The missionaries preached in Provençal, and their use of this language brought them closer to the humble and lesser-educated people. Eugene had founded his missionary family precisely to reach out to the most abandoned people by preaching in their language. The use of the Provencal language was a principle to which he insistently clung.
The official attitude of the Government after the Revolution was that French was the only language to be used so as to unify the country. The result was that the inhabitants of the remote villages who only knew Provençal were made to be even more abandoned. The missionaries defied this in order more effectively to lead them to God.
An example took place in 1833 when the Mayor of La Ciotat had posted strongly-worded notices in the town condemning the missionaries and their use of Provencal. Eugene responded:
We read there that the subject of the Mayor’s inconceivable diatribe is the language which I use in my instructions. I had thought until now that it was necessary to speak to the good farmers and fishermen in the language they understand best. The Mayor’s anger does not make me change my opinion.
BOUDENS, R., “Mgr. de Mazenod et le provençal” in Études Oblates 15 (1956), p. 6-7