We are rightly wary of people who talk a good game, but whose actions go in a very different direction. Saints show us integrity—whether anyone else is watching or not.
Few people did that as wholeheartedly as Blessed Frédéric Ozanam (1813–1853), founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVdP) in 1833. Their members live out compassion for Jesus’ “least ones”: women, children, and men who are hungry, thirsty, needing clothes, the sick, and people in prison (Mt 25:40). SVdP members address the entire range of human needs—everything that threatens the dignity of people created in God’s image and likeness.
After training as a lawyer to please his father, Frédéric earned a doctorate in literature and taught that subject in Paris at the University of the Sorbonne. His time overlaps the last years of Victor Hugo’s famous novel Les Misérables. Frédéric urged SVdP members to show great respect for poor people, never patronizing them.
He was a husband, father, a Secular Franciscan, and the author of a book on 13th-century Franciscan poets in Italy. He died on September 8 and was beatified in 1997 during World Youth Day in Paris. “Charity and justice go together,” said Blessed Pope John Paul II during that Mass.
May our faith always lead us to works of charity and justice!
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