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8th October, 2002

Our Lady of Vailankanni

Mother of Health



the shrine...

The church is spread over a very large area, which is exceptionally well maintained and green; lots of beautiful trees. And lots of homes.


A home for the Aged, an orphanage, the Mercy Home for the Handicapped and a hospital where people are treated at a nominal charge. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity run a home for the aged and handicapped. There is a higher secondary school nearby and an English medium school and a girls school. The church runs schools and chapels in four villages.

Outside the main shrine is a small Tamil-style chapel... It has an image of Mother with Jesus on her lap, after he is brought down from the cross... Like Hindu temples, pilgrims offer the Mother anything from cows, goats, paddy, tea to coffee, elachi, oil and saris. People of all religions visit Vailankanni throughout the year.

There is also an institution that offers a diploma in Mariology, affiliated with Rome and also a meditation centre and a retreat home with 80 rooms. Visiting priests can stay here free, but have to pay for their food.

A path from the main shrine leads the pilgrim to the place where our Lady first appeared before a shepherd boy.

As the story goes, a lame boy was selling yoghurt to passers-by. In the afternoon while he was resting, a lady with a child appeared before him. She asked him for some of the yoghurt for the child. The boy gladly gave it. She told him to go to a Catholic gentleman in the village and to tell him to build a church for her there. The boy told her, "I am lame. I cannot go to the village now." She smiled, "Get up and go." And vanished.

The boy got up and ran for joy. When he told the gentleman to build the church, he readily agreed because he too had seen the mother in his dreams. The villagers built a small shack where the lame boy had seen the lady. And Our Lady became famous for her healing powers.

Years later a Portuguese ship sailing from China to Colombo ran into a fierce storm. The sailors prayed fervently to Mother Mary to save them and promised to build a church where they landed. The storm subsided and the ship reached the shores of Vailankanni on September 8. Local fishermen took them to the Church of Our Lady.

The Portuguese built the church to replace the shack that was already there. On subsequent visits they brought many gifts for the church and further embellished the shrine.

September 8 is now the day of Vailankanni's annual festival.


The Tamilians call her Annai Vailankanni...; annai in Tamil means mother... Mother Vailankanni, Our Lady of Health is also called 'Lourdes of the East'.

Vailankanni is the Indian Christian world's Tirupati...

On a tree, childless couples tie numerous small cradles - - a way of beseeching our beloved mother for a child. This practice is followed in many Hindu temples. Says Muthuswamy, "It is the Indianisation of Christianity. Though the religion came from the West, we remain Indians..."

Nearby is a 'Tonsure Hall' where pilgrims shave their heads. Up ahead is the Museum of Offerings that sells blessed oil. The museum had innumerable letters of thanks, lovely articles in silver and gold to mother for blessings received; many of them for stolen jewellery which Our Lady helped recover.

People had donated replicas of eyes, hands, legs, stethoscopes and hearts made of silver and gold depending on the ailment she had cured... Everything is framed and exhibited tidily.

Some had donated miniature gold or silver cars, cows, crosses. Some had even donated mangalsutras... One person had made a replica of the shrine with coins...

On a shelf are pieces of wood which had floated to Vailankanni from all over the world. The wood was hollow. People sent messages and offerings to the mother in these pieces of wood.

Legend says that the messages always reach the shores of Vailankanni. Even coconuts with distinguishing features are preserved in the museum. They are said to be offerings from Fiji that had come across the ocean.

Countless miracles and cures are attributed to offerings. A few too many to relate here. I heard about a 45-year-old woman who has given a testimony for our Lady, for the child she had conceived at that late age.

A young man named Raja had come from Bombay to pay obeisance to the Mother because his brother had a child eight years after marriage. A retired Hindu school teacher related at length his experience at Vailankanni. Murugesan worked in a Christian school. Father Francis, who worked in his school, took him to Vailankanni, when he grumbled to the father that he had four daughters and deeply desired a son.

The following year he got a son. In memory of the Matha (mother in Tamil), he named his son Mathavan. Thrice he took his son to the church and shaved his head there in thanksgiving. 

Photography is prohibited inside the church. Murugesan clicked a photograph of the altar. When he printed the photographs: 35 out of the 36 shots were fine but "The photograph of the altar was only white smoke"...

During Onam one can see lot of Keralites. During Dassera one can bump into plenty of folks from Karnataka. And during the annual festival a lot of Bombayites & Goan people visit Vailankanni....

Foreign tourists are frequent visitors too... Some come with worries. Some with illness. Some to say thanks. But they all come back from the pilgrimage with an identical look of peace, serenity and satisfaction...

Christian life is a long pilgrimage to the house of God...

In a world of deadly diseases & sicknesses, pay respects to the Mother at your earliest opportunity for her intercession with Christ in giving you a healthy mind & body, and keeping you innocent of all evil... 

-gasper crasto
8th September, 2002

voice: 00965 9502 686



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Ave Maria

Ave Maria!
Gratia Plena
Maria Gratia Plena
Maria Gratia Plena

Ave, Ave! Dominus
Dominus Tecum

Benedicta Tu In Mulieribus
Et Benedictus Et Benedictus
Fructus Ventris Ventris Tui
Jesus... Ave Maria!

Ave Maria!
Mater Dei
Ora Pronobis Peccatoribus
Ora, Ora Pronobis

Ora, Ora Pronobis

Nuncet In Hora Mortis
In Hora Mortis Nostrae
In Hora Mortis, Mortis Nostrae
In Hora Mortis Nostrae...
Ave Maria!