What times in which we are living! In addition to the tumultuous consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has been pummeled with seemingly endless acts of violence, hate crimes and social upheaval. Just when we thought we had seen it all, a condominium tower in Florida collapses without warning in an instant. Even the safe haven of one’s home becomes the opposite.
The year is 1798 and a terrified group of faith-filled parishioners had fled to a remote rain forest in La Vang in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam and prayed. They, along with their families and friends, were being persecuted by a government that was trying to suppress their practice of the Catholic faith. They were literally running for their lives. Just as their hearts were surely about to break with pain and fear, there appeared in the trees above them a lady in a traditional Vietnamese ao dai dress alongside two angels. She was holding a child in her arms. The people recognized the lady as the Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus lovingly in her arms. With the same love with which she held Jesus, she spoke words of comfort and reassurance that God was with them in their suffering and their faith would carry them through this difficult time.
Now, over 400 years later, on the campus of Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, stands a magnificent new shrine to the lady who appeared in the trees, known as Our Lady of La Vang. Since the apparition in 1798, Our Lady of La Vang has been a source of courage and hope for Vietnamese Catholics throughout the world who, in their own lives over the centuries, have come to experience the graces of her protecting presence.
The experiences of our lives and times tell us that such a protecting presence is needed now more than ever. Beginning with the shrine’s blessing on July 17, 2021, every hour of every day, Our Lady of La Vang stands vigilant on the Christ Cathedral campus. She wants us to know that just as she held her precious Child in her strong and loving arms on that day in 1798, her protecting arms are there to embrace us. In the days, months and years ahead, may we visit her shrine often with hearts of gratitude as she gazes lovingly upon us in the midst of whatever is happening in our lives.
Our Lady of La Vang, pray for us!
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector