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Love and Politics: The Revolutionary Frederic Ozanam

David Lovell Publishing, 2007

Love and Politics is a short but interesting book about Frederick Ozanam, co-founder of the St Vincent de Paul Society. Ozanam lived at one of the most tumultuous time in European history and played an active part in the church and politics at the time of the barricades in Paris in 1848-9.

While in Paris to study, Ozanam could not help but see the squalor and misery caused by poverty on the streets. Distressed by this suffering he gathered fellow students together and formed a small association devoted to charitable works, which later became the St Vincent de Paul Society. He went on to earn two doctorates, and teach law in the university. He founded a magazine engaged in both political and religious debate and stood, unsuccessfully, for parliament.

In all of this though, his faith was central. Ozanam had a lifelong devotion to the Church and maintained respect for its authority throughout his short life, yet he also recognised that his faith spoke keenly into the politics of the day, and the struggles of the poor. He saw that we must always expect governments to be just and committed to the good of all citizens, and we must always challenge them to be loving.

Honner uses Ozanam’s story to draw parallels with current issues faced by faith based charities in Australia today, suggesting that the relationships between state, business, churches and poverty are just as complex and conflicted now as they were in Ozanam’s time.

Reviewed by Karyl Davison, Rural Ministry Coordinator, Central Queensland & Mary Burnett Presbyteries