Interview with Fr. Vinicius Augusto Teixeira CM, on the Canonization of Frederic Ozanam

by | Oct 31, 2018 | Formation, Society of St. Vincent de Paul | 1 comment

The September/October issue of the Boletim Brasileiro magazine of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in Brazil has published interviews with two members of the Commission for the Canonization of blessed Frederic Ozanam, the main founder of the Society of St. Vincent of Paul. Brother Sebastian Gramajo and Father Vinícius Augusto Teixeira (member of the Congregation of the Mission) explained the process that could, shortly, declare Ozanam a saint.

As a matter of space in the magazine, the interview needed to be edited. As the material is very rich in content, the National Department of Communication (Decom) decided to publish the responses of Father Vinícius in their entirety. He is 35 years old and the vice-postulator in the Commission for the Canonization of Ozanam.

SSVPBRASIL – Antoine Frederic Ozanam was beatified in 1997. For more than 20 years, the Vincentians have been waiting for his canonization. What’s new in the process?

Father Vinícius – The most important news, without a doubt, is the increasing radiance of the person of Antoine Frederic Ozanam, his human and spiritual profile as a layman committed to his baptism, carried out in his married vocation, a life corresponding to Christian values, passionate about life, sensitive to human suffering, committed to the transformation of an unequal society. A model of holiness, still impressively relevant and highly inspiring for those who wish to walk the path of charity in following Jesus Christ.

There is further news involving the procedures adopted in the analysis of a supposed miracle which occurred in the city of Conselheiro Lafaiete, Archdiocese of Mariana (MG), in 2014. It was a grace obtained in favor of an unborn child, today 4 years of age, whose skull was not formed at the proper time, which would end up causing a case of anencephaly. The relatives, particularly the mother (who now attends a Vincentian conference), are absolutely convinced and grateful for the intercession of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, whom they invoked with sincere trust, counting on the solidarity of friends and members of their conference. The whole family has collaborated graciously in developing the process for canonization.

Fr. Vinícius Augusto Teixeira (Congregation of the Mission, CM)

SSVPBRASIL – Why has the process taken so long?

Father Vinícius – Currently, the process is following its normal course. Over the years, since the Cause was opened (March 15, 1925), much has been done so that the luminous figure of Frederic Ozanam can be better known in the Church: extensive historical research for the composition of his biography, careful analysis of his numerous writings, official recognition of the high degree of Christian virtue in his life, and dissemination of his wonderful testimony of faith and charity, the basis on which his reputation for holiness rests.

Many people, especially members of the Vincentian Family, attracted by the example of Ozanam, began to invoke his intercession before God, entrusting their intentions and needs. And the graces were plentiful. One of them was a healing, achieved here in Brazil, in the city of Niterói (RJ), in 1926, which, after being duly examined, became the miracle necessary for beatification. Before the beatification, however, there was a long period of stagnation in the process, although it is true that the miracle that took place in 1926 was not recognized until 1996. The solemn ceremony of beatification was held on August 22, 1997 at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris, by the hand of Pope John Paul II. Since then, many other heavenly favors have been received and communicated.

Today, as we have said, the cause is following the usual procedures, relying on the lengthy experience and strong efforts of Father Giuseppe Guerra, Postulator General of the Congregation of the Mission, and the generous dedication of the members of the International Council of the SSVP.

SSVPBRASIL – What are the stages of a canonization process?

Father Vinícius – It may be interesting to remember here the official titles given to the people who lived and died in the odor of sanctity and to whom a canonical process opens up. As soon as the cause has begun, the faithful in question receives the title of Servant of God. After the promulgation of the Decree on the heroicity of his virtues or his martyrdom, he becomes Venerable. Frederic Ozanam received this title on June 6, 1993.

The beatification is the intermediate stage, by means of which the Pope authorizes the public worship of the new Blessed, restricting it to certain places and groups. In the case of Blessed Ozanam, his cult is limited to the scope of the SSVP, of which he was one of the main founders. Before the beatification, however, unless it is a martyrdom, the verification of a miracle is requested, that is, an intervention of God, human and scientifically inexplicable, obtained by invoking the Venerable, a work of the loving divine omnipotence that serves as confirmation for the process carried out so far. In the beatification ceremony, in the initial rites of the Eucharistic celebration, the reading of the apostolic letter signed by the pope is given, in which, after a brief biographical-spiritual profile, it is solemnly declared that, henceforth, the venerable servant of God can be called Blessed, precisely because he lived the spirit of the beatitudes firmly and constantly. Next, the date of his liturgical commemoration is established, preferably the date of his death or the “dies natalis”, day of the birth for the eternal life. As for Ozanam, the date defined was September 9, since the previous day, the day of his death, coincides with the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady.

After the beatification, the verification of a new miracle is requested, a new seal of God for the cause, even in the case of a martyr. As in the previous phase, the process of analysis begins in the diocese in which the supposed miracle occurred, and then transferred to the competent organ of the Vatican, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. Promulgated the decree on the miracle, the Pope convenes an ordinary consistory, during which confirms the opinion of the cardinals and bishops and announces the date of the canonization. This is, in effect, the act by which the Pope definitively declares that a faithful person has lived the Gospel exemplarily and is in the eternal glory of the Trinity, being able to intercede on our behalf and be venerated by the whole Church as a saint.

