Eugene continued his description of the ceremony and procession with true Provençal feeling:
The procession traversed the village streets, which were flooded with water, mud and dung; but it seems that by trampling the filth underfoot, there were released the most abundant wellsprings of grace. What would there have been if any other of the missionaries than the wretched Superior, who had to assume for himself so large a part of this expiation, which should have been all for the people, had been able to offer himself as victim? But it was fitting it should be he who offered himself; it goes without saying that he was the least worthy of it, precisely because he was the one most in need of it.
When the procession, which was conducted in a remarkable spirit of recollection, had re-entered, the Superior handed the cross to an acolyte and prostrated himself at the foot of the altar, face down; he continued, in this position, to pray for the people’s conversion: he did not rise until after the blessing.
He then re-entered the sacristy, and the eagerness displayed towards him to wash his feet, which one of the missionaries in a spontaneous movement of humility could not refrain from kissing, produced an outpouring of feeling which it will be difficult to erase from the memories of those who witnessed it. Hearts could no longer contain the pent-up joy and consolation, and the sobs and abundance of tears manifested the beautiful feelings with which souls were filled.
Diary of the Marignane Mission, 24 November 1816, O.W. XVI
The Ceremonial for Missions gives more explanatory details:
While the procession returns and while the Superior is prostrated in front of the Cross, a Missionary in the pulpit, makes reflections and suggests appropriate sentiments for the occasion, while he directs the eyes and attention of all on the example of the Saviour who has taken on all the iniquities…
After the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, everyone kisses the Crucifix, beginning with the celebrant and the clergy.
Ceremonial of Laus,
reproduced in YENVEUX, A., Les Saintes Règles… volume 2, p. 191.