John Eudes was initially attracted to the French Oratory of Jesus, a society of priests living in community and pursuing a life of prayer and devotion. He was admitted to the Oratory in Paris and ordained to the priesthood in 1625. When there was an outbreak of plague in the countryside, he received permission to go and minister to the sick. To prevent the possible infection of his brethren, he lived for a while in a giant wine cask. Afterward he undertook a wide preaching ministry, delivering over a hundred missions in Normandy and elsewhere. Each of these missions would last six to eight weeks. He was regarded as one of the great preachers of his day.
A woman named Madeleine Lamy tried to interest him in the fate of women drawn into prostitution. One day she confronted him, supposing him to be on his way “to some church, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent home for these poor creatures . . .” He was moved to help her establish such a home, where women at risk could find shelter and honest employment.
In 1643 Eudes withdrew from the Oratorians and founded a seminary and the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, aimed at renewing the priesthood. He died on August 19, 1680, and was canonized in 1925.
“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.”
—St. John Eudes