Rach Suc Story

The Pilgrimage of Prayer with Our Lady of Solitude to RACH SUC – CAN THO, VIETNAM.

 Written by Father Michael (NGUYỄN KHẮC MINH)      March 20, 2012

1 / Rach Suc, The Land of Grace, is near a river with an abundance of fresh-water fish and fruit trees full of fresh fruit along its river banks.

Rach Suc is located from the city center of Can Tho in southern Vietnam. On westward, there is a small island in the delta with the many tributaries of the Mekong, the largest river in high winds.

This island is surrounded by several rivers, such as Suc Rach, Rach Sao Cam Rach, Rach Chanh, Rach Ba Chin and Rach Ba Bo. Because the soil is enriched by the silt of the Mekong, it is particularly fertile and fruitful, enabling an innumerable variety of fruit trees to be found there. The rivers teem with fish, shrimp and other aquatic species. Residents need only to dip their baskets into the water to gather enough fish to feed their families; hence the name Rach Suc (Brook plunged baskets!)

Anyone needing to relax after a stressful day of work only has to breathe in the pure air of the deep countryside. If living in nature without having to spend a lot of money is something that intrigues you, or a cool evening breeze flowing across the river is something that sounds inviting; then my advice would be to take a seat on a boat and quietly wait for the fish to bite the bait and come after your fishing rod and Suc … Come to Rach, a land we are so thankful for – located on the banks of Hau Giang Mekong. 

2 / Our Lady Did It Get Here? 

According to local tradition, Archbishop Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien received a donation of land on the edge of Rach Suc to build a small chapel. Subsequently, Father Pierre Vu Viet Hai erected a monumental 5m high statue of Our Lady in this remote area. Following the erosion of river banks, the church was dismantled and rebuilt on the other side, leaving the statue of Mary in its place.

Prior to 1975, during the war in the 60s, this portion of land, a sort of no man’s land, was under relentless attacks from both armies, with the shelling of rockets coming from both sides. Living in the midst of war is to live in constant fear, with the risk of death lurking at every moment. Every time the whistling of the bombs or the bursts of automatic weapons was heard, the inhabitants of the land Suc Rach lived with anguish and fled to seek shelter.

According to oral tradition, under the rain of shells, in the midst of this extreme distress, the people, powerless against the threat of weapons, had only the divine protection to face the terror of war. It was then that a beautiful lady draped in a blue coat with fringes flying in the wind appeared before the people. She stood fearless in the midst of cannon fire and the shells that touched her cloak fell to the ground without exploding. Her coat was as invincible armor protecting the men in prayer. Since then, the faith has grown to claim that Our Lady of Good Help has appeared here to save people from death. 

3 / A truth of faith. 

These facts are perhaps a legend and the fruit of a collective imagination, but the version that follows is 100% authentic. Where Father Vu Viet Hai erected a huge statue of Our Lady near Rach Suc, paths had become waterlogged and muddy – eventually becoming impassable because of the wild and dense vegetation; the place was rarely visited.

After 1975, the situation had become very difficult for Catholics in general especially for some families of believers who lived there and saw their sufferings multiply every day. Under the threat of police armed with machine guns, they suffered the insults because of their faith; it was thought of as a faith that originated from the West –many were driven to apostatize. Despite this unbearable situation, Ms. Nam Says Vit, an unbaptized middle-aged woman, continued faithfully to weed the ground, keep the lights on and offer incense before the statue of Our Lady in the midst of all forms of harassment.

Where did she get such perseverance to overcome such challenges? She says it was Notre Dame that has emerged giving her strength and courage to continue to maintain the shrine and the statue. Like the apostles who gave their lives for the proclamation of the Gospel and the Resurrection of Christ after recognizing their master of life, the courage and strength of Ms. Nam can only come from God himself. For how can a woman as fragile as she, overcome all the difficulties? How was it possible for her to walk the muddy roads filled with wild herbs, endure the harsh earth have the strength and courage to face the threats of anti-religious authorities to serve so faithfully Notre Dame? 

4/  13 Marian Pilgrimage of each month in the honor of Our Lady of Solitude. 

