“You must never separate what God has so perfectly united. So closely are Jesus and Mary bound up with each other that whoever beholds Jesus sees Mary; whoever loves Jesus, loves Mary; whoever has devotion to Jesus, has devotion to Mary.”
– St John Eudes
(Statue depicting Saint John Eudes in the central nave of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome)
In her writings and memoirs, Sister Lucia of Fatima records that in the years following the ‘public’ appearances of Our Lady at Fatima, she received a number of further messages and revelations. Amongst these was one in 1932, during which the Lord Jesus told her that He wished the Church “to place devotion to this Immaculate Heart alongside devotion to My Sacred Heart”.
This was not, in fact, a new call – as far back as the middle of the Seventeenth Century, one man had been making precisely the same request, with varied degrees of success. That man was Father John Eudes, a French Priest who would later be declared a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925; and since then, there have been calls to have Saint John Eudes declared a Doctor of the Church. Indeed, in 2017, a dossier compiled by the Eudists and supported by the Episcopal Conferences of seven different nations, was given to our Holy Father Pope Francis.
Father Eudes was initially a Priest of the Congregation of the Oratory of Jesus and Mary Immaculate – the Oratorians– who were founded by Cardinal de Bérulle and influential in the French Schoolof spirituality. He preached numerous missions and tended to the victims of plague. Father Olier, founder of the Sulpicians, later called him “the prodigy of his age”. Father Eudes was very concerned at the need for spiritual improvement for Priests, because of which he founded a number of seminaries, where future Priests could be appropriately trained. He also founded a number of confraternities in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, receiving Papal recognition and blessing in the process.
As his work progressed, he saw a need to work with prostitutes and so in 1641, he founded a religious congregation called the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, receiving diocesan approval and, finally, Papal approval in 1666.
In 1643, Father Eudes left the Oratorians and established the Congregation of Jesus and Mary – not a religious order but a ‘society of apostolic life’– later to become known as the Eudists, whose principal works are giving missions and the training of Priests.
His spirituality was greatly influenced by the French school, by the writings of St Francis de Sales, and by the revelations given to St Gertrude and St Mechtilde by the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion to the Sacred Heart was, at that time, very much a private devotion; Father Eudes wanted it to become an established part of the Church as a whole. To this end, he wrote several Masses in honour of the Sacred Heart, and these were eventually accepted and became widely known. It was for this reason that proclaiming his heroic virtue in 1903 as part of the process leading to canonisation, Pope St Leo XIII called him the“author of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the holy Heart of Mary”.
At his beatification in 1908, Pope Pius X said –
“But his services to the Church received a vast increase when, burning with a singular love for the most holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary, he was the first to think, not without some divine inspiration, of offering to Them liturgical worship.”
During the course of his life, Father Eudes wrote widely on devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and his view was always that these two devotions were essentially one, and should always be together. His book, ‘The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God’, was the first work to address this. Hias written works gained some prominence during his life and much more afterwards, leading Cardinal Vives to note –
“I was acquainted with the Doctors of the Order of Saint Francis; I was acquainted with Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross, the mystical writers of my own country, Spain; but I was completely ignorant of the writings of Father Eudes. As a member of the Sacred Congregation of Rites it was my duty to study his life and his works, and I am in admiration. Blessed John Eudes must be ranked with the great lights of the Church. His spiritual doctrine is profound and of wonderful exactitude. He is one of the writers who has best propounded the doctrine of the Gospel.”
In 1930, an anonymous Oblate of Mary Immacualte wrote a short book entitled ‘Devotion to the Immculate Heart of Mary’, in which there is this –
“It was reserved for Saint John Eudes to be the apostle and chief organiser of this special devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must remark here, however, that in this holy man’s mind, the two Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary were ever inseparable. For almost thirty years before the revelations of Saint Margaret Mary took place, Saint John had been an apostle of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By word and work, he had laboured to spread that devotion throughout the Church of France..
As, in the divine plan, Mary prepares the way for Jesus, so also in the Church of God, devotion to the Heart of Mary prepared the way for devotion to the Sacred Heart. In Saint John’s view, the ultimate object of all devotion and love is the adorable Heart of our Saviour, but, the best means of attaining that object is the Immaculate Heart of His Mother. Wherefore, he first set to work to preach and organise devotion to the Heart of Mary. And of that devotion he is the apostle par excellence, for when he began in 1641 it was scarcely known, but when he died (1680), it existed in a flourishing condition in most of the dioceses of France.”
The feast of Saint John Eudes is celebrated today, 19th August.
Saint John Eudes, apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, pray for us.