While assisting those who were suffering so greatly from the cholera epidemic, 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…
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. …
Letter to his mother, March 1835, EO XV n. 176
Two years later there was another outbreak of the epidemic:
On the feast of the Assumption, I officiated pontifically at the cathedral both in the morning and in the evening. I took part in the general procession and gave Benediction in the evening. On Sunday in the octave, I went to say Holy Mass at Notre-Dame de la Garde to place myself, all of our men, and the whole diocese, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin.
Eugene de Mazenod’s Diary, undated entry August 1837, EO XVIII
The same devotion was repeated in the epidemic of 1854 in Marseilles.