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Deeds of Love!

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Frederic Ozanam was a Frenchman whose life of only forty years ended in 1853. But what he started has bloomed and helped millions of people for 190 years. 

The France in which he lived remained torn as a result of the French Revolution in the late 1700s. The Roman Catholic Church had suffered the loss, not only of property and power, but of many lives, and its leadership had become reactionary. 

As a result, the Church, and even Christianity itself, was treated with distrust by the working class and with disdain by many intellectuals.

Ozanam was in his late teens when he arrived at the University of Paris to study law. He was appalled to encounter there an atmosphere of bitter hostility to the Christian faith. With a number of his fellow students, he formed a study circle in order to present a positive intellectual witness to their faith. 

The group engaged in many debates and public controversies on behalf of Christianity. Then one day, a student threw at Ozanam this derisive challenge: “You Christians are fine at arguing, but what do you ever do?”

It was in that moment that young Frederic Ozanam was struck by a basic insight: Christianity is not about ideas, but about deeds inspired by love. His fine arguments were useless unless they were validated by how he lived his life. 

He resolved to start a fellowship of Christian lay people who would immerse themselves in the world of the poor and perform acts of service at personal sacrifice. This fellowship became the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

In making this commitment, Frederic Ozanam died to himself. He picked up his cross, and followed after Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. So pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matt. 9:37-38.

Thanks to Charles Hoffacker for sharing this.  Thanks to Arvind Shakya for the photo. 

It is now 190 years since Frederic Ozanam founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Many Catholic parishes throughout the whole world have St. Vincent de Paul Societies who respond to many individual and community needs – disaster relief services, job training and placement, thrift stores, food pantries, housing programs, prison reentry, medical services and many others.  

The goal of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is always to seek long-term pathways out of poverty so every person will flourish in life. Your parish may have a Society. You might want to help. If your parish does not have a St. Vincent de PaulSociety, you might want to help start one.

Blessed Sacrament Parish down the road from me here in Ft. Lauderdale has a wonderful St. Vincent de Paul Society. Its Food Pantry served over 811 clients during the month of August, 2023 and 2,392 people had food and nourishment as a result. Additional help was given for utility bills, bus passes, gift cards and partial rent payments.

Check out YOUR local Vincent de Paul Society and do get involved!  What YOU get involved with today may well live 190 years after YOU are gone from this earth!!


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