Tag Archives: Counter Reformation

St. John Eudes – Priest and Founder

August 16, 2019


St. John Eudes

St. John Eudes is a great French saint of the Seventeenth Century. He was born in Ri, France, in the region of Normandy and the Diocese of Seez, in 1601. His family lived on a farm. He was the oldest of seven children.

He was educated by the Jesuits. At the age of 22 he became a member of the newly established French Congregation of the Oratory, the Oratorians, a religious order founded by Peter de Berulle in Paris, with a special charism for preaching. He was ordained a priest in 1625 and remained a member of the community for the next twenty years.

During the early years of his priesthood his special ministry was to preach parish missions throughout Normandy and Brittany. Some missions were a week, others several weeks, and a few were a month or more. He was a dynamic preacher and did much to revitalize and strengthen the faith of those who attended. He also gave retreats and conferences for priests.

It was also the time of the Counter Reformation, the time after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), and the Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. Jansenism was a heretical movement that had many adherents in France. Jansen taught that the material world including the human body is evil, grace is given only to a few, and that people are such sinners that they are unworthy to receive the Eucharist. The common folk were easily misled and clergy with poor training were swayed. St. John Eudes boldly and courageously corrected the errors of Jansenism with his clear and persuasive proclamation of sound doctrine.

During this same period he served as the superior of the Oratorian monastery at Caen, France. There were several outbreaks of the plague, and he spent much time and energy in the spiritual and physical care of the victims. He also pondered the depths of the spiritual life, and he gathered his reflections in a book, The Life and Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls, which was published in 1637. It was so popular that it went through sixteen editions during his lifetime.

In 1641 he founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, today known as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd. Their mission was the care of morally endangered women, particularly those trapped in prostitution, and to help them to live virtuous Christian lives.

In 1643 he wished to open a seminary in Caen, a plan that was supported by the local bishop but opposed by the new superior of the Oratorians. As a result he decided to leave the community to found the Society of Jesus and Mary (C.I.M.), a society of diocesan priests commonly known as the Eudists. His goal was to reform the clergy, and six seminaries were established, one in Caen, and five in other French cities, to strengthen the education and training of future diocesan priests. Today the worldwide membership is about 450.

He also had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He believed that Jesus, whose heart was pierced by a lance, is the source of all holiness, and that Mary, whose heart was pierced by a sword, is the greatest model of how to live the Christian life. He explained this devotion in two books, The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus, published in 1671, and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, completed one month before his death.

St. John Eudes died in Caen in Normandy, France, on August 19, 1680 at the age of 79. He was beatified in 1909 and canonized a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

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