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Our Lady of Vailankanni (India)

Devotion to Our Lady of Good Health, popularly called "Our Lady of Vailankanni," first originated sometime during the mid-sixteenth century. There are three major events associated with Our Lady of Good of Health in Vailankanni. 

 

In the mid-1600s, the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a Hindu shepherd boy, and asked the boy for milk for the child she was holding. Fifty years later, she is subsequently said to have appeared to and healed a crippled boy selling buttermilk. And 100 years after the first apparition, a group of Portuguese sailors attribute being saved from a violent storm to her intercession.

 

In the first apparition, the Virgin Mary appeared with her infant Son to Tamil Krishnannesti Sankaranaranayam who was carrying milk from Vailankanni to his master at Nagapattinam. Despite it being the morning, fatigue overcame him as he was passing by a water pond. After placing the milk-pot near a banyan tree, Tamil fell into an unusual slumber, only to be startled by the sweet vision of a beautiful Lady holding in her hand a child of divine appearance. The Lady asked for some milk for her child which the boy provided.

 

On reaching his master’s home, the boy apologized for his lateness and the reduced amount of milk by relating the incident that occurred on his way. The impatient master did not believe the story of the boy. But to the greater astonishment of all present, the milk began to surge over the pot and flow out. 


Together the man and the boy returned to the place where the apparition had occurred. When they reached the pond, Our Lady appeared once again. On learning that it was Our Lady who appeared to the boy, the residents of the local Catholic community became ecstatic and promptly renamed the pond "Matha Kulam" or "Our Lady's Pond.”

Around the end of the 16th century, Our Lady is said to have appeared again. This time to a lame boy selling buttermilk at a place called Nadu Thittu. One day, a bright light appeared in front of him and from amidst the light, a Lady of peerless grace with a divine Child in her arms, asked the boy for a cup of buttermilk. 

 

Then she directed him to go and inform a Catholic gentleman at Nagapattinam to construct a Chapel in her name on the spot of her apparition. The boy realized that his legs had become normal upon the word from the Lady. With great joy, he ran to Nagapattinam to carry out the errand. 

The man to whom Our Lady referred had a vision the previous night in which he was requested to build a chapel for her. Together, the man and the boy returned to the site of the apparition. This time, the Virgin appeared to both. The man subsequently erected a thatch chapel for Our Lady at this site, which was referred to as Mother of Good Health. The Shrine Basilica stands at this location today.

 

On September 8, 1650, the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, she is said to have appeared in the region for a third time. A group of Portuguese merchant sailors were rescued by her from a violent storm that had wrecked their ship in the Bay of Bengal. In their fervent prayers to Mary, the Star of the Sea, they vowed to build a church in her name wherever they could land. The sea calmed and they reached the shore of Vailankanni. They were taken by the local fishermen to the thatched chapel and paid tribute to Mary. The sailors built a small, stone chapel on a return trip. On their next visit, they decorated the Altar with porcelain plates, illustrating biblical themes. These plates that gave testimony to their thanksgiving to Our Lady, are seen today around the throne of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Good Health, over the main altar of the Shrine Basilica.

 

The annual Festival of Our Lady of Good Health takes place each year from August 28 through September 8, drawing more than a million and a half pilgrims.

 

The original modest chapel was replaced by a larger church in 1933. The Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni was elevated to a Basilica on November 3, 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

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