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Ontologism

(from on, ontos , being, and logos , science)

Ontologism is an ideological system which maintains that God and Divine ideas are the first object of our intelligence and the intuition of God the first act of our intellectual knowledge.

Exposition

Malebranche developed his theory of "la vision en Dieu" in different works, particularly "Recherche de la vérité", III, under the influence of Platonic and Cartesian philosophies, and of a misunderstanding of St. Augustine's and St. Thomas's principles on the origin and source of our ideas. It is also in large part the consequence of his theory of occasional causes (see OCCASIONALISM). Our true knowledge of things, he says, is the knowledge we have of them in their ideas. The ideas of things are present to our mind, endowed with the essential characteristics of universality, necessity, and eternity, and are not the result of intellectual elaboration or representations of things as they are, but the archetypes which concrete and temporal things realize. Ideas have their source and real existence in God ; they are the Divine essence itself, considered as the infinite model of all things. " God is the locus of our ideas, as space is the locus of bodies." God is then always really present to our mind ; we see all things, even material and concrete things, in Him, Who contains and manifests to our intelligence their nature and existence. Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-52) developed his Ontologism in "Introduzione allo studio della filosofia" (1840), I, iii; II, i. Our first act of intellectual knowledge is the intuitive judgment "ens creat existentias" (Being creates existences). By that act, he says, our mind apprehends directly and immediately in an intuitive synthesis;

  • being, not simply in general nor merely as ideal, but as necessary and real, viz., God ;
  • existences or contingent beings;
  • the relation which unites being and existences, viz., the creative act.
In this judgment being is the subject, existences the predicate, the creative act the copula. Our first intellectual perception is, therefore, an intuition of God, the first intelligible, as creating existences. This intuition is finite and is obtained by means of expressions or words ( la parola ). Thus the primum philosophicum includes both the primum ontologicum and the primum psychologicum , and the ordo sciendi is identified with the ordo rerum . This formula was accepted and defended by Orestes A. Brownson. (Cf. Brownson's Works, Detroit, 1882; I, "The Existence of God ", 267 sq.; "Schools of Philosophy, 296 sq.; "Primitive Elements of Thought", 418 sq. etc.)

Ontologism was advocated, under a more moderate form, by some Catholic philosophers of the nineteenth century. Maintaining against Malebranche that concrete material things are perceived by our senses, they asserted that our universal ideas endowed with the characteristics of necessity and eternity, and our notion of the infinite cannot exist except in God ; and they cannot therefore be known except by an intuition of God present to our mind and perceived by our intelligence not in His essence as such, but in His essence as the archetype of all things. Such is the Ontologism taught by C. Ubaghs, professor at Louvain, in "Essai d'idéologie ontologique" (Louvain, 1860); by Abbé L. Branchereau in "Prælectiones Philosophicæ"; by Abbé F. Hugonin in "Ontologie ou études des lois de la pensée" (Paris, 1856-7); by Abbé J. Fabre in "Défense de l'ontologisme"; by Carlo Vercellone , etc. We find also the fundamental principles of Ontologism in Rosmini's philosophy, although there have been many attempts to defend him against this accusation (cf. G. Morando, "Esame critico delle XL proposizione rosminiane condannate dalla S.R.U. inquisizione", Milan, 1905). According to Rosmini, the form of all our thoughts is being in its ideality ( l'essere ideale , l'essere iniziale ). The idea of being is innate in us and we perceive it by intuition. Altogether indetermined, it is neither God nor creature; it is an appurtenance of God, it is something of the Word ("Teosophia", I, n. 490; II, n. 848; cf. "Rosminianarum propositionum trutina theologica", Rome, 1892). At the origin and basis of every system of Ontologism, there are two principal reasons:

  • we have an idea of the infinite and this cannot be obtained through abstraction from finite beings, since it is not contained in them; it must, therefore, be innate in our mind and perceived through intuition ;
  • our concepts and fundamental judgments are endowed with the characteristics of universality, eternity, and necessity, e.g., our concept of man is applicable to an indefinite number of individual men; our principle of identity "whatever is, is", is true inn itself, necessarily and always.
  • Now such concepts and judgments cannot be obtained from any consideration of finite things which are particular, contingent, and temporal. Gioberti insists also on the fact that God being alone intelligible by Himself, we cannot have any intellectual knowledge of finite things independently of the knowledge of God ; that our knowledge to be truly scientific must follow the ontological, or real, order and therefore must begin with the knowledge of God, the first being and source of all existing beings. Ontologists appeal to the authority of the Fathers, especially St. Augustine and St. Thomas.

