Two future saints met via a letter of recommendation by his student’s professor.
Today they are both recognized with the title of Blessed and well on their way to sainthood! In 1833 Monsieur Emmanuel Bailly was a professor of philosophy at the world-renowned Sorbonne, in Paris. Sister Rosalie Rendu was already the equivalent of the Mother Teresa of the day. The professor recommended two impetuous students, Monsieur Ozanam and Monsieur le Taillandier, to Sister Rosalie. She was born on the day that would become his feast day.
Going forward, she spent over 50 years of her life in the worst of the Parisian slums. But she has been awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honour—the highest award of France. ((This was a trial for her humility, and she strove to have the award canceled. However, she was duly invested and the Cross pinned on her collar, amid the great joy and pleasure of her friends and clients in the neighborhood.)) He went on to be a key foundational figure in a society that has grown to over 800,000 members serving the poor in over 150 countries in the world. Sr. Rosalie and the young Fredric shared a lifetime commitment to the marginalized and forgotten.
It is amazing what a letter of recommendation can lead to!
In 1833 Emmanuel Bailly wrote
“I am sending you two young men who have left our history conference … Their charity is spirited, but they are young and impetuous. They have already committed themselves to certain praiseworthy acts but in little harmony with their possibilities. They have already distributed their winter provision of wood. They need direction. You alone, my mother, are qualified to guide them. Their names are Monsieur Ozanam and Monsieur le Taillandier. Both are students.”
I suspect even the Professor did not realize the extent of their possibilities. But he did know Sr. Rosalie as a mentor and was confident she would bring out the best of him.
We all know the words “I have a dream”! Less familiar are the words from the Acts of the Apostles “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:17)” Have we ever connected these dreams with the dreams of Frederic Ozanam, Sister Rosalie… and our own?
Sr. Rosalie never travelled or wrote books. The suffering in her Mouffetard district knew her love and sensed her as a mirror of God’s love. Thirty-three years later in February 1856, Sister Rosalie was dying of pleurisy with inflammation of the lungs. She recalled this dream…
One night I dreamed that I stood at the judgment of God. He received me with severity and was about to pronounce my sentence to perdition, when suddenly I was surrounded by an immense throng of persons carrying old shoes, hats, and clothing which they showed to God and said, “She gave us all these things!” Then God looked at me and said, “Because you gave all these old clothes in My Name, I open heaven to you. Enter, for all eternity!”
Twenty years earlier Frederic had been exposed to that the embodiment of that dream in Sister Rosalie, Frederic and his friend Léonce Curnier exchanged letters about Frederic’s dream “to encircle the world in a network of charity.” Today, that dream is quite literally a reality in over 3/4 of all the countries in the world!
Less than 40 years later, a member of that Society is said to have had a role in drafting Leo XIII’s encyclical which marks the beginnings of the modern era of the Church’s social teaching. Closer to Ozanam’s life, the beginnings of the “see – judge – act” method Pope Francis often uses in his reflection can be traced to a disciple of Frederic, Ollé-Laprune.
Things to ponder about in our hearts
- Do we realize the power of introducing good people to each other?
- Have we thanked those who have introduced us to people with dreams?
- Do we realize that all the things we have given to those suffering may show up in our dreams?