Saint John Eudes was a man, like Saint Bernard and later Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, whose entire life and ministry were influenced by the Virgin Mary. His own personal grace was to have been the Apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Because of this, on the day of his canonization (1925), he was called: "Father, Apostle and Doctor of the Liturgical Worship of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary."
John Eudes was born in a village of Normandy, on November 14, 1601, the son of a farmer. In his Memorial, John noted that "the principal favors received from God were through his Son Jesus Christ, and his Most Blessed Mother, for which I must praise him unceasingly."
He first gave thanks for his Christian family; for his parents, who told him that they made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Recouvrance to ask for a child (as they were childless) and returned later in thanksgiving to offer John to Christ and his Mother. John Eudes ratified this consecration himself when he wrote: "I am all yours, Lord Jesus! I am all yours, O Our Lady!"
When John was 14, he went to the Jesuit College at Caen, where he received a solid human and spiritual education. At the age of 17, he was admitted to the Congregation of Notre Dame in which, he said, "Our Lord favored me with great graces through his Most Holy Mother." These graces were still evident 50 years later when he wrote his Contract of Alliance with the most holy Mother of God:
"... Isn't it a wonder that you deigned to become the Spouse of the last of all men, who himself was bold enough to choose you, from his tender years, for his very unique Spouse?"
A Priest, then a Missionary
John Eudes' whole life and ministry were placed under the sign of Our Lady. After joining the Congregation of the Oratory of France in 1623, where he was received by Father de Bérulle, he began his ministry in Normandy serving victims of the plague.
Father John Eudes used to take a beautiful statue of the "Virgin Mother" on his missions that represented Our Lady nursing the Child Jesus. He always associated the Virgin Mary to his ministry, since her Son Jesus had himself made her his Cooperatrix in the work of the Redemption.
Throughout his many missions, Father John Eudes witnessed the ignorance of the baptized and multiple physical and moral miseries, particularly among women, victims of prostitution. He became interested in helping fallen women, and in 1641, with Madeleine Lamy, founded a refuge for them under the direction of the Visitandines.
He resigned from the Oratorians in 1643 and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists). His first goal was to reform the clergy, as the Council of Trent had asked about one hundred years before. He established the first seminary of that diocese, at Caen. The same year the sisters at his refuge in Caen left the Visitandines and were recognized by the Bishop of Bayeux as a new congregation under the name of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge. Father John Eudes also founded seminaries at Lisieux, Evreux and Rouen.
The liturgical Feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary
Father John Eudes decided to celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Mary for the first time in 1648, during his missions. He continued to preach missions in western France, Burgundy, Paris and before the King all the way to the limit of his strength.
Father John Eudes died in Caen on August 19, 1680.
The Church proclaimed him a saint in 1925. His feast day is August 19th.
Adapted from: Saint Jean Eudes et la Vierge Marie, Nouveaux cahiers marials, (1993) and www.catholic.org/saints