Saint John Eudes
Founder of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (Eudists) and the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity
Saint John Eudes, forerunner of devotion both to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, was born in 1601, some time after France had been torn apart by the revolt of the Huguenots. The rebels were calmed but relegated to western France by King Henry IV, after he himself returned to the Catholic faith. It was in that region that this young Saint spent his childhood, at Argentan in Normandy, and was educated with the Jesuits of Caen. The father of this firstborn of a family of solid and profound virtue, had himself desired the sacerdotal life, and he did not long oppose John’s desire to consecrate himself to God as a priest. At eighteen years of age Saint John had already composed a treatise on voluntary abnegation, which his confessor obliged him to publish. He was ordained in Paris as a member of the recently founded French Oratory of Saint Philip Neri; his teachers there were Fathers de Berulle and de Condren, two unsurpassed spiritual directors. The governing theme of his meditation, his preaching and his writings was the importance of the redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, through the intermediary of His Immaculate Mother. Controversy was not lacking in those days, when the Mother of God had been relegated to a very secondary if not insignificant role by the reformers, and Saint John did not fear controversy. He chose to study both theology and what we would call debate, as essential preparations for his calling. In those days seminaries were scarce; aspiring future priests themselves sought out the instruction they needed.