On August 22, 1997, during the XIIth World Youth Day, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam was beatified — declared “Blessed” — by Pope John Paul II at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, where Frédéric was the primary founder of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society.
Frédéric has been revered as an exemplar of the lay apostle in family, social and intellectual life. The work he began with the Conferences of St. Vincent de Paul has continued to flourish. At his death, the membership already numbered about 15,000 in 18 countries. Today the Society of St. Vincent De Paul (SSVP) numbers over 750,000, serving the poor in 142 countries– a living monument to Frédéric Ozanam and his companions!
In the Spring of 1853, the Ozanams moved to a seaside cottage at Leghorn, Italy, on the Mediterranean, where Frédéric spent his last days peacefully. Though not fearing death, he expressed the wish to die on French soil, so his brothers came to assist him and his family to Marseilles where Frédéric died on September 8, 1853.
During the academic year 1851-52, Ozanam barely managed to get through his teaching responsibilities as a complete breakdown of his health was in progress. The doctors ordered him to surrender his teaching duties at the Sorbonne and he again went with his family to Southern Europe for rest. It did not deter him, however, from continuing to promote the work of the Conferences.
When the Revolution of 1848 broke out, Ozanam served briefly and reluctantly in the National Guard. Later he made a belated and unsuccessful bid for election to the National Assembly at the insistence of friends. This was followed by a short and stormy effort at publishing a liberal Catholic journal called The New Era (L’Ere Nouvelle) which was aimed at securing justice for the poor and working classes. This evoked the ire of conservative Catholics and the consternation of some of Ozanam’s friends for seeming to side with the Church’s enemies.
All during this time, Ozanam, who had never enjoyed robust health, found his work-load increasing between the teaching, writing and work with the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1846 he was named to the Legion of Honor. But at this time his health broke down and he was forced to take a year’s rest in Italy where he continued his research.
One of Frédéric’s role models, Père Lacordaire, was on his way to Rome to join the Dominicans. For a while, Ozanam considered joining him, but under the guidance of Abbe Noirot and considering his commitment to the work of the Conference of Charity which were multiplying around France, he decided against pursuing a life of celibacy and the cloister. After years of hesitation concerning marriage, Frédéric was introduced by his old friend and guide, Abbe Noirot, to Amelie Soulacroix, the daughter of the rector of the Lyons Academy. They married on June 23, 1841, and spent an extended honeymoon in Italy during which he continued his research.
In 1839 he was given a chair of Commercial Law at Lyon where his lectures received wide acclaim and where, after an offer to assume a chair of Philosophy at Orléans, he was asked to lecture also on Foreign Literature at Lyon which enabled him to support his mother. She died early in 1840, leaving him quite unsettled about his future.