Many times we might read accounts of saints and learn that from the earliest days of their childhoods until their deaths, the saints lived such lives of holiness that they seem almost unreal. Based on these accounts, they never held a bad thought, nursed a grudge, got too angry, or were even lazy.
From Docility to Rebellion
Born in 1813 in Milan, Italy, to two French parents, Bl. Frédéric was the fifth of fourteen children. His parents, Jean-Antoine-Francoise and Marie Nantas Ozanam, were devout Catholics of the middle class and natives of Lyons, France. In 1815, the returned to their hometown in France after the city of Milan was captured by the Austrians.
By his own account, Bl. Frederic was a very docile child who did not give his parents much trouble until around the age of 7. One wonders how much trouble he thought he might have gotten into before the age of 7, but he attributes his good behavior to his sister Elise who along with his mother provided him his school lessons at home. Among his siblings, Bl. Frédéric was closest to Elise, and he recalled with great fondness how his sister would teach him in such a way that he found learning to be a delight.
A Better Attitude and Losing and Regaining His Faith
University Life and Increasing his Apologetics Work
At the university, he soon found that many were unbelievers who were caught up in rationalism, materialism, and skepticism. As he increasingly experienced these "isms" first-hand in his fellow students and professors, the call of his vow to defend the faith grew louder, and he began to answer it in earnest.
A Challenge leads to a New Direction
One of the young men who was questioning the idea, asked the Catholics what their church was doing today for those who were in need such as the poor. In a way, the questioner was perhaps unbeknownst to himself taking the words of from the Epistle of St. James and noting that faith without works is dead. In other words, the skeptics might believe if they saw actual works from the Church.
To demonstrate their new direction, the companions changed the society's name from the 'Conference of History' to the "Society of Charity". They selected seven of them to lead the effort (reminiscent of the seven deacons selected in Acts) and began to organize charitable work to serve the poor of Paris. Being young and energetic was not enough.
Bl Frederic and his friends knew they needed some wisdom to guide their efforts. They found that wisdom of experience in working with the poor in Sister Rosalie Rendu, a Daughter of Charity (a religious order founded by St Vincent de Paul and St Louise de Marillac). With her help, they were able to grow their efforts and make a difference in the lives of those whom they served.
Founding the Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Image: Bl. Frédéric Ozanam of France
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