This week – and throughout the month of October – we celebrate the Month of the Rosary, honoring the Mother of Our Lord and looking to the Blessed Virgin as an example of, as Pope Francis says, a “woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plan.”
By: Corinne Monogue, Director of Multicultural Ministries
Our Catholic faith spans the globe, and with such, we have been blessed with many apparitions of Mary throughout the centuries. There are nine major approved Marian apparitions of modern times, which is based on acceptance and validation of the Church and their importance assumed over time. The Church does not require the belief in any apparition, but deems many to be “worthy of belief”. The Church investigates all apparitions vigorously and one that has been dynamically referenced by our Vietnamese brothers and sisters in Christ is Our Lady of La Vang. The history of the apparition of Our Lady has greatly influenced and shaped Vietnamese Catholic traditions over time. It is rewarding and encouraging to review all cultural Marian apparitions as part of our own individual spiritual journeys.
In 1798, Vietnam began terrible persecutions of the country’s Christians. During this persecution, many Christians took refuge in a nearby forest, northwest of Quang Tri in central Vietnam, called La Vang. It is said that the Blessed Mother presented herself to the group as they were experiencing severe hunger and sickness. As the Christians gathered, the Mother of God appeared holding a baby, with two angels at her side. She comforted them and instructed them to use the local leaves to boil as medicine and promised to all those who came to this place to pray would have their prayers heard and answered. Our Lady appeared several times at this site throughout the entire period of Christian persecution in Vietnam.
After a time, the Christians who took refuge at La Vang, built a small chapel in her honor. Throughout these years, word of Our Lady’s apparition spread and despite the isolation of the chapel and the continued persecution of Christians, pilgrims continued to return year after year. In the 1920s, a larger church was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims which allowed tens of thousands of pilgrims to gather. In 1959, La Vang was officially declared a national shrine and, in 1961, was made a Minor Basilica.
At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang can be found in the Crypt Church.
Unfortunately, there is no written documentation of these apparitions: such documents were assumed to be destroyed during several wars. Although there is no official Vatican recognition of this event as a Marian apparition, Pope Saint John Paul II acknowledged the importance of Our Lady of La Vang:
“In going to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, so dear to the hearts of the Vietnamese faithful, pilgrims entrust to her their joys and their sorrows, their hopes and their sufferings. In this way they turn to God and make themselves intercessors for their families and for their entire people asking the Lord to instill sentiments of peace, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of all men and women, so that all the Vietnamese will be every day more closely united, in order to build a world in which it is pleasant to live, based on the essential spiritual and moral values and where each person can be recognized in his dignity as a child of God, and turn freely and with filial love to his Father in heaven who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).” Message of Pope Saint John Paul II for the Conclusion of the Marian Year in La Vang, Vietnam.
Our Lady of La Vang, pray for us.
Follow the Catholic Diocese of Arlington on our platforms: