Lizares: Our Lady of Health Vailankanni, India: The Lourdes of the East

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

A FEW days ago, I was cleaning out the contents of my small church/walking bag which contained a coin purse, some tissue paper, handkerchief plus some pieces of paper. Before disposing them, I was surprised to see one leaflet titled The Miracle Mother of Vailankanni. I have never heard of her before so I went to my computer and checked her out. Allow me to share this interesting story I gathered.

September 8, approximately 400 years ago, there was a shepherd boy from Vailankanni, India who would daily deliver milk to a rich man in Nagapattinam. That is about ten kilometers away. It was an unusually hot summer day and the shepherd boy, to quench his thirst, got some water from a pond where stood a huge banyan tree. The heat and the exhaustion made him fall asleep.

He was awakened, however, to see a Lady of celestial beauty holding a child in her arms. The Lady greeted him with a motherly smile and asked him for some milk for her child. He joyfully shared her some and, seeing a blissful smile spread over the face of the baby, he was overjoyed.


When he reached the home of the rich man, he apologized for his unusual delay. When the lid of the milk pot he was carrying was lifted, the pot started brimming over with milk.

The boy narrated to the rich man about the apparition of a beautiful Lady with a cherubic child. He continued to say how he had given her a portion of the milk he was carrying to the child at the Lady’s request. He also expressed his unique pleasure seeing the Lady feed the baby with the milk he had given.
The master was fascinated by the extraordinary phenomenon witnessed by the boy. Together with the shepherd boy, he hastened to the spot (the pond with the huge bunyan tree) where the Lady had appeared with her child.

The story of the apparition of the Lady and her Child and the miraculous brimming over of the milk spread like wild fire throughout the neighborhood. The Christians in Nagapattinam were convinced that the vision was that of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

From that day onwards the pond has come to be known as ‘Matha Kulam’ (Our Lady’s Tank). Innumerable miracles are taking place even today by applying it on diseased persons. A chapel now stands at the place where Mary with her Child appeared to the shepherd boy.

A few years after this incident, another apparition of the Blessed Mother happened, again on September 8. There was a poor widow in the village with a son who was congenitally lame. In order to make ends meet, the lame boy would sell buttermilk in an elevated spot where there was a huge banyan tree. The widow would carry him there and leave. The boy would sell the butter milk to weary way-farers.

On an extremely hot day the boy was waiting for his customers but no one came. Instead, he saw a Lady of stunning beauty standing before him, holding a baby in her arms. Both wore impeccable white garments.

The Lady looked at the boy with a charming smile and asked him for a cup of buttermilk for her child. Without hesitation, the lad gave her a cup of buttermilk and saw the Lady feeding her child. The Lady then cast a benevolent look at the lame boy and turned towards the Child in her arms as if entreating him something.

The Lady gratefully thanked the youth’s generosity and requested him to go to Nagapattinam and see a certain rich Catholic gentleman. He was to tell him of this apparition and her desire to have a chapel built at Vailankanni in her honour.

While he was eager to do whatever she asked, he told the Lady of his impairment. But the Lady bade him get up and walk. Immediately, the lad leaped to his feet. He was ecstatic when he realized he could walk. He ran as fast as he could to Nagapattinam which was a good 10 kilometers away.

On reaching Nagapattinam and finding the gentleman, he narrated what he saw and the message to build a chapel in her honour in Vailankanni. The gentleman was astonished because he had a similar vision of Our Lady in his sleep the night before and believed the boy’s story immediately.

He soon put up a small thatched chapel at Vailankanni. An altar was erected in the chapel with a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Vailankanni holding the Infant Jesus in her arms.

That marked the humble beginning of the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni.

Due to the many cures taking place who prayed to the miraculous Mother with her Divine Infant, she became known as Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni. A chapel was likewise built at NaduThittu where Our Lady appeared to the lame butter milk vendor.

During the 16th century European merchants established trading centers in India. The Portuguese were devout Catholics with a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother Mary, and they called her the ‘Star of the Sea’.

In the 17th century, a Portuguese merchant vessel was cruising towards the west to reach the Bay of Bengal when it was caught in a violent storm. The helpless sailors instinctively besought Mary’s help. They vowed to build a church in her honor wherever she helped them land safely.

Suddenly, there was a miraculous lull in the winds; the waves subsided and the sea became calm. The battered ship was pushed to safety to the shores of Vailankanni. On landing, the sailors fell down on their knees and thank God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for having saved their lives. They set about immediately to remodel the thatched chapel. Remarkably, this extraordinary event took place on September 8, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It will be September 8 this Saturday. I am still surprised how or where I got hold of that leaflet just a few days shy of her birthday. Perhaps, Our Lady just wants her story in Vailankanni, India to be told or she wants to remind me that I am always under her protective care.

Hundreds of miraculous cures are reported every year and Vailankanni is hailed as the Lourdes of the East. It is the most famous Marian Shrine in India and in Asia and attracts more pilgrims and is visited by millions.
Isn’t it amazing that India, which is predominantly Hindu, people of all castes and creeds throng the Shrine and the Museum of offerings, bears ample testimony to the many favors and graces they have received through the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Health. AVE MARIA INDEED!!!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 06, 2012.


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