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On Sunday, August 14, 2005, at the Noon Mass, St. James held its second annual Multicultural Marian Celebration.  This year, the image of Our Lady of Lavang, dear to the people of Vietnam, was given special honor.

The reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans was proclaimed in Vietnamese by one of our youth readers.

Many people brought their own images of the Virgin Mary to be blessed during the Mass.

At the conclusion of Mass, the procession led the image our Lady of Lavang outside to the coffee hour.

The Story of Our Lady of Lavang.

The image of Our Lady of Lavang, like those of Fatima and Lourdes, originated in a miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In a certain sense, the story of Our Lady of Lavang is the story of the Catholic faith in Vietnam, which has survived for more than three centuries through incredible persecution and hardship.

During much of the 18th century, Vietnam was torn by struggles for power between two great families, the Trinhs and the Nguyens. The Trinh lords came to power, bringing national unity for the first time in many years. But Nguyen Anh, an insurgent, sought help from King Louis XVI of France, and in retaliation King Canh Thinh began a systematic persecution of Catholics. Worried that Vietnamese Catholics would support the Nguyen lords, on August 17, 1798, the King issued an anti-Catholic edict and an order to destroy all Catholic churches and seminaries. A severe persecution of Vietnamese Catholics and missionaries began which would last until 1886.

It was amidst this great suffering that Our Lady of Lavang came to the people of Vietnam. The name Lavang is thought to derive from the La�Vang tree which grows in abundance in the deep jungle where the apparition took place. �Lavang� also echoes the Vietnamese word for "crying out," a reference to the cries for help of those being persecuted.

During the first great persecution of Christians in Vietnam (1798-1801), many Catholics took refuge in the jungle situated near Quang Tri, about 60 kilometers from Hue. There they suffered greatly from hunger and sickness, and prepared themselves for martyrdom. One day, as the community was assembled in prayer, the figure of a lady holding a child appeared to them. She was flanked by two angels. She told them she was the Mother of God, encouraged and consoled them. She advised the people to use the leaves of the la-vang to treat their ailments. She told them that all who would gather on this site to pray would be heard and their petitions granted. Mary appeared on several other occasions at the same site. In 1802, there was a lull in the persecutions, and the Catholics left their jungle hiding place and returned to their villages.

However, the story of the apparition and its message was passed on. In 1820 a chapel was built at the apparition site. From 1820-1885 still another wave of persecution decimated the Catholic population. During these years, more than 100,000 Vietnamese Catholics died as martyrs. Some were killed at the very shrine of Our Lady of Lavang. In 1885 the chapel in honor of Our Lady of Lavang was destroyed by a fanatic. A new chapel was begun in 1886. By the time it was completed in 1901, it was no longer able to accommodate the many pilgrims, and in 1923 a new and bigger church was erected. It was consecrated on August 22, 1928 in the presence of 20,000 pilgrims. Every three years a national pilgrimage was organized for the whole country, which was to have a special meaning even after the separation of South and North. In 1959 Lavang was officially declared a national shrine, marking the 300 years of the Church's presence in Vietnam. The Church of Lavang was elevated to a minor basilica in 1961.

Photos by M. Laughlin � St. James Cathedral, Seattle.  All rights reserved.


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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303