Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - The figure of St. John Eudes and the urgency in formation of the clergy were the topics addressed by Benedict XVI in his general audience, which also pilgrims from India present. In this Year for Priests, the pope urged the faithful to pray for priests and candidates to the priesthood, recalling the exhortation addressed to them by the French Saint: "Gift yourselves to Jesus, to enter into the immensity of his great Heart , which also contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and all the saints, and loose yourselves in this abyss of love, charity, mercy, humility, purity, patience, submission and holiness "(Coeur admirable, III , 2).
The pope from the outset presented St. John Eudes – whose feast day is remembered today in the liturgical calendar - in the historical context in which he lived, that of the seventeenth century, “a century marked by conflicting religious phenomena, and also by serious political problems. It was the era of the Thirty Year War, which not only devastated much of Central Europe, but also devastated souls”.
And yet, it is precisely the time the Holy Spirit inspired spiritual personalities of the calibre of de Bérulle, St Vincent de Paul, St. Louis M. Grignon de Montfort and St. John Eudes.
The pope explained: "The Council of Trent in 1563, set out rules for the establishment of diocesan seminaries and the formation of priests, the Vatican was well aware that the entire crisis of the reformation was also conditioned by insufficient formation of priests, who were not prepared for the priesthood in the right way, intellectually or spiritually, in the heart or in spirit. This in 1563; but the application and implementation of standards was slow in both Germany and in France, and St. John Eudes saw the consequences of this insufficiency . Moved by a lucid awareness of the serious need for spiritual help, in which souls languished also because of the failure of most of the clergy, the saint, who was a parish priest, founded a congregation specifically dedicated to the formation of priests. In the university city of Caen he founded his first workshop, a much appreciated initiative, which soon extended to other dioceses. The path of holiness, which was his path and which he proposed his disciples, had a solid foundation in trust in the love that God revealed to humanity in the priestly heart of Christ, and the maternal heart of Mary. At that time of cruelty, of loss of inner life, he appealed to the heart, to speak to the heart the words of the Psalms, very well interpreted by St. Augustine. He wanted to draw people, men and especially future priests to the heart, showing the priestly heart of Christ and the maternal heart of Mary. Of this love of the heart of Christ and Mary each priest must be a witness and apostle. "
"Even today – pope said putting his catechesis into a modern context - there is a need for priests to witness the infinite mercy of God with a whole life 'won' by Christ, and learn it right from the outset of their years of preparation in seminaries. Pope John Paul II, after the Synod of 1990, issued the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis which incorporates and updates the rules of the Council of Trent and particularly emphasizes the necessary continuity between the initial and ongoing formation; which for him and for us is a starting point for a real reform of the life and apostolate of priests, and is also the key point for a 'New Evangelization' that is not simply just an attractive slogan, but translated into reality. The foundation laid in the spiritual life, is that irreplaceable 'spiritual humus' in which we ‘learn Christ ' and allow ourselves be progressively conformed to Him, the one and only High Priest and Good Shepherd. The time of the seminary, therefore, should be seen as the actualization of the time the Lord Jesus, after calling the apostles, and before he sends them to preach, asks them to stay with him (cf. Mk 3:14). When Saint Mark speaks of the vocation of the Twelve Apostles, he tells us that Jesus had a dual purpose: the first was that they might be with him, the second that were sent out to preach. But always going with him, truly announcing Christ and bringing the reality of the Gospel to the world. "
A curious fact mentioned by Benedict XVI is that St. John Eudes and the Curé d'Ars - patron of this Year for Priests – were canonized on the same day - May 31 1925 - by Pius XI, "offering to the Church and the world two extraordinary examples of priestly holiness”.