    Refutation

    From the philosophical point of view, the immediate intuition of God and of His Divine ideas, as held by Ontologists, is above the natural power of man's intelligence. We are not conscious, even by reflection, of the presence of God in our mind ; and, if we did have such an intuition we would find in it (as St. Thomas rightly remarks) the full satisfaction of all our aspirations, since we would know God in His essence (for the distinction between God in His essence and God as containing the ideas of things, as advanced by Ontologists, is arbitrary and cannot be more than logical ); error or doubt concerning God would be impossible. (Cf. St. Thom. in Lib. Boetii de Trinitate, Q. I, a. 3; de Veritate, Q. XVIII, a. 1.) Again, all our intellectual thoughts, even those concerning God, are accompanied by sensuous images; they are made of elements which may be applied to creatures as well as to God Himself; only in our idea of God and of His attributes, these elements are divested of the characteristics of imperfection and limit which they have in creatures, and assume the highest possible degree of perfection. In a word, our idea of God is not direct and proper; it is analogical (cf. GOD; ANALOGY). This shows that God is not known by intuition.

    The reasons advanced by Ontologists rest on confusion and false assumptions. The human mind has an idea of the infinite ; but this idea may be and in fact is, obtained from the notion of the finite, by the successive processes of abstraction, elimination, and transcendence. The notion of the finite is the notion of being having a certain perfection in a limited degree. By eliminating the element of limitation and conceiving the positive perfection as realized in its highest possible degree, we arrive at the notion of the infinite. We form in this way, a negativo-positive concept, as the Schoolmen say, of the infinite. It is true also that our ideas have the characteristics of necessity, universality, and eternity ; but these are essentially different from the attributes of God. God exists necessarily, viz., He is absolutely, and cannot not exist; our ideas are necessary in the sense that, when an object is conceived in its essence, independently of the concrete beings in which it is realized, it is a subject of necessary relations: man, if he exists, is necessarily a rational being. God is absolutely universal in the sense that He eminently possesses the actual fulness of all perfections; our ideas are universal in the sense that they are applicable to an indefinite number of concrete beings. God is eternal in the sense that He exists by Himself and always identical with Himself; our ideas are eternal in the sense that in their state of abstraction they are not determined by any special place in space or moment in time.

    It is true that God alone is perfectly intelligible in Himself, since He alone has in Himself the reason of His existence ; finite beings are intelligible in the very measure in which they exist. Having an existence distinct from that of God, they have also an intelligibility distinct from Him. And it is precisely because they are dependent in their existence that we conclude to the existence of God, the first intelligible. The assumption that the order of knowledge must follow the order of things, holds of absolute and perfect knowledge, not of all knowledge. It is sufficient for true knowledge that it affirm as real that which is truly real; the order of knowledge may be different from the order of reality. The confusion of certain Ontologists regarding the notion of being opens the way to Pantheism. Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas favours Ontologism. It is through a misunderstanding of their theories and of their expression that the Ontologist appeals to them. (Cf. St. August., "De civitate Dei", lib. X, XI; "De utilitate credendi", lib. 83, cap. XVI, Q. xlv, etc.; St. Thomas, "Summa Theol.", I, Q. ii, a. 11; Q. lxxxiv-lxxxviii; "Qq. disp., de Veritate", Q. xvi, a. l; Q. xi, "De magistro", a. 3, etc.)

    The Condemnation of Ontologism by the Church

    The Council of Vienna (1311-12) had already condemned the doctrine of the Begards who maintained that we can see God by our natural intelligence. On 18 September, 1861, seven propositions of the Ontologists, concerning the immediate and the innate knowledge of God, being, and the relation of finite things to God, were declared by the Holy Office tuto tradi non posse (cf. Denzinger -Bannwart, nn. 1659-65). The same congregation, in 1862, pronounced the same censure against fifteen propositions by Abbé Branchereau, subjected to its examination, two of which (xii and xiii) asserted the existence of an innate and direct perception of ideas, and the intuition of God by the human mind. In the Vatican Council, Cardinals Pecci and Sforza presented a postulatum for an explicit condemnation of Ontologism. On 14 December, 1887 the Holy Office reproved, condemned, and proscribed forty propositions extracted from the works of Rosmini, in which the principles of Ontologism are contained (cf. Denzinger -Bannwart, nn. 1891-1930).

