- Frédéric Ozanam
Blessed Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam Born April 23, 1813
Milan, Kingdom of Italy
Died September 8, 1853
Marseilles, Second French Empire
Honored in Roman Catholic Church Beatified August 22, 1997, Notre Dame de Paris by Pope John Paul II Feast September9
Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam (Milan, April 23, 1813 - Marseille, September 8, 1853) was a French scholar. He founded with fellow students the Conference of Charity, later known as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in the cathedral church Notre Dame de Paris in 1997, hence he may be properly called Blessed Frederick by Catholics.
His family, which was of Jewish extraction, had been settled in the Lyonnais for many centuries, and had reached distinction in the third generation before Frédéric through Jacques Ozanam (1640–1717), an eminent mathematician. Ozanam's father, Antoine, served in the armies of the Republic, but betook himself, on the advent of the Empire, to trade, teaching, and finally medicine.
The boy was brought up in Milan and was strongly influenced by one of his masters, the Abbé Noirot. His conservative and religious instincts showed themselves early, and he published Réflexions sur la doctrine de Saint-Simon a pamphlet against Saint-Simonianism in 1831, which attracted the attention of the French poet and politician Alphonse de Lamartine. In the following year Ozanam was sent to study law in Paris, where be fell in with the Ampère family (living for a time with the mathematician André-Marie Ampère), and through them with other leaders of the neo-Catholic movement, such as François-René de Chateaubriand, Jean-Baptiste Henri Lacordaire, and Charles Forbes René de Montalembert.
Whilst still a student he took up journalism and contributed considerably to Bailly's Tribune catholique, which became L'Univers, a French Roman Catholic daily newspaper that took a strongly ultramontane position. Together with other young men he founded, in May 1833, the celebrated charitable Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which numbered before his death upwards of 2,000 members. He received the degree of doctor of law in 1836, and in 1838 that of doctor of letters with a thesis on Dante, which served as the beginning of one of Ozanam's best-known books. A year later he was appointed to a professorship of commercial law at Lyon, and in 1840 assistant professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. He married Amélie Soulacroix in June 1841, and visited Italy on his honeymoon.
Upon the death in 1844 of Claude Charles Fauriel, Ozanam succeeded to the full professorship of foreign literature at the Sorbonne. The remainder of his short life was extremely busy with his professorial duties, his extensive literary activities, and the work of district-visiting as a member of the society of St Vincent de Paul.
During the French Revolution of 1848, of which he took a sanguine view, he once more turned journalist by writing, for a short time, in the Ere nouvelle and other papers. He traveled extensively, and was in England at the time of the Exhibition of 1851. His naturally weak constitution, however, fell a prey to consumption, which he hoped to cure by visiting Italy, but on his return to France, he died in Marseilles on September 8, 1853. He was buried in the crypt of the church of St. Joseph des Carmes at the Institut Catholique in Paris.
Ozanam was the leading historical and literary critic in the neo-Catholic movement in France during the first half of the 19th century. He was more learned, more sincere, and more logical than Chateaubriand; and less of a political partisan and less of a literary sentimentalist than Montalembert. In contemporary movements, he was an earnest and conscientious advocate of Catholic democracy and of the view that the Church should adapt itself to the changed political conditions consequent to the French Revolution.
In his writings he dwelt upon important contributions of historical Christianity, and maintained especially that, in continuing the work of the Caesars, the Catholic Church had been the most potent factor in civilizing the invading barbarians and in organizing the life of the Middle Ages. He confessed that his object was to prove the contrary thesis to Edward Gibbon, and, although any historian who begins with the desire to prove a thesis is quite sure to go more or less wrong, Ozanam no doubt administered a healthful antidote to the prevalent notion, particularly amongst English-speaking peoples, that the Catholic Church had done far more to enslave than to elevate the human mind. His knowledge of medieval literature and his appreciative sympathy with medieval life admirably qualified him for his work, and his scholarly attainments are still highly esteemed.
His works were published in eleven volumes (Paris, 1862–1865). They include:
- Deux chanceliers d'Angleterre, Bacon de Verulam et Saint Thomas de Cantorbéry (Paris, 1836)
- Dante et la philosophie catholique au XIIIeme siècle (Paris, 1839; 2nd ed., enlarged 1845)
- Études germaniques (2 vols., Paris, 1847–1849), translated by A. C. Glyn as History of Civilization in the Fifth Century (London, 1868)
- Documents inédits pour servir a l'histoire de l'Italie depuis le VIIIeme siècle jusqu'au XIIeme (Paris, 1850)
- Les poètes franciscains en Italie au XIIIme sicle (Paris, 1852)
- His letters were partly translated into English by A. Coates (London, 1886).
- Gérard Cholvy, Frédéric Ozanam, l'engagement d'un intellectuel catholique au XIXe siècle. Paris : Fayard, 2004, 783 p. Prix Roland de Jouvenel (ISBN : 2-213-61482-2).
- There are French biographies of Ozanam by his brother, C.A. Ozanam (Paris, 1882); Mme E. Humbert (Paris, 1880); C. Huit (Paris, 1882); M. de Lambel (Paris, 1887); L. Curnier (Paris, 1888); and B. Faulquier (Paris, 1903)
- German biographies by F.X. Karker (Paderborn, 1867) and E. Hardy (Mainz, 1878)
- An interesting English biography by Miss K. O'Meara (Edinburgh, 1867; 2nd ed., London, 1878)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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