Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“Beware of discouragement; it is the death of the soul.”

Frederic Ozanam

That's a quotation from Frederic Ozanam (1813 AD - 1853 AD), the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  I'd thought that the SVP only collected used clothing, but they do a lot more (at least in Britain) as Damian Thompson notes here.   Thompson calls the SVP the Church's "best kept secret", and he may be right.

While studying law at the Sorbonne, Ozanam found that many of his professors mocked Catholic teaching, so he started a discussion club where Catholic teaching could be debated and defended.   At one of these debates Ozanam's opponent stung him deeply with this accusation: "Let us be frank, Mr. Ozanam; let us also be very particular. What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you?"

Ozanam agreed that his words needed to be backed up by actions, and he began visiting the poor of Paris to offer assistance.  Others joined in Ozanam's efforts, and Ozanam and his friends placed themselves under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul.   Thus was the the St. Vincent de Paul Society born.

Ozanam suffered from poor health, and he died quite young.   In his sermon at Ozanam's funeral, Fr. Jean-Baptiste Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, the greatest preacher in France, described Ozanam as "one of those privileged creatures who came direct from the hand of God in whom God joins tenderness to genius in order to enkindle the world."

Ozanam was beatified in 1997.

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