There are no historical documents or records about the apparitions of Mary at Vailankanni, Tamilnadu, India. Oral tradition is the source for the two apparitions of the Blessed Mother of Vailankanni in the 16th century and the saving of the Portuguese sailors from a tempest in the Bay of Bengal in the later 17th century.
The first apparition is said to have occurred in May of 1570, when a local shepherd boy was delivering milk to a nearby house. Along the way he met a beautiful woman holding a child, who asked for some milk for the little one. After giving her the milk, he continued on his way, and upon making the delivery discovered that the jug was now completely full of fresh, cool milk. A small shrine was built near the site where the boy encountered the woman, a location that came to be called Matha Kulam, which means Our Lady’s Pool.
The second apparition is said to have happened in 1597, not far from Matha Kulam. A beautiful woman with a young boy in her arms appeared to a young crippled boy selling buttermilk. The little boy asked for some buttermilk, and after drinking it, the woman asked the boy selling buttermilk visit a gentleman in the next town and ask him to build a chapel in her honor at this location. The set out quickly and realized that he was no longer lame. A small thatched chapel was quickly built in honor of Our Lady of Health, called in Tamil “Arokia Matha.”
The third incident occurred when a Portuguese ship sailing from Macao to Sri Lanka was caught in a storm in the Bay of Bengal. They invoked the help of the Blessed Virgin under her title “Star of the Sea”. The storm subsided and the 150 men on board were saved. It was September 8, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. In thanksgiving, the sailors rebuilt the Shrine to Our Lady of Good Health, and continued to enhance it whenever their voyages brought them to the area.
The shrine that started as a thatched chapel in the mid-sixteenth century became a parish church in 1771 when Catholics in India were under persecution from the Dutch. Later in 1962 it was granted a Special status of a Minor Basilica by Pope John XXIII.
The shrine of Vailankanni was elevated to the status of ‘Minor Basilica’ and merged with the Major Basilica of Mary (Mary majore) in Rome on 3 November 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
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