and your warning will enable me to correct my many faults. Those words of the psalmist asking God to ‘ correct him through the voice of a friend,’ have always appealed to me.”

The most cordial unity existed between the two Vice-Presidents of the Council-General, Ozanam and Cornudet. Ozanam admired in Cornudet “loyalty in character, business grasp, and efficiency in matters of State, which made him indispensable to the Government.” He admired still more his rare Christian virtues, prudence in counsel, and a kindness of heart which was equal to any sacrifice for a friend: “Cornudet is one of those men in whose company everything is clear and genial,” he used to say.

Cornudet had furnished a report to the State Council on the very delicate matter of the confiscation of the property of the Orleans family. He reported courageously against confiscation, and was promptly dismissed. That anticipated injustice was received with serene calm: “What do you think of the reverse that Cornudet has suffered?” Ozanam wrote to Lallier. “He behaved splendidly under such misfortune. The letter which he wrote me on the matter was marvellously simple, calm, charitable, and in every way worthy of a great Christian. There still remain, thank God, models to do honour to our age.” Ozanam wrote him again two years later from Pisa: “Here, in this wonderful Cathedral radiating faith, beauty and love I have prayed with all my might for justice for him who has experienced the injustice of men.”

The editing of the Correspondant created another circle of friends for Ozanam. His letters merely mention Edmond Wilson, de Came, Edmond de Cazales, Dr. Gouraud, Charles Lenormant, Frantz de Champagny, Melchior du Lac. The personality of Theophile Foisset overshadows all. Ozanam recalls that they prayed together at the same altar at Bligny. “Ah!” he cried, “would it not be indeed difficult for Christians to forget one another when they have enjoyed such moments together.” He wrote also to him: “Allow me to express my very warm gratitude to you for the affectionate freedom with which you unbosom your heart to me. Everything in it moves, attracts and edifies me. Please continue such a charming friend­ship.” He moderated his own judgment on the events of 1848 in accordance with that of Foisset: “I cannot bear the thought of a serious difference with a mind and a heart that I love as you know.” Why had lie not had such a friend in Paris! “We should have ex­changed our thoughts and our anxieties, we should have spoken little evil of our neighbour but much good of Divine Providence, to Whom I give thanks for many things, but Whom I can never sufficiently thank for having given me such a friend as vou!”

That great and humble Friar, Pere Lacordaire, requested Ozanam on one occasion to let him know frankly what defects people found in his preaching. Ozanam was dumbfounded, and at first, declined. But that was to refuse justice. He had a fit of remorse the same evening, Monday, the 2.9th September, 1851. He offered his excuses and made reparation in the following letter: “My clear Reverend Father, you asked me a question this morning as a friend, and I answered it as a stranger, as one whom you would not allow to tell the truth. My conscience is not easy at the answer which I have given. I am too much attached to you, and too warm an admirer of your preaching, not to repeat observations which I have heard made, as you ask for them and as they may tend to the good of souls.”

He proceeds to mention them: “The fondness for strange words, the startling nature of some comparisons, the too frequent use of profane allusions in a sacred subject, a touch of the old Romanticism, a little carelessness in the printed text of sermons which are destined to be immortal.. For, my dear Reverend Father, the great congregation in Notre Dame is insignificant in comparison with the number of the absent, and of the future generations who must hear your word.” Ozanam was thanked.

I should be glad to be able to quote also something from Ozanam’s correspondence with Viscount de La Villemarque, M. Eugene Rendu, etc. I t would add to the variety of shades which the sentiment of Christian friendship received from that pen, which was so delicate and so rich in tones and colours. But I must hurry on to come to him, who was the friend par excellence, particularly in the closing years, M. Jean Jacques Ampère, in order that we may see the fire of Christian zeal, the radiating splendour of love, shine forth in all their glory.

It was about that time that M. Ampère was setting out from London for Canada and the United States. Ozanam exhibited uneasiness at that departure. The reasons for it were deeply-rooted. Jean Jacques, who was very much a man of the world and always on the move, who was very open to the scepticism of the German schools, among whose masters he counted personal friends, had not inherited, as we have already said, the religious spirit of his illustrious father in its entirety. His honest and sincere soul felt the want. Notwith­standing the consuming activity of his life, the conceits of his imagina­tion, the cares of the world, and the curious taste for enquiring of his vast intelligence, the faith, which he did not possess, made its want felt and left no rest in a heart which was made for belief. He admired it in Ozanam, whose example was for him a silent Gospel. Ozanam had kept silence. But could he continue to maintain that silence when his friend was about to put the ocean of space and many months of time between them, without any assurance that they would ever see each other again. Therein lay the deep-rooted cause for that sorrow, which Ozanam had forced himself up to then to conceal. He could no longer do so. On the 21st of August, before Ampère left London for New York, Ozanam wrote him an admirable letter from Dieppe. It must be quoted almost in full.

