By: Michael Folmar, Seminarian
This past Saturday, July 23rd, there was a pilgrimage for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Our Lady of La Vang Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. In Vietnamese culture, the mother plays a very prominent role. Thus, it is no wonder that they have a deep and rooted devotion to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of La Vang. This devotion started when Our Blessed Mother began to appear to Vietnamese Catholics in 1798 when they were undergoing persecution. A key message from Our Lady of La Vang was to truly live life driven by a deep love for God; to be not only willing, but also ready, to suffer any type of oppression and ill-treatment in honor of Him. In addition, Our Lady of La Vang encouraged them to persevere in faith. Moving forward to 1988, 117 Vietnamese martyrs were canonized by St. John Paul II. Of these martyrs, fourteen of them have relics here, in the Our Lady of La Vang Chapel at the Basilica.
Back to Saturday’s pilgrimage, this celebration had me traveling with the Vietnamese Choir of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parish in Arlington. To make this day special, children performed two dances in honor of Our Blessed Mother. There was even a Marian procession into the front doors of the Basilica that was accompanied with Vietnamese hymns and a statue of Our Lady. Mass was well attended by Vietnamese people from all over the United States of America. Some even came as far as California, Texas, and Florida. To round off this pilgrimage, at the end of Mass, we all processed down to the Chapel of Our Lady of La Vang and sang more hymns.
After joining the Vietnamese Community for this special celebration, I decided to serve Mass over at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam (www.cttdva.com) the next day. Overall, this past weekend made me once more realize the importance of staying close to Our Blessed Mother. She always leads us closer to her Son, Jesus, and never ceases to aid and assist us on our challenging pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland. If we want to stay on the path to eternal glory, we must remain close to her. She will not let us perish and will always help us through thick and thin. Mom always knows what is best, and how more so is this true with Our Blessed Mother. Our Lady of La Vang, pray for us.
A special thank you to Fr. John Son Hoang, O.P. of Holy Martyrs of Vietnam parish, as well as fellow parishioner Christina Trinh, who assisted me in making this weekend possible.