We are not sufficiently grateful for God’s little benefits. We thank Him for having created and redeemed us, and given us good parents, and a wife, and beloved children, and for so often giving us Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar. But besides these powerful graces, which support, so to speak, the woof of our life, how many delicate graces are wrought into the tissue! There was the steady comrade I met during my first year at college, and who edified instead of corrupting me; there was M. Ampere’s paternal welcome, and M. de Chateaubriand’s advice to me not to go to the theatre. And then, smaller things than these, an inspiration that prompted me to go and see my poor on a day when I was in a bad humor, and sent me home ashamed of my imaginary woes by the side of the appailing reality of theirs. How often has some insignificant circumstance, an importunity, a visitor that bored me, and whom I wished at Hong-kong, been the occasion later of enabling me to do good to someone.”
Frederic Ozanam, Cf. Kathleen O’Meara, Frederic Ozanam, professor at the Sorbone: his life and works, chapter XVI.
- Ozanam was a sensitive person. It is enough to read superficially his correspondence to realize how much he cared for his loved ones, his family and friends, and — as he himself says many times — how much he needs to be with them, to share the joys and sorrows … Life, in short.
- God, of course, occupies not a small place in the thought and action of Frederic. He is able to see Him even in the most insignificant details and, without falling into providentialism, to thank God for having taken care of him and to have allowed him to share this beautiful task, caring himself of others and, thus, to continue the creative work of God. It is enough to remember that beautiful text that he pronounced when his daughter was born: “I am custodian and guardian of an immortal creature.“
- That is why we are not suprised with this paragraph where he gives thanks to God, not only for the great things he has done for us (to create us, to redeem us) but also for the smaller ones, where the sensitive soul of Frederic is able to see His hand.
- Let us emphasize, among them, one of those images: that “inspiration that prompted me to go and see my poor on a day when I was in a bad humor, and sent me home ashamed of my imaginary woes by the side of the appailing reality of theirs.” God speaks to us through the poor. And the poor teach us to put in their right place our pains and worries: compared with theirs, they are surely trifles. To thank God for “speaking” to us in this way through the impoverished would have to be some habitual for us, who, like Frederic, know to discover in the face of the needy the same face of the Savior.
- It may be daring to say, but if we are convinced that God speaks to us in his Sacred Scripture, we are no less that he is still speaking today in the cry of the impoverished. May we be able to hear His voice there too, and, like Ozanam, to thank him for that saving presence!
Questions for dialogue:
- Do I thank God for all the good things that happen to me, and even for the not-so-good?
- Are the poor a true call to my conversion? Do I thank God for the privilege of being able to serve them?
- Am I able to see the hand of God in the small details, the breath of His Spirit animating our history?