Saint of the Day – 19 August – St John Eudes – “Apostle of Two Hearts” (14 November 1601 at Ri, Normandy, France – 19 August 1680 at Caen, Normandy, France) – Beatified on 25 April 1909 by Pope Pius X and Canonised on 31 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Priest, Missionary, Founder, Preacher, Confessor, Writer, he founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and the Order of Our Lady of Charity, and was the author of the propers for the Mass and Divine Office of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Paron of the diocese of Baie-Comeau, Québecl. Attributes – Priest’s garments with the Sacred Heart.
Eudes was born in 1601 on a farm near the village of Ri, in Normandy, the son of Isaac and Martha Eudes. After studying with the Jesuits at Caen, Eudes joined the Oratorians on 25 March 1623. His masters and models in the spiritual life were Pierre de Bérulle and the mystic Charles de Condren. As a student of de Bérulle, Eudes is a member of the French School of Spirituality. The French School was not a system or philosophy, but a highly Christocentric approach to spirituality, characterized by a sense of adoration, a personal relationship with Jesus, and a rediscovery of the Holy Spirit.
Eudes was ordained a priest on 20 December 1625. Immediately after his ordination, he came down with an illness that kept him bedridden for a year. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. He went about Normandy committing himself to the sick, administering the sacraments, and burying the dead. To avoid infecting his colleagues, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.
At age 32, Eudes became a parish missionary, preached over 100 parish missions, throughout Normandy, Ile-de-France, Burgundy and Brittany. He was called by Jean-Jacques Olier “the Prodigy of his Age”.
He saw that parish priests needed support in becoming men of prayer and action. He held conferences for them in which he outlined their duties. Later, John started his own society of priests called the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. The members were dedicated to promoting good seminary training, which would form Christlike priests.
Christian love impelled John to feel compassion for the women who were trying to escape prostitution. He wanted a place for them to live, a refuge from their former way of life. To serve the women in these refuges, he established a society of religious women called the Congregation of Our Lady of the Refuge. It now serves the needs of troubled girls around the world.
Influenced by the teaching of the French school and St. Francis de Sales, especially as set out in the Treatise on the Love of God, and also by the revelations of St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde, he was the theoretician, so to speak, of devotion to the Sacred Heart and explained the expressions of his predecessors. Won over to devotion to the Heart of Jesus by Bérulle’s devotion to the Incarnate Word, he combined with it the gentleness and devotional warmth of St. Francis de Sales. He changed the somewhat individual and private character of the devotion into a devotion for the whole Church by writing for the benefit of his communities an Office and a Mass, which were later approved by several bishops before spreading throughout the Church. For this reason, Pope Leo XIII, in proclaiming his virtues heroic in 1903, gave him the title of “Author of the Liturgical Worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Holy Heart of Mary”.
Eudes dedicated the seminary chapels of Caen and Coutances to the Sacred Heart. The feast of the Holy Heart of Mary was celebrated for the first time in 1648 and that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1672, each as a double of the first class with an octave. He composed various prayers and rosaries to the Sacred Hearts. His book “Le Cœur Admirable de la Très Sainte Mère de Dieu” is the first book ever written on the devotion to the Sacred Hearts.
Eudes taught the mystical unity of the hearts of Jesus and Mary and wrote, his most famous works are – Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God:
“You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary.”
The most striking characteristic of the teaching of St. John Eudes on Devotion to the Sacred Heart—as indeed of his whole teaching on the spiritual life—is that Christ is always its centre.
St John died a month after finishing The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, of natural causes on 19 August 1680 at Caen, Normandy, France.