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Frédéric Ozanam

Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam
Born (1813-04-23)April 23, 1813
Milan, Kingdom of Italy
Died September 8, 1853(1853-09-08) (aged 40)
Marseilles, France
Venerated in Template:If empty
Beatified August 22, 1997, Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris by Pope John Paul II
Feast September 09

Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam (Template:IPA-fr; April 23, 1813 – September 8, 1853) was a French scholar. He founded with fellow students the Conference of Charity, later known as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.[1] He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris in 1997, hence he may be properly called Blessed Frederic by Catholics. His feast day is September 9.


"Blessed Frédéric Ozanam" was born on April 23, 1813, to Jean and Marie Ozanam.[2] He was the fifth of Jean and Marie Ozanam’s 14 children, one of only three to reach adulthood.[3] His family, which claimed to be of Jewish extraction, had been settled in the Lyonnais for many centuries, and had reached distinction in the third generation before Frédéric through Jacques Ozanam (1640–1717), an eminent mathematician. Jean Ozanam had served in the armies of the First French Republic, but betook himself, on the advent of the First French Empire, to trade, teaching, and finally medicine.

Ozanam was born in Milan and brought up in Lyon, France, where he experienced a period of doubt regarding the Catholic faith, during which he was strongly influenced by one of his teachers at the Collège de Lyons, Abbé Noirot. His conservative and religious instincts showed themselves early, and he published Réflexions sur la Doctrine de Saint-Simon a pamphlet against Saint-Simonianism in 1831,[4] which attracted the attention of the French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine. Ozanam also found time to help organize and write for the Propagation of the Faith which had begun in this same city of Lyons. That Autumn he went to study law in Paris, where he suffered a great deal from homesickness.[5] Ozanam fell in with the Ampère family (living for a time with the mathematician André-Marie Ampère), and through them with other leaders of the neo-Catholic movement, such as François-René de Chateaubriand, Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, and Charles Forbes René de Montalembert.

While still a student, Ozanam took up journalism and contributed considerably to Bailly's Tribune catholique, which became L'Univers, a French Roman Catholic daily newspaper that took a strongly ultramontane position. Under the sponsorship of an older ex-professor, J. Emmanuel Bailly, these young men revived a discussion group called a "Society of Good Studies" and formed it into a "Conference of History" which quickly became a forum for large and lively discussions among students. Their attentions turned frequently to the social teachings of the Gospel. At one meeting during a heated debate in which Ozanam and his friends were trying to prove from historical evidence alone the truth of the Catholic Church as the one founded by Christ, their adversaries declared that, though at one time the Church was a source of good, it no longer was. One voice issued the challenge, "What is your church doing now? What is she doing for the poor of Paris? Show us your works and we will believe you!"[5]

Together with other young men he founded, in May 1833, the celebrated charitable Society of Saint Vincent de Paul,[4] which numbered before his death upwards of 2,000 members. They developed their method of service under the guidance of Sister (now Blessed) Rosalie Rendu, D.C., who was prominent in her service in the slums of Paris. The members of the conferences collaborated with Sister Rosalie during the time of the cholera epidemic. When fear had gripped the population she organized the conferences in all the neighborhoods of Paris to assist those afflicted with this illness and through her zeal became an example, especially in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.[6] Frederic's first act of charity was to take his supply of winter firewood and bring it to a widow whose husband had died of cholera.

Ozanam received the degree of doctor of law in 1836. His father died on May 12, 1837 and although he preferred literature, he continued to work in the legal profession in order to support his mother.[6] In 1838 he received his doctor of letters with a thesis on Dante, which served as the beginning of one of Ozanam's best-known books. A year later he was appointed to a professorship of commercial law at Lyon, and in 1840, at the age of twenty-seven, assistant professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne.[4] He began a course of lectures on German Literature in the Middle Ages. To prepare, he went on a short tour of Germany. His lectures proved highly successful despite the fact that, contrary to his predecessors and most colleagues in the anti-Christian climate of the Sorbonne, he attached fundamental importance to Christianity as the primary factor in the growth of European civilization.[5]

In June 1841, he married Amélie Soulacroix, daughter of the rector of the University of Lyon,[7] traveling to Italy for their honeymoon. They had a daughter, Marie.

Candelas describes Ozanam as " ... a man of great faith. He valued friendships and defended his friends no matter what the cost. He was attentive to details, perhaps to the extreme. ... [H]e showed a great tenderness when dealing with his family. ...He had a great reverence for his parents, and reveals his ability to sacrifice his career and his profession in order to please them.[6]

Upon the death in 1844 of Claude Charles Fauriel, Ozanam succeeded to the full professorship of foreign literature at the Sorbonne.[4] The remainder of his short life was extremely busy with his professorial duties, his extensive literary activities, and the work of district-visiting as a member of the society of St Vincent de Paul.

