Two Holy Laymen – Part X

Frédéric Ozanam was a founder; Jan Tyranowski was a spiritual mentor of Karol Wojtyła



Before we turn to recent years, I’ll add one more lay Blessed to the last blog’s “Lay Saints ‘In the Pipeline'”:

  • Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853) was a lawyer who founded the lay St. Vincent de Paul Society. He had 13 siblings but only two of them survived to adulthood. He was married and had a daughter. (His wife, Marie-Josephine-Amélie Soulacroix, was only 32 at his death. She never remarried but engaged in works of charity.)

Before Ozanam’s 1997 beatification, a Vincentian priest published a work describing his canonization process to help the vowed members of the Vincentians world-wide to understand the layman Ozanam and the Society he founded:

The Constitutions of the Congregation of the Mission recommend that “lay associations founded by St. Vincent and those which are inspired by his spirit should be of special concern to our members, since they have the right to our presence and to our support.” On 30 June 1995, Reverend Robert P. Maloney, C.M., superior general of the Congregation, hosted a meeting of communities and organizations which share the Vincentian spirit to examine how they may work together and help each other. The Conferences of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul [SSVP] surely deserve support of the entire family of Saint Vincent. In recent years members of the SSVP have invited Vincentians to share Vincentian spirituality with them. Getting to know Frederick Ozanam will help us appreciate how the Vincentian charism was, and can be, lived by lay people in today’s world. Acquaintance with the history of the cause for canonization may assist us in this goal. (Rev. William W. Sheldon, C.M., “Canonization of Frederick Ozanam: History of the Cause,” Vincentian Heritage Journal, vol. 17, no. 1 (Spring 1996) footnotes omitted).

Now let’s take a systematic, chronological look at who is in the “pipeline” for canonization by reviewing all the decisions made by Pope Francis on 28 occasions between January 2017 and May 2020 recognizing martyrdom, miracles, and heroic virtues. Such papal actions were taken with respect to 371 people, 176 of whom were martyrs. Of the 195 non-martyrs, 157 were priests (or pope, cardinal, bishop) or religious men or women; 76 (again, about half) of these 157 were founders or foundresses of religious Orders. Thirty were laypeople. One of the 30, Pietro Di Vitale, was a seminarian at time of death. The numbers are off by four or five because I couldn’t identify their names or status. As best as I can determine, only four of the 30 laypersons were married and three of the four had children:

  • Jan. 20, 2017 – Pope Francis advances eight people: 7 priests or religious, two of whom were founders. Amazingly, there were two diocesan priests who were not founders. The sole layperson in this group was Jan Tyranowski (1901-1947), declared Venerable; he was an accountant-turned-tailor, who never married.

Before Karol Wojtyła, the future St. Pope John Paul II, entered seminary, Tyranowski was his mentor in the spiritual life as a leader of “Living Rosary” groups of 15 young men each. Following the papal decree of January 2017, George Weigel wrote:

In a memorial essay written after Tyranowski’s death in 1947, Wojtyła remembered his spiritual mentor’s greatest lesson: that “religious truths” were not “interdictions [or] limitations,” but the guideposts by which to form “a life which through mercy becomes [a] participation in the life of God.” How did Jan Tyranowski do this? By demonstrating with his own life that, through contemplative prayer, “one could not only inquire about God…one could live with God.” (George Weigel, “A Papal Tutor of Heroic Virtue,” Catholic World Report, Feb. 1, 2017.)

Father Roger J. Landry wrote:

John Paul, who retained a picture of him [Tyranowski] in his bedroom for the rest of his life, said about him, “He was one of those unknown saints [who]… disclosed to me the riches of his inner life, of his mystical life. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given to God alone, he represented a new world that I did not yet know. I saw the beauty of a soul opened up by grace.” (Rev. Roger J. Landry, “The Beauty of a Soul Opened Up by Grace,” Integrated Catholic Life, Feb. 21, 2017,  reprinted from The Anchor [Diocese of Fall River, Mass.], Jan. 27, 2017. The quotation of the Pope originated in interviews of him in 1982 and appeared in Pope John Paul II and Andre Frossard, Be Not Afraid: Pope John Paul II Speaks Out on His Life, His Beliefs, and His Inspiring Vision for Humanity, 1984.)

Clearly, as I wrote in an earlier blog, Pope Saint John Paul II had received the grace to recognize holiness in laypeople.

The next installment will start with Pope Francis’s decree of February 27, 2017.


***Editor’s Note: For Part XI in this series, click here


James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

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