Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On St. John Eudes
"He Wanted to Remind People … of the Heart"
H.H. Benedict XVI
August 19, 2009
Dear brothers and sisters:
Celebrated today is the liturgical memorial of St. John Eudes, tireless
apostle of devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who lived in
France in the 17th century, a century marked by opposing religious
phenomena and also by great political problems. It was the time of the
Thirty Years War, which devastated not only a great part of Central
Europe, but also devastated souls.
While contempt was being spread for the Christian faith by some currents
of thought that were prevalent then, the Holy Spirit inspired a fervent
spiritual renewal, with prominent personalities such as that of Berulle,
St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort and St. John
Eudes. This great "French school" of holiness also had St. John Mary
Vianney among its fruits. By a mysterious design of Providence, my
venerated predecessor, Pius XI, proclaimed John Eudes and the Curé d'Ars
saints at the same time, on May 31, 1925, offering the Church and the
whole world two extraordinary examples of priestly holiness.
In the context of the Year for Priests, I wish to pause to underline the
apostolic zeal of St. John Eudes, directed in particular to the
formation of the diocesan clergy.
The saints have verified, in the experience of life, the truth of the
Gospel; in this way, they introduce us into the knowledge and
understanding of the Gospel. In 1563, the Council of Trent issued norms
for the establishment of diocesan seminaries and for the formation of
priests, as the council was aware that the whole crisis of the
Reformation was also conditioned by the insufficient formation of
priests, who were not adequately prepared intellectually and
spiritually, in their heart and soul, for the priesthood.
This occurred in 1563 but, given that the application and implementation
of the norms took time, both in Germany as well as in France, St. John
Eudes saw the consequences of this problem. Moved by the lucid awareness
of the great need of spiritual help that souls were feeling precisely
because of the incapacity of a great part of the clergy, the saint, who
was a parish priest, instituted a congregation dedicated specifically to
the formation of priests. He founded the first seminary in the
university city of Caen, a highly appreciated endeavor, which was soon
extended to other dioceses.
The path of holiness he followed and proposed to his disciples had as
its foundation a solid confidence in the love that God revealed to
humanity in the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary.
In that time of cruelty and loss of interior silence, he addressed
himself to the heart so as to leave in the heart a word from the Psalms
very well interpreted by St. Augustine. He wanted to remind people, men
and above all future priests of the heart, showing the priestly Heart of
Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. A priest must be a witness and
apostle of this love of the Heart of Christ and of Mary.
Today we also feel the need for priests to witness the infinite mercy of
God with a life totally "conquered" by Christ, and for them to learn
this in the years of their formation in the seminaries. After the synod
of 1990, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic exhortation "Pastores
Dabo Vobis," in which he took up and actualized the norms of the Council
of Trent and above all underlined the need for continuity between the
initial and permanent moments of formation. For him, for us, this is a
real point of departure for a genuine reform of priestly life and
apostolate, and it is also the central point so that the "new
evangelization" is not simply an attractive slogan, but rather is
translated into reality.
The foundations of formation in the seminary constitute that
irreplaceable "humus spirituale" in which it is possible to "learn
Christ," allowing oneself to be progressively configured to him, sole
High Priest and Good Shepherd. The time in the seminary should be seen,
therefore, as the actualization of the moment in which the Lord Jesus,
after having called the Apostles and before sending them out to preach,
asks that they stay with him (cf. Mark 3:14).
When St. Mark narrates the vocation of the Twelve Apostles, he tells us
that Jesus had a double objective: The first was that they be with him,
the second that they be sent to preach. But in going always with him,
they truly proclaim Christ and take the reality of the Gospel to the
In this Year for Priests, I invite you to pray, dear brothers and
sisters, for priests and for those preparing to receive the
extraordinary gift of the priestly ministry. I conclude by addressing to
all the exhortation of St. John Eudes, who said thus to priests: "Give
yourselves to Jesus to enter into the immensity of his great Heart,
which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and of all the saints, and
to lose yourselves in this abyss of love, of charity, of mercy, of
humility, of purity, of patience, of submission and of holiness" (Coeur
admirable, III, 2).
With this spirit, we will now sing together the Our Father in Latin.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several
languages. In English, he said:]
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at
today’s Audience, including the pilgrims from India and Nigeria. Our
catechesis considers Saint John Eudes whose feast we celebrate today. He
lived in seventeenth-century France which, notwithstanding considerable
trials for the faith, produced many outstanding examples of spiritual
courage and insight. Saint John Eudes’ particular contribution was the
foundation of a religious congregation dedicated to the task of giving
solid formation to the diocesan priesthood. He encouraged seminarians to
grow in holiness and to trust in God’s love revealed to humanity in the
priestly heart of Jesus and in the maternal heart of Mary. During this
year let us pray in a special way for priests and seminarians that,
inspired by today’s saint, they may spiritually "enter into the heart of
Jesus", becoming men of true love, mercy, humility and patience, renewed
in holiness and pastoral zeal. My dear Brothers and Sisters, upon you
and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!
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