Henri Grialou was born on December 2, 1894 in southern France. Even as a child, he dreamt of becoming a priest, but they were too poor. At 10, he lost his father. His mother had to take on odd jobs to feed the family. The following year, Henri accepted the free education offered by the Fathers of the Holy Spirit for him to study in Italy. After three years however, he realized that God wanted him in the local seminary in his hometown.
World War I
World War I (1914-1918) interrupted Henri's seminary studies and he was drafted into the army. He was sent to the front where fighting was most fierce. When he was wounded, he experienced the strong protection of Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, who at that time was already making many miracles. At the end of the war, a brilliant military career lay open before Henri but he decided to go back to the seminary instead.
Ordination to Priesthood
During his retreat before ordination to the diaconate, Henri read a book on the life of St. John of the Cross. It was then that he received an imperative call to become a Carmelite monk. However, his mother and his bishop objected to it. Henri suffered and prayed in silence, abandoning himself to God's will. He was ordained priest on February 4, 1922. Eventually, his bishop realized that God really wanted Henri in Carmel and allow him to leave the diocese.
Call to Carmel
Meanwhile, Madame Grialou remained adamant threatened to commit suicide if her son insisted on following his Carmelite vocation. Henri loved his mother deeply but he could not resist God's will "so clearly manifested". With a heavy heart, the newly ordained Fr. Grialou left his family without saying a word to anybody, overcome by anguish at the thought of wounding his mother and perhaps sending her to the grave. This did not happen but Mrs. Grialou cut off all communications with him. It took almost two years before Henri and his mother were reconciled.
Working for the Carmelite Spirituality
In Carmel, Fr. Grialou assumed the name Fr. Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus. He discovered more deeply the treasures of Carmel and was convinced of sharing them with others, both lay and consecrated persons. As well as editing a journal on prayer and Carmelite spirituality, he travelled all over France speaking tirelessly about God, prayer, and the Carmelite saints, notably St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of the Child Jesus.
The birth of Notre Dame de Vie Institute
Providential circumstances led to a meeting in 1929 between Fr. Marie-Eugène and the first three members of what would become Notre-Dame de Vie (NDV) Institute. Among them was Marie Pila, a philosopher, who became the first superior. They wanted to know more about Carmelite spirituality and live it fully. The meeting was felicious. For his part, Fr. Marie-Eugène needed "helpers" who, working as professionals, would live the Carmelite doctrine outside "the grills", integrating prayer in their daily life.
Responsibilities for the Carmelite Order - "I want to see God"
Even as the NDV Institute began to attract vocations, Fr. Marie-Eugène continued his work in the Order of the Discalced Carmelite. He was appointed prior or provincial as various times and was elected Definitor (or Councilor) of the Order in 1937. Pope Pius XII also appointed him Apostolic Visitator of the Discalced Carmelite convents in France and Belgium. Upon the sudden death of the Carmelite General in 1954, Fr. Marie-Eugène became Vicar-General. It was also during this period (1948-1951), that he published two important books: Je veux voir Dieu [I Want to See God] and Je suis fille de l'Eglise [I am a Daughter of the Church]. Eventually, they were combined to form only one single volume in the French edition under the title Je veux voir Dieu. It has been translated into several languages.
Death and cause for beatification
On Easter Monday, March 27, 1967, Fr. Marie-Eugène of the Child Jesus joined his Creator. His cause for beatification was introduced in 1985 and, in December 2011, the Cardinals for the Cause of Saints approved the heroicity of his virtues. Thus, he is now publicly called Venerable Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus.