Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 29th: Vietnam - Our Lady of La Vang

Our Lady of La Vang is the central and national shrine of Vietnam, approximately 60 kilometers from the former capitol HuĂȘ. The name is derived from a type of fern which used to grow in great quantities in the region. During the great persecution (1798-1801) many Christians took refuge in the jungle situated in proximity of Quang Tri, a village in central Vietnam, where they experienced hunger and sickness, and prepared themselves for martyrdom. One day, as the community was assembled in prayer, the figure of a lady surrounded by many lights, appeared to them. She presented herself as the Mother of God, encouraged and consoled them, and gave them a special sign of her loving care. She advised the people to use the leaves of the fern to treat their ailments, and promised them to receive their prayers with maternal generosity. All who would congregate on this site to pray would be heard and their petitions granted. Mary appeared on several occasions at the same site. After the persecution in 1802, the Christians left their jungle hiding place and returned to their villages. However, the story of the apparition and its message was passed on. In 1820 a chapel was built at the apparition site. From 1820-1885 still another wave of persecution decimated the Christian population. More than 100,000 Vietnamese Christians died as martyrs. In 1885 the chapel in honor of Our Lady of La Vang was destroyed by a fanatic. A new chapel was built between 1886 and 1901 (consecration). Soon it was no longer able to hold the many pilgrims to La Vang, and in 1923 a new and bigger church was erected. It was consecrated in 1928 (August 22) in the presence of 20,000 pilgrims. Every three years a national pilgrimage was organized for the whole country which was to have a special meaning even after the separation of South and North. In 1959 La Vang was officially declared a national shrine, marking the 300 years of the Church's presence in Vietnam. The Church of La Vang was made a basilica minor in 1961. (The Mary Page)
Ann Ball at Holy Spirit International and this American Vietnamese website give more detail.

This article gives the history of Catholicism in Vietnam since it was first introduced there in the sixteenth century. Many thousands of Catholics were martyred during the long persecution of the Church in Vietnam, including St. Andrew Dung Lac and his companions. Through Catholic Greetings you can send an eCard with a picture of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, your own message, and this quote: "Each martyr has offered the same simple—and profound—lessons: Be not afraid. You are not alone. Your faith is your greatest treasure. Embrace it, celebrate it, live it openly. Trust in God."

The Church in Vietnam is growing, and the government now takes a fairly benign approach. Today there are 8 million Catholics in the country out of a population of 86 million. Read more here.
Blessed Lady of Lavang be my mother and comfort me, especially in times of trial and unhappiness. Enter my heart and stay with me wherever I may go. Grant that one day, through you, I may find rest and peace in my Father's house. (Holy Spirit International)


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