During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there were two saintly priests in France who preached missions, promoted devotion to Our Lady, and founded religious congregations. These two priests were St. John Eudes (1601-1680) and St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716).
John Eudes joined the Congregation of the Oratory of France at the age of twenty-two. He preached popular missions with great success, and labored tirelessly both at the pulpit and in the confessional. He said, “The preacher beats the bushes but the confessors catch the birds”. John Eudes preached one hundred and ten missions in his lifetime.
The preaching of John Eudes helped wayward girls to detest their sins. Eventually, he founded the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity to provide a home for these girls.
During the course of his missions, John Eudes learnt that the clergy were in great need of reform. He founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary for the formation of clergy. John Eudes founded seminaries in Lisieux, Rouen, Evreux, and Rennes.
For almost thirty years before the private revelations of St. Margaret Mary, John Eudes had been promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wrote the book, The Devotion to the Adorable Heart of Jesus. He introduced the Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Heart of Mary. Pope Leo XIII called John Eudes “the author of the liturgical cult of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary.”
For the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, John Eudes instituted the first liturgical feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, which was celebrated on February 8th of each year. During the last years of his life, John Eudes wrote the book, The Admirable Heart of the Most Holy Mother of God.
John Eudes also founded the Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable for women living in the world who practiced chastity. He proposed the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the model of all the virtues.
John Eudes died on August 19, 1680, and was canonized in 1925.
Louis de Montfort
Louis Marie de Montfort took a vow to live only on alms at nineteen. He practiced such extreme poverty that even beggars would offer handouts to him.
After his ordination in 1700, Louis served as hospital chaplain. He organized from among the female staff and residents the nucleus of the Congregation of Daughters of the Divine Wisdom.
After resigning from his position as hospital chaplain, Louis began to preach missions to the poor. He travelled on foot to Rome and obtained from Pope Clement XI the title of “missionary apostolic” with the authority to preach from place to place.
The popular missions of Louis brought about true and lasting spiritual revival in many places. Louis ardently promoted the devotion of the holy rosary, and established numerous confraternities for its recitation. He is also a tertiary of the order of St. Dominic.
A few years before his death in 1716, Louis founded an association of missionary priests—-the Company of Mary.
The writings of Louis influenced several popes and the Legion of Mary. His well known works are: True Devotion to Mary, The Secret of Mary, and The Secret of the Rosary.
In his writings, Louis encouraged the faithful to consecrate oneself to Jesus through Mary. We entrust to Mary our soul, body, spiritual possessions, and material possessions.
The teachings of St. John Eudes and St. Louis Marie de Montfort helped to combat the heresies of the time. To oppose the proud austerity of Jensenism, they promoted the tender love of Jesus and Mary. And to oppose the indifferent attitude of Quietism, they fostered authentic spirituality.