Marius Suzanne seemed to have teased Eugene about a civic honor he had just received from the King of Sardinia:
I really think you make fun of me in your manner of remarking about my knighthood.
Letter to Marius Suzanne, 7 March 1827, EO VII n 264
The historian Rey give us the background
For a long time, Marseille, like all cities located on the shores of the Mediterranean, formed an Italian colony: the Sardinians, the Genoese, the Sicilians were represented. This fluctuating group of immigrants formed a considerable population generally deprived of religious care. The founder decided to take care of them. His zeal and assisted by his knowledge of the Italian language, allowed him to achieve unexpected results.
Shortly after his arrival in Marseilles as vicar general of the diocese in 1823, Eugene had become aware of the many Italian immigrants who were abandoned in their need for spiritual help because the church was unable to minister to them in their own language. He responded immediately by inviting them to gather them at the shrine and church of Le Calvaire, under the care of the Oblates
The Italian Consul mentioned this in his reports to the Court of Sardinia. King Charles Felix, a deeply religious prince, learned with great satisfaction the success achieved by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Marseille, whose sermons in Nice had made a big impact, reaching even the royal palace. Using the consul of Sardinia, His Majesty sent to Father de Mazenod the nomination and decoration of Knight of the Religious and Military Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, an honor held in high esteem at that time and worthy of appreciation.
REY I p 425
In 1836, the king, Charles Albert bestowed upon him the title of commander; and twenty years, King Victor Emmanuel II bestowed upon him the title of grand officer – always in grateful recognition for the ministry to the Italian dockworkers and their families.
Today the Missionary Oblates continue this same Gospel outreach to immigrants in all parts of the world.
“Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.” Aristotle