Families in a central Vietnam diocese where Mother Mary is believed to have appeared to save persecuted Catholics in the late 19th century, are being encouraged to seek her intercession to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call was made on Sept 11, when Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of Da Nang presided over a special ceremony at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city to mark the 136th anniversary of the apparition in Tra Kieu parish in Quang Nam province.
Two priests concelebrated the Mass which was live-streamed on the diocese’s website due to strict social restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in Da Nang.
Over 2,300 people followed the online event.
Bishop Ngan said the theme of this year’s celebration was “Mary, Queen of Families” to encouraging local Catholics to pray for world peace, the local church and families during the pandemic.
He urged local people “to pray to the Queen of Families and beg her to lead us on an earthly pilgrim’s path because Mother Mary experienced trials and tribulations of family life in Nazareth so understands, sympathizes and cares for her children, especially when we face grave difficulties caused by Covid-19.”
He said local Catholics should never forget Mother Mary appearing to protect their ancestors against religious persecution in Tra Kieu by the Van Than movement.
Led by scholars in the mid to late 19th century, the Van Than movement sought to destroy Western influences in Vietnam and preserve Confucian culture, which included killing whom it considered heretics such as Christians.
Its supporters slaughtered countless Catholics across the country.
In September 1885, Tra Kieu Parish with 1,500 Catholics was besieged for three weeks, with many Catholics hiding in the church for safety.
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During this time locals Catholics and their priest, Father Jean Baptiste Bruyère heard reports of their attackers seeing a beautiful woman in a white robe standing on the church roof and being unable to fire at her.
Many children dressed in red and white clothes were said to have come from the sky and joined local Catholics in repelling their attackers.
Mother Mary is believed to have said to parishioners: “Do not be worried! Your mother here!”
Since then local people gather to pray to Mother Mary, calling her Our Lady Help of Christians.
Bishop Ngan said the Marian apparition has had a lasting effect on local Catholics who look to Mary to help them through their ups and downs.
He said local people are facing a challenge like their ancestors did and like them they should know how to trust in Mary for salvation.
He said many families were in misery because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Family members are isolated and quarantined, and many have died. Others have lost their jobs and are dogged by physical and emotional problems.
The bishop said the pandemic has exposed the fragility of human life, infecting countless people and killing many others.
“As children of Our Lady of Tra Kieu, we try to live a good life as God’s children in this hard time,” he said.
Asking what people could do to heal the world, Bishop Ngan said “We are invited to continue Jesus’ work of healing and saving like his disciples did. The pandemic offers us an opportunity to direct our life to Christ, who teaches us how to overcome the contagion, and brings us his hope and love.”
“The risk of Covid-19 infection shows us how to spread love among hearts,” he said.
Before the ceremony, local Catholics held a novena or nine days of prayer to Mother Mary seeking her intercession to end Covid-19 soon, and for all people to be at peace and overcome challenges caused by the pandemic.
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