THE more I learn about the life of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, the more this young man who started the St Vincent de Paul Society back in 1833 continues to impress me.
Frederic was constantly challenged by those around him, yet he never gave up.
He was often overcome with difficulties and criticism, but never wavered in his desire to reach out to those in need.
Not only did people doubt his ability to live his faith in action, many at the time criticised the impact that a few men could have on making a difference to the poverty that surrounded them in Paris in the 1830s.
Yet in the face of such criticism, Frederic didn’t seek to win people over with his words, but rather with his actions.
The highly-intelligent young lawyer did not seek to enter into verbal debate to defend his position, but rather showed people with his life that simple acts of kindness to those in need could evoke lasting change.
Frederic wasn’t perfect in his service of the poor.
He was often cheated and became frustrated when those he sought to assist didn’t want to help themselves.
There is a story of how a man whom Frederic had previously helped, and for whom he had obtained employment, betrayed the confidence Frederic had placed in him.
Having fallen into destitution again the man returned to ask for help.
Frederic lost his temper, turned him out and told him never to return.
The man had hardly left when Frederic reflected on what he had done, called him back and showed compassion to assist him again.
The life of Frederic is still relevant for us in 2019.
In whatever way we serve, it is sometimes easy to become discouraged.
It is sometimes easy to think that the difference we try to make will never be enough to impact on never-ending needs of those we assist.
It is sometimes easy to get frustrated when people take advantage of us or misuse our charity.
Yet as we celebrated the Feast of Blessed Frederic Ozanam, we are reminded that the way that we would truly make a difference was not through our words, but through our actions.
Each one of us have an important role to play in carrying on the mission and vision of Frederic Ozanam in the 21st century.
Let us never lose sight of our opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world, conscious that we can be a light in the darkness of people’s lives by doing our part to carry on the mission of Frederic Ozanam.
Sr Melissa Dwyer is the State Spiritual Advisor to the St Vincent de Paul Society