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Frederic Ozanam

Frederic recognized the responsibility and the potential of the Church to be a true leavening force within society. He called his associates to works of charity and justice. His words, while spoken in the 19th century, speak with relevance and challenge at the millennium.

Charity and Justice

The order of society is based on two virtues: justice and charity. However, justice presupposes a lot of love already, for one needs to love a man a great deal in order to respect his rights, which limit our rights, and his liberty, which hampers our liberty. Justice has its limits whereas charity knows none.

Charity is the Samaritan who pours oil on the wounds of the traveler who has been attacked. It is justice's role to prevent the attack.

Charity must never look to the past, but always to the future, because the number of its past works is still very small and the present and future miseries that it must alleviate are infinite.

Rights of Workers

Exploitation occurs when the master considers his workers not as a partner nor even as an assistant, but as an instrument out of which he must extract as much service as possible at the smallest possible price. Yet the exploitation of a man by another man is slavery. The worker-machine is nothing more than part of capital like the slaves of the ancients. Service becomes servitude.

Research and Advocacy for the Poor

We must investigate doctrine and measures which would aim at guaranteeing for workers a correct proportion between labor and rest ... and a pension for their old age.

Social Structures and the Role of Youth

The problem which divides people today is not a political problem; it is a social one. It is a matter of knowing which will get the upper hand, the spirit of selfishness or the spirit of sacrifice; whether society will go for ever-increasing enjoyment and profit, or for everyone devoting themselves to the common good ... Many people have too much and still want more. Others do not have enough, or do not have anything at all, and they want to take by force what is not being given to them. A war is threatening between these two groups. On one side, the power of wealth, on the other the force of desperation. We must get in between these two groups, at least to reduce the impact if we cannot stop it. Because we are young; because we are not wealthy, we can more easily fill the role of mediators.

In Frederic's theological vision, the Church (one, holy, catholic and apostolic) had to be thoroughly in, though not of, the world. "We are not blessed with two separate lives ... one for seeking the truth and the other for putting it into practice."


One only means of salvation remains to us, that is, that Christians, in the name of love, interpose between the two camps (of rich and poor) passing like beneficent deserters from one to the other ... communicating mutual charity to all, until this charity, paralyzing and stifling the egotism of both parties, and every day lessening their antipathies, shall bid the two camps arise and break down the barriers of prejudice, and cast aside their weapons of anger and march forth to meet each other, not to fight but to mingle together in one embrace, so that they may form but one fold under one pastor.


Will we be satisfied to lament the barrenness of the present time, when each bears in his heart a germ of holiness, which a simple desire would be sufficient to develop? It we do not know how to love God as the saints did, it is because we see God with the eyes of faith alone, and faith is so weak. But the poor we see with the eyes of flesh. They are present. We can put our fingers and our hands into their wounds, the marks of the crown of thorns are plainly visible on their heads. There is no place for unbelief here ... You poor are the visible image of the God whom we do not see, but whom we love in loving you.


A Catholic university (Louvain) should be a cause of rejoicing to the Church, to see raised within her yet another monument to the immortal alliance of Science and Faith.


You have felt the emptiness of material pleasures, you have felt the hunger for truth crying out within you; you have gone for light and comfort to the barren philosophy of modern apostles. You have not found food for your souls there. The religion of your forefathers appears before you today with full hands; do not turn away, for it is generous. It also, like you, is young. It does not grow old with the world. Ever renewing itself, it keeps pace with progress, and it alone leads to perfection.

Food for Thought

A Catholic university is called to become an evermore effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society. Included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level.

Pope John Paul II,
Ex Corde Ecclesiae (32)