I have never been to Vietnam, but the stories about our Blessed Mother’s apparition reached us through our Vietnamese brothers. Before the pandemic struck us, our brothers from Vietnam would always bring us small images of the Our Lady of La Vang upon returning from their vacations. Besides the sacred images, they would also tell us the history behind this devotion. That moved me to make short research about the Our Lady of La Vang. I formulated two questions to aid us in our journey: what is the history behind the Our Lady of La Vang? And what is the implication of knowing this devotion for us Piarists Religious and Lay?
According to some articles, around 1785 or earlier than that, Christians were persecuted in Vietnam. As a consequence, some Christian Vietnamese went to seek refuge in the rainforest of La Vang in the Quảng Trị Province of Vietnam. However, many of them became very ill. In the evening of 1798, the Blessed Virgin Mother with the child Jesus appeared to them. She told them that she was fully aware of their difficulties and sickness. She instructed them to gather certain leaves and make a strong tea out of them because it would keep them healthy. She also said that “From this day on, prayers said on this spot will be heard and answered.” Years later, the persecution ended, the Vietnamese Christians returned to their homes and gave witness to the apparition. Many Buddhists were converted and believed in Our Lady’s promise. They built the first little shrine, a pagoda, on the spot where Mary had been seen. Their small shrine became the first Church of Our Lady of Lavang.
Our Blessed Mother appeared to the Vietnamese Christians to tell them that God did not abandon them. Her instructions cured them of the illnesses they experienced. As Piarists, this story is worth sharing, because it is also our mission to proclaim especially to our students that God did not abandon us. He likewise sends His mother to protect us and instruct us on what to do during these trying times as long as we seek Her help. For us, in the province of Asia Pacific, it is our Blessed Mother who unites us to continue our Calasanzian Mission by helping our students who seek refuge in our schools. May the Our Lady of Lavang, intercede for us.
John Michael O. Dion Sch. P.
Br. JOHN MICHAEL O. DION
John Michael hails from the Diocese of Tarlac, Philippines. He is a Psychology graduate, joined the Piarist Fathers in 2012. He took Philosophy units at the Rogationist Seminary and Certificate for Professional Education at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City. In 2020, he finished his Bachelor in Sacred Theology and Master of Arts in Pastoral ministry, specialized in Spirituality and Retreat Direction at the Loyola School of Theology – Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. Currently, he is assigned at Calasanz de Davao Community, working as a subject teacher for Philippine history, World Religions, Applied Social Sciences, and Religious Studies at Calasanz de Davao Academy, Inc.