Defending the Cause of the Proletariat • A Weekly Reflection with Ozanam

by | May 7, 2018 | Formation, Reflections

It’s time to share and retrieve our good; I mean: the old and popular ideas of justice, charity, fraternity. It’s time to show that we can defend the cause of the proletariat, engage in relief classes suffering, and pursue the abolition of pauperism, without agreeing with the preaching that sparked the June storm, and still hanging over us so dark clouds.


Frederic Ozanam, “The origins of socialism” in the newspaper l’Ere Nouvelle, 1848.



  1. At a time of his life, in the late 1840s, Frederic Ozanam is a candidate for deputy in the French courts.
  2. The convulsed society in France has many serious problems; violence and dissatisfaction of the growing working class is evident. Ozanam, convinced of the need for deep reforms which would eliminate the state of actual slavery of the growing mass of workers, adheres to Christian principles and calls for the formation of “a social school.”
  3. The general elections of 1848 in France were won by the conservative party, that ordered at once several unpopular measures that provoke protest demonstrations in Paris, from June, 23 to 26, 1848. The workers hit the streets and built barricades. The state of siege was declared and the revolt is suppressed with the firm hand of General Cavaignac. They are the “June Days.” One of those who died in them was Monsignor Affre, Archbishop of Paris, who, at the request of Frederic Ozanam, went to the battlefield, in the Bastille, to mediate and seek peace. He died in the crossfire.
  4. Perhaps few in the Vincentian Family know that Frederic Ozanam is one of the earliest precursors of Christian democracy: “Ozanam was the first to allude to a Christian democracy, and as economic and social orientation towards the working classes, and as a political structure of the the society. And he was who first sensed its historical development and its social value, which may be called “the first leader of the Christian Democrats'” (Luigi Sturzo: La democrazia cristiana dal 1848 al 1948).

Questions for dialogue:

  1. Christians should not avoid their social and political dimension. Also, Vincentians should not help but always take the side of those who suffer most. Have we ever thought of this political dimension of our charism? How do we apply it in our daily lives?
  2. Today, how should the presence and action of Catholics be in public life?
  3. “The active Christians in the public sphere should give public witness to their faith and not live two parallel lives: one, spiritual; and other, secular, dedicated to their participation in social, political and cultural activities.” What do we think of this sentence?
  4. In our opinion, what are the responsibilities of Catholic laity in the public sphere? How and why should we make a difference to those who are not believers?

Javier F. Chento
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