SVdP Founder Frederic Ozanam - A Man Ahead of His Times
As a 20 year-old law student in Paris, Frederic Ozanam (1813-1853) and a few fellow law students founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which quickly grew throughout Europe and today is one of the largest charities in the world (with more than a million members on all continents). Later, as a lawyer and professor of commercial law and of literature at the University of Paris,
Ozanam was the first to conceptualize and elucidate the natural wage, drawing from Catholic Social Teaching, principally via St. Thomas Aquinas, regarding the common good. His work became an important platform for the first labor encyclical on the rights of workers, issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.
Ozanam was an exemplary Catholic scholar and eloquent public intellectual. He fearlessly championed workers’ rights, and his concept of the natural wage took root in the great labor encyclicals and in secular wage legislation that continue to resonate today in living wage initiatives.
He was, however, that rarest of intellectuals, serving, directly and personally, and throughout his entire adult life, the immediate needs of the poor.
He remains an important role model for those striving to build the good society, coupling academic and intellectual insight with direct, personal action.