Anecdotes of the Vincentian Family: Frederic Ozanam and Spain

by | Dec 23, 2023 | Formation

Frederic wanted to do the Camino de Santiago. One day, feeling in good health, he embarked with his wife and younger brother to Fuenterrabía, Irún and San Sebastián (Spain). It was October 22, 1852.

frederico ozanam and spain

Though the trip to Spain made him very tired, his desire to see Spain kept him going. After a week of rest—- he was already mortally ill—- he dreamed again of undertaking the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, as his ancestors did. “Many times by the fire, near Amélie, as I turned a half-burned ember, I found myself embarking for the Holy Land. My dreams led me, on the one hand, to the Pillars of Hercules, on the other, to the shores of Palestine. And behold, arriving at Bayonne, a semi-Spanish city, with its shop signs in the purest Castilian, I even dreamed of continuing on to Seville.”

His doctor gave him permission to try, at least, to go to Burgos. He departed on November 16, with his wife and daughter. The rain accompanied them for much of the journey, and Ozanam was thinking: “How many poor pilgrims from France and Italy have journeyed, flooded in tears, to go in search of remission of their sins in Santiago… the healing of the sick, the release of captives! And among how many dangers, as when the Saracen bands roamed the country, when the floodwaters razed bridges and destroyed roads!”

On November 18, at about three, the towers of Our Lady of Burgos appeared before his eyes. An hour later, he knelt down to give thanks in the wonderful cathedral. Next day he stayed there almost all day, in the heart of the Middle Ages, remembering and admiring, praying to the Queen of that place in fiery words:

Oh Holy Virgin, my Mother, what a powerful Lady you are! And compared to your poor house of Nazareth, how admirable the mansions your Son has commanded to be built for you! I already knew some very beautiful ones, from Our Lady of Cologne to St. Maria Maggiore, and from St. Maria of Florence to Our Lady of Chartres…

And now, the Castilians, leaving their gallant swords to wield the trowel and the chisel, have taken turns here, for three hundred years, in your service, so that you may have a beautiful home among them. Blessed Virgin, who has obtained these miracles, also obtain something for us. Strengthen the fragile and dilapidated houses of our bodies. Gather up to heaven the spiritual edifice of our souls.

Ozanam told this all in one posthumous little book entitled “A Pilgrimage to the Land of the Cid.” He seemed to be revived in Burgos:

Despite the rainy weather—- he told his friends—- I’ve never felt better, and the three days in Burgos had only one defect, of being too short; three days spent with the Cid, with Fernán González, the great count of Castile, with the great Isabel… There, in Burgos, I lived all the poems of the heroic and sacred Spain. In three days I have seen three hundred years of history.

Anyway, I take from there noble thoughts, beautiful pages in draft, poems and reviews on monuments, ballads and legends. Amélie found old ballads to sing, bought mantillas, obtained grace from Heaven for her and for me. Needless to say, I thank God who gave me the strength to make this trip enjoyable and useful; and also my dear wife for her constant solicitude.

Although his stay in Burgos was short, Ozanam did not forget the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. At the time, San José de Madrid and Burgos were the only ones in Spain who had joined the Society. But, at the end of 1852, many others joined: Calella, Santa Cruz de Madrid, Santander, Huesca, etc.

Author: Juan Manuel Gómez,
vice-president, SSVP in Spain.

Do you have any anecdotes of the Vincentian Family that would like to share with us?

Please, send it to us by filling out this form:

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)


    Anecdotes of the Vincentian Family



    Tags: Anecdotes