Saint John Eudes

Saint John Eudes

His early years

St. John Eudes was born on a farm close to the village of Ri in Normandy, France, on November 14, 1601. At the age of 14, he entered the Jesuit College at Caen. In 1623, despite the wish of his parents for him to marry, he joined the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate, known as the Oratory of Bérulle, and continued his studies in Paris. Two years later, at the age of 24, he was ordained a priest after which he asked to go and minister to victims of the plague, for whom he cared at great risk to his own life.

Refuge for women

At 32, St. John Eudes became a parish missionary, acquiring a reputation for being an exceptional preacher and confessor. During the next decade, through his many missions in various parts of France, he was deeply moved by the plight of women in situations of prostitution. Forced by poverty, many of them found this to be the only way to make a living for themselves and their families. Challenged by a woman, Madame Madeleine Lamy, to respond proactively to the situation of these women, St. John Eudes went to work to establish refuge houses that provided a safe haven and an opportunity for them to be freed from their plight.

In 1641, together with like-minded people, he bought a house in Caen suitable for this purpose which he entrusted to some women who wished to share with him this service of mercy and charity. It was the beginning of what would become Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge. To witness to compassion and mercy in a world ridden with exploitation and pain, St. John Eudes gave the sisters a fourth vow of zeal – in addition to those of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This vow impelled them to strive to remain committed and faithful to the mission.

Other houses of refuge were founded by request of bishops and the work of the sisters became more widely spread beyond Caen. Each community was independent but maintained contact with the others, particularly with Caen.

Our Eudist family

St. John Eudes was not only concerned with the social problems of his time but was greatly troubled by the need for spiritual renewal among lay people and clergy. In 1643 he left the French Oratory and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary to establish seminaries and facilitate priestly training.

At a mission in 1648, St. John Eudes celebrated the first mass in honor of the Heart of Mary. In 1652 he built the first church under the patronage of the Immaculate Heart: the chapel of his seminary in Coutances, France.

During the process of his canonization, Pope St. Pius XI named him “the father, doctor, and apostle of liturgical devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary.”

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