About 25 of us made a six-day pilgrimage to Vietnam, covering the cities of Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue and Danang. The eminent Pilgrimage destination and attraction was to pay homage to Our Lady of La Vang in Central Vietnam, and this took place on 4 May 2023.
The story of the apparition of Our Lady began with a group of persecuted Catholics who hid from oppression, deprivation and suffering, in the rainforest of La Vang in 1785. Every sunset, they would gather under a tree to recite the Rosary. In 1798, after many years of devout dedication and prayer, Our Lady with Child Jesus in her arms, dressed in traditional Vietnamese attire, and two angels beside her, appeared to them from among the branches of a tree.
During the apparition, she told them that she was fully aware of their hardships and sufferings of chronic illnesses due to contaminated water. She told them to gather leaves that grew nearby and use these to make a strong tea for healing. They did as per her instructions and their favour was granted. Word of this miracle spread to the people around the area, and many were converted to Catholicism.
In honour of Our Lady of La Vang, they built a chapel in 1820. Pope John XXIII elevated the Church of Our Lady of La Vang to the rank of minor basilica on 22 August 1961 and then Pope John Paul II recognised it as La Vang Basilica in 1998, as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of her first apparition.
As Catholics, we raise our eyes in faith to behold Mary in the course of our earthly pilgrimage. We pray to her and strive to increase in holiness. She assists all her children, whatever their condition, to find in Christ - the way to the Father’s house. It is always good to place our affection and trust in our Holy Virgin Mother.
The word La Vang is a derivative of the Vietnamese word meaning “crying out”. In our devotion to Our Lady, may we find comfort, solace and courage when we cry out to her with courage for our needs and favour. “Cry out with joy to God, all the earth; O sing to the glory of God's name” (Psalms 66). Let us again and again cry out to her with recitation of the Rosary in all our anguish and misery during this month of the Rosary.
Vietnam is also known as a land of martyrs, after Japan. One fascinating image we encountered in La Vang was an image (approximately 7x3 meters) with 117 Martyrs depicted on it. Among them - Sts Chastan and Imbert, MEP and St Philip Minh and companions (Vietnamese) - who were lecturing and studying in College General, Penang. Below this image was written - “Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, Pray for us!”