SSVPBRASIL – What is missing for the canonization of Frederic Ozanam to happen?

Father Vinícius – At this moment we are waiting for the constitution of the Archdiocesan court that will investigate the supposed miracle that took place in Conselheiro Lafaiete more carefully, to testify as to the inexplicable nature of the cure obtained. Thus, it will be possible to verify if the grace achieved meets all the canonical requirements, to the point of being recognized as the miracle necessary for canonization. For this, medical reports have already been gathered about the case and its evolution, as well as a list of witnesses to be heard in sworn testimony. After that investigation, carried out in the Archdiocese of Mariana itself, the dossier will be sent to the Holy See for further research and subjected to expert analysis. Finally, the Holy Father will call a session and set the date of the canonization.

SSVPBRASIL – How can Vincentians contribute to the canonization process at this time?

Father Vinícius – The most important thing is to know the person of Blessed Frederic Ozanam more, and better; his experience of faith, his testimony of life, his passion for truth and justice, his spirit of charity, his compassion towards the poor, his sense of belonging to the Church, his Christian vision of the human being and the world. It really draws attention to the maturity reached by Ozanam in the 40 years of his brief existence, maturity expressed in his unwavering trust in Providence, in his rectitude of character and greatness of soul, in his love for the family, in his ability to make friends, in his vast culture, in his good sense in the face of the political upheavals of his time, in his serenity in the face of suffering and death. To know him requires nothing more than a careful reading of his letters, so rich in humanity and spirituality, as well as related publications, such as his biographies.

Another way to make the most of the canonization process is to pray and reflect on Ozanam’s legacy, making use of the meetings, gatherings and retreats of the SSVP. Thus, the brothers and sisters can find, in their distinguished founder, a permanent inspiration and a strong encouragement in the following of Christ, in the ministry of charity, in the search for holiness, in the life of communion with God and with the brothers, a beautiful stimulus for the role of the laity in the Church and in society.

Finally, to invoke the effective intercession of Blessed Ozanam, praying his canonization prayer and entrusting our intentions and wishes to him, being sure that, from heaven, thanks to the communion of saints, he accompanies the steps of those who carry out his work of love and service to the poor.

SSVPBRASIL – When do you think the canonization will take place?

Father Vinícius – No one can predict when the canonization ceremony will take place. We have to wait patiently. And I repeat: let us take the opportunity to deepen the heritage of Frederic Ozanam and invoke his intercession, to walk the path of holiness and charity that he traveled with such elegance and firmness.

SSVPBRASIL – What is the main message that the life of Frederic Ozanam offers us?

Father Vinícius – Those who have already visited the chapel where the tomb of Blessed Ozanam is located, in Paris, certainly have drawn their attention to contemplating the large fresco painted on the back wall. A beautiful reproduction of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), a story with which the Lord Jesus describes the way of merciful love, a truth of closeness, compassion and care. There, in that fresco, the Samaritan has the features of Frederic Ozanam himself, leaning over the poor wounded man, with his eyes fixed on his suffering face, offering his sleepless nights, sheltering him in his needs. The good Samaritan of humanity is Christ, who pours out on everyone the balm of the Father’s mercy, as Saint Augustine says. Identified with Jesus Christ, whom he contemplated in faith and whose steps he followed in charity, and recognizing him in the least of his brothers and sisters (Mt 25:40), Ozanam was able to pour out on the wounds of the poor of his time— physical, moral, social, religious wounds— the balm of ardent and diligent compassion, translated in many ways in the genius of his gestures, words and initiatives. This is the path of holiness that he walked and left open for his successors, the members of the SSVP: the path of love received from Christ, learned in the school of St. Vincent, love that is not confused with ideological strategy, love that is transformed into donation and service, which never exploits and humiliates, because it seeks to restore, magnify and promote those addressed. Once, in his activity as a professor of Law, Ozanam made reference to this passage of the Gospel, highlighting the relationship between charity and justice, so deepen in his thought and in his performance: “Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on wounds of that traveler who has been attacked. It is the role of justice to avoid the attack.”

In his recent exhortation on the call to holiness, Pope Francis reminded us that, before a suffering and needy person, our reaction can not be other than that of one who recognizes in that face a human being, bearer of dignity, image of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, made our brother. This is the “Christian reaction”, without which there can be no true holiness (Gaudete et exsultate, No. 98). And this was precisely the reaction of Blessed Antoine Frederic Ozanam, who made the wealth of gifts that the Lord gave him available to the poor. One of the best syntheses of his brilliant life may be found in this passage of a letter addressed to one of his friends: “Let the law of love be ours! And, trampling on our pride, our heart will burn only for God, for the neighbor and for true happiness”.

Source: Redação do SSVPBRASIL

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Schneider

    I find this not only informative, but soul enhancing. We have laid many of our wishes for our friends at the feet of Frederick Ozanam and pray at each of our meetings that he will indeed by Canonized.