Anecdotes of the Vincentian Family: A Kind Teacher, but also Fair and Severe

by | Nov 18, 2023 | Formation

Yet with all his kindness, his students had not found Frederic Ozanam an easy-going master. On the contrary, he was, as a Professor, exceptionally severe. As an examiner he gave no quarter. He so mistrusted his natural tendency to indulgence that conscientiousness drove him into the opposite extreme, and once in his official capacity of judge he was impartial almost to hardness, more especially towards candidates in whom he took a personal interest.

There is a story told of a young student whom he had taken infinite pains to prepare for his examinations, and who, when the day of ordeal came, was within an ace of being dismissed, owing
to the merciless rigor of Ozanam’s interrogations. From this time forth the candidates rather feared than sought a friendly recommendation to him, saying that it only doubled the chance of failure.

But his greatest severity was displayed towards ecclesiastical students. One day a young seminarist called, on him to enquire into the reasons of his failure at the recent examinations. Ozanam received him with the utmost kindness, and pointed out to him in detail the various flaws of his version; then suddenly changing his tone, and assuming a severe countenance, he said: “Your very dress, Monsieur, compels us to be more exacting. When one has the honor to wear the livery of the priesthood, one should not lightly expose it to a similar disgrace.”

Taken from Kathleen O’Meara, “Frederic Ozanam, professor at the Sorbonne; his life and works”, Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1876, chapter XVII.

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