While assisting those who were suffering so greatly, Eugene and his uncle, Bishop Fortuné, arranged to focus the attention of the people of Marseilles on concentrated prayer. The population had a special devotion to the small sanctuary of Notre Dame de la Garde on the hill dominating the city. The statue of the “Good Mother” which represented Mary’s “keeping guard” over the city and over the sea, was particularly loved by the people. Eugene wrote:
We are going to offer solemn prayers. Tomorrow we are bringing down the statue of Our Lady de la Garde for exposition in the cathedral for three days. Afterwards we will have a procession of the Blessed Sacrament for all who wish to take part as you can read in the brief pastoral directive I am sending you.
Letter to Casimir Aubert, 10 March 1835, EO VIII n 508
Writing to his mother some days later he describes this event:
We are now confronted by a quite ravishing spectacle. It is a holy explosion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which was displayed not only in the course of the journey down from the Mount to the cathedral, but is still going on with a sustained trust. The cathedral, where the Blessed Virgin has been exposed, does not empty from five in the morning till seven in the evening. When I say it does not empty, the fact is the whole vast building is continually full, from the altar to the organ; we have let them invade the choir, which is constantly full of men. One cannot but weep for joy. So I have to tear myself away from this temple, and if pressure of business did not call me away, I would not leave, my heart bursts so amid this very wonderful devotion. I think the Lord cannot but allow himself to be touched nor his divine Mother fail to obtain us mercy. I do not know what will come of it. The fact is that during the daytime yesterday, instead of the huge number of cases that have been daily terrifying our quarter, we had only a single case; and St. Laurent, which is suffering as much as ourselves, had only two. It is a huge decrease. Let’s hope.
Letter to his mother, March 1835, EO XV n. 176
Beaudoin tells us: “From March 8-12 the statue of N.D. de la Garde was exposed in the cathedral. On the 12th. there was a procession from the cathedral to the church of St. Martin where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for nine days. These days of prayer ended with another procession on the 22nd.”