Apparitions of Mary
La Vang, Viet Nam
Mary Approaches Us As A Loving Mother
During the 18th century, struggles for power and domination besieged the country of Vietnam. The northern regions fell under the authority of the Trinh family, and the southern regions under that of the Nguyen family. By the end of the eighteenth century, peasant uprisings and emerging rebel forces threatened both families. The strongest among the rebel leaders were three brothers from Tay Son. After defeating the Trinh and Nguyen families, one of the Tay Son brothers became emperor. Upon his death in 1792, the throne passed to his son, who became the Emperor Canh Thinh. At the same time, members of the Nguyen family continued their insurgency, trying to reclaim the throne with the help of a French missionary.
Fearing the intrusion of the Catholic Church, Emperor Canh Thinh restricted the practice of Catholicism in the country. Soon thereafter, the emperor issued an anti-Catholic edict and ordered all Catholic churches and seminaries destroyed. Fierce persecutions ensued. When these persecutions were at their worst, Christians from the local villages and parishes fled to the nearby jungle or the La Vang region. Legend states that the term "La Vang" was a derivative of the Vietnamese word meaning "crying out," and it referred to the sound the villagers made when chasing away the wild beasts or the cries for help of the persecuted Christians. Modern scholars believe it comes from the ancient practice of naming a location for a genus of tree or plant native to the area, La (leaf) Vang (herbal seeds).
While hiding in this deep jungle, the community gathered every night at the foot of a great tree to pray the rosary. One night, an apparition surprised them. In the branches of the tree stood a beautiful lady in a magnificent cloak, carrying an infant son in her arms, with two angels at her side. The lovely lady presented herself as the Mother of God. Encouraging and consoling the people, she gave them a special sign of her loving care: the leaves of a fern to treat their physical ailments and the promise to receive their prayers with maternal generosity. All who gathered and prayed on this spot would have their prayers heard and their petitions granted. After this first apparition, the Blessed Mother appeared many times in this same place, throughout the period of nearly one hundred years of religious persecution.
In 1802, following the end of the persecutions, the Christians returned to their villages, passing on the story of the apparition in La Vang and its message. As the story of the apparitions spread, many came to pray at this site and to offer incense. In 1820, a chapel was built.
From 1830-1885 another wave of persecutions decimated the Christian population, during the height of which, the chapel in honor of Our lady of La Vang was destroyed. In 1886, construction on a new chapel began. Following its completion, Bishop Gaspar (Loc) consecrated the chapel in honor of Our Lady Help of Christians, in 1901.