Did a Corpus Christi procession stop a deadly plague in France?

A Eucharistic procession in Leicester Square, central London (Photo: Mazur/

A Eucharistic procession can have miraculous results. In the summer of 1722, there was an outbreak of deadly disease in the French city of Marseilles. Forty thousand people became ill and died. Doctors and priests were in a panic in their attempts to treat victims or give them the Last Rites. The Bishop of Marseilles, Bishop Belzunce, had an inspiration. In the hope that the spread of the disease would end, he consecrated Marseilles to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and organised a Eucharistic procession.

Bishop Belzunce amassed support from all over Marseilles and the Eucharistic procession took place with great solemnity, so serious were the people of Marseilles in beseeching Our Lord for an end to the plague that had spread.

Some would say what happened next was coincidence, although people of faith may say it was miraculous. But immediately after the Eucharistic procession, the plague vanished and doctors stopped pronouncing people dead – in fact not one person died for six weeks.

Contemplating this case may spur us to have greater devotion to the Sacred Heart. It is June, the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and Corpus Christi processions will be taking place this coming Sunday.

Here in London, the procession will start at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Farm Street in the presence of Cardinal Vincent Nichols and end at St James’s Spanish Place. Whatever part of the world we happen to be in, the Corpus Christi procession is an occasion when Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is displayed to the entire community. By walking on the streets behind the celebrant who will hold the monstrance under the canopy, we are showing our love for Christ in the Real Presence. We are doing it in the most public way that we can.

Some of my friends say they are taking a risk by being part of a Corpus Christi procession, because if they are photographed and if their workmates see the photos online, they might be looked down on by their bosses as the people who believe pious mumbo-jumbo. But herein lies the true reason that we publicly show our commitment to loving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament by walking behind the monstrance: we are not doing so merely for our own benefit, but mostly for the good of the souls of people who witness the procession. The people of Marseille prayed for the sick and dying, but in our times of great medical advances, we are unlikely to pray for a plague to end. We might, however, pray for sick souls who are in need of Our Lord’s love to make them better. We are allowing the public to see our devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the hope that our sincere example may lead them to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.