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    Opening Prayer (in the Mass)

    The name now used only for short prayers before the Epistle in the Mass, which occur again at ...

    Ophir

    Ophir, in the Bible , designates a people and a country. The people, for whom a Semitic ...

    Oporto

    (Portucalensis) Diocese in Portugal ; comprising 26 civil concelhos of the districts of ...

    Oppenordt, Gilles-Marie

    (Oppenord) Born in Paris, 1672; died there, 1742; a celebrated rococo artist, known as "the ...

    Oppido Mamertina

    Diocese ; suffragan of Reggio Calabria, Italy, famous for its prolonged resistance to Roger ...

    Optatus, Saint

    Bishop of Milevis, in Numidia, in the fourth century. He was a convert, as we gather from St. ...

    Optimism

    Optimism (Latin optimus , best) may be understood as a metaphysical theory, or as an emotional ...

    Option, Right of

    In canon law an option is a way of obtaining a benefice or a title, by the choice of the new ...

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    Or 60

    Oracle

    ( oraculum; orare , to speak). A Divine communication given at a special place through ...

    Oran

    (ORANENSIS). Diocese in Algiers, separated from the Archdiocese of Algiers, 26 July, 1866, to ...

    Orange Free State

    The Orange Free State, one of the four provinces of the Union of South Africa, lies between ...

    Orange River

    (also the PREFECTURE APOSTOLIC OF GREAT NAMAQUALAND) Located in South Africa. The vicariate was ...

    Orange, Councils of

    Two councils were held at Orange (Arausio), a town in the present department of Vaucluse in ...

    Orans

    (Orante) Among the subjects depicted in the art of the Roman catacombs one of those most ...

    Orate Fratres

    The exhortation (" Pray brethren that my sacrifice and yours be acceptable to God the Father ...

    Oratorio

    As at present understood, an Oratorio is a musical composition for solo voices, chorus, orchestra, ...

    Oratory

    (Latin oratorium , from orare , to pray ) As a general term, Oratory signifies a place ...

    Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, The

    Under this head are included the Italian, Spanish, English, and other communities, which follow ...

    Oratory, French Congregation of the

    Founded in Paris at the beginning of the seventeenth century by Cardinal Pierre de ...

    Orbellis, Nicolas d'

    Franciscan theologian and philosopher, Scotist ; born about 1400; died at Rome, 1475. He seems ...

    Orcagna

    (The conventional name in art history of A NDREA DI C IONE , also called A RCAGNUOLO or A ...

    Orcistus

    Titular see in Galatia Secunda. It is only mentioned in Peutinger's "Table". An inscription of ...

    Ordeals

    ( Iudicium Dei ; Anglo-Saxon, ordâl ; German Urteil ). Ordeals were a means of ...

    Ordericus Vitalis

    Historian, b. 1075; d. about 1143. He was the son of an English mother and a French priest who ...

    Orders, Holy

    Order is the appropriate disposition of things equal and unequal, by giving each its proper place ...

    Orders, The Military

    Including under this term every kind of brotherhood of knights, secular as well as religious, ...

    Ordinariate

    (From Ordinary ). This term is used in speaking collectively of all the various organs ...

    Ordinary

    ( Latin ordinarius , i. e., judex ) An Ordinary in ecclesiastical language, denotes any ...

    Ordines Romani

    The word Ordo commonly meant, in the Middle Ages, a ritual book containing directions for ...

    Oregon

    One of the Pacific Coast States, seventh in size among the states of the Union (1910). It received ...

    Oregon City

    (OREGONOPOLITAN). Includes that part of the state of Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains, ...

    Oremus

    Invitation to pray, said before collects and other short prayers and occurring continually in ...

