By Fr. Jean-Michel Amouriaux, CJM
Superior General of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary
St. John Eudes is a fascinating and passionate man. It is a trait of his personality. He did not do things half-heartedly, he does not worry too much about himself, but he dedicated himself in his studies, in his ministry, in his missions, in his preaching, in all the steps he took to consolidate his foundations, and in his relationships. We see him, newly ordained as a priest, giving himself to the care of the victims of the plague; what an example for us in these times of pandemic! We see him walking or riding on horseback on the roads of France, mainly in the countryside, which is difficult to access. He goes into the underworld of Caen to look for lost women, or into the darkness of the prisons of the same city to see that justice is done. The same passion inhabited him when he preached before the King and Queen, reminding them of their duties towards their people in sorrow. John Eudes was not a lukewarm career seeker or someone who refused to leave his comfort zone. The source of his missionary passion is his mad love for Jesus Christ. A fragment of text has been preserved that illustrates this passion for the person of Jesus, and it is undoubtedly the key to understanding the missionary ardor and soul of St. John Eudes:
“As long as my heart beats in my breast and my tongue is ready to speak and my hand to write, I will never preach or write anything other than JESUS. I do not want to have life, nor spirit, nor tongue, nor pen, except to proclaim with my lips and in writing the wonders and mercies of this glorious Name.
Who would give me a seraphic and divine tongue and pen to pronounce and write worthily this divine Name? But I would prefer a heart to love it rather than a pen and a tongue to write and speak of it Lord, you can give me both. This is what I expect from your infinite goodness.
The name of JESUS is so full of holiness that it would not be necessary but once to pronounce it worthily to be altogether holy. If all sinners on earth and in hell could only once properly pronounce it, they would destroy in themselves the hell of sin and establish there a paradise of holiness.”
St. John Eudes was a man abandoned to the goodness of God. The first 20 years of the missionary life of Fr. Eudes passed without conflict, within the Oratory of France, where the disciple of Berulle occupied an increasingly important place. But his departure plunged the beginnings of the Congregation into a latent conflict with the former confreres. The foundations were difficult, with many obstacles, depending on the good will of the civil and religious authorities. The last seven years of John Eudes' life were marked by a very violent conflict: slander, opposition from other congregations, frontal attack by the Jansenists to discredit John Eudes. He fought passionately for the truth to be established, but at the same time he knew how to trust in God's Providence. He did not seek to protect himself, but wanted to maintain the mission, because he firmly believed that God was at the origin of his institutes; he sought support and solutions, without falling into rancor and without returning evil for evil. We also find in many letters calls for trusting abandonment into the hands of the Father, especially this surprising letter from the period 1674-1675:
“Let us be strictly on guard against losing our trust even in the slightest degree. We should offend the power and infinite goodness of our most adorable Father and our most amiable Mother if, after having experienced so many effects of their incomparable charity, we lacked confidence in them. They are raising up several powerful persons to uphold and defend us. I hope that this persecution is the final attempt of the rage of hell against us. You cannot imagine how many different calumnies the demon is circulating against me on all sides.' But in the midst of all this I sing with m y whole heart:
“Live Jesus, my sole desire!
Live Jesus, my whole delight!
Live Jesus, my sweet Saviour!
Live Jesus, God of my heart!
“Live the Queen of my heart!
Live Mary, Mother of love!
Day and night, I wish to sing
The wonders of her all-good Heart!”
This is how St. John Eudes lived, letting Christ be formed in him so that he could be the center of his existence, the heart of his life, so that Christ could live and reign in him.... Thus, John Eudes experienced what St. Paul had already said to the Galatians: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me". (Galatians 2:20). May St. John Eudes be an example for our journey of holiness. Amen.