During this time, he studied the Christocentric spiritual thought of Cardinal de Bérulle whose desire was “restoring the priestly order to its full splendor”. To that end, Eudes became an apostolic missionary, preaching over 100 parish missions, throughout Normandy, Ile-de-France, Burgundy and Brittany. His gifts as a preacher and confessor won him great renown. The founder of the Sulpicians, Father Jean-Jacques Olier called him, “the prodigy of his age”.
His parish mission work brought to his attention the plight of women seeking to better their life circumstances. Some were simply destitute, many more were prostitutes, most had been abused and abandoned. To care for the spiritual and material needs of such women, Eudes founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge. Pope Alexander VII approved the congregation in 1666.
Eudes’ concern with the spiritual formation of the clergy compelled him to act. On March 25, 1643, he founded a congregation dedicated to the spiritual and doctrinal instruction of priests and seminarians, known as the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists). The congregation established seminaries at Caen, Evreux, and Rennes. More seminaries were added as the Eudists grew in number.
He is best known for extolling Christ as the source of holiness and Mary as the model of the Christian life in his writings. His devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary led Pope Pius XI to name him the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The Office of Readings has this excerpt from a treatise by St. John Eudes on the admirable Heart of Jesus:
“You belong to the Son of God, but more than that, you ought to be in him as the members are in the head. All that is in you must be incorporated into him. You must receive life from him and be ruled by him. There will be no true life for you except in him, for he is the one source of true life. Apart from him you will find only death and destruction. Let him be the only source of your movements, of the actions and the strength of your life. He must be both the source and the purpose of your life, so that you may fulfil these words: None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and death we are the Lord’s. That is why Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”
John Eudes’ spiritual works of note include: The Ideal Confessor, The Apostolic Preacher, the Mass for the Sacred Heart, The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus and The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God, which he completed a month before his death. He died on August 19, 1680. He was beatified by Pope Saint Pius X in 1909 and canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 31, 1925.
O God, who wonderfully chose the Priest Saint John Eudes to proclaim the unfathomable riches of Christ, grant us, by his example and teachings, that, growing in knowledge of you, we may live faithfully by the light of the Gospel. Amen.