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Frederic Ozanam speaks to us today

by | Sep 9, 2015 | Formation, Reflections

ozanam-koderHistory does repeat itself! Frederic Ozanam speaks to us today in this letter written by Blessed Fredric in 1836. It is rich food for thought as we prepare to celebrate his feast September 9.

If in the Middle Ages a sick society could be healed only through a huge outpouring of love, especially by St. Francis of Assisi, and if, later on, new sufferings called for the helping hands of St. Philip Neri, St. John of God and St. Vincent de Paul, surely there is need today for charity, giving, patience, to heal the sufferings of these poor people, poorer than ever because they were refused food for their souls just when they came to lack material food.

(The text is from the second reading in the Office of Readings. It is an excerpt from his letter to Louis Jammon, 13, November 1836.)

“The saints were out of their minds when it came to love. Their love was limitless, embracing God, humanity, nature. Considering that God became man to live on earth, that a large part of humanity is poor, that nature itself, stupendous as it is, is poor in so far as it is liable to death, the saints also wished to be poor. It is a characteristic of love to wish to be like, as far as possible, what is loved.

And so, my dear friend, are we not going to do anything to become like those saints whom we love? Are we going to be satisfied with complaining about the present-day indifference, when each one of us carries in his heart a seed of holiness which, by our merely wanting it, could bloom?

If we do not know how to love God as the saints loved him, that is something for which we can be blamed. The same is true if our weakness is suggested as a reason for our being excused, since it seems that in order to love we must be able to see, and we see God only through faith, and our faith is so weak! But we see people, the poor, with human sight, we have them in front of us, we can touch their wounds with our hands and make out the marks of the crown of thorns on their foreheads. So, we cannot not believe, and we should fall at their feet and say with the Apostle, “You are my Lord and my God!” You are our masters, and we will be your servants. You are for us the sacred images of that God whom we do not see, and being unable to love Him in any other way, we love him in your people.

If in the Middle Ages a sick society could be healed only through a huge outpouring of love, especially by St. Francis of Assisi, and if, later on, new sufferings called for the helping hands of St. Philip Neri, St. John of God and St. Vincent de Paul, surely there is need today for charity, giving, patience, to heal the sufferings of these poor people, poorer than ever because they were refused food for their souls just when they came to lack material food.

The problem which divides people today is not a political problem, it is a social one. It is a matter of knowing which will get the upper hand, the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of sacrifice; whenther society will go for ever increasing enjoyment and profit, or for everyone devoting themselves to the general good, and above all to the defense of the weakest.

Many people have too much and want still more. Others do not have enough, or do not have anything at all, and they want to take by force what is not being given to them. A war is threatening between these two groups, and looks like being a terrible one. On one side the power of wealth, on the other the force of desperation. We must get in between these two groups, at least to reduce the impact if we cannot stop it. Because we are young, because we are not wealthy, we can more easily fill the role of mediators, which, as Christians, we should consider obligatory. That is the possible usefulness of the Conferences of our Society of St. VIncent de Paul.

You have already done well in setting up a Conference in Rome and, led by your wonderful instinct, you have visited the poor sick French people in the hospitals of that city. God will grant you the blessing already given to the original foundation: Increase and multiply. But increase is not enough; as the Society expands the link between each part and the center must be strengthened.”

The Concluding prayer of the Office of Readings is as follows:

“O God,
you raised up Blessed Frederic
setting him abalze with the spirit of your love,
to encourage groups of laypeople in the service of the poor:
Grant that following his example
we may carry out your commandment to love,
and so become like yeast in the world of our day.”

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