In our previous reflection we referred to St. Catherine of Siena’s saying: "Be who God has called you to be and you will set the world on fire," and we looked at how that got played out in the interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. We now invite you to prayerfully remember some aspects of the progressive unfolding of creative fidelity in the lives of St. John Eudes and Mary Euphrasia and in parallel look at your own personal journey as you try to become the person you are called to be.
St. Mary Euphrasia like St.John Eudes had to be persistent in seeking agreement from family for entering religious life; St. John Eudes with his father and SME with her brother-
St. John Eudes’ special sensitivity was to be able to communicate the message of God’s merciful love to people at all levels of society. He brought to the fore the affective side of our relationships with Jesus and Mary. St. Mary Euphrasia’s definitive turning to the God of love came through her experience of suffering and isolation in boarding school in Tours. She became convinced of God’s personal and unconditional love for her. This evolved later into a fascination with Jesus the Good Shepherd and a commitment to bring his merciful love and tenderness to the lives of broken people.
Both St. John Eudes and St. Mary Euphrasia were supported in their lives by many community members, family, friends and benefactors, those they helped, other congregations, bishops, cardinals, princes and kings and even Pope Gregory XV1 in the granting of the Generalate to Good Shepherd. Their zeal expanded as they witnessed what in many cases were miracles beyond their own humble expectations.
Remember one person or situation that helped you to blossom and to "accomplish abundantly far more than all you could ask or imagine" (Eph 3:20)
What did you give and what did you receive?
Life often brings us to unexpected turning points. In his forties St. John Eudes came to a crossroads, when through his widespread experience in giving missions he became convinced of the need to reform the clergy. This was an original goal of the Oratorians which was being neglected. St. John Eudes’ superior Père Bourgoing however did not favour his project for founding seminaries. St. John Eudes prayed and reflected for a long time before coming to the difficult decision to leave the Oratorians. He founded a seminary for ordinands for the priesthood in Caen in 1643 and subsequently founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. "He had to take the risk of losing the friendship of his brothers in Caen who saw him as a "turncoat who refused to obey"
For St. Mary Euphrasia coming to Angers from Tours in 1831, as superior of the community that she founded there two years previously, was to change the course of her life, and cost her "so many sacrifices in that one day and in the days that followed... I had to walk forth from the Lord to find him again elsewhere" Yet she left community and friends because she believed that "it is not the will of God that I go anywhere except to Angers."
When later St. Mary Euphrasia began negotiations about the establishment of a Generalate (where communities would no longer be autonomous but linked together) some Sisters of our Lady of Charity and the Archbishop of Tours wrote to the bishop of Angers, complaining that she was committing a serious offence against the Constitutions. They intimated that she was not being faithful to the original desire of St. John Eudes. But St. Mary Euphrasia insisted that what she had at heart was "not to go back on any of our commitments. We honour them and shall continue to do so with the grace of God." Here she showed her fidelity to the spirit of St. John Eudes and to the heart of his teaching: "zeal for the salvation of souls". The structural change initiated by St. Mary Euphrasia was envisaged to extend the glory of God and not to show "arrogance". Reiterating her basic intention, she realises that people will always "talk", yet she has to do what she feels is right.
St. Mary Euphrasia’s fidelity to live a life in the spirit of zeal for the "salvation of persons" is evident also in her flexibility and willingness to change the structure which she herself had developed. On the recommendation of the Holy See, she divided the congregation in Provinces in July 1855 and established novitiates in several countries. Though she had some concerns in this regard, she resolutely set about putting the structure in place.
Remember some significant "turning point" in your life?
To what new life did it lead you?
Staying faithful in the midst of opposition is a particularly trying experience. St.Mary Euphrasia was extremely faithful to the Church, even though she suffered deeply in her relationships with the Bishop of Angers, Bishop Angebault. She tried to work on their relationship over a period of twenty six years. Yet, he thwarted her projects in different ways and spoke against her with members of her community. Despite her sufferings, St. Mary Euphrasia never permitted the Sisters to speak badly of him.
In situations of being betrayed and calumniated, St. John Eudes was sometimes able to keep his peace and at other times he was overwhelmed: "I have suffered from people who were very dear to me, and who for many months, caused me the deepest pain and anguish I have ever suffered in my whole life".
When the Abbé d’Aunay unjustly calumniated St. John Eudes (charging him with thirteen heresies in his relationship with Marie des Vallées) he refused to defend himself saying: "Because I can find nowhere in the gospel that our divine and adorable master ever employed the means pointed out in your letter, I am unable to do otherwise than remain silent in imitation of his patience: "Jesus remained silent… and I beg God to pardon me and those who persecute me."
How has the suffering of misunderstanding/betrayal/ opposition strengthened you in living in creative fidelity ?
We leave you as a mantra from this retreat the maxim of St. Mary Euphrasia "Be faithful to yourselves in corresponding with God’s graces endeavouring each day to make progress on the path of holiness."
If you wish, you can go into Supplementary Tools to deepen your reflection with photos, videos etc.