Brian R Corbin's Reflections on Religion and Life

Living Your Faith as Citizens and Leaders in Politics, Culture, Society and Business

Labor Day and Blessed Frederick Ozanam

Wishing everyone a Happy Labor Day.

It is also interesting this year that Labor Day falls on the memorial of Blessed Frederick Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

In the 1830’s he and a friend began visiting Paris tenements and offering assistance as best they could. Soon a group dedicated to helping individuals in need under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul formed around Frederick.

In 1846, Frederick, Amelie and their daughter Marie went to Italy; there Frederick hoped to restore his poor health. They returned the next year. The revolution of 1848 left many Parisians in need of the services of the St. Vincent de Paul conferences. The unemployed numbered 275,000. The government asked Frederick and his co-workers to supervise the government aid to the poor. Vincentians throughout Europe came to the aid of Paris.

Frederick then started a newspaper, The New Era, dedicated to securing justice for the poor and the working classes. Fellow Catholics were often unhappy with what Frederick wrote. Referring to the poor man as “the nation’s priest,” Frederick said that the hunger and sweat of the poor formed a sacrifice that could redeem the people’s humanity.

In 1852 poor health again forced Frederick to return to Italy with his wife and daughter. He died on September 8, 1853. In his sermon at Frederick’s funeral, Lacordaire described his friend as “one of those privileged creatures who came direct from the hand of God in whom God joins tenderness to genius in order to enkindle the world.”

Frederick was beatified in 1997.

Frederick’s witness as a lay Catholic engaged in social ministry serves as a model for our own time.  He offered his talents to teach others incorporating the gospel message, as well as living out his witness by serving those, especially as an advocate and with direct material aid to help working class families.

What do you think Frederick Ozanam offers our time?

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Filed under: Culture, Personal Reflections, Social Justice, Spirituality

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