Our Lady of Vailankanni: Our Lady of Good Health

October 15, 2013

Also known as Our Lady of Good Health, her first appearance at Vailankanni, India, was approximately 400 years ago to a shepherd boy who carried milk every day to a rich man approximately 6 miles away in Nagapattinam. 

On an unusually hot summer day, the boy, sleeping near a pond, was startled by the vision of a lady of celestial beauty holding a lovely child in her arms. The Lady greeted him with a motherly smile and asked him for some milk for her child, which he joyfully provided.

When he reached the home of the rich man, he begged to be excused for his unusual delay and for the shortage of milk. But, when the lid of the milk pot was lifted, the pot was brimming over with milk. 

The boy told the rich man about the apparition he had seen of a lady and how he had given her some of the milk he was carrying. The rich man, fascinated by this extraordinary phenomenon, asked the boy to take him where the lady had appeared with her child. With great reverence, the gentleman prostrated himself on the spot by the pond.

The story reached the Christians in Nagapattinam, who were convinced that the vision was that of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. From that day forward the pond was known as ‘Matha Kulam’ (Our Lady’s Tank).

Our Lady of Vailankanni appeared a second time, and this time, to a poor, lame boy of the village who sold buttermilk. The son of a widow, she would carry the lame boy and leave him at Nadu Thittu with a pot of buttermilk to sell. 

The boy sold the buttermilk to weary wayfarers who would take shelter under a tree from the sweltering heat. On a hot day without any customers, Our Lady appeared, again with the Child Jesus, to ask for buttermilk for the child. 

After she fed Jesus, she asked the boy to go to the rich Catholic gentleman and inform him of her desire to have a chapel built at Vailankanni in her honor. 

The boy informed the Lady of his impairment, but she bade him to get up and walk as he was no longer cripple. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, approximately 6 miles to Nagapattinam. 

A small thatched chapel was erected at Vailankanni with a statue of Our Lady holding the infant Jesus in her arms on the altar.

A 17th-century miracle is attributed to her. A Portuguese merchant vessel was sailing to Colombo. While it was cruising towards the west to reach the Bay of Bengal, it was caught in a violent storm. 

The helpless sailors instinctively fell on their knees and besought Mary’s help, vowing to build a church in her honor wherever she helped them land safely. 

Suddenly the storm dissipated and soon the battered ship was pushed to safety to the shores of Vailankanni. They set about immediately to remodel the thatched chapel.

Remarkably, all these extraordinary events took place on Sept. 8, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These apparitions are still pending approval by the Holy See, as oral tradition is the only documentation of the apparitions.

Father Alvaro Interiano, parochial vicar at St. Francis de Sales, attended the annual Our Lady of Vailankanni Festival and shared his experience with the Texas Catholic Herald:

Vailankanni is a small town seven hours south of Chennai, India by train. More than 400 years ago they had the privilege of having the Blessed Mother, on three occasions, perform the initial miracles that would lead it to become the famous shrine that it is today. 

The main festival that they have is a nine-day novena of celebrations that lead up to the birth of the Blessed Mother, Sept. 8. 

There are many different things that one will notice upon going there. First of all, the festival is almost exclusively attended by people from India. There are very few foreigners there. I was perhaps one of 10 foreigners that were there at the time. 

The next thing one notices is that most of the people are non-Catholics. In fact, probably 80 percent of the people that go are Hindu and Muslim. 

This fits perfectly with the initial miracles, since Our Lady appeared to two Hindu children. They go with as much faith and love for Her as do the Catholics. 

The Hindus bring the same types of offerings to her that they would bring to their temples: coconuts, wreaths of fragrant jasmine flowers and candles in order to ask for healing, blessings and the gift of children. 

This was a truly beautiful experience for me to share with people, not only of a different country, but also of a completely different faith, the same love for Our Blessed Mother. 

The highlight of each day during the novena of days was the evening procession. They would carry through the town five “cars” — wooden portable baldacchinos that would each hold a different saint and be carried on their shoulders. 

The last and largest one was, of course, the Blessed Mother carrying the Child Jesus. People would sing songs in a variety of languages, even Latin, and pray the rosary as they threw flowers upon Our Lady.

The crowds of people and the fireworks in the background were something to behold, rivaling any of the major festivals held throughout the world. 

However, this one is different in that it honors the Blessed Mother and Jesus her Son.