Hue (Agenzia Fides) - "Do not miss the opportunity to make a pilgrimage with your family or your community. This is the time to pray as a family. Come and visit and pray to Our Lady of La Vang": the agencies that organize pilgrimages and tours to Catholic places in Vietnam have regained their breath and initiative. In particular in the month of May, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the proposals have multiplied for families, associations, parishes, communities, in Vietnam and abroad, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, in the diocese of Hue, Central Vietnam, where Our Lady appeared at the end of the 1700s. Tour operators also offer visits to Phu Cam Cathedral, Hue, and Thien An Monastery, perched on a verdant hill, but the highlight is the trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, an important nationwide Marian pilgrimage center for Vietnamese faithful.
Pilgrims come in small groups, in families, or larger communities, organized and led by priests. Devotees who have come from the different dioceses of the country are happy to be able to express their affection to the Virgin Mary and to ask for graces through her intercession, after a period when, due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic, travel was suspended or rarefied. "We are happy to have visited our heavenly mother. Our hearts are overflowing with joy," said pilgrims from Hanoi.
At the shrine itself, the "Lavang travel" agency has resumed its fervent activities with the end of the pandemic to organize the crowds at the 5 a.m. mass on weekdays, in the new shrine
(construction completed in 2022) or that celebrated in the evening at 7 p.m. On Sundays, the Eucharist is celebrated at 6 a.m., then at 3 p.m., to allow those who come from the nearest places to participate, if only for a day.
In May, many groups came from abroad, from Asian countries but also from Australia and the United States, where there are large communities of Vietnamese in the diaspora. Among them is the community led by Father George Packiasamy, parish priest of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in the city of Kuantan, Malaysia. "Let us open the eyes of our hearts, lift our eyes to God in faith, bring our difficulties and labors to the feet of Our Lady, remembering the story of La Vang", the priest recounts: "The apparition of Our Lady began with a group of persecuted Catholics who were hiding from oppression, deprivation and suffering, in the rainforest of La Vang in 1785. At each sunset sun, they gathered under a tree to pray the rosary. In 1798, after years of pious prayers, the Virgin, with the child Jesus in her arms, dressed in traditional Vietnamese clothes and accompanied by two angels, appeared in the branches of a tree".
"During the apparition, he continues, the Virgin told them that she was aware of their sufferings and their illnesses. She told them to pick leaves that were growing nearby and use them to make an infusion to heal. This is what happened. The news of this miracle spread among the inhabitants of the region and many converted to Catholicism.
In honor of Our Lady of La Vang, the faithful built a chapel in 1820. Pope John XXIII raised the Church of Our Lady of La Vang to the rank of a minor basilica on August 22, 1961, then Pope John Paul II recognized it as a basilica in 1998, on the occasion of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the apparition.
"As Catholics, we raise our eyes to Mary during our earthly pilgrimage. Let us pray so that she will assist all her children, whatever their condition, so that they may find the way, the truth and the life in Christ", Fr. George Packiasamy said. The priest recalls that "the word 'La Vang' comes from a Vietnamese term which means 'to cry out'. In our devotion to Our Lady, we can find comfort, help and courage when we 'cry out' to the Father for our needs, as the psalms say, and we ask for graces with faith and with all our hearts. Even today, we cry out to our Mother, reciting the Rosary, placing in her hands our anxieties and our miseries during this month of the Rosary. She, the dispenser of graces, will help us", he concludes. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/5/2023)