On September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of Mary, reflecting on the moment the Blessed Mother was brought into this world. Did you know that the devotion to Our Lady of Good Health has a special connection to the Nativity of Mary? It was on this holy day that a group of Portuguese sailors miraculously arrived on land after facing a menacing storm on the seas. As we meditate on the Nativity of Mary, we reflect on how she has appeared to the faithful in Vailankanni and take strength from her protection and deliverance.
History of the Devotion of Our Lady of Good Health
The devotion to Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni, first originated in the mid-16th century following the occurrence of three miracles. First, there was the apparition of Mary and the Christ Child to a slumbering shepherd boy. Then, a lame buttermilk vendor was miraculously healed. And finally, after a group of Portuguese sailors were saved from a violent storm at sea, they were inspired to build a shrine to Our Lady at Vailankanni. The chapel was dedicated on the feast of the Nativity of Mary, the day of their safe landing.
Now, half a millennium later, nearly two million pilgrims flock to the site every year for the nine-day festival and celebration. Also known as the “Lourdes of the East,” the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni is the most frequented holy site in India.
Honoring Our Lady of Good Health at the Basilica
The Basilica’s Our Lady of Vailankanni Oratory features a gilded statue that is a replica of the original and was crowned and consecrated in Vailankanni before coming to Washington, D.C. Gifted by the Indian-American Catholic Association of Washington, D.C., the Oratory is designed in an Indian motif, with carved cherrywood pews, a vaulted brass ceiling, and a multi-colored marble floor patterned after an Indian carpet, featuring the design of the flag of India in the center. Through Carrara marble bas-relief sculpture, the stories of the three miracles are depicted. The oratory also includes two bronze plaques engraved with the history of Vailankanni and the Ave Maria in the major languages of the Indian subcontinent.
Prayer to Our Lady of Good Health
The devotion to Our Lady of Good Health encourages the faithful to call upon the Blessed Mother for her protection and relief. As we reflect upon the Nativity of Mary, let us meditate on the prayer to Our Lady of Good Health:
O Mary! Our Mother of Health and Our Heavenly Queen, seated on your throne of mercy and compassion in your Holy Shrine at Vailankanni, we praise and honor you to be our refuge and our relief. Numerous are the sick who through you have recovered health. Relying on your power and goodness, we fly to you and implore you to heal our infirmities and to obtain for us perfect health of body and soul, that we may better be able to serve you and your Divine Son. At all times you have been the help and consolation of the sick. You obtain for them health, when it is conducive to their salvation. You assist them at time of their death. Help them O Most amiable Mother and obtain for us cure from all our sufferings, or patience to endure them in the spirit of resignation agreeable to God’s Holy Will, so that all our trials and sufferings may help to purify our souls and help us to detach ourselves from earthly ties. Amen.
The Basilica Guidebook