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Paris in the early 19th century was in the grip of great upheaval. During and following the French revolution 1788 – 1799, Paris was profoundly affected by social unrest. In 1832 an epidemic of cholera swept through the city, killing 1200 people each day. Large slum areas were formed in Paris and thousands of people lived without any work and starvation and homelessness were common throughout the city. A young man born in Milan in 1813 from a middle class family was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris and in the evening he liked to sit with friends and over a glass or two of wine, they would discuss the burning issues of the day. He then formed a religious discussion group, which had weekly meetings, where they would have bible readings and study the Gospels and their meanings.
One day they were discussing the poor and their needs, when the young man who was called Frederic Ozanam, pointed out that no-one seemed to care about the poor and needy and nothing was being done to help them. Standing up he declared, “The blessing of the poor is the blessing of God so let us go and administer to them.” His friends and fellow students responded with great enthusiasm and under his leadership they sought out people in need and helped them with food and clothing. Their good works soon spread and aided by some of the more wealthy students and their families who helped to fund their actions, this small group snowballed into a formidable movement.
The Society of St Vincent de Paul was thus founded in 1833 and cares for the needy and downcast in nearly every Catholic parish, in every country in the world.
Frederic Ozanam died in 1853, worn out and exhausted at only forty years old, but what a legacy this young man left behind. Frederic was beatified in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
“For truly, I say to you whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ; will by no means lose his reward.”
Published Fri 4th Apr 2014 10:47:17