Today’s saint St John Eudes (*1601 +1680) was from Normandy and spent his life preaching and encouraging devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In his time the Church in France was corrupt and in many ways a source of evil rather than grace. The higher clergy were rich and privileged, and enjoyed and guarded their privileges. The lower clergy were ignorant and the common people were poor, superstitious, and oppressed as much spiritually as materially. To this mix was added the poison of Jansenism, which taught that human nature was corrupt, original sin rampant, and perfection was both necessary for salvation and practically unattainable.
In such circumstances, setting up seminaries to ensure the proper education of priests becomes itself a revolutionary act, and the encouragement of devotion to the Sacred Heart – to the emotional core of Jesus – becomes not a sweet pious platitude but a defiant proclamation that the centre of God’s essence is his love, not condemnation.
Over and over again in the lives of the saints we find the Church sick and corrupt. Perhaps it must always be so, journeying in a fallen world and staffed by sinners who are as fallen as the rest of us and subject to worse temptations. And over and over again we find God’s grace acting through people like St John Eudes. They do not stand outside and complain; they go in and do things, removing the mould of worldly corruption and putting back, bit by bit, the leaven of grace. They will always be needed, until the world ends.
The following from today’s Divine Office is his treatise entitled ‘The source of salvation and true life.’ Please read it slowly and reflectively as a master summary of the Christian life.
I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head and that you are a member of his body. He belongs to you as the head belongs to the body. All that is his is yours: breath, heart, body, soul and all his faculties. All of these you must use as if they belonged to you, so that in serving him you may give him praise, love and glory. You belong to him as a member belongs to the head. This is why he earnestly desires you to serve and glorify the Father by using all your faculties as if they were his. 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 desires that whatever is in him may live and rule in you: his breath in your breath, his heart in your heart, all the faculties of his soul in the faculties of your soul, so that these words may be fulfilled in you: Glorify God and bear him in your body, that the life of Jesus may be made manifest in you.
You belong to the Son of God, but more than that, you ought to be in him as the members are in the head. All that is in you must be incorporated into him. You must receive life from him and be ruled by him. There will be no true life for you except in him, for he is the one source of true life. Apart from him you will find only death and destruction. Let him be the only source of your movements, of the actions and the strength of your life. He must be both the source and the purpose of your life, so that you may fulfil these words [of St Paul]: None of us lives as his own master and none of us dies as his own master. While we live, we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die, we die as his servants. Both in life and death we are the Lord’s. That is why Christ died and came to life again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Finally, you are one with Jesus as the body is one with the head. You must, then, have one breath with him, one soul, one life, one will, one mind, one heart. And he must be your breath, heart, love, life, your all. These great gifts in the follower of Christ originate from baptism. They are increased and strengthened through confirmation and by making good use of other graces that are given by God. Through the holy Eucharist they are brought to perfection.