18 August 2013

St. John Eudes


If ever you feel like you have too much work to do, look at the life of St. John Eudes. He can put most of us to shame.

He was born on a farm in northern France. He was 79 years old when he died, and with all he accomplished, at the end of his live he was living only in the next county. During his life he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. At that time, there were some severe outbreaks of terrible sickness which was taking the lives of thousands of people, and he volunteered to care for the sick. He didn’t want to risk bringing the disease to his fellow religious, so he lived in a huge barrel that had been turned on its side in the middle of a field during the plague.

After that time, he became a parish missionary. His gifts as preacher and confessor meant that people flocked to hear him. He preached over a hundred parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.

He had a great concern for the spiritual lives of the clergy, and he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior and the bishop to do this work, but the a new superior decided he didn’t like St. John Eudes or his work, so John decided it was best for him to leave the religious community. He immediately founded a new community, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, which was devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries, but there were some who tried to ruin this effort, too, until John finally had to give up that work.

In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of women and young girls living on the streets, but who wanted to escape their terrible existence. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory, until St. John, with the help of others, took on this work by founding another religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.

He is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. His devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is what formed his own spiritual life.

Holiness is the wholehearted openness to the love of God. It is visibly expressed in many ways, but the variety of expression has one common quality: concern for the needs of others. We see how St. John Eudes carried out this concern in very practical ways.

O God, who to spread abroad a knowledge of the meekness and lowliness of the hearts of Jesus and Mary, and of devotion to them both, didst wondrously kindle the zeal of St. John Eudes thy holy Confessor: grant, we beseech thee; that we who reverence his worthy deeds may ever find instruction from the example of his godliness; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.