La Vang Vietnam 1798

La Vang Mother and Child   

In the late 1700s, political power struggles in Vietnam were the order of the day. In parallel to the French Revolution, the peasants were rising against the ruling lords. During the battle for the country's throne, the insurgent Nguyen Anh sought refuge on Phu Quoc Island where the Society of Foreign Missions had established a seminary for youths from surrounding countries. The seminary head, Bishop Pierre Pigneau urged Nguyen Anh to request assistance from King Louis XVI.

When the reigning monarch discovered this, he knew that the increasing numbers of Vietnamese Catholics would support Anh. As a result, King Canh Thinh issued an anti-Catholic edict on August 17, 1798, ordering the destruction of all Catholic churches and seminaries. This was accompanied by the torture and execution of the missionaries and their converts, a terror that would last for 88 years.

During the period of persecution, many Vietnamese Catholics fled to the deep forest region of Vietnam near present day Quang Tri City. The area was notable for a tree, called La Vang, derived from Vietnamese for Crying Out, which signified the howls of the persecuted innocents.

That same year, 1798, the fleeing refugees suffered from intense cold, jungle sickness and starvation. One night, as they were gathered in groups to pray and say the Rosary, an apparition of a beautiful Lady appeared to them, wearing a long cape, holding a child, and accompanied by two angels. They identified her as the Blessed Virgin. The apparition spoke, telling them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. She also promised that from when on, at the grassy area near an ancient banyan tree where they had been praying, all who came to this place to pray would have their prayers answered. For the next 88, throughout the period of persecution, the apparition continued to appear to those worshippers who gathered at the spot. Among them, were a group of thirty who had been captured in the forest of Lavang. Knowing they were to die, they appealed to be returned to the little chapel of Lavang which had been built to honor the Blessed Mother. There they were burned to death.

In spite of the difficulty in reaching the location, many pilgrims found their way to the increasingly famous spot at Lavang. They risked their lives and health to journey through the jungle to reach the spot where they might worship the Lady of Lavang.

By 1886, the persecution of the faithful had officially ended. It was Bishop Gaspar who ordered a church to be built to the Lady of Lavang, but because of its isolated location, the project took a decade and a half. From August 6th to 9th, 1901, the church was inaugurated by Bishop Gaspar in a ceremony that included more than ten thousand worshippers. Twenty-seven years later, a larger church was built, because the number of pilgrims and worshippers had significantly increased. In 1972, during the Vietnam war, this church was destroyed.

On June 19, 1988 Pope John Paul II conducted the canonizing ceremony of 117 Vietnamese martyrs. He expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the Lavang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lady of Lavang's first appearance in August 1998.

La Vang Veneration   La Vang Apparition


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