    Orense

    (AURIENSIS) A suffragan of Compostela, includes nearly all of the civil Province of Orense, ...

    Oresme, Nicole

    Philosopher, economist, mathematician, and physicist, one of the principal founders of modern ...

    Organ

    (Greek organon , "an instrument") A musical instrument which consists of one or several sets ...

    Organic Articles, The

    A name given to a law regulating public worship, comprising 77 articles relative to Catholicism, ...

    Oria

    (URITANA) Oria, in the Province of Lecce [now the Province of Brindisi -- Ed. ], Apulia, ...

    Oriani, Barnaba

    Italian Barnabite and astronomer, b. at Carignano, near Milan, 17 July, 1752; d. at Milan, 12 ...

    Oriental Study and Research

    In the broadest sense of the term, Oriental study comprises the scientific investigation and ...

    Orientation of Churches

    According to Tertullian the Christians of his time were, by some who concerned themselves with ...

    Orientius

    Christian Latin poet of the fifth century. He wrote an elegiac poem ( Commonitorium ) of 1036 ...

    Oriflamme

    In verses 3093-5 of the "Chanson de Roland" (eleventh century) the oriflamme is mentioned as a ...

    Origen and Origenism

    I. LIFE AND WORK OF ORIGEN A. BIOGRAPHY Origen, most modest of writers, hardly ever alludes to ...

    Original Sin

    I. Meaning II. Principal Adversaries III. Original Sin in ScriptureIV. Original Sin in ...

    Orihuela

    DIOCESE OF ORIHUELA (ORIOLENSIS, ORIOLANA). The Diocese of Orihuela comprises all the civil ...

    Oriol, Saint Joseph

    Priest, "Thaumaturgus of Barcelona", b. at Barcelona, 23 November, 1650; d. there, 23 March, ...

    Oristano

    Diocese of Oristano (Arborensis) in Sardinia. Oristano was the capital of the giudicatura ...

    Orkneys

    A group of islands situated between 58° 41' and 59° 24' N. lat. and 2° 22' and 3° ...

    Orléans

    (AURELIANUM) This Diocese comprises the Department of Loiret, suffragan of Paris since 1622, ...

    Orléans, Councils of

    Six national councils were held at Orléans in the Merovingian period. I. — At the ...

    Orlandini, Niccolò

    Born at Florence, 1554; died 1606 at Rome, 17 May. He entered the Jesuit novitiate 7 Nov., ...

    Orley, Barent Van

    (Bernard) Painter, b. at Brussels, about 1491; d. there 6 January, 1542. He studied under ...

    Orme, Philibert de l'

    An architect, born about 1512; died 1570. His style, classical and of the more severe Italian ...

    Oropus

    Titular see, suffragan of Anazarbus in Cilicia Secunda. It never really depended on Anazarbus ...

    Orosius, Paulus

    Historian and Christian apologist ; b. probably at Bracara, now Braga, in Portugal, between 380 ...

    Orphans and Orphanages

    The death of one or both parents makes the child of the very poor a ward of the community. The ...

    Orsi, Giuseppe Agostino

    A cardinal, theologian, and ecclesiastical historian, born at Florence, 9 May, 1692, of an ...

    Orsini

    One of the most ancient and distinguished families of the Roman nobility, whose members often ...

    Orsisius

    ( Arsisios , Oresiesis-Heru-sa Ast) Egyptian monk of the fourth century; was a disciple ...

    Ortelius, Abraham

    (OERTEL) A cartographer, geographer, and archeologist, born in Antwerp, 4 April, 1527; died ...

    Orthodox Church

    The technical name for the body of Christians who use the Byzantine Rite in various languages ...

    Orthodoxy

    Orthodoxy ( orthodoxeia ) signifies right belief or purity of faith. Right belief is not ...

    Orthodoxy, Feast of

    (or SUNDAY) The first Sunday of the Great Forty days ( Lent ) in the Byzantine Calendar ...

    Orthosias

    A titular see of Phœnicia Prima, suffragan of Tyre. The city is mentioned for the first ...

    Ortolano Ferrarese

    Painter of the Ferrara School, b. in Ferrara, about 1490; d. about 1525. His real name was ...

    Orval

    (Aurea Vallis, Gueldenthal). Formerly a Cistercian abbey in Belgian Luxemburg, Diocese of ...

