Devotion to Our Lady of Good Health of Vailankanni can be traced to the mid-16th century and is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and the Christ Child to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the rescue of Portuguese sailors from a violent sea storm. Although all three apparitions resulted in the erection of a shrine to our Lady, it was the promise of the Portuguese sailors that caused a permanent edifice to be built at Vailankanni. The chapel was dedicated on the feast of the Nativity of Mary (Sept. 8), the day of their safe landing. More than 500 years later, the nine-day festival and celebration is still observed and draws nearly 2 million pilgrims. The Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni, also known as the "Lourdes of the East," is the most frequented holy site in India.
This oratory was dedicated Aug. 16, 1997 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of India's Independence. The gold-gilded statue, a replica of the original, was sculpted of a material called Fortran by Robert Liberacei, of Washington, D.C. It was crowned and consecrated May 30,1997 in Vailankanni and then returned to Washington. The gold plated silver crowns, scepter and crescent are by the Prince Jewelers of Kerala, Madras. The story of the miracles is sculpted into two bas-reliefs of Carerra marble. Similarly, an account of Vailankanni, and the "Ave Maria" in the major languages of the Indian subcontinent are engraved in two bronze plaques. Indian art and culture are reflected in the various architectural and artistic details of the chapel: the pews and table are carved cherry wood, the vaulted ceiling is brass, and the central axis of the multi-colored marble floor, features a design of the Indian flag, patterned after an Indian carpet.
The architect was Bijoy K. Isaac. The oratory is the gift of the Indian American Catholic Association in Washington, D.C.
O Most Holy Virgin!
You were chosen
by the most adorable Trinity
from all eternity
to be the most pure Mother of Jesus.
O Tender Mother of the afflicted,
grant me under my present necessities
a special protection.
Relying upon the infinite mercies
of your Divine Son,
and penetrated with confidence
in your powerful prayers,
I humbly entreat you to intercede for me.
I beg you to obtain for me
the favors which I petition.
O Mother of God,
accept my salutations
in union with the respect
with which the angel Gabriel
first hailed you "full of grace."
I beseech you,
O comfortress of the afflicted,
to obtain for me the favors and graces,
which I have now implored
through your powerful intercession.
For this end I offer you
the good works I do and sufferings I endure.
I humbly entreat you
for the love of the amiable heart of Jesus
with which yours
was ever so inflamed
to hear our prayers
and obtain our requests.