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St. John Eudes, a missionary of mercy for our troubling times

Each Advent and Lent our communications team produces a video series related to the liturgical season. Back in January, before any of us realized we were about to be overtaken by a pandemic, we chose to focus on St. John Eudes, entitling our Lenten series, He Gives Us His Heart. One of the great spiritual figures of 17th century France, John Eudes was a prolific missionary and preacher who championed priestly formation and devotion to the Heart of Jesus and Mary. Ever on the move in the north of France, he established religious communities, seminaries and lay movements. As a young woman our foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan belonged to one of these movements, the Third Order of the Admirable Mother. 

St. John Eudes taught that Christ continues his earthly life through his body, the Church and in each believer, and that it is up to us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work of forming Jesus in our souls. He taught that each of us is tasked with discerning in the life and mysteries of Christ the singular part that is ours to play in building up his Kingdom. To enable us to continue his life in our own day, he said, Jesus gives us his very own heart to be our heart and the source of the charity and zeal he counts on us to spread in the world. He called the heart of Jesus in us our “great Heart.” 

We filmed our series and finished edting it well in time for Ash Wednesday, still unaware of how much our everyday lives were about to change. By the time we sent out the last episode of the series during Holy Week, and then celebrated Easter the best we could in the midst of so much death, the choice of St. John Eudes for our Lenten series seemed truly providential.

How so?, you might wonder. Delving into John Eudes’ life story in preparation for our video series, we learned that Father Eudes’ first mission as a young priest was to minister to victims of an epidemic that had broken out in his home diocese. When this fact surfaced in January it seemed like just a random bit of trivia, but by March it seemed quite providential! St. John Eudes seemed to be knocking on our door as a willing companion and role model during these difficult months.

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