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For Your Marriage

Married Saint: Bl. Frédéric Ozanam

Born: April 23, 1813
Died: September 8, 1853
Feast Day: September 9
Patronage: Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Frédéric Ozanam was born on April 23, 1813 in Milan to Jean and Marie Ozanam. He was the fifth child of fourteen, but one of only three children who would live to adulthood.

During his teenage years, Ozanam experienced a time of great doubts about the Catholic faith he had been raised in. He turned to reading and prayer, neither of which seemed to help, but found great clarity in long discussions with Fr. Noirot, a priest and professor at Lyons College. The challenge to live out the faith captivated him. He said, “Let us not talk so much about charity! Instead we ought to practice it and really help the poor!”

In 1831, Ozanam left for Paris to begin his studies in law at the University of the Sorbonne. During his time at the Sorbonne, Ozanam organized a discussion club for students to debate the issues of the day. During one of these meetings, a member of the club challenged him to demonstrate his faith in a way other than words, to prove that the faith Ozanam spoke highly of was alive in him.

Struck by this challenge, Ozanam and a few of his friends met and founded the “Conference of Charity” to assist the poor in Paris. This organization was the beginning of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which today provides direct services to the poor in 148 countries.

Ozanam graduated from the Sorbonne in 1836 and went on to teach and practice law, also pursuing a degree in literature. the Society continued to grow and spread throughout Europe, with dozens of chapters forming in Paris and around the continent.

Frédéric knew that he wanted to marry. In his humility he prayed that his future wife would be “a pure soul, quite different from me.” On June 23, 1841 he married Amelie Soulacroix. Before the wedding he wrote to her: “I give you the will of a man, an upright and honest will, the will to be good so as to make you happy.” In remembrance of their wedding, he gave his wife a bouquet of flowers on the 23rd of each month. After two miscarriages, they were blessed with a daughter, Marie, in 1845.

In 1848 another revolution broke out in France and the government asked Ozanam’s organization to supervise government aid to the poor. Frédéric became an outspoken proponent of Christian democracy; he also started a newspaper dedicated to securing justice for the poor and the working classes. Fellow Catholics often took issue with his political stands.

Poor health forced Frédéric to resign his professorate. He died on September 8, 1853 in Marseilles at the age of 40.

In his homily for the beatification of Frédéric Ozanam in 1997, Pope St. John Paul II said:

Frédéric Ozanam believed in love, the love of God for every individual. He felt himself called to love, giving the example of a great love for God and others. He went to all those who needed to be loved more than others, those to whom the love of God could not be revealed effectively except through the love of another person. There Ozanam discovered his vocation, the path to which Christ called him. He found his road to sanctity. And he followed it with determination… Today the Church confirms the kind of Christian life which Ozanam chose, as well as the path which he undertook. She tells him: Frédéric, your path has truly been the path of holiness.

Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, pray for us.