la Vang, Our Lady of
LA VANG, OUR LADY OF
Our Lady of La Vang, in Vietnamese, is Ðức Mẹ La Vang, also known as Our Lady of Vietnam. Located in the Hai Lang district in the Quảng Trị region, La Vang is about 60 km north of H[symbol omitted]. On Aug. 17, 1798, King Cảnh Thịnh issued an edict ordering the immediate execution of all Catholics in his realm. As persecution erupted, a group of Catholic refugees from neighboring villages escaped into the jungles of La Vang. According to the received tradition, one night, a beautiful and radiant lady with a compassionate countenance appeared to the frightened and starving refugees by a huge, old tree as they were praying for deliverance from their persecutors and protection from wild beasts. Calling herself the "Blessed Mother" (Ðứ Mẹ ), she comforted and encouraged them to keep their faith in Jesus Christ, taught them how to collect herbs in the forest as medicine, and promised to intercede to her Son on their behalf.
When the persecution subsided, a cult to the Blessed Virgin grew at the spot of the tree, drawing Catholics and non–Catholics alike. In 1820, a small shrine was built at the foot of the tree by her devotees. In 1825, the first church of Our Lady of La Vang was built at the spot of her apparition with land and monetary donations from the nearby villages of Thach Hản, C[symbol omitted] Thành, and Ba Trừ. In 1866, the local bishop rebuilt and enlarged the church. Destroyed by anti–Catholic radicals in 1885, construction of a new church began in 1886, and the church was consecrated in 1901. By the 1920s, this building proved too small. In 1923, construction began on a new edifice which was consecrated on Aug. 22, 1928 with 20,000 pilgrims in attendance. In 1959 La Vang was officially declared the National Shrine of Our Lady of Vietnam, marking 300 years of the Church's presence in Vietnam. On Aug. 22, 1961, Pope John XXIII elevated this shrine to a minor basilica. In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War, the basilica was completely destroyed by Communist bombardment, save for the shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, which miraculously survived intact. On Aug. 15, 1993, in his address to Vietnamese–American youth during World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado, Pope John Paul II entrusted the Vietnamese Catholic Church under the protection of Our Lady of La Vang.
Despite repeated requests, the Communist authorities refused permission to rebuild the destroyed basilica. Nevertheless, the triennial Marian Days pilgrimage to the shrine grew in size in the late 1980s and 1990s, gathering in the public square in front of the existing shrine. The 200–year anniversary celebration of the apparition in 1998–99 drew more than 200,000 pilgrims from across Vietnam, despite official restrictions barring overseas Vietnamese from participating. In the U.S., devotion to Our Lady of La Vang was promoted by the congregation of the mother co–redemptrix (Dòng Ð[symbol omitted]ng Công ). Their annual Marian Days pilgrimage celebration every August, mirrored after the traditional Marian Days pilgrimage to La Vang, drew an estimated 50,000 Vietnamese Catholics to Carthage, Missouri each year.
[v. t. pham]