Jean Eudes was born in 1601 in the small village of Ri in Normandy. At 12, he had his first experience of God and began to take communion every month after confession. Very quickly, he makes a private vow of chastity.
In 1622, he met the Oratory, founded by Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle in 1611. It was there that he was ordained a priest on December 20, 1625.
The Oratory and the Cardinal of Pierre de Bérulle are figureheads of what will later be called the French school of spirituality in which we find Jean Eudes himself, Vincent de Paul, Jean-Jacques Olier, Louis- Marie Grignion de Montfort, and many others.
On entering the Oratory, our young Jean Eudes discovers this new spirituality of which here are 3 essential points:
- man is creature, therefore in radical dependence on God. The man, this “nothing capable of God”is fit to adore Him, to love Him, to serve Him.
- Jesus, entering the world as Son, unites the highest freedom of man with the most radical dependence, by obeying the Father, through love, from one end of his life to the other. jesus is “the perfect worshiper of the Father”.
- the christian life then consists of “go on and accomplish” all the dimensions of the filial mystery of Jesus. Every Christian is called to give shape to this mystery – to form Jesus in oneselfwill say Fr. Eudes, frequently drawing inspiration from Gal 4,19 where Saint Paul says: “My grandchildren, you whom I bear again in pain until Christ is formed in you. » He writes about it: “It must be our desire, our care and our main occupation, to form Jesus in us, that is to say, to make it live and reign in us. »
Once a priest, Jean Eudes goes on a mission
He will give no less than 117 parish missions until 1676. He travels on foot, on horseback, by car, in Normandy, Brittany, Ile de France, Burgundy…
What is the objective of its missions? Precisely, to lead Christians to discover that they are called to continue and fulfill the life of Jesus. This requires a call to deep conversion which is done through preaching to lead people to the sacrament of confession. It is said of Father Eudes that he is a “lion in the pulpit, [un] lamb in the confessional ».
In 1637, Jean Eudes published Life and Kingdom of Jesus in Christian Souls (a book that will have great success) in which he brings together his discoveries as a priest-missionary.
This book is first of all a magnificent plea in favor of baptism, this sumptuous sacrament “so forgotten these days”, explains Father Eudes. If, in his time, we could already say that the beauty of baptism was forgotten, what can we say today?
In this book, Jean Eudes insists on the necessity of having a true Christian “life”. This is not only to act like Jesus, but to act in Jesus. This is why, in baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit who is the soul of our baptismal life. Father Eudes underlines this mystery of interiority: in our heart, that is to say in the fine point of our soul, the Holy Spirit carries out a double movement: he conforms us to Jesus and he forms Jesus in us.
Foundation of a shelter
In 1641, he founded a house to welcome women bruised by life, beaten, abandoned, delivered to prostitution. From this institute will later be born the Congregation of the Good Shepherd of Angers.
We also discover here another aspect of the personality of Jean Eudes. He is touched to the heart by the distresses of his century. He becomes an apostle of mercy. It is very interesting to note that the love of the Heart of Jesus which animates him and which will become more and more explicit as he approaches the end of his life, this love of the Heart of Jesus pushes him to compassion for his fellow men, and especially for those who suffer the most, those whom they call “the undefended”. He writes :
merciful is he who bears in his heart the misery of the miserable…
In 1643, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, known as the Eudists, was founded. He wants priests to continue his missions, but not just any priests. He wants priests who are – I quote – “a vivid image of Jesus Christ in this world, and of Jesus Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, going from town to town and from village to village, suffering, dying, dying and sacrificing himself for the salvation of all souls created in his image and likeness” (Memorial of Ecclesiastical Life, OC III, 31). For this, he unites his work of missions (preaching, prayer, communion, confession) with that of the seminaries (conferences, retreats, way of preaching, preparations for ordination). He wants the trainers of future priests to also be evangelizers, and vice versa. This is how they will be true pastors according to the Heart of God.
On February 8, 1648, during a mission in Autun, he obtained permission from the bishop to publish the Office and the Mass of the Holy Heart of Mary.
It is a liturgical, public service, a great first in the Church. He shares in it the most decisive of all the graces he has ever received: the admirable Heart of Mary.
Marie is the woman of the Fiat and the Magnificat, the one who said Yes. No one was able to live the Christian life better than her as a participation in the life of Jesus, as a continuation and fulfillment of the life of Jesus. It is “pure capacity of Jesus” as Cardinal de Bérulle already said. Jean Eudes clearly states:
of herself and by herself, Mary is nothing, but her Son Jesus is everything in her: he is her being, her life…
This is why celebrating the Heart of Mary is celebrating Jesus, living and reigning in the hearts and lives of men. The Heart of Mary is Jesus. It is extraordinary to say that. I repeat : the Heart of Mary is Jesus. This is why Jean Eudes is going to speak of the Heart of Jesus and Mary, one heart so united Jesus and Mary, or rather, so much Mary was always united to her Son, having with him only one will: to do the will of the Father.
In 1672, Jean Eudes composed an office and a mass of the Heart of Jesus, 24 years after that of the Heart of Mary, and one year before the first apparition of the Sacred Heart to Marguerite-Marie in Paray le Monial. He brings out his deep conviction: Everything is given in the Heart of Jesus, this “furnace of charity”, this place absolutely unique and absolutely identifiable among all, where God reveals to men the immensity of an infinite love and where men can come to take refuge in order to love God filially and with all their heart. Jean Eudes finds a strong symbol that speaks to everyone of God’s infinite love for us. For him, the Father’s love is revealed in the love that the Son has shown us in his humanity and which is symbolized by the Heart of Jesus.
In this service, there is nothing sentimental, cutesy, bloody or sacrificial. For Jean Eudes, Jesus has a heart, a heart at work. He comes into the world to do the will of the Father. His love is courageous, acting. It is to this love that he invites us by living, by our baptism, granted to the Heart of Jesus. He proclaims that this Heart “is ours”: “Don’t just love God with your human heart,” he said; that is too little, that is nothing; love him in all the love of your great Heart”… (The Admirable Heart… OC, VI, 264). It is like hearing Thérèse of Lisieux asking Jesus to come and love within her to carry out the new commandment: “love one another as I have loved you. »
In 1680, he completed his Treatise entitled The Admirable Heart of the Most Sacred Mother of God. On August 19, he gives his soul to God. He was canonized in 1925, at the same time as a young Norman from Lisieux, also a missionary of mercy, Thérèse of the Child Jesus. Pius X will recognize him in 1909 when he proclaims him “father, apostle and doctor of the liturgical worship of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary”.