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Antoine Frederic Ozanam was born April 23, 1813 in Milan, Italy to Marie Nantes and Jean-Antoine Ozanam. He was the fifth child of fourteen, eleven of whom died in infancy or youth His parents were very good Christians, as Frederic himself said, thanking God for this gift.
This 20th Century Catholic layman, living in a very secular world, was a true prophet in the Church of his time. A Church that he “loved very dearly and in total obedience”.Frederic completed his secondary studies in Lyon and the University of Paris (the Sorbonne). Earlier, at the age of 16, he experienced severe doubts about his faith. Frederic put his trust in the revered Abbé Noirot, one of his philosophy professors in Paris, who helped him overcome these doubts. Later, Frederic wrote “I promised God to devote my life to the service of the truth which had given me peace”.
During a time of revolution, in society and in the Church, Ozanam and his fellow student friends decided to have Conferences of Literature, History and Philosophy (discussions and debates).
In 1833 Frederic, Monsieur Bailly and a group of five student friends founded what was later to be called the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, under the patronage of Vincent de Paul. Emmanuel Bailly provided them a place to meet, counsel and example. The date was April 23rd and Frederic had just turned 20 years old only one other student was older than 20. When they decided to seek out and meet the Poor, Emmanuel Bailey sent them to be mentored by Sister Rosalie Rendu, Daughter of Charity, a great apostle and servant of the Poor in the Mouftard district of Paris . The characteristic style of service of the Society’s Conferences is home visiting, direct relationship with those who suffer. Today the Society has expanded to all the continents.
Frederic was a great witness of Charity in all areas of his life – personal, family, professional and civic. He stated “It is necessary to hold the world in a web of charity”. He was a great defender of the Poor.
Frederic became Professor and Chair of Commercial Law in the faculty of Lyon for a time and later full time Professor of Literature at the Sorbonne.
Frederic was a model son, teacher, scholar, husband, father and friend. He was a man of passion, love for his faith, zeal for the truth, and ardent in compassion. A man of rare qualities that deeply impressed all those who met him.
Due to health reasons Frederic had to abandon teaching, a vocation that he loved and looked upon as an apostolate. He then dedicated all his efforts to literature and historical research of Christianity and to the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
On September 8, 1853, after a long illness, he died at the age of 40 in Marseille, France having totally given himself to God.
On August 22, 1997, during the World Youth Encounter, he was beatified by John Paul II.