The Feast Day of Our Lady of La Vang is November 22. The first apparition of the Lady of La Vang to the Vietnamese people was noted during the great persecution in 1798. The ruling king began a fierce persecution of Vietnamese Catholics which lasted until 1886. All Catholic Churches and seminaries were destroyed and Catholic lay people and priests were maimed or killed in gruesome ways. In the year that this persecution began, 1798, Our Lady of La’Vang first appeared.
Catholics from the town of Quang Tri had come to the forest of La’Vang to hide. They suffered from cold, were in fear of wild animals and were sick with jungle fever and hunger.
During the night they prayed the rosary and while praying one night they saw an apparition of a woman in a long cape, with a child in her arms, and with an angel at each side. They recognized the woman in the apparition of Mary, the mother of Christ. Mary comforted the people and told them how to make medicine for their sickness from the leaves of the surrounding trees. She also told them that whoever came to this place to pray would have their prayers answered. Throughout the almost one hundred years of persecutions as many Vietnamese Catholics were burned alive for the faith. Mary continued to appear to the people who came to that spot in the forest to pray. From the first apparition a small chapel had been built and even though it was in an isolated situation in the mountains, groups of people continuously went there to pray.
In 1886, when the persecutions had finally ended, the construction of a larger church was begun. When it was finished in 1901, Our Lady of La’Vang was proclaimed the protector of Vietnamese Catholics.
In 1928 a larger Church again was built to accommodate the growing numbers of pilgrims but this basilica was destroyed during the war in Vietnam in 1972. On the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of La’Vang, Pope John Paul II called the basilica to be rebuilt and stressed the importance of our Lady of La’Vang in the devotion of Vietnamese Catholics who have suffered much from war and post -war persecution.