SAINT JOHN EUDES
John Eudes was born in 1601, in the village of Ri, in Normandy, France. After completing his studies at the Jesuit College in Caen, he entered the Congregation of the Oratory of France, founded in 1611 by Cardinal de Bérulle. Accepted by the founder himself on March 25, 1623, John Eudes was ordained to the priesthood on December 20, 1625. During that time, he assimilated the Christocentric spiritual thought of de Bérulle and shared his enthusiasm for "restoring the priestly order to its full splendor". Imbued with this spirit, as an apostolic missionary, he evangelized many towns and cities of Normandy, Ile-de-France, Burgundy and Brittany.
He recognized the pressing need for contributing to a reform of the clergy, and founding a seminary at Caen appeared to him as indispensable. To do so, he left the Oratory and, on March 25, 1643, with a few other priests, founded a congregation dedicated to the spiritual and doctrinal formation of priests and candidates to the priesthood, while pursuing the work of parish missions. Other seminaries were soon added to the one at Caen. Thus, the Congregation of Jesus and Mary was born.
A man of accomplishments, he also founded the Order of Our Lady of Charity to provide haven and assistance to women and young girls mistreated by life.
He brought people to love Christ and the Virgin Mary by speaking tirelessly about their Heart, the sign of the love God shows for us and the communion to which we are called.
To offer them liturgical worship, he composed Masses and Offices in their honor and had the first Feast of the Holy Heart of Mary celebrated on February 8, 1648, at Autun, and the Feast of the the Heart of Jesus celebrated on October 20, 1672.
Moreover, through his many writings, he helped spread the spiritual teaching of his masters who were members of Bérulle's Oratory, while giving it his own personal touch to the point where he came to be regarded as a spiritual master in his own right.
He died on August 19, 1680 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 31, 1925.
After the death of its founder, the Congregation continued to develop. On the eve of the French Revolution (1789), Eudists directed some fifteen seminaries as well as a few colleges and parishes.
The Revolution closed the houses and scattered the Fathers. Four of them, including François-Louis Hébert, coadjutor to the Superior General, were martyred in Paris and beatified in 1926.
Slowly and with great difficulty, the Congregation was restored in 1826 by one of its former members, Father Pierre Blanchard. The Eudists then concentrated their efforts on the urgent task of providing Christian education in colleges. From 1883 on, the opening of several seminaries in Colombia made it possible for them to resume the traditional work of their society. In 1890, they settled in Canada.
In 1984,the Congregation is present in eight countries with its members assigned to four provinces, namely: the French Province (France, Ivory Coast, Bénin), the Colombian Province (Colombia, Ecuador), the North American Province (Canada, United States) and the Venezuelan Province.
When he established the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, Saint John Eudes did not at first give it precise Constitutions. In 1645, however, he presented to the Assembly of the Clergy of France a first draft of internal regulations entitled: "The Way to Live in a Seminary". Enlightened by grace and experience, around 1652, he began drawing up what he called "The Statutes and Constitutions of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary". This work he completed in 1658.
As a preamble to this legislative text stood a brief work, completed in 1648, to which Saint John Eudes attached great importance: the Regulae Domini Jesu et Sanctissimae Virginis Mariae (Rules of Our Lord Jesus and the Most Holy Virgin Mary). It methodically presented the fundamental principles of life as Christians, priests and members of a community, using quotations from Scripture. Published for the first time in 1841, these so-called "Latin" Rules were reprinted several times; the latest edition, accompanied by a French translation, appeared in 1964.
Although remaining in force in the Congregation until the 1792 dispersal by government decree, the Constitutions had never been printed. A summary, comprising twenty seven articles, was drawn up in 1722 and was titled: "Constitutions of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary" (Acts of the 1725 Assembly, p. 63-67).
When the Congregation was restored in the XIXth century, the original Constitutions were reinstated. It became necessary to submit them for approval to the Congregation for Bishops and Religious following the approval of the Institute in 1851 and 1857. To that end, the 1862 Assembly made minor revisions of the original text and this new version was approved by Rome in a decree dated June 10, 1864, for an experimental period of ten years (Prot No. 7499/6). The Constitutions then appeared in print for the first time in 1865.
A subsequent revision by the 1873 Assembly was definitively confirmed by Rome on August 13, 1874 (Prot. No. 24028/10). This text was published in 1875.
The 1921 Assembly appointed a commission to conform these Constitutions to the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The commission's text was voted on by the 1926 Assembly and approved by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in June 29, 1928 (Prot. No. 7204/26 R.6).
Because this text was concise and strictly juridical, the 1930 Assembly approved a set of "Complementary Rules", assembling what it was deemed advisable to retain from the original Constitutions but had been omitted in the 1928 edition. Of these Rules, the 1953 Assembly made two separate documents, namely: the "Practical Rules", published in 1955, and the "Spiritual Directory", published in 1964.
Then came Vatican II and its call for revision of the Constitutions of all the Institutes of perfection. The Eudists did theirs at the 1969 Assembly and published the "Experimental Constitutions and Practical Rules". The Motu Proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae - Holy Church - (II,6) foresaw that this period of experimentation could last until the next ordinary chapter which could extend it for a longer period but not beyond the following ordinary chapter.
The 1971 Assembly, called to elect a superior general, did not consider itself as "the next ordinary chapter" (Acts, 1971, No. 67). Moreover, the 1977 Assembly decided to continue the experimentation until the following ordinary general assembly (Acts, 1977, No. 28.3).
Thus it was that the 1983 Assembly, having revised the 1969 text and adapted it to the recently promulgated Code of Canon Law, voted on the articles one by one, then requested the Superior General and his Council to submit it to the Holy See for approval (Acts, 1983, No. 39.4).
The text of the current edition of the Constitutions in its French language version was presented to the Holy See along with the Practical Rules, on January 20, 1984. The General Council made corrections in April to conform to the recommendations of the Consultors, and the text was then approved by the Congregation for Religions and Secular Institute's Congresso, on June 1, 1984, provided a few more changes were made. These were attended to and sent to the Holy See on June 21. Finally, on the 25th, an "ad hoc" commission voted to accept them and the decree of approval was issued on June 28, 1984, the day on which the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was celebrated in Rome (Prot No. R.6 - 1/84).
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