    Orvieto

    DIOCESE OF ORVIETO (URBEVETANA) Diocese in Central Italy. The city stands on a rugged mass of ...

    Ory, Matthieu

    Inquisitor and theologian, b. at La Caune, 1492; d. at Paris, 1557. Entering the Dominican ...

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    Os 22

    Osaka

    (Osachensis). Osaka ( Oye , great river; saka , cliff), one of the three municipal ...

    Osbald

    King of Northumbria, d. 799. Symeon of Durham (Historia Regum) tells us that when Ecfwald, a ...

    Osbaldeston, Edward, Venerable

    English martyr, b. about 1560; hanged, drawn, and quartered at York, 16 November, 1594. Son of ...

    Osbern

    Hagiographer, sometimes confused with Osbert de Clare alias Osbern de Westminster, b. at ...

    Oscott (St. Mary's College)

    In 1793, a number of the Catholic nobility and gentry of England formed a committee for the ...

    Osee

    NAME AND COUNTRY Osee (Hôsheá‘– Salvation ), son of Beeri, was one of ...

    Osimo

    DIOCESE OF OSIMO (AUXIMANA). Diocese in the Province of Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Osimo was ...

    Oslo, Ancient See of

    (ASLOIA, ASLOENSIS.) Oslo occupied part of the site of Christiania (founded 1624). After the ...

    Osma

    (OXOMENSIS) The Diocese borders Burgos and Logroño on the north, Soria and Saragossa ...

    Osmund, Saint

    Bishop of Salisbury, died 1099; his feast is kept on 4 December. Osmund held an exalted ...

    Osnabrück

    (OSNABRUGENSIS) This diocese, directly subject to the Holy See, comprises, in the Prussian ...

    Ossat, Arnaud d'

    French cardinal, diplomat, and writer, b. at Larroque-Magnoac (Gascony), 20 July, 1537; d. at ...

    Ossory, Diocese of

    (Ossoriensis.) In the Province of Leinster, Ireland, is bounded on the south by the Suir, on ...

    Ostensorium

    (From ostendere , "to show"). Ostensorium means, in accordance with its etymology, a ...

    Ostia and Velletri

    SUBURBICARIAN DIOCESE OF OSTIA AND VELLETRI (OSTIENSIS ET VELITERNENSIS). Near Rome, central ...

    Ostiensis

    Surname of LEO MARSICANUS, Benedictine chronicler, b. about 1045; d. 22 May, 1115, 1116, or ...

    Ostracine

    Titular see and suffragan of Pelusium in Augustamnica prima. Pliny (Hist. naturalis, V, xiv) ...

    Ostraka, Christian

    Inscriptions on clay, wood, metal, and other hard materials. Like papyri, they are valuable ...

    Ostrogoths

    One of the two chief tribes of the Goths, a Germanic people. Their traditions relate that the ...

    Oswald, Saint

    Archbishop of York, d. on 29 February, 992. Of Danish parentage, Oswald was brought up by his ...

    Oswald, Saint

    King and martyr ; b., probably, 605; d. 5 Aug., 642; the second of seven brothers, sons of ...

    Oswin, Saint

    King and martyr, murdered at Gilling, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England, on 20 August, 651, ...

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    Ot 16

    Otfried of Weissenburg

    He is the oldest German poet known by name, author of the "Evangelienbuch", a rhymed version of ...

    Othlo

    (OTLOH) A Benedictine monk of St. Emmeran's, Ratisbon, born 1013 in the Diocese of ...

    Othmar, Saint

    (Audomar.) Died 16 Nov., 759, on the island of Werd in the Rhine, near Echnez, Switzerland. ...

    Otho, Marcus Salvius

    Roman emperor, successor, after Galba, of Nero, b. in Rome, of an ancient Etruscan family ...

    Otranto

    ARCHDIOCESE OF OTRANTO (HYDRUNTINA). Otranto is a city of the Province of Lecce, Apulia, ...

    Ottawa, Archdiocese of

    Archdiocese of Ottawa (Ottawiensis). The Archdiocese of Ottawa, in Canada, originally ...

    Ottawa, University of

    Conducted by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate ; founded in 1848. It was incorporated in 1849 under ...