Currently, on the 13th of each month, members of various parishes in the city of Can Tho massively go to church at Rach Suc, the pilgrimage shrine honoring Our Lady of Solitude. The celebration starts at noon, except during May and October when the festivities are held in the afternoon and continue into the evening with different functions; such as: Eucharistic adoration, confession, spiritual conference, Marian procession with Rosary and closing Mass presided by the bishop surrounded by the priests of the diocese. 

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament 

May 13 and October 13 of each year, at dawn, many Catholics and non-Catholics in the Can Tho City and surrounding areas flock to Rach Suc for the Marian pilgrimage. They come to express their hopes, to honor Mary, imploring her aid and glorify her name. At 7 am precisely, the archpriest bishop representing, proceeds to the altar wearing the white cap to chair the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the opening of pilgrimage. The whole assembly is deeply moved by the solemn atmosphere of the celebration. It is a time of meditation on the mysteries of God’s infinite love. It is also a time of contemplating the graces received in everyone’s life. At the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, all bow to show respect for God – the creator of the universe, the alpha and omega of all existence. After forty-five minutes of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the rosary, the central part of the pilgrimage, is prayed.

Rosary

The facilitator of the day was Father Joseph Nguyen Ba Long, a seminary professor. It was he who prepared the program and ensured the smooth running of the Marian prayer. He always allows the assembly to meditate on the mysteries of God’s salvation with the rosary. After each ten “Hail Mary’s”, everyone watches liturgical dances performed by young children, ritual dances that allow everyone to raise their souls to God.

Each year, the prayer is based on two of the four sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious. This prayer time is probably the most important part of the pilgrimage because it requires much effort and an investment of time to prepare and rehearse the dances. Finally, it is the Marian procession which will close this time of the rosary, ending the Marian prayer.

For the procession, the statue of Notre Dame is richly decorated with lots of colors and lights. She wears on her head a beautiful crown, a luminous rosary in her hands and many flowers around the statue. The procession goes around the church and each participant takes a lighted candle in their hand. Future religious, in the first two rows, hold banners and the students form a guard of honor at the statue of the Virgin.

After each decade of the rosary, everyone fervently sings the Ave Maria and raising lit candles to express the desire to devote their lives to the Lord and Our Lady. The image of Our Lady glimmering in the midst of the lit candles, exhorts the Christians to understand their role as becoming salt and light giving flavor and radiating Christ in this world. 

Eucharist 

The last part of the evening is reserved for the Eucharist. After the procession, they place the statue of Mary on the platform; the choir and congregation sing the opening song to welcome the bishop who presides over the Mass, accompanied by many priests who concelebrate. The Eucharist is the summit of the liturgy; the Mass is the source of all grace that comes from the sacrifice of the son of God on the cross. Every Eucharist is the actualization of God’s supreme gift to humanity.

During the celebration, the bishop delivers a stirring and eloquent homily. He is a great preacher who is able to deeply touch the heart of the faithful.

The Eucharist is the last part which closes the Marian pilgrimage.

Before the pilgrims return home, Father Francis Xavier, the parish priest, generously and graciously offers food. As the night advances, all leave happy and confident, full of hope and good intentions for the future. Children are also comforted and encouraged after visiting their beloved mother, each carried by a feeling of nostalgia for the time of happiness that came to pass. Thus, in the inmost hearts, each murmur a promise to Our Lady, “Dear Mother, I am going home, but I will continue to follow you, I promise!” 

Conclusion 

Despite the real limitations on the Marian pilgrimage at Rach Suc as in the areas of personnel, the jurisdiction of organization or transportation, we must emphasize the merit of the efforts of the parish priest. This is a true shepherd full of wisdom and grace. He has overcome many challenges and difficulties to maintain the celebration of this great religious festival.

The event is also an opportunity for Christians, children of God and of Mary, whether near or far, to gather around Notre Dame to entrust their joys and sorrows to her and to meet her.

Through the different sensitivities and feelings, the pilgrimage has become a vital moment etched deep in the hearts of everyone. Certainly the Marian pilgrimage at Rach Suc knows of other spiritual developments and other external organizations; nevertheless this pilgrimage allows us all to encounter our mother in heaven together.

What can separate a mother from her offspring? For months and years from now this celebration will remain in the hearts and minds of every child of Mary.

 

Father Michael (Khac Minh)

Father Michael (Khac Minh)

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