During the French Revolution of 1848, of which he took a sanguine view, he once more turned journalist by writing, for a short time, in the Ère nouvelle ("New Era"), which he had founded, and other papers. He traveled extensively, and was in England at the time of the Exhibition of 1851.


His naturally weak constitution, however, fell a prey to consumption, which he hoped to cure by visiting Italy, but on his return to France, he died in Marseille on September 8, 1853 at the age of forty. He was buried in the crypt of the church of St. Joseph des Carmes at the Institut Catholique in Paris.[4]


File:Bust of Frédéric Ozanam.jpg
Bust of Frédéric Ozanam.

Ozanam was the leading historical and literary critic in the neo-Catholic movement in France during the first half of the 19th century. He was more learned, more sincere, and more logical than Chateaubriand; and less of a political partisan and less of a literary sentimentalist than Montalembert. In contemporary movements, he was an earnest and conscientious advocate of Catholic democracy and of the view that the Church should adapt itself to the changed political conditions consequent to the French Revolution.[8]

In his writings he dwelt upon important contributions of historical Christianity, and maintained especially that, in continuing the work of the Caesars, the Catholic Church had been the most potent factor in civilizing the invading barbarians and in organizing the life of the Middle Ages. He confessed that his object was to prove the contrary thesis to Edward Gibbon, and, although any historian who begins with the desire to prove a thesis is quite sure to go more or less wrong, Ozanam no doubt administered a healthful antidote to the prevalent notion, particularly amongst English-speaking peoples, that the Catholic Church had done far more to enslave than to elevate the human mind. His knowledge of medieval literature and his appreciative sympathy with medieval life admirably qualified him for his work, and his scholarly attainments are still highly esteemed.

His works were published in eleven volumes (Paris, 1862–1865). They include:

  • Deux Chanceliers d'Angleterre, Bacon de Verulam et Saint Thomas de Cantorbéry (Paris, 1836)
  • Dante et la Philosophie Catholique au XIIIeme Siècle (Paris, 1839; 2nd ed., enlarged 1845)[9]
  • Études Germaniques (2 vols., Paris, 1847–1849), translated by A. C. Glyn as History of Civilization in the Fifth Century (London, 1868)
  • Documents Inédits pour Servir a l'Histoire de l'Italie depuis le VIIIeme Siècle jusqu'au XIIeme (Paris, 1850)
  • Les Poètes Franciscains en Italie au XIIIme Siècle (Paris, 1852)
  • His letters were partly translated into English by A. Coates (London, 1886).


  1. ^ Brodrick, James (1933). Frederic Ozanam and His Society. London: Burns, Oats & Washbourne, Ltd.
  2. ^ Derum, James P. (1960). Apostle in a Top Hat; the Life of Frédéric Ozanam. Garden City, N.Y.: Hanover House.
  3. ^ Foley O.F.M., Leonard. "Blessed Frédéric Ozanam", Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media
  4. ^ a b c d e Bertrin, Georges. "Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 17 Sept. 2014
  5. ^ a b c "Frédéric Ozanam", Vincentian Encyclopedia
  6. ^ a b c Candelas D.C., M. Teresa. "Biography of Frederic Ozanam", Vincentian Encyclopedia
  7. ^ Delany, Selden P. (1935). "Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853)." In: Married Saints. New York: Longmans, Green Company, pp. 269–290.
  8. ^ Eveline, Sister M. (1941). "The Social Thought of Frederic Ozanam," The American Catholic Sociological Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 46–56.
  9. ^ Pychowska, L. D. (1886). "Ozanam's Dante," The Catholic World, Vol. 43, No. 258, pp. 790–795.


  • Gérard Cholvy, Frédéric Ozanam, l'Engagement d'un Intellectuel Catholique au XIXe Siècle. Paris: Fayard, 2004. Prix Roland de Jouvenel (ISBN 2-213-61482-2).
  • There are French biographies of Ozanam by his brother, C. A. Ozanam (Paris, 1882); Mme E. Humbert (Paris, 1880); C. Huit (Paris, 1882); M. de Lambel (Paris, 1887); L. Curnier (Paris, 1888); and B. Faulquier (Paris, 1903)
  • German biographies by F.X. Karker (Paderborn, 1867) and E. Hardy (Mainz, 1878)
  • 12px This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading

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