Blessed Antoine Frederic Ozanam

During the 1997 World Youth Day celebrations in Paris, Saint John Paul II beatified Antoine Frederic Ozanam in Notre Dame Cathedral and proclaimed him to be a model for all Catholic laity. “No better model could be given to the youth of the world than this young man … ‘Show us your works!’”

Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam was a French Catholic scholar and defender of the Catholic faith at a time when it underwent severe challenges in early 19th century France. He also founded the Catholic association of laity dedicated to serving the poor, which came to be known as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Frederic was born in Milan, Italy, in 1813, the fifth of 14 children. Showing academic promise at an early age, his parents encouraged him to study. He was interested in law, languages and philosophy, and in 1831 went to the renowned Parisian university, the Sorbonne, to study law. It was here that he encountered hostility to Catholicism. He published a short work responding to this hostility that attracted the attention of French Catholic writers and politicians. Frederic’s writings emphasized the important social contributions of the Church, but a conversation with another student disturbed him: “Frederic, I accept that the Church may have done things for people in the past but what are you doing now? Show us your works!” Those words stung the young Frederic so much that he decided to work with the poor. In 1833, with seven university companions, he laid the foundations of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul honoring the great saint who in another time had also ministered to the poor of the city of Paris. He was 20 years old. Frederic earned a doctor of laws in 1836 and a doctorate in letters in 1839. He became a professor at the university and, in time, chair of foreign languages. His lectures at the Sorbonne were among the most popular as students flocked to hear this young, vibrant speaker.

In 1841 Frederic married, had one daughter, and is said to have embraced a youthful enthusiasm for his marriage and his parenting. Each month he would observe the anniversary of his wedding with a thoughtfully chosen gift, however small. Frederic brought that same domestic love and attention to the growing Society which spread throughout France and other countries within a relatively short time. He gained a reputation as the leading historical and literary critic in the “new” Catholic movement in France, and his popular writings in the late 1840s won him a number of French writing awards. He was hailed as a brilliant promoter of the Catholic faith.

Frederic died of tuberculosis at age 40 on September 8, 1853. Today the Society numbers nearly a million members in 142 countries. Frederic’s feast day is September 9.

September: A Recommitment to Stewardship

Summer’s end brings with it nostalgia for carefree days, long nights, lazy weekend afternoons, reunions with families, and summer road trips. But autumn brings a burst of new life that makes September feel almost like spring. Why?

For the Christian steward, fall brings a renewed sense of commitment. Literally, many of us make our commitment of time and resources to our parish during September or soon after. Stewardship and ministry fairs bring a sense of excitement to parish weekends, witness talks remind us of the good work to be done, renewed calls for sign-ups for Eucharistic Adoration are issued, and kids are everywhere – in our Catholic schools and in our faith formation programs – filling us with hope and enthusiasm for our young Church. This is the time when we reexamine and reconfirm our stewardship.

If you found yourself away from our parish this summer – either through neglect or through travel and visits to other parishes – now is the time to get reacquainted. Our parish is our primary faith community, where we built relationships based on our shared values and sacramental life, and September is a wonderful way to come “home” to that community.

Some things which will draw you closer to your faith community during September: • Visit, or better yet help with, the ministry fair. Spend time with people you may not have seen due to summer travels, and “meet and greet” any newcomers you spot. • Consider a new ministry this year. Think of something that will reinvigorate you, provide the greatest service, bring out your best talents, and help you to meet more of your fellow parishioners. • Find out what adult faith formation classes or presentations are offered for the fall, and commit to at least one. • Take inventory of your financial giving. Did you sometimes neglect the parish offertory during the summer months? Find out if your parish has online giving, or automatic withdrawal, so that your year-round stewardship helps provide the parish with a stable income. • Make Sunday Mass your top weekend priority, ahead of sports, school activities, or other temptations.