Blessed Frederic Ozanam – The Road to Sainthood

‘Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveller who has been attacked. It is justice’s role to prevent the attack’  

Blessed Frederic Ozanam

When a man’s cause for Sainthood is introduced 100 years after his death, he must have done something extraordinary to keep his memory alive. What keeps the memory of Frederic Ozanam alive? The Congregation for the Causes of Saints agree that it was his founding of the St. Vincent de Paul Society that was his most fruitful work.  He followed in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul  and is a role model for all people particularly the laity because he put the Gospel message into action The essence of  Frederic’s spirituality, is the identification of Christ with the poor. Matthew 25; 31-46. Here Jesus specifies the works of mercy and identifies himself with the person who is hungry, homeless, naked, sick, imprisoned. 

 ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?....I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me’.

Matthew 25:37-40

When the first formal step towards the beatification of  Frederic Ozanam took place in Paris on March 15th 1925  members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society prayed for evidence of the sanctity of their founder. They did not have to wait long. On February 2nd 1926  an 18month old baby, Fernado Luis Benditi Ottoni who, through the intercession of Frederic Ozanam, was cured of incurable diphtheria. Investigations followed and on  January 12th 1952, 100 years after his death, Pope Pius X11 signed the decree of the introduction of the cause. He then enjoyed the official title ‘Servant of God’. On the 6th July1993, Pope John Paul 11 proclaimed Frederic  ‘Venerable’ and on June 25th 1996 he signed the decree recognising the miracle  thus opening the process of beatification which took place on Friday22nd August 1997, by Pope John Paul 11 ,  in the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame Paris. To move forward to the next stage another miracle is required. Once there is proof of a second miracle Frederic Ozanam can be canonized.  Thus being declared a Saint.

In his sermon at the beatification ceremony Pope John Paul 11 said “Frederic 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”.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam was born in French held Milan in 1813. Within two years the family had returned to France and  settled in Lyon.  In 1831 he pursues an academic life at the Sorbonne University, at a time when there was acute poverty in 19th century Paris. When certain professors mocked Catholic teachings, Frederic vigorously defended the Church. Frederic and a group of his friends started a club called the  ‘Conference of History’ to discuss social problems and solutions. One day as he talked about the church’s role in society he was challenged   “ You Christians are fine at arguing but where are the works that demonstrate your faith”.  They quickly saw the need to translate their faith into action.  Frederic  and his friends sought the help of a Vincentian nun, Sister Rosalie Rendu.  She gave them advice on the Christian way to go to them, to respect them and to consider them as brothers and sisters.  After this the ‘Conference of History’ became the ‘Conference of Charity’. In 1835 the ‘Conference of Charity’ had taken as their patron  St. Vincent de Paul, a 17th century priest, a man of deep faith and known for his work with the poor  and placed the Society under the protection of Our Blessed Lady. The St. Vincent de Paul Society(SVP) was born. Today the society  continues to flourish and serves millions of needy people throughout the world.

Frederic Ozanam had the same intuition as St. Vincent de Paul “ Let us love God, my brothers, let us love God but let it be through the work of our hands, let it be by the sweat of our brow”. Pope John Paul 11

Throughout his life Blessed Frederic Ozanam remained a constant beacon of compassion and charity, a true man of the people He taught law at the University of Lyons, earned a Doctorate in literature and taught at the Sorbonne. 

In 1841 he married Amelia Souacroix, four years later their daughter, Marie, was born.  Other than his service to the poor he researched the conditions of the working classes and defended their rights as human beings and workers.

“It is too little to help the poor day by day; we must begin from the root of the evil and through wise reform reduce the causes of the people’s poverty”  

Frederic Ozanam

Frederic Ozanam, a loving husband and father, achieved greatness as a gifted scholar, dedicated teacher, a generous Christian and a gentle reflective reformer  passed away on September 8th  1853 at Marseilles. When he died, there were 15,000 members. Today there are  more than 875,000. The baton which Blessed Frederic Ozanam  lifted has been passed on to successive generations and is still carried today by the men and women of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who intend to keep alive the founder’s spirit, adapting it to the many needs of the new forms of poverty.

Today many people are praying in the hope of obtaining a second miracle through his Intercession.

Lord, you made Blessed Frederic Ozanam a witness to the Gospel, full of wonder at the mystery of the Church.

You inspired him to alleviate poverty and injustice and endowed him with untiring generosity in the service of all who were suffering.

In family life, he revealed a most genuine love as a son, brother, husband and father.

In secular life, his ardent passion for the truth enlightened his thought, writing and teaching.

His vision for our Society was a network of charity encircling the world and he instilled St. Vincent de Paul’s spirit of love, boldness and humility.

His prophetic social vision appears in every aspect of his short life, together with the radiance of his virtues.

We thank you, Lord, for those many gifts and we ask, if it be your will, the grace of a miracle through the intercession of Blessed Frederic Ozanam. May the Church proclaim his holiness, as a saint, a providential light for today’s world.

We make this prayer through Christ. Our Lord,


Prayer for the canonization of Blessed Frederic Ozanam.

Cath. Fraser