Saint John Eudes was born in Ri, France in 1601. Ordained in 1625 at the age of twenty-four, he immediately began caring for victims of the plague in France. Even at such a young age, St. John possessed a heroic courage and love for others. The plague was a terrible affliction, killing about a million people in France alone. And yet he volunteered to care for the stricken victims and slept in a barrel out in a field to protect the other members of his congregation from contagion.
We celebrate the memorial of Saint John Eudes on August 19. Given the fortitude and charity he exemplified in caring for the sick, is it any wonder that St. John Eudes is perhaps best known for his devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary? In fact, he was declared by Pope Pius XI to be the father of devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary? Clearly, he himself had a heart fortified by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Of the Blessed Mother, Saint John wrote,
What honor is due to such great and admirable wonders! What veneration should be shown to the heart of Mary, the noblest part of the holy soul of the Mother of God! What praises must be rendered to all the faculties of the spiritual heart of the Virgin Mother, namely her memory, her intellect, her will, and the most intimate part of her spirit, which were never exercised except for God and by motivation of the Holy Ghost. (“The Admirable Heart of Mary” by St. John Eudes)
Saint John was a prolific writer, known for his opposition to Jansenism and recognized as one of France’s greatest preachers. He founded the congregation of Our Lady of Charity which provided refuge to prostitutes. He also founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, known as the Eudists.
On the front page of the Eudists’ website are St. John’s words:
He belongs to you, but more than that, He longs to be in you, living and ruling in you, as the head lives and rules in the body. He wants His breath to be in your breath, His heart in your heart and His soul in your soul.
Wow. How could we reach such a state? Well, certainly not by our own efforts and with our own measly strength. We must remember that however much we may desire holiness, God desires it infinitely more. We can ask Him to unite Himself to us in this way. Repeatedly. And then just continue, always asking for grace.
It helps me to remember that He never withholds His grace. We have only to ask and keep fighting on, remembering that God loves us with an infinite love knowing full well that perfection is beyond our reach. Surely there are times when we can feel that His heart IS in our heart, when the love we are able to express goes beyond what we know is in the capacity of our poor tired selves. I remember the small banner my mother gave me when my six children were still young. It read, “Keep me going, Lord.”
Keep us going, Lord, as we look into our baby’s face, as we take the time to love, to comfort and to enjoy all that you have given us. Keep us going as we change the diapers, as we get up in the middle of the night with the teething child, or the vomiting child.
Keep us going when we barely know how to pray except to whisper, “Help.” Keep us going as we struggle to focus on prayer, to even find time to pray, to acknowledge your presence in the Eucharist, despite the distractions all around us.
And keep us going in the quiet joy of looking at our child’s sleeping face, the delight in hearing the laughter, the sweet contentment of the family dinner table. Keep us going as we appreciate all you have done and remain grateful for your innumerable blessings.
Yes, perhaps the grace lies in the continued effort, the determination to face each new day with this prayer, “Keep me going, Lord.” Keep me going until I have fought the good fight, finished the race.
May He keep us all going, each day, one day at a time, in every important and every mundane task before us. And may His heart always be in our hearts.
Saint John Eudes, pray for us!
Do you have suggestions on how to unite our hearts more closely to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary?
Copyright 2019 Rosemary Bogdan