In Canada we hold as our Vincentian patroness Our Lady of the Assumption is celebrated on August 15. It is not known if that is the actual day of death of Our Lady, and perhaps is not as important as Vincentians spending time in intercessory prayer to Our Lady as a great role model for our times.
Devotion to Mary, the mother of God, was part of Frederic Ozanam’s life from childhood to death. He sought her intercession often. You might wonder why I have put Our Lady in the History section. Nowhere in his writings does Frederic Ozanam speak of a theology or a spirituality of Mary, the Mother of God but what does come forth loud and clear is, his devotion to Mary. Devotions to Mary have been a part of our Vincentian meeting prayers for many years and seem to have waned in the last few decades. When Frederic’s body was exhumed the first time, a rosary was found with him. If you read the stories of the History of Ozanam and examine the letters he wrote you will see a great love, respect and devotion to Our Lady. Frederic’s devotion to Mary was directed particularly, but not exclusively, to the patroness of his city of Lyon. His personal devotion to Mary was shown early in his life, and reappeared in various forms at different decades.
Frederic’s devotion to Mary was shown as a teenager in his poetry. One of his favorite subjects was the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When he was in his early twenty’s, while kneeling at her altar, he prayed and later wrote to a friend: “I have made a resolution of more complete moral reform during my remaining two years in the capital. I place my intentions under the auspices of our Divine Mother, trusting for the rest to my good will!” (Baunard, Correspondence, p. 98)
Frederic was thirty-two years old when his daughter was born. He considered her birth a response to the blessing and intercession of the Mother of God. He named his little girl, Marie after her mother and the Blessed Virgin. Frederic wrote in 1845, about her birth, “We have called her Marie, which is her mother’s name, as well as that of the powerful protector to whose intercession we attribute this happy birth.”
In the last year of his life, Frederic, while traveling with his family, made a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Buglosse, a shrine near the birthplace of his patron, St. Vincent de Paul. Later that same year, on the feast of the Assumption, Frederic, close to death, insisted on walking to church. He attended Mass and received Holy Communion. He said, “It may be my last walk in this world, and I desire that it shall be to pay a visit to my God, and His Blessed Mother” (Baunard, Correspondence, P. 400).
Frederic died on the feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8, 1853. It seems very appropriate that Frederic die on this day, as he paid great homage and devotion to her all of his life. (Blessed Frederic Ozanam’s feast day, which would normally be September 8, the day of his death, is celebrated the day after on September 9, as of September 1997.)
These are only a few statements and pieces of information you may glean on Frederic’s devotion to Mary. We celebrate her Feast day in the Society of Canada, on the Feast of the Assumption, on August 15, and so I conclude she is part of our Vincentian History.Our first President of Western Region, Don Hunter, has asked us to bring Mary back to our Conferences. Her love of her Son Jesus, her obedience to God’s call and her gentleness can be embedded in us and our meetings.