Feast Day: August 19
John was born on a farm in northern France and at age fourteen, was educated by the Jesuits. He joined a community of the Oratorians, and ordained a priest at twenty-four. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.
In his concern with the spiritual improvement of the clergy, he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. After prayer and counsel, John decided it was best to leave the religious community. The same year he founded a new one, ultimately called the Eudists (Congregation of Jesus and Mary), devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries.
At age thirty-two, John became a parish missionary. His gifts as preacher and confessor won him great popularity. He preached over one hundred parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months. In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of prostitutes who sought to escape their life. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory. A certain Madeleine Lamy, who had cared for several of the women, one day, said to John, “Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent house for these poor creatures.” The words and the laughter of those present, struck deeply within him. The result was another new religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge. He founded refuges for these women and after his death his work prospered and the houses became much more numerous.
John is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. He is credited with initiating devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Sacred Heart of Mary and providing a firm doctrinal basis for it. Pope Pius XI declared John the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly” (Saint John Eudes, “The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls).
Farmer, David. “Oxford Dictionary of Saints.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Foley, Leonard, O.F.M., and Pat McCloskey, O.F.M. “Saint of the Day.” Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2009.
Hoagland, Victor, C.P., ed. “The Book of Saints: The Lives of the Saints According to the Liturgical Calendar.” New York: Regina Press, 1986.