He first recalled the many remarkable acts of kindness of his friend; he proceeds then to ask leave to speak to him of an important matter with the freedom of a brother, but with the respect and the deference due to an elder brother

” Are you astonished, my dear friend, at the sadness which I feel at your departure? I could not tell you verbally wherein the cause of it lies, because I did not wish that you should obliged to answer me. If I am writing to you now it is because, if the outpouring of my heart is indiscreet, the seas that are bearing you to America will obliterate all recollection of the indiscretion. When we shall see each other in six months time, my letter will be forgotten, and nothing of what will have displeased you will remain to cloud the joy of your return.”

” My dear friend, you suffer much fatigue which is not without danger to your health; please excuse my uneasiness. You are seeking out new interests to occupy your mind, and you are making a tour of the world for that purpose. Yet there exists one sovereign interest, one Good capable of attracting and of filling your great heart. I fear, my dear friend, I fear, perhaps unjustly, that you do not think enough of that? You are a Christian at heart, by the blood of your incom­parable father; you discharge all the duties of Christianity to men; must they not also be discharged towards God? Must we not serve Him, must we not live in continuous communication with Him? Would you not find infinite consolation in such a service? Would you not find the security of eternity?”

The subject was opened up, the conscience awakened. The letter continues: “You have given me reason to think more than once that such sentiments were not strangers to your heart. Your research has brought you into contact with so many distinguished Christians; you have known so many eminent men who closed their lives in Christian peace. Such examples invite you, but the difficulties of belief hold you back. I have never ventured to talk over such matters with you, because you have infinitely more knowledge and wisdom than I.”

“Let me, however, say that there are but two schools, Philosophy and Religion. Philosophy has its inspirations. It knows, but does not love, God. It has never caused a single one of those loving tears to fall, which come to the eyes of a Catholic in Holy Communion, Whose incomparable sweetness and consolation is worth the sacrifice of life. If I, poor and weak as I am, have known that sweetness, what will it be with you, whose character is so lofty and whose heart is so good. You would find in it the interior evidence before which all doubts flee. Faith is an act of virtue and therefore an act of the will. We must will to believe, we must surrender our soul, and then God gives light superabundantly.”

Then this simple remark, this frightened cry, which fears many things that find no utterance: “Ah! my dear friend, if you should fall ill some day in an American city without a friend at your bedside, remember that there is not a spot of any importance in the United States, to which the love of Jesus Christ has not drawn the steps of a priest, to console the Catholic traveller…

The reply was not long in coming; two days later Ozanam received the following letter from England: “My very dear and good friend, I do not wish to lose a minute in thanking you for your letter. Offend me? You would not be my friend if you had felt otherwise; in any case I would have known that you felt so, even if you had not written. Forgive me if I do not answer your arguments. Believe, that the sight of Catholic orthodoxy in a mind like yours is for me a sermon more eloquent than any speech.”

Then a postscript: “I came across the little cripple yesterday at Waterloo Bridge and I gave him something from us four.”

Those few lines written in haste and posted in London were the last written by J. J. Ampère from Europe. The next letter, dated the 2nd October, was post-marked Montreal. It ushered in a journey of two thousand miles, which he has described under the title Promenade en Anzerique. But he never omitted to write to Ozanam who, on his part, exhausted all the charm of his mind, his friendship and his loyalty to bring him back to France2. Those two men, those two brothers were never to see one another again. When Ampère returned to Paris, Ozanam was about to depart, very ill, never to return3. He is to be found henceforward wherever the doctors order him for a cure, if that is to be, for “the Hand of the Lord has touched him.” He is first in the Pyrenees, at Eaux-Bonnes, at Biarritz, and on to the “land of the Cid “in Spain. He is to be found soon afterwards, for the winter, on the warm shores of the Mediterranean, at Nice, Florence, Pisa, San Jacopo. So many stations along the Way of the Cross, at which he falls, rises, and falls again; each station bringing him nearer to Calvary, showing him nearer to God on the sublime heights of sacrifice and holiness. We have now to follow his whole being up the heroic final ascent, his mind, his heart, his inspiration, and his love, to see the most wonderful spectacle that is to be seen, the close of a beautiful life, still more beautiful in death.

