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.”

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    As I write this I begin to understand why it later became so important to St. Eugene to build the magnificent church to Our Lady on the hill top overlooking the city.

    People coming together to pray and pour out their hearts – whether it be in the midst of immense death and sorrow, or in celebration and joy. I remember as a little girl, the diocese which I grew up in would hold a gathering every summer in a big baseball field in the middle of the city; Catholics from all over Vancouver were invited to come and say the Rosary together. Down on the field there would be school-age children wearing white clothes that were covered by a simple blue tunic-style apron. And everyone would sit in the stands and pray together. Perhaps it is this which accounts for my own love of the Rosary which comforts and consoles me throughout the day and particularly in times of great stress or pain. An Oblate Associate that I know and love deeply works in a Nursing Home and once a month she brings those who wish to be a part of prayer – she brings them together and prays the Rosary with them. It brings them peace and consolation. Like me she also prays the rosary daily when she walks or rides the bus – it becomes a way for us to breathe.

    I think of Jesus on the Cross handing over his mother to those at the foot of the cross and giving them to her. To this day when I pray to her it is often that I call her ‘Maman’.

    The 4 days of prayer to Our Lady then led to a procession where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for nine days. Our Lady leading us to her son, to Jesus. How she bring us home to Him who is our Beloved Saviour.

    Eugene knew that if they prayed to her with immense faith she would ensure that God heard their cries.

    “She received Christ in order to share him with all the world, whose hope he is. In her, we recognize the model of the Church’s faith and of our own. We shall always look on her as our mother. In the joys and sorrows of our missionary life, we feel close to her who is the Mother of Mercy.” Constitution 10.

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