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.

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    I awoke this morning to find myself singing: “I arise today, through the strength of heaven…”

    On this day we have been asked by the Pope to join him at noon to say the Lord’s Prayer together with him. That will be our procession, as we come together in the heart of our Beloved to say the prayer that he gave to us. At this time of a world-wide pandemic this may will be the only safe way that we can process together.

    We celebrate each other in these days in the only way we can – spiritually. That does not mean we think of something for a second and then dump into the hands of God and walk away to “do”; rather it becomes a part of our being and we carry it with us into the heart of our crucified Saviour, the heart of our Beloved, meeting with Mary our Mother, with Eugene, with all of the Oblates and more the entire Mazenodian Family. It is there that our procession with one another begins with each other and all those we know around the world.

    Eugene continues to guide us and to set the way; to gather us to together and then with all those we are sent to love. This may not affect the pandemic, but it will affect all of us as we experience love in a new way. It will change our being. This may be how we can look at the misery as well as the goodness that is transforming our world these days.

    I think for a moment of my little kaleidoscope and how when I hold it up to the light, turning it slowly the little bits and pieces from our world are somehow transformed into incredible beauty that excites and exhilarates us. This is what transformation can look like. Eugene held every one up to the light, putting them under the protection of Our Lady. Eugene’s devotion is repeated and experienced by and with all of us today on this Feast of the Assumption.

    We arise today, through the strength of heaven…

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