As Christian music played from large outdoor speakers, Bishop Thanh Thai Nguyen stood in the shade of the Christ Cathedral as the late-afternoon sun brightly burned.
And now, the first-ever O.C. Marian Days was about to begin – two days of Masses, processions, workshops, rallies, worship, dancing, food and music centered around on the shrine’s centerpiece: a 12-foot-tall Virgin Mary statue depicting how the Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared before a group of persecuted Vietnamese Catholics in 1798 in a rainforest of Vietnam.
“I heard that some people came all the way from Vietnam to be here,” Bishop Nguyen said.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange’s Marian Days was inspired and modeled after the annual Marian Days of Carthage, Mo.
That pilgrimage-style festival has been in place since 1978, drawing tens of thousands of attendees, particularly Vietnamese Catholics, to the Midwest to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Orange County’s July 1 and 2 event, themed as “With Mary, Giving Thanks to God,” featured a festival-like environment and guest speakers for youth and adult parishioners on topics such as catechesis, education, theology, Mariology, prayer and liturgy.
“Orange County is the hub of Vietnamese people in the United States, so this is very special,” Bishop Nguyen said. Father Brandon Dang, vocations director for the Diocese of Orange, staffed a booth outside Christ Cathedral.
The Mass, celebrated in English in some parts and Vietnamese in others, was celebrated by Bishop Timothy Freyer. An estimated 4,000 people attended the Mass, whose Gospel reading (Luke 2:41-51) described how Jesus, at age 12, along with his family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover.
After finding her son, Mary felt frustration, confusion and joy, Bishop Freyer said.
“And in 1975, as many fled Vietnam and were sent adrift on small boats, they began to pray to Mary and once again she found her children in need and guided them to safe shores.”
The nearly $13 million Our Lady of La Vang shrine, the site of monthly Masses as well as other observances and celebrations, is nearly complete. Still to be added behind it is a Marian garden that will stretch to Lewis Street.
The above comes from a July 14 story in OC Catholic.