Eudes, John, St.

views updated


Missionary in France, founder of seminaries and congregations, spiritual writer and promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; b. Ri (Orne), France, Nov. 14, 1601; d. Caen, France, Aug. 19, 1680. He came from a devout country family, and was sent to the Jesuit college in Caen in 1615. He took minor orders in 1620 and was received into the congregation by Pierre de bÉrulle, founder of the Oratory. He was ordained on Dec. 20, 1625, and continued his preparation for a preaching career under Charles de Condren. When an epidemic of the plague broke out in 1627, Eudes volunteered to care for the stricken in his own Diocese of Sées, Normandy. Again in 1631 he heroically shared the lives of the plague victims in the area of Caen.

In 1633 he began his long career as a parish missionary. His unusual gifts as a preacher and confessor made his missions highly successful and earned him a reputation for fervor and eloquence. Though he labored mostly in Normandy, his mission field extended into Brittany, Bourgogne, and the Île-de-France. By 1676 Eudes had preached more than 100 missions, some of them lasting from several weeks to several months.

Eudes also concerned himself with the spiritual improvement of the parish clergy. Beginning in 1641 he gave frequent conferences for priests directed toward the duties of their state in life. He soon realized, however, that the more basic need was the establishment of seminaries for the proper training and spiritual formation of candidates for the priesthood. As superior of the house of the Oratory in Caen, Eudes sought to establish a seminary there and won the approval of the bishop of Bayeux and Cardinal Richelieu. The project had the support of Father de Condren, then superior general, but his successor, Father Bourgoing, opposed the project. After much prayer and counsel, Eudes decided to leave the Oratory, and on March 25, 1643, he founded a society of secular priests (without vows), the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. The new group was dedicated to the formation of a well-trained and virtuous clergy by conducting seminaries for the diocesan priesthood. Through the work of Eudes and his associates seminaries were established at Caen (1644), Coutances (1650), Lisieux (1653), Rouen (1658), Évreux (1667), and Rennes (1670).

Aided by the Visitandines, Eudes founded also a religious society for women. This society, the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, originated at Caen in 1641 and follows the Rule of St. Augustine. It was intended to provide a refuge for women of ill fame who wished to do penance. The congregation was approved by the bishop of Bayeux (Feb. 8, 1651) and by Pope alexander vii (bull of Jan. 2, 1666). During Eudes's lifetime three other houses were established in Brittany.

Eudes was a noted spiritual writer. His works include: La Vie et le royaume de Jésus dans les âmes chrétiennes (1637), Le Contrat de l'homme avec Dieu par le saint baptême (1654), Le Bon confesseur (1666), and Le Mémorial de la vie ecclésiastique (1681). These practical meditations were built on a simple doctrine, dominated by Jesus as the source of all sanctity and Mary as the model of the Christian life. Drawing inspiration from scriptural texts and from medieval piety, Eudes composed two Offices, one in honor of the Sacred Heart of Mary (1648) and the other in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1672). He developed the basis for these devotions in his book Le Coeur admirable de la très sacrée Mère de Dieu, published posthumously in 1681. His 12th and last book is devoted entirely to the "divine Heart of Jesus." At the time of his beatification in 1909, Eudes was declared by pius x to be the "father, doctor, and apostle of the liturgical cultus of the Sacred Hearts." He was canonized by pius xi, May 31, 1925.

Feast: Aug. 19.

Bibliography: Oeuvres complètes, 12 v. (Paris 190509); Selected Works, ed. w. e. myatt and p. j. skinner, 6 v. (New York 194648); En tout la volonté de Dieu: saint Jean Eudes à travers ses lettres, ed. c. guillon (Paris 1981); Le Royaume de Jésus, saint Jean Eudes, ed. g. ouellet (Montréal 1988). d. sargent, Their Hearts Be Praised: The Life of St. John Eudes (New York 1949), bibliog. p. hÉrambourg, St. John Eudes: A Spiritual Portrait, tr. r. hauser (Westminster, Md. 1960). c. berthelot du chesnay, Les Missions de Saint Jean Eudes. Contribution à l'histoire des missions en France au XVIIe siècle (Paris 1967). n. bermÚdezv., El bautismo en la doctrina de San Juan Eudes (Madrid 1978). p. milicent, Saint Jean Eudes: un artisan du renouveau chrétien au XVIIe siècle (Paris 1985).

[c. berthelot du chesnay]