    Otto I, the Great

    Roman emperor and German king, b. in 912; d. at Memleben, 7 May, 973; son of Henry I and his ...

    Otto II

    King of the Germans and Emperor of Rome, son of Otto I and Adelaide, b. 955; d. in Rome, 7 ...

    Otto III

    German king and Roman emperor, b. 980; d. at Paterno, 24 Jan., 1002. At the age of three he was ...

    Otto IV

    German king and Roman emperor, b. at Argentau (Dept. of Orne), c. 1182; d. 19 May, 1218; son of ...

    Otto of Freising

    Bishop and historian, b. between 1111 and 1114, d. at Morimond, Champagne, France, 22 ...

    Otto of Passau

    All we know of him is in the preface of his work, in which he calls himself a member of the ...

    Otto of St. Blasien

    Chronicler, b. about the middle of the twelfth century; d. 23 July, 1223, at St. Blasien in the ...

    Otto, Saint

    Bishop of Bamberg, b. about 1060; d. 30 June, 1139. He belonged to the noble, though not ...

    Ottobeuren

    (OTTOBURA, MONASTERIUM OTTOBURANUM) Formerly a Benedictine abbey, now a priory, near ...

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    Ou 9

    Ouen, Saint

    (OWEN; DADON, Latin Audaenus ). Archbishop of Rouen, b. at Sancy, near Soissons about ...

    Our Father, The

    Although the Latin term oratio dominica is of early date, the phrase "Lord's Prayer" does not ...

    Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

    The aim of this institute is to provide a shelter for girls and women of dissolute habits, who ...

    Our Lady of Good Counsel, Feast of

    Records dating from the reign of Paul II (1464-71) relate that the picture of Our Lady, at ...

    Our Lady of Perpetual Help

    ( Or OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP.) The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is painted ...

    Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

    ( Or OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP.) The picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour is painted ...

    Our Lady of the Fields, Brothers of

    A Canadian congregation founded in 1902 at St-Damien de Buckland in the Diocese of Quebec by ...

    Our Lady of the Snow

    ("Dedicatio Sanctæ Mariæ ad Nives"). A feast celebrated on 5 August to ...

    Our Lady, Help of Christians, Feast of

    The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians ) originated in the sixteenth ...

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    Ov 4

    Overbeck, Friedrich

    Convert and painter of religious subjects, b. at Lübeck, 3 July, 1789; d. at Rome, 12 ...

    Overberg, Bernhard Heinrich

    A German ecclesiastic and educator, born 1 May, 1754; died 9 November, 1826. Of poor parents in ...

    Overpopulation, Theories of

    Down to the end of the eighteenth century, very little attention was given to the relation between ...

    Oviedo

    (OVETENSIS) This diocese comprises the civil province of the same name (the ancient Kingdom ...

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    Ow 2

    Owen, Saint

    (OWEN; DADON, Latin Audaenus ). Archbishop of Rouen, b. at Sancy, near Soissons about ...

    Owen, Saint Nicholas

    A Jesuit lay-brother, martyred in 1606. There is no record of his parentage, birthplace, date ...

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    Ox 6

    Oxenford, John

    Dramatist, critic, translator, and song-writer, b. in London, 12 Aug., 1812; d. there 21 Feb., ...

    Oxenham, Henry Nutcombe

    An English controversialist and poet, born at Harrow, 15 Nov., 1829; died at Kensington, 23 ...

    Oxford

    Oxford, one of the most ancient cities in England, grew up under the shadow of a convent, said to ...

    Oxford Movement, The

    The Oxford Movement may be looked upon in two distinct lights. "The conception which lay at its ...

    Oxford, University of

    I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY The most extraordinary myths have at various times prevailed as to the ...

    Oxyrynchus

    Titular archdiocese of Heptanomos in Egypt. It was the capital of the district of its name, the ...

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    Oz 3

    Ozanam, Antoine-Frédéric

    Great grand-nephew of Jacques Ozanam . Born at Milan, 23 April, 1813; died at Marseilles, 8 ...

    Ozanam, Jacques

    A French mathematician, born at Bouligneux (Ain), 1640; died in Paris, 3 April, 1717. He came of a ...

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