For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
John Eudes, Priest, 1601-1680
John’s early training came from the Jesuits, but his own interest was in the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of secular priests who took no vows but had a common goal of reinvigorating the spiritual life of their communities. John was ordained in 1625 and celebrated his first Mass on Christmas Day that year.
Almost immediately, John became seriously ill and was not able to preach the missions that the Oratorians were noted for. He was finally able to join the Congregation after a year of recovery and retreat and several more months of study.
Shortly after his recovery, a letter from his father informed him of a plague that had struck his native region in Normandy. John sought and, after some delay, received permission to go to Normandy to minister to sick and dying and their families. His ministry was most welcome because many of the priests in the region had fled the area to avoid the plague.
When the plague had been eradicated, John was directed to the Oratorian house in Caen to continue his preparation for conducting missions. But in 1631, John’s relatively quiet life was again disturbed when a plague hit Caen. Once again, the priest turned his attention to the sick, and established, together with some Jesuits and Capuchins, established a hospital for the plague victims. When the superior of the Oratorians, a priest who had been John’s mentor some years before, visited Caen and discovered that his protégé had not yet been sent out to do missions, he urged that to happen. Thus John Eudes began a long preaching career, which was to include 110 missions.
While working in Caen, one of John’s works had been to find temporary homes for prostitutes who were returning to God’s graces. As he was passing one of these homes, the woman with whom he had placed some of these women demanded of him, “Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And, all the time, what is really wanted of you is a decent home for these poor creatures who are being lost for want of attention and guidance.” Her words deeply troubled John and led him, in 1641, to establish a permanent facility for the women. The Visitandine nuns later took this ministry on as their primary duty and formed the order of Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.
Meanwhile John was not satisfied that he or the Oratorians were doing quite enough to train priests. Against much opposition, he left the order and formed the Congregation of Jesus and Mary in 1643. This new community was modeled after the Oratorians, but placed more emphasis on training priests. To that end, John Eudes founded several seminaries for secular priests.
In 1670, the saint published The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus, a book that included a Mass and devotions to the Sacred Heart. The Mass was first celebrated on August 31, 1670, at one of the seminaries that he founded and was soon observed in other dioceses. Together with St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, St. John Eudes is credited with establishing the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
St. John Eudes died on August 19, 1680 and an optional memorial is celebrated on that date.
John's message today: John ministered to the sick and to the fallen, conducted missions, founded religious orders, and established new devotions. When he felt overwhelmed by all the tasks he had taken on, he prayed for help from God and found new strength in that grace.