Vietnamese History & Traditions


vietnamese mary

Our Lady of Lavang

Feast Day: November 22


In August 1798, the king in Vietnam began a terrible persecution of the country’s Catholics. Catholics in the city of Quang Tri hid in a nearby forest at Lavang, about 55 miles northwest of Hue, in central Vietnam. On Aug. 22, 1798, it is said, the Blessed Mother appeared to the group of frightened, exhausted people, offering them comfort and solace. She was holding a baby; two angels stood at her side. Our Blessed Mother comforted them and told them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. Shealso told them that from that day on, all those who came to this place to pray, would get their prayers heard and answered. This took place on the grass area near the big ancient banyan tree where the refugees were praying. All those who were present witnessed this miracle. After this first apparition, the Blessed Mother continued to appear to the people in this same place many times throughout the period of nearly one hundred years of religious persecution. Among many groups of Vietnamese Catholics that were burnt alive because of their faith was a group of 30 people who were seized after they came out of their hiding place in the forest of La Vang. At their request, they were taken back to the little chapel of La Vang and were immolated there on its ground.


From the time the Lady of La Vang first appeared, the people who took refuge there erected a small and desolate chapel in her honour. During the following years, her name was spread among the people in the region to other places. Despite its isolated location in the high mountains, groups of people continued to find ways to penetrate the deep and dangerous jungle to pray to the Lady of La Vang. Gradually, the pilgrims that came with axes, spears, canes, and drums to scare away wild animals were replaced by those holding flying flags, flowers and rosaries. The pilgrimages went on every year despite the continuous persecution campaigns.


In 1886, after the persecution had officially ended, Bishop Gaspar ordered a church to be built in honour of the Lady of La Vang. Because of its precarious location and limited funding, it took 15 years for the completion of the church of La Vang. It was inaugurated by Bishop Gaspar in a solemn ceremony that participated by over 12,000 people and lasted from August 6th to 8th, 1901. The bishop proclaimed the Lady of La Vang as the Protectorate of the Catholics. In 1928, a larger church was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. This church was destroyed in the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam war.

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The history of the Lady of La Vang continues to gain greater significance as more claims from people whose prayers were answered were validated. In April of 1961, the Council of Vietnamese Bishops selected the holy church of La Vang as the National Sacred Marian Centre. In August of 1962, Pope John XXIII elevated the church of La Vang to The Basilica of La Vang. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II in the canonizing ceremony of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, publicly and repeatedly recognized the importance and significance of the Lady of La Vang and expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the La Vang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady of La Vang in August of 1998.



 "In going to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, so dear to the hearts of the Vietnamese faithful, pilgrims entrust to her their joys and their sorrows, their hopes and their sufferings. In this way they turn to God and make themselves intercessors for their families and for their entire people asking the Lord to instil sentiments of peace, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of all men and women, so that all the Vietnamese will be every day more closely united, in order to build a world in which it is pleasant to live, based on the essential spiritual and moral values and where each person can be recognized in his dignity as a child of God, and turn freely and with filial love to his Father in heaven who is "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4)."


Message of Pope John Paul II



martys of vietnam

Vietnamese Martyrs

Feast Day: November 24


"The Vietnamese Catholics see the Holy Martyrs as having attained the perfect harmony between the Catholic faith and the Vietnamese vital spirit. The Vietnamese vital spirit can only be identified in the traditions and customs of the Vietnamese people."

 - A Catholic Response to the Asian Presence


On June 19, 1988, about 8,000 exiled Vietnamese Catholics participated in the canonization ceremony in Rome. They heard Pope John Paul II announce: "The Vietnamese martyrs . . . initiated a profound and liberating dialogue with the people and culture of their nation, proclaiming above all the truth and universality of faith in God and proposing, moreover, a hierarchy of values and duties particularly suited to the religious culture of the entire Oriental world. Under the guidance of the first Vietnamese catechism, they gave testimony that it is necessary to adore the one Lord as the one personal God who made heaven and earth. Faced with the coercive imposition of the authorities with regard to the practice of the faith, they affirmed their freedom to believe, holding with humble courage that the Christian religion was the only thing that they could not abandon, that they could not disobey the supreme Sovereign: the Lord. Moreover, they vigorously affirmed their desire to remain loyal to the authorities of the country, observing all that is just and right: they also taught that one should respect and venerate one's ancestors, according to the customs of their land, in the light of the mystery of the resurrection. The Vietnamese Church, with its martyrs and its witness, has been able to proclaim its desire and resolve not to reject the cultural traditions and the legal institutions of the country; rather, it has declared and demonstrated that it wants to incarnate them in itself, in order to contribute faithfully to the true building up of the country."




vietnamese new year


Lunar New Year (Tet)

This traditional holiday is determined by the Lunar calendar and usually occurs during the month of February. It is the biggest event of the year in Vietnam and is usually celebrated for three days. It is a combination of family reunion, Spring festival and a national holiday. "Tet" is also considered everyone's birthday since individual birthdays celebrations do not exist and because everyone is one year older on "Tet." Again "Tet" is a time to remember ancestors, visit family and friends, correct all faults and celebrate.

- A Catholic Response to the Asian Presence