Today is the feast day of Saint John Eudes. Ora pro nobis.
Saint John (Jean) Eudes was born of pious and respectable parents, at a village commonly known as Ri, in the diocese of Seez, in France in 1601. He left home at age fourteen to attend the Jesuit college at Caen, and despite pressure from his parents to marry, pledged himself to the Lord. John joined the Congregation of the Oratory of France (founded by the famous Fr. Pierre de Berulle) at the age of 22 on 25 March, 1623. He continued his studies in Paris. At age 24 on 20 Dec., 1625 he was ordained a priest, and worked during that time as a volunteer to treat the victims of the plague. For several years, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague as he did not want to infect his fellow religious.
Father John Eudes thought that the training of priests should also be a priority, so in 1643, he left the Oratory and founded the Society of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists Fathers) to specialize in seminary education. Its first seminary opened in Caen, shortly followed by many others.
In order to convert women of ill-fame and assist those who had converted from a wayward life, he founded another institution, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity. The society was approved by Alexander VII, 2 Jan., 1666.
Father John Eudes instituted the parish mission to evangelize the neglected souls. For long years, he preached to large crowds in churches or the open fields. His sermons were known for his strong condemnation of the vices of his audience and their great eloquence supported by his eminent sanctity.
Father Eudes, during his long life, preached not less than one hundred and ten missions, three at Paris, one at Versailles, one at St-Germaine-en-Laye, and the others in different parts of France. Normandy was the principal theatre of his apostolic labours. In 1674 he obtained from Clement X six Bulls of indulgences for the Confraternities of the Sacred Heart already erected or to be erected in the seminaries. He also established the Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable — which resembles the Third Orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic. This society now numbers from 20,000 to 25,000 members.
Father Eudes dedicated the seminary chapels of Caen and Coutances to the Sacred Hearts. 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. The Mass and Office proper to these were composed by Father Eudes, who thus had the honour of preceding the Blessed Margaret Mary in establishing the devotion to the Sacred Hearts. 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”.
Father Eudes wrote a number of books remarkable for elevation of doctrine and simplicity of style. His principal works are:–“Le Royaume de Jésus”; “Le contrat de l’homme avec Dieu par le Saint Baptême”; “Le Mémorial de la vie Ecclésiastique”; “Le Bon Confesseur”; “Le Prédicateur Apostolique”; “Le Cœ;ur Admirable de la Très Sainte Mère de Dieu”. This last is the first book ever written on the devotion to the Sacred Hearts.
He died August 19, 1680, pronouncing the names of Jesus and Mary. His virtues were declared heroic by Leo XIII, 6 Jan., 1903. The miracles proposed for his beatification were approved by Pius X, 3 May, 1908, and he was beatified 25 April, 1909.
Eudists, or Society of Jesus and Mary, an ecclesiastical society instituted at Caen, France, March 25, 1643, by the Venerable Jean Eudes. The principal works of the society are the education of priests in seminaries and the giving of missions. The Society of Jesus and Mary is not a religious order, but an ecclesiastical body under the immediate jurisdiction of the bishops, to aid in the formation of the clergy. It is composed of priests, and of postulants who are admitted after a probation of three years and three months. There are also lay brothers employed in temporal affairs, but who do not wear the ecclesiastical habit. To develop the spirit of Jesus Christ in the members of the society, Father Eudes caused to be celebrated every year in his seminaries the feast of the Holy Priesthood of Jesus Christ and of all Holy Priests and Levites.
During the French Revolution, three Eudists, Fathers Hébert, Potier, and Lefranc, perished at Paris in the massacres of September, 1792. The cause of their beatification with that of some other victims of September has been introduced in Rome. Father Hebert was the confessor of King Louis XVI, and shortly before his death he made the king promise to consecrate his kingdom to the Sacred Heart if he escaped from his enemies.
After the Revolution the society had great difficulty in establishing itself again, and it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that it began to prosper. Too late to take over again the direction of seminaries formerly theirs, the Eudists entered upon missionary work and secondary education in colleges. The “Law of Associations” (1906) brought about the ruin of the establishments which they had in France.
Besides the scholasticates which they have opened in Belgium and in Spain, they direct seminaries at Carthagena, at Antioquia, at Pamplona, at Panama (South America), and at San Domingo, West Indies. In Canada they have the Vicariate Apostolic of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, a seminary at Halifax, N. S., a college at Church Point, N. S., and at Caraquet, N. B., and a number of other establishments less important. They number about fifteen establishments and about one hundred and twenty priests in Canada. In France, where the majority still remains, the Eudists continue to preach missions and to take part in various other works.