The present Life of Ozanam suggests another volume, complementary to this, a biography of each of his chief friends and fellow-members in the early days of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, in Paris and in Lyons. Some have already been done: Lamache by M. Paul Allard; Lather in the Semaive religieuse de Rouen, 1887; others in notices which are not for sale. The Lyons colony and its first urban Conferences, would have a place of honour in such a volume. M. Prosper Dugas’ life has been given by his son. What an escort of honour would not the following names furnish for the name of Ozanam, Baron Chaurand, Dr. Arthaud, Paul Brac de La Perriere, Henri Pessonneaux, Dufieux, Rieussec, Antoine Lacour, the painter Louis Janmot, etc. I have barely noticed them en passant, but they are still remembered in a city which has been edified by their example and benefited by their service. M. le Baron Chaurand was the most notable of Ozanam’s fellow-workers among the group of Lyons students in the foundation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. He was born in the same year as Ozanam, 1813. He was a Barrister-at-Law at the Royal Courts of Lyons in 1836, one of the founders of the Lyons Gazette, a large landed pro­prietor in Vivarais and Lyons, president of the agricultural and vine-growing societies in Lyons. He was a Deputy for Arache in the National Assembly, and introduced a Bill to provide for Sunday as a day of rest. He was devoted to the Count of Chambord, an ardent defender of the Holy See in the organisation of the Pontincal Army, in which his two sons enlisted under the command of General de Charette. He was a founder and promoter of Conferences of the Society of St. Vincent cle Paul with his three brothers-in-law, Antonin, Vincent, and Felix Serre, even in the little parishes of Vivarais. He was a man ever ready to engage in any good work down to the date of his death, which oc­curred on the 6th October, 1896. It can be written of him that there was not, during a period of sixty years, in Lyons or its neighbourhood, any religious, charitable, economic, or social work, to which he did not give active, able and generous support.

Louis mot is not such an outstanding personality, but he is a man of extra­ordinarily attractive mind, apparently very akin to Ozanam, his fellow First-Communicant. He was a disciple like Ozanam of the Abbé Noirot in Lyons, and sat by Ozanam’s side in the first Conference of the Society of St. intent de Paul in Paris. Janmot, who was a pupil of Ingres, belongs as a painter to the school which is honoured by the name of H. Flandrin, also from Lyons, Amaury Duval, Signol, Alottez, Paul Balze. But it was especially on the early Italians and mystical Franciscans that he modelled his work. Lyons possesses, or did possess, two of his frescoes of The Last Supper, one at the Hospice of Antiquaille, the other at the Church of St. Polycarpe. He was also represented by a charm­ing triptych in the Cathedral representing the Blessed Virgin and the Infant Jesus between two angels. In Paris he decorated the old Chapel of the Fran­ciscans in the Rue Falguiere and the stoning of St. Stephen at St. Etienne du Mont, frescoes of a lofty Christian sentiment and masterly execution.

The School of Painting which he inaugurated in Lyons took precedence over the State School; Lyons remembers it still with pride. But it was in the privacy of his studio that he showed his Christian genius in a series of one hundred great paintings entitled Le Poeme de lime. Only the sketches for that work are extant; they have been edited by Thiollier. It is indeed the poem of his own soul, annota­ted by a volume of mystical poetry exhibiting a delicate imagination. The volume concludes with these strophes inscribed on the Mortuary Card of his pious death:

O Seigneur, O Jesus, comment ne pas vous suivre? Pour qui vous a connu vos sentiers sont si doux Celui qui pres de vous un jour s’cst senti vivre. Peutil vivre un seul jour sans vous? (0 Lord Jesus! How could one fail to follow in Your footsteps? Your paths are so easy to one who has had the happiness to know You. Can one, who has felt the joy of living near You for one single day, become reconciled to living one single day without you?)

  1. Take it in place of the two airy wings which thy brothers, the cherubim, in heaven possess; those wings would ward off from thee the heat of the mid-day sun, or with a simple movement would cool thee. When the good God made thee, a little angel on this earth to dry thy mother’s tears, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bestow on thee the precious gifts of the angels, their immortal grace, their faith, their purity, everything—but their wings—fearing lest the desire to return to thy heavenly home should visit thee and that thou wouldst then take wing from us.
  2. His uneasiness continued. He confided to M. de La Villemarque, their mutual friend, who shared his fears, that “the dear traveller astonishes and terrifies me. I am always afraid to learn that he is in some villianous town at the edge of woods, suffering from some terrible attack and tended by an American doctor. I seem to see him friendless, and hundreds of miles from a priest. . . . Let us pray for him. His friends must pray for him. Do not forget him above all in the evening family prayer to God, in which we took part last year with such edification and consolation.”
  3. Ampère continued to seek the truth. Fifteen years later he wrote to a friend as follows: “I persevere in the search for truth in good faith. Nobody desires it more sincerely than I, and I offer up this prayer each night to God, ‘ Enlighten me.’ “He reached the desired goal when, on the 27th March, 1864, he was brought suddenly face to face with sovereign truth and infinite mercy. M. Guizot related to the French Academy in feeling terms his consoling end.

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