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aozanamEvery once in awhile I am pleasantly surprised by what I find as I begin my routine of blogging. My first stop is always the US Catholic Bishops’ website (www.usccb.org) which provides me with the lectionary readings for the day. Next I check Fr. Don Miller’s information about the holy person whose designated feast the Roman Catholic Church celebrates on that particular day (www.franciscanmedia.org). I do check into the thoughts floating in my own mind as well but always like to have some backup in case of “brain freeze.” And as most of you know, my “backup” stretches to many other sources as well.

This morning I was interested to find a “saint of the day” – the second in a week – whose story I had never heard. This man on the way to canonization, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, is credited with the founding of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1833. Although he was a stranger to me, his organization is not. My sister has a very active “chapter” of this society in her parish and she herself has become very involved in the Thrift Store that is integral to the work of the society for the benefit of the poor. This  work can be found in many countries in the world and is extraordinary in its reach.

God speaks in many ways at different times and it is always important to be attentive to when a word might be meant specifically for you – or me. It happened for Frederic Ozanam during a session of his book club one day. The club was a very diverse group of people including agnostics and atheists in addition to Christians. As he was speaking about Christianity’s role in civilization, someone said to Ozanam, “Let us be frank, Mr. Ozanam; let us also be very particular. What do you do besides talk to prove the faith you claim is in you?” In this question lay the seed of response that became the Society dedicated to justice and aid to the underprivileged under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul, great champion of the poor.

What Ozanam’s life would have become if that question had not been asked or if he had not taken its meaning to heart will never be known. Was it the directness of the question? the readiness of Ozanam’s spirit? his experience of life up to that point? Who knows? What is important is that he responded in a way that has changed lives over the past two centuries